An increasing number of yachts have very limited space to carry sufficient tenders and toys and to accommodate large enough beach clubs and spa areas. One way to negate this issue is to have a shadow vessel. In this preview of issue 76, Bryony McCabe looks into this developing sector of the industry and the type of crew needed to work within it.

The demand for both bigger and better superyacht toys and itineraries that include far-flung destinations has seen the emergence of a unique sector of the superyacht industry. A trend for shadow and support vessels, the purpose of which is to unburden the mothership from the storage of water toys, tenders and helicopters, has seen new opportunities emerge for superyacht crew. But what does it take to work on such vessels and how does it compare to the mainstream superyacht industry?

Captain Laurent Bliekast was given the opportunity to start his captain’s career on a shadow vessel as the build captain on board Lynx Yachts’ 24m YXT. “YXT was special because she was built to carry guests as well, so the difference between her and your average superyacht was big,” he explains. “On a support vessel, guests are not normally on board so you can be a little more casual than you would be on a superyacht – you have the time to work. The unique thing is that you don’t make any decisions about the programme or the itinerary which are all finalised and organised on the master vessel between the captain and guests, so you have a little less responsibility and less organising to do.”

Lynx Yachts build capable baby shadow vessels and its founder and chairman, Slim Bouricha, explains the main difference for crew working on board a shadow vessel compared to those working on a superyacht. “On the main yacht, the crew is providing their services to the guests, whereas on a shadow vessel the crew is providing their services to the main yacht and they only have an indirect exposure to guests,” he says. “While some shadow vessels have accommodation for extra guests, others have no guest accommodation at all and in this case the crew is fully focused on providing logistical support to the main yacht as well as making sure all toys and tenders are available as needed. The work pace is different on a shadow vessel; there are moments of long waiting time and moments of very high workloads. Fast response is expected from a shadow-vessel crew.”

"For TB2, the crew needed to be certified to maintain and operate the submarine as well as the tender and various skills to find and evaluate underwater features."
- Michael Schutte, founder and principal naval architect, Brilliant Boats

Michael Schutte, founder and principal naval architect at Brilliant Boats, is responsible for the naval architecture on board submarine-carrying motoryacht Thunderbird 2 (TB2). He advises that the main difference between 24m TB2 and a normal superyacht is the relative density and complexity of the machinery on board. “Because this vessel carries all of the equipment needed to support and service a submarine, despite its relatively small size, the crew’s engineering requirement is much more than would be suggested by her length,” he explains. “TB2 is an extreme example, but this would be typical on any shadow vessel as they seem to be mostly about carrying toys.

“Clearly each shadow vessel will have its defined missions and the crew need to be chosen to properly support the activities dreamt up by the boss,” Schutte advises. “For TB2, the crew needed to be certified to maintain and operate the submarine as well as the tender and various skills to find and evaluate underwater features. As yacht toys become more and more complicated – today we are talking aircraft, submarines and fast chase boats – the crew will need to be doing a lot more than just washing down and polishing to be able to show up at the transom of the mother ship with working toys at a moment’s notice.”

Find the full article in issue 76 of The Crew Report, out mid October and available at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and the Global Superyacht Forum.