Adventurous Explore Group discovers no better alternative to the proven reliability of Yanmar
The latest high-speed catamaran built for the Explore Group is set to raise the standard in vessels for quality dive trips and dining cruise experiences. Having one of the best boats in this segment of the tour market meant having the best marine propulsion – Yanmar.
Yanmars have been fitted to the Explore Group’s latest luxury fleet addition to be operated out of Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
The recently launched MV Ocean Explorer is the biggest of Explore Group’s Hamilton Island-based fleet, with the company’s owner demanding Yanmars for the impressive 27 metre vessel.
The Yanmar decision for main engines is no small testament, given the Explore Group operates around 15 vessels in Australia and New Zealand, becoming one of the most successful new cruise, sail and dive boat operators in the region over the last 20 years.
There were no arguments from Guy Obren of Wildcat Marine about the Yanmar decision after taking on the contract to have Ocean Explorer built.
“We have had a good run with the Yanmar product,” explained Guy – a man with more commercial boat experience than many in Australia and New Zealand.
“As boat builders we quite like the product and I have used Yanmars in multiple new builds and refurbishments with good results.”
Yanmar 6AYM-WGT L rating commercial engines were chosen to propel the magnificent Ocean Explorer.
A proven performer across many commercial boating applications, the 6AYM series Yanmars are a 20.3 litre, six cylinder in-line engine with a low-revving long-stroke (180mm) cylinder.
Along with practically unrivalled reliability and fuel efficiency for their class of engine, the 6AYM delivers relatively clean power output via Yanmar engineering.
Environmentally sensitive areas such as the Great Barrier Reef deserve clean running engines. It will be pleasing to know for Ocean Explorer’s owners, crew and guests then that applications within the 6AYM Yanmars such as internal exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and multiple, micro-sized holes in newly designed injectors (creating a finer, more efficient fuel mist) ensure an IMO Tier II emissions standard engine.
This increased fuel burn efficiency means less smoke and cleaner running will be evident underway each day, both at lower engine speeds or under higher loads.
“With this build, we did not have to encourage the owner to go Yanmar because he has had good results from Yanmar engines himself within his existing fleet”.
Wildcat Marine contracted Queensland-based Commercial Marine Australia for the One2Three-designed build and fit out, with impressive finished results.
Quality horsepower for luxury cruise experience
With a nine metre beam and unloaded displacement over 62 tonnes, conventional fixed-propeller and shaft running gear deliver a comfortable cruise speed of 21 knots with the 6AYM-WGT engines (670kW/911mhp @ 1938rpm). A top speed of around 23.5 knots was achieved in a simulated full-weight loaded test (with an addition of around nine tonnes of load, plus some 5,000 litres of fuel and 2,000 litres of fresh water).
“Being a three-level vessel and having that beam, there is extra weight,” Guy says.
While Guy concedes the boat is certainly not overpowered, for her daily commercial duties a 21 knot cruise at an expected 260 to 270 litres of diesel per hour (combined) is sweet efficiency for any vessel of this size and load.
Typical usage will see around a 50/50 split between higher speed running and slow cruising, with around a 1.5 hour run to the reef for the dive trips and low speed running for dinner cruises and other usage.
The 6AYM-WGTs were ordered with Yanmar’s deep sump option, allowing a 500-hour service regime that will help keep Ocean Explorer spending more of her hours showing off her luxury fittings to guests rather than in servicing downtime.
“They are heavy duty, commercial-grade engines, but it is unbelievable just how smooth they are,” says Guy, “But of course, they are pretty much built to last forever, and smooth running is always part of that.”
A smooth delivery of power is no doubt also thanks to a quality fit out by Commercial Marine Australia whose work in fitting the Yanmars included perfectly matched custom exhausts.
“The new engine mounts we are using (that are recommended by Yanmar) are really good quality also and help deliver a smooth-running vessel,” explained Guy.
The bridge is equipped with state-of-the-art systems that puts every operating system at the skipper’s fingertips and reflects the quality appointments throughout the vessel
Ocean Explorer to showcase the reef and tropical evenings in style
Similar to the innovation and practical thinking that goes into her Yanmar engines, Ocean Explorer will deliver a clever dual-purpose luxury experience out of Hamilton Island.
By day she is designed as a top-end dive tour vessel on the Great Barrier Reef, while a quick one-hour turnaround in the afternoon will see her carrying a dinner cruise at night.
Ocean Explorer enjoys a quality of fittings and finish more reflective of a private pleasure craft than commercial cruising vessel.
Hydraulics can position a full-beam stadium-style water entry at the stern of the vessel (complete with underwater cameras for viewing the aquatic fun for guests who prefer not to get wet).
A full-beam stadium-style water entry platform at the stern is hydraulically controlled and is complete with underwater cameras to capture the aquatic life below and can be illuminated to add ambience in the evenings. (Photo credit Incat Crowther)
A four-bank tank filling system is cleverly out-of-sight on the main deck, along with other hardware and ground gear including fire hoses, anchoring gear and other equipment. This neatly-designed practicality is further enhanced with stone benches and facades inside, extensive stainless chef and hospitality equipment and even a full guest-viewable teppanyaki barbeque on the outside of the second level.
Even some of the tiniest details show just how much thought has gone into this vessel’s passenger purpose, with convenient USB charging points located cleverly and conveniently around much of the guest seating.
“For example, the paint finish is probably around 40 per cent more expensive than what we would normally do on a ferry,” Guy proudly points out.
A flash paint job is not all that shows on Ocean Explorer however.
A stroll through any passenger area gives more a feeling of a cruise ship interior than tourist transport, with seating and booth finishes that ooze invitation rather than just a place to sit. Even the vessel’s open-air top deck enjoys a seating layout that would not be out of place in a high-end airport lounge or observatory.
This upper deck allows for spectacular viewing angles during reef trips and a pleasant vantage point for sunset cocktails before dinner is served in lower deck areas during the evening (as with the large-glassed vertical superstructure of the One2Three design on lower enclosed and airconditioned decks).
Following the completion of the days journey showcasing the reef off Hamiton Island, Ocean Explorer transforms to entertainment mode and is ideally appointed with features like an outdoor teppanyaki barbeque that comes alive during the tropical evenings. (Photo credit Incat Crowther)
The bridge continues a brief of clean and quality finish, but is much more than just a steering station and controls for the ever-reliable Yanmars down below. State-of-the-art systems put every operating system at the skipper’s fingertips – from full viewing systems around the boat right through to automatic solenoid release valves for treated sewage.
With a capacity of around 120 for dive trips and between 60 to 80 guests for dinner cruising, there is comfortable room for all.
“She is licensed for 200 passengers if ever used for ferry duties or things like cruise ship transfers, but that will not be the primary purpose of the boat,” Guy said.
The Explore Group has had other boats built in Australia with Yanmars fitted from factory with good results according to Guy Obren.
“In fact, most of the boats they have had from new have had Yanmars and they are very happy with them,” Guy said.
Yanmar 6AYM-WGT 6 cylinder in-line 20.3L marine Tier 2 engine. Rated 670 kW (911mhp@1938 rpm), 4-valve cylinder head, direct injection, turbo charged marine diesel engine.