A superyacht tender should ideally be an extension of the mothership’s experience, bridging the gap for guests between being on board and on shore. Therefore, reliability and comfort are often high on the priority list for any tender. But even the sturdiest, most comfortable tender can run into difficulties in destinations with a lack of infrastructure, and no crew wants to be stuck in a situation in which they cannot seamlessly transfer guests ashore.
While many in the superyacht market will dismiss the multi-purpose tender market as a gimmicky one associated with compromise on performance and safety, it can’t be denied that such products bring benefits that regular tenders do not. Amphibious tenders, for example, can transform wet and sometimes dangerous beach landings into a dry and safe experience for guests. Hovercraft – a unique type of amphibious vehicle – can ensure access to beaches at low tide or in shallow lagoons, something a normal tender cannot. As a result, the market for multi-purpose vehicles has typically appealed to owners of explorer yachts visiting destinations off the beaten track.
"While many in the superyacht market will dismiss the multi-purpose tender market as a gimmicky one associated with compromise on performance and safety, it can’t be denied that such products bring benefits that regular tenders do not..."
The adaptation of hovercraft for use as explorer-yacht tenders, for example, has emerged as a niche within the multi-purpose-vehicle market used by superyachts. “While a number of very small hovercraft have previously been found in the garages of superyachts for entertainment, the more serious seagoing craft offered by Griffon have never been considered until recently,” explains Mark Downer, chief engineer at Griffon Hoverwork. “The change has come with the development of explorer yachts and the unique opportunities a hovercraft provides guests to adventure out into otherwise unreachable areas of ice, estuaries and rivers – particularly where there is no infrastructure.”
While these types of amphibious vehicles typically appeal to owners exploring remote destinations, some amphibious tenders are being designed for use on board any yacht simply to elevate the guest experience and improve crew operations. Iguana Yachts was established in 2008 with the aim of removing negative experiences for guests during beach landings in choppy conditions or inconvenient tide times, while maintaining a focus on the uncompromising performance of its products on the water.
“Multi-purpose vehicles have always existed, but mainly in the form of land vehicles that can also go on to the water, which by their very nature are not very efficient in the water or safe in rough conditions,” says Steve Huppert, sales manager at Iguana Yachts. “For this reason, the amphibious-tender market has always been viewed by the superyacht industry as a compromise. However, Iguana Yachts’ tenders are not designed to be land vehicles but real boats with no compromise on performance or safety that are used on land in places with no infrastructure for tenders. There is a big difference between the two.”
Iguana Yachts prefers to refer to its tenders not as amphibious tenders but as ‘super-beachers’, because of the negative connotations surrounding amphibious vehicles in the superyacht market. “An Iguana would be suitable not only for an explorer yacht in remote destinations but also for any yacht no matter what the programme,” adds Huppert. “For example, it can be used for setting up barbecues on a nearby beach, allowing the crew to transport all the tables, chairs, food and other equipment needed to the shore with ease.”
Rather than using wheels, the Iguana tender rolls along on tread-like tracks or a powertrain, allowing it to cross a variety of terrain including pebbles, concrete, mud and soft sand at speeds of up to seven kilometres an hour. This versatility comes down to the strength of the track; with the weight of the vessel spread over a larger surface, it can be driven over places that would be difficult to walk on. Furthermore, the system has enough power to go up steep slopes such as sand dunes.
Huppert sees the general attitude and mindset changing towards amphibious tenders as the superyacht market gains more experience of them. “People only think that it’s a compromise or difficult to operate or maintain if they haven’t experienced it,” he says. “The industry is always skeptical of new technologies and, [at] just over 10 years old, Iguana Yachts is still relatively new in the grand scheme of things. The main feedback we get from yachts with an Iguana on board is that the owners and guests love it, and that is gradually trickling down through the industry.”
Sealegs International, another company in the amphibious tender market, describes it as a growing niche. “Superyacht owners continue to realise the benefits of [amphibious] tenders,” agrees Kirsty Reid, marketing coordinator at Sealegs. “With the ability to access remote islands that cannot otherwise be reached with a normal boat, and the ease of transition for crew and guests from sea to land, amphibious tenders open a whole new range of opportunities for owners. Most don’t appreciate the full benefits until they experience it first-hand.”
A multi-purpose vehicle can be a useful addition to any yacht, and the type that is most suitable depends upon how the vehicle will be used and where. Being able to transport guests from mothership to shore without being limited by infrastructure, terrain or sea conditions is something that will appeal to the majority of owners, no matter what the programme or itinerary. With a more diverse range of products on the market than ever, and some companies pioneering the way in terms of applying the technology to suit superyacht operations, it’s promising to see that the mindset towards the amphibious market is changing and that another exciting dimension is gradually being added to the superyacht experience.
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