View from the bridge: Chase boat vs a larger yacht


Support vessels, such as Joy Rider, offer significant benefits to superyacht owners: captain Iain Flockhart.

As the encouraging trend for more large yachts to get away from the same old cruising grounds and to cruise further afield seems to  gather momentum, so we have seen the rise of the purpose-built support vessel or chase boat, writes captain Iain Flockhart.

This is most definitely a growing market sector. I am sure it will continue to expand as more and more owners see the many benefits of having a dedicated support vessel to follow, or in many cases, travel ahead of the mothership.

As the number of toys that many yachts carry  continues to grow, and as many of these toys get larger, the sheer amount of space  required to house and maintain them grows accordingly.

It’s a long list. Yachts with helicopters, submarines and multiple tenders for varying roles including: limo, utilitarian, with large inboard engines etc. Then, there are larger run-arounds, sailing yachts, motor vehicles, both off road and luxury, and aeroplanes. Also, let’s not forget fully-fitted dive centres with decompression chamber to boot, laboratories for research, and so the list goes on.

Commission a separate vessel

The cost of all of this comes at a premium when it  has to be accommodated within a mothership. From a purely economic point of view, it works out cheaper in the long run to commission a separate vessel to accommodate all your toys.

For example, if you want to add significantly to your onboard options and want all manner of new toys, you may well find that you are looking at an 100m vessel to meet all your requirements. As we all know, the cost of yachts goes up exponentially with their LOA (length overall) and gross tonnage.

One scenario may be that you could look instead at a vessel more in the 60-metre range as the mother ship and a well-designed dedicated support vessel that is say 45 metres.

This will be able to carry a great deal of toys. Also remember much of the overall cost of a yacht is lost to the interior fitting out, but  crew can be accommodated onboard this vessel without  any extravagant outfitting.  Effectively you are building something more akin to a commercial vessel that comes in a lot cheaper than a similar-sized yacht.

You need to look very closely at your precise requirements of size and capabilities etc. But in most cases a well-thought duo of vessels is going to offer not only a very economical solution to your requirements, but brings with it great versatility as well.

Brings with it great versatility

Now you have figured out that you can save a good chunk on your two vessels, start to look at the other advantages that come along with this route vs a single larger yacht.

You can send the support vessel ahead to get organised ahead of the arrival of the mother ship. For short journeys you may even take guests with you, as oft’ times these support vessels are capable of greater speed than their motherships. Many owners’ time is very precious to them and if they are adventurous  they could already by off exploring long before the mothership arrives at the next destination. For such eventualities, it’s easy and economical  to provide a lounge area for guest  accommodation on shorter passages.  Or, if there is a helicopter onboard and the mothership has a helideck, the guests can catch up with the support vessel and land on her accordingly.

It makes total sense to have a fully-certified helideck on a support vessel. While it can be a challenge on all but the largest yachts, it is easy to accommodate on a dedicated support vessel.  A built-in hangar is also a very sensible option and has been implemented on several smaller support vessels.

The support vessel staying behind or going ahead can also save the guests a great deal of time in terms of picking up and dropping off all the toys in preparation for the guests. This is  a time-consuming business at best and the mothership can set off leaving the support vessel to mop up behind her and get to the next destination with all the toys already deployed and ready for immediate use on arrival of the mothership.

Be mindful of your crew selection for this type vessel, as it’s more than subtly different from the running of a mothership or stand-alone yacht. Interestingly, research also shows that crew who work on these vessels enjoy greater job satisfaction than their counterparts.

A fair amount of research has been done on the economics of the subject and it is clearly a winner from that perspective in many cases. Then, add the extensive benefits of greatly extended versatility and additional storage space that can assist with the usually inevitable overflow from a mothership and you really do have a winning combination at your disposal.

Meanwhile, the support vessel Joy Rider was launched at Amels & Damen’s yard at Gorinchem in the Netherlands last July.


About the author

Iain Flockhart is a highly-experienced yacht captain with more than 250,000 nautical miles experience in the role of professional captain since 1996. He grew up on sailing vessels but chooses now to work on motor yachts. He enjoys simple pleasures such as using his seven-metre RIB to go exploring and wild camping in his native Scotland. Iain is currently looking for new opportunities to command a superyacht. Contact him at [email protected]

Subscribe to our free newsletter

For more opinions from Superyacht Investor, subscribe to our email newsletter.

Subscribe here