Boat of the Week: This 85-Foot All-Aluminum Explorer Feels More Like an Industrial Loft—and That’s the Point

·5 min read

It’s rare to see a yacht that isn’t white. Or if the owner’s adventurous, navy. On the very rare occasion, maybe battleship gray. Arksen’s new 85-footer is breaking all the rules with a superstructure that retains its original shiny aluminum finish—actually, it’s first sanded, lacquered and then left exposed. That industrial look is becoming more common inside modern offices and even homes, but it’s the first for a yacht.

That’s because the 85’s attempting to find a new type of owner, both through its look and design, as a yacht that appeals to a younger mindset, one that doesn’t mind a more open, group-focused interior, even to the point of becoming buddies with the crew thanks to shared common areas. Think one big happy family. Think Millennials.

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Behind the rugged, raw exterior is a mini-explorer designed to travel long distances. Arksen founder Jasper Smith spent several years during his youth sailing from Australia to Alaska, stopping along the way to explore backwater cruising grounds and climb mountains. In other words, to experience and savor some of the world’s most beautiful water. He decided to do that in the design of the new 85.

The 85 is designed as a go-anywhere cruiser. - Credit: Courtesy Arksen
The 85 is designed as a go-anywhere cruiser. - Credit: Courtesy Arksen

Courtesy Arksen

“The Arksen concept was to produce boats suitable for adventure, but with sustainable manufacturing and efficient operation,” Ewan Hind, Arksen’s COO, told Robb Report.

The running surface by Humphrees Naval Architects gives the 85 the ability to operate in areas that have small ice floes—though technically it’s not an ice-class hull—and navigate rough seas. The boat has a theoretical range of 7,000 nautical miles. Many builders boast about transatlantic capabilities, but few add features like high-capacity watermakers, and gyro and fin stabilizers for off-grid traveling. The 85-footer also has a sewage-treatment option that allows it to operate in environmentally sensitive areas—a feature usually only found on much larger yachts.

The new Arksen’s bulkheads are divided into watertight sections, so if one compartment floods, the boat will stay afloat. “You don’t need large displacement, or weight, for stability,” says Hind. “Other than when it’s totally empty, the 85 has 180 degrees of positive stability, so in the unlikely event that it rolled, it would self-right.” It’s that kind of design that gives the 85 authentic explorer credentials.

The open-plan salon was designed so that owners and crew could move freely across the yacht, fostering a sense of camaraderie. - Credit: Courtesy Arksen
The open-plan salon was designed so that owners and crew could move freely across the yacht, fostering a sense of camaraderie. - Credit: Courtesy Arksen

Courtesy Arksen

The main deck aft can be accommodated to carry a crane with a tender, or left free for loose furniture, or even used as a dedicated lab space when research projects are under way. Arksen created the Sea Time Pledge, in which owners donate a portion of their vessels’ annual sea time to scientific or educational projects. The aim is to create the world’s largest privately owned research-capable fleet.

I had a chance to visit the build in progress this week, which is happening at Wights Shipyard on the Isle of Wight, located on England’s southern coast. The yard is considered one of the UK’s finest aluminum builders, with a focus on constructing fast vessels. That reputation attracted Smith, who decided to build all of his new boats there. Two others are in the build process.

The Design Unlimited interior is also flexible enough to reflect different owners’ personalities. Hull number one has a main suite that includes a separate office. That office can double as a small stateroom, or if the boat is being used for research, as a work center for the scientist. The second hull does away with the smaller stateroom and will be configured as a large, full-beam master. The team also used sailboat design to create crossover areas, like the open-plan salon, galley. and dining area to maximize the available living space.

The company expects the boats to be used for scientific research in off-grid cruising grounds. - Credit: Courtesy Arksen
The company expects the boats to be used for scientific research in off-grid cruising grounds. - Credit: Courtesy Arksen

Courtesy Arksen

“Everybody is going to be using the boat together, including crew, so it’s designed to function in the way people tend to live at home,” says Hind. Again, the focus on catering to a Millennial owner, who would tend to be less concerned about keeping a dividing line between owners and guests on one side, and crew on the other. But for those who like that line, there’s the option of a crew galley and quarters compartmentalized away from the guests.

Beyond the boat itself, part of Smith’s vision was to create a fractional ownership option for Arksen, so that a group could share costs and have access to the boat at different times. After realizing that most boats spend long periods sitting idle in marinas, Smith set up a shared-ownership scheme with friends on previous boats, to increase usage.

Hinds says that Arksen’s Adventure Syndicate is designed to minimize the challenges of boat ownership, including operational costs. “Shared ownership gives them access to a larger, more capable boat than they might otherwise be able to afford,” he says. “It can go farther, with crew, and be in use all the time.”

Hull number at Wights Shipyard in the U.K. is scheduled to launch later this year. - Credit: Courtesy Arksen
Hull number at Wights Shipyard in the U.K. is scheduled to launch later this year. - Credit: Courtesy Arksen

Courtesy Arksen

Beyond fleets of small charter sailboats, the fractional concept really hasn’t taken off in the motoryacht world. But Arksen is taking it seriously as a business model. The company assists with setting up the fractional shares and scheduling the boat, while also aiding owners who want to sell or swap their syndicate membership. “The goal is to make it as accessible as possible to a large number of people,” says Hinds.

Hull number one has been purchased by a syndicate of boat owners who want to move up in size, while hull two has been purchased by a family. The first boat is scheduled to launch later this year.

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