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Beyond the seven seas
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Beyond the seven seas

Tristan Rutherford for Camper & Nicholsons
11th May 2020

Not everyone begins with a 20m charter on the French Riviera. One owner started sailing with a 46m flagship built to traverse the Pacific Ocean in search of Papua New Guinea wildlife and Vanuatu volcanoes. The shipyard? Cheoy Lee, custom made in China for 150 years.

I hope my stories will inspire other people to buy an explorer yacht,” says the owner of 46m Qing. “Not everybody climbs from a 50ft to a 70ft to a 90ft. Some people, like myself, go straight out and buy a 150ft boat.” From the outset this American sailor’s vision was clear. “On Italy’s Amalfi Coast I could have a hotel and a car and have just as nice a time. Instead I wanted to sail someplace different that cruise ships can’t go to.”

Papua New Guinea is certainly ‘different’. The South East Asian nation boasts over 5,000km (3,000 miles) of coastline yet has no functioning central government. Of the 6,000 languages spoken on planet earth, around 800 can be found here. “Papua New Guinea is about as off-the-beaten track as you’re going to get,” attests the owner. “To take a superyacht up the Sepik River to meet truly remote tribes is the equivalent of a UFO hovering over Miami.”

The difference in development was like comparing space age to stone age. As the owner explains: “We were interfacing with folks where the question wasn’t ‘do these people have electricity’; it was ‘do they have metal’?” Many locals in the most primitive tributaries didn’t even have drinking vessels. “There’s only one village on the Sepik River that has clay deposits, so these people fire pottery then trade it up and down the waterway.”

The explorers aboard Qing vowed to put something back, rather than being “voyeurs snapping pics”. As the owner explains: “I asked river residents what they did about drinking water? They replied ‘In the rainy season we collect water but the rest of the time we drink from the river. So I asked if they got sick. ‘Yes, all the time’.” Qing gifted water filtration systems to several riverine communities. “One chieftain told us that in 50 years of independence they’ve never once seen their government and that our gesture was ‘literally the first thing anyone from the outside has ever done for us’.”

Such far reaching adventure begs the ultimate question. How does one join the explorer club? “I got lucky by choosing the right boat,” says Qing’s owner. “Because when I looked to purchase five years ago, what people tried to advise me simply wasn’t true.” He follows with an example. “One reason why the yacht took time to sell is because a novice would say ‘oh my gosh, one engine on an explorer yacht, I need two!”

The reality is somewhat different. “My automotive background gave me contacts at major engine manufacturers like Detroit Diesel. I asked their marine divisions: ‘Is a single engine a concern?’ They all said no, because even most commercial ships only have one motor. And if you maintain one of those big long-wearing Caterpillars it won’t be a problem.” Qing’s captain confirms they have cruised over 80,000 nautical miles on the same engine without issue.

“Ron Holland (the veteran Kiwi yacht designer from whose drawing board Qing took shape) once said that: ‘If you have a fire or flood in the engine room it doesn’t matter how many motors you have - they’ll all be disabled!’ To guard against such an occurrence Qing has two engine rooms. The forward one hosts a Schottel jet pump, which acts as an oversized bow thruster and a secondary ‘get-home’ power unit capable of moving Qing along at half speed. And as the yacht weighs in at under 500GRT she maintains a range of 6,600 nautical miles, while consuming 35% less than a twin-screw of comparable tonnage.

Qing undertook regular hops around the Caribbean as part of her initial commissioning. One trip was conducted in tandem with International Seakeepers, an agency that pairs superyachts with scientists undertaking conservation projects worldwide. “They asked us to assist a group of University of Miami marine professors who were studying tiger sharks around Grand Bahama. So we packed Qing full and even hosted the National Geographic cameramen who were filming the action onboard. It was a great education for my kids.”

The vessel also undertook a mission for disaster relief charity YachtAid Global to the Darien Gap, an historically inhospitable isthmus that separates Panama from Colombia via 1,800m (6,000ft) rainforest peaks. “It’s amazing to be so close to the United States and to experience something so different.” Space on board the nine-berth boat has never been an issue. “There’s rarely been a time when I’ve thought ‘Oh, I wish I had that item onboard too’ says her owner. Current accoutrements include jet skis, two onboard tenders, paddle boards, kite boards, Seabobs, spearfishing and scuba diving gear, among a host of other toys.

In 2019 a thorough refit prepared Qing for a second explorer to take the helm. “My family is at a point where we have to settle down in one place with my seven-year-old son.” Raising him onboard has had its advantages. Not least as he shocked a biology professor by claiming sight of the rare blue Linckia laevigata starfish. “One of his teachers had to tap the guest biology professor on the shoulder to explain my son had actually lived in the South Pacific for the last five years”.

Although the yacht is currently for sale it won’t stop her owner spending money. “It may take two or three years to find the perfect buyer so I’m going to pay to maintain her and fully use her during that time.”

Indeed, staying safe has always been a constant aim. “When we’re far out at sea we’re basically in space, as exposed as an astronaut. If something goes wrong there’s no-one coming to get us, and no coast guard.” That’s why Qing was built to explore the world.

Beyond the seven seas - Lifestyle - Adv 1 | C&N
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