What a nightmare this must be, what a shock and unbelievably hard days and weeks for all the staff, the employers, clients and friends of Oyster Yachts. I myself – like I would assume all the rest of the business as well of the yachting world as a whole – have been left in utter disbelief and speechlessness when I learned the terrible news about the fact that Oyster had been running out of cash and had to cease production, send home it´s workforce and halt production. No matter what, either way of the yard going into liquidation or administration is a total disaster.
Which comes as a complete surprise. Thinking only two weeks back the Oyster 745 was not just the biggest sailing yacht of the Duesseldorf boat show, it was (to my eyes) the sexiest, most impressive, most tempting, most inspiring and – after I was able to roam her internals for almost an hour before opening of the show – also one of the best build boats. I was thinking some days before publishing this article if I should or not. I thought that this might appear being kind of an epitaph or something alike. But I decided to go forward: Because, no matter what happens to the company – this particular boat is worth being mentioned, is worth being worshipped because I saw it with my own eyes how an Oyster can do magic to people. And maybe, just maybe, I can give back some of this magic and turn it into strength.
On deck of the Oyster 745
I entered the boat and – unlike usually – I didn´t went down below deck straight ahead but went forward to the bowsprit. The walkways are huge, no need to squeeze oneself through the shrouds, which adds a couple of safety points. Being right at the front, I noticed the wide deck area and the beautifully arranged set of hatches and skylights before the mast.
The Teak decking is of best quality. I don´t know how thick the Teak battens are on the Oyster, but there wasn´t any wobble noticeable when walking on deck like it is the case with most other boats. A slight mopping which I guess is a combination of a thin GRP deck and thin Teak decking and their vibrations upon standing on them. I also loved the big “fish”, the middle Teak batten, beautifully crafted. You seldom see these details on production boats.
Of course, right behind the stand for the mast (notice the two halyard winches to either sides, the primary of them being the bigger one). Since a couple of years Oyster manages to build the deck houses – and especially the big front glasses – to appear like one giant window without visible window frames. Just one continuous black window running from side to side. The windows have this distinct cat-like appearance when looked at from the sides. Gorgeous. A signature for sure, but there´s more to it.
Oyster Yachts are the role model of deck saloon yachts, if you ask me. There are other big names, but in my mind only those three: Contest, Discovery and Oyster manage to integrate the deck saloon concept into a ship´s design that is still very attractive – if not to say sexy to look at. Oyster is the sexiest. The saloon is very, very neatly integrated into the ship´s overall lines. It is far from appearing bulky or edgy. A nice, fluent, attractive design. And of course, there are the three vertical big windows in the hull, another signature of Oyster. These two elements set those boats apart from the rest of the whole yacht fleet out there – it´s unique.
It is indeed an exhilarating feeling to be standing on the – yes, one could call it – bridge and look forward over the bow. This yacht is meant for serious, long haul ocean travelling and the boat is indeed exhaling this claim through every inch of the hull. Of course, she is way too big and way too expensive for normal people like me and probably you, but it is nevertheless a fascinating thought to imagine oneself standing at the helm of a boat like this, looking ahead, a deep endless blue under our keel, white sails above our heads. And one sailing trip of a lifetime to go.
Push Button Sailing on the Oyster 745
Oyster, that´s that is synonymous with luxurious sailing. Or should I say effortless sailing? Everything aboard this boat is naturally electrically powered. Of course, you can grind the winches manually but you´d be a fool to do so. On the other hand: The boat isn´t made to be run the old fashioned manual way. There are two halyard winches right next to the mast, all other winches are positioned aft, right behind the steering stations.
The primary winches are huge, bigger than most dogs I know. Of course we have only the best equipment installed. Stainless steel, Lewmar´s best. As one can see, standing one´s watch aboard such a fine cruiser must be pure treat. The helmsman´s stations are fitted with very comfortable benches. Sitting here, you get a very good grip on every button you might have to push to correct the sail trim, hold tight to the steering wheel (if you do not happen to be running on autopilot) and – best thing – you will have a great view over all of the boat´s wide deck.
One detail on the aft section I found most interesting: Some of the lines running aft from the rigging will be lead through a small arch right in front of the winches before being coiled onto the latter. That´s a clever system and may look awesome. But there´s another detail I do not really get: Where does the leeward end of a line go when leaving the winch? There is a big GRP-section of the superstructure to the inward side of the deck – I suppose, all lines will be running free when leaving the winch.
So, after correcting the sails a crew member will have to go to the quarterdeck and get the leeward parts, coil the lines and put them … where? As far as I have seen, there is no dedicated place where to put the stuff, no locker flush countersunk into the deck (like it is the case ahead next to the mast stand) nor any installation, a net, a basket or something to put the lines. Also, when sailing with considerable heeling or in foul weather, it might be a dangerous venture to enter the afterdeck because here are no grips, handles or any foot rests to hold on to.
As open and – potentially tricky – the helmsman´s station and the task of operating the winches on the Oyster 745 might be, as safe and snug is the guest´s area in the cockpit. There is the customary cosy large reclining area with two very big L-settees ready to host a number of guests (maybe 8 or so?). The central table can be transformed into a huge dining platform by folding out additional table area to all four sides of the table thus tripling the dining area. On the same time the cockpit is arbitrating a safe atmosphere by a high coaming.
All in all I like the deck layout of the Oyster 745. She is made to go for long open Ocean stretches and that´s what her hull is telling. The center cockpit-solution, which is a trademark of Oyster yachts – is the best and most beneficial concept as it is the most gentle way to have a boat built with the preserving of a crew´s high state of readiness and general mood. I love the Teak-works and the overall level of craftsmanship and the only tiny detail I couldn´t really grasp while walking the deck was the running of the lines to the (very, very aft) winches and especially the question where the leeward lines would go.
Sailing a Rolex – down below Deck
But, let´s proceed down below deck. From my past encounter with the Oyster´s smaller sister, the Oyster 575 during Cannes Yachting Festival (read the article here) I know that the interior fittings of Oyster are beyond imagination and of superior quality. Why I loved most about the Oster´s interior design was the fact that it all was made of such a high sublime quality – but at the same time of such an understating character. Unlike my initial prejudice, the Oyster wasn´t that bling-bling at all. I found her … very British indeed. And I was so excited entering the saloon of the 745 to see if it was the same with this boat.
Well, it was. Dominating colours are derivates of white, some wooden applications and lots of light, both natural and artificial. Well, one must credit that we are on a British boat here and surely the – admittedly nice, but totally impractical – carpet is one of the first things I wouldn´t have ordered in the first place at the yard, but the rest of the design is just breathtakingly beautiful. Oyster yachts have brought the middle-cockpit and deck-saloon yacht layout to perfection. It´s the same on the “smaller” Oysters as well with the bigger ones: Huge saloon, a dedicated nav station, a dining and reclining area. Then there´s the owner´s cabin aft and guest´s and crew-cabins in the bow.
As I am a sailor, the first thing I usually take a look at is the chart table and the connected nav station. The way a yard is fitting this place and attaching valuable room to it, the more the yard intents to have the boat bought by real sailors. This is the reason why – sadly enough – on most production boats there´s no more nav station to be found anymore. The biggest of a concession is a small teapoy, folding out somewhere cramped in a dark edge of the boat in a ridiculous place. Not so with Oyster: Here the skipper is the master and he has got a hell of a workplace!
That´s a huge chart table – like everything aboard this yacht made from massive wood – with two big facing areas for plotters, Radar, computer screens and switch panels. Also VHF and other secondary gauges might be installed here. That´s a lot of area for a serious owner to have the boat fitted with loads of equipment for the long haul trip. And I love it. The way the naval architects have treated this area shows the dedication of Oyster – being a boat for serious Ocean sailing. On the other hand, all this equipment also demonstrates that the hunger for electricity on this vessel might be enormous to power all the equipment here. And wait till you see the galley …
The dining area to starboard side might not look that overwhelming, but believe me, the upholstery and the quality of the cushion is just … heaven! Taking a seat here will elevate you instantaneously to another dimension in seating comfort. Taking a nap after a long watch might easily be followed by a long and marvellous coma. When travelling with children or guests, I thought to myself, replacing this very, very, very cuddly upholstery by more hard-wearing and washable seat covers might be a good thing.
Looking aft at the huge bulkhead, we find to starboard side small two-stepped stairs down into a short corridor leading to the owner´s cabin. Or should I say: Leading to the owner´s paradise?
The Advantage of Aft Cabin Yachts
As sporty an aft cockpit yacht might look like and as practical it is to have two dedicated aft cabins to house up to four people, on an owner´s owned and sailed yacht the center cockpit-design sports advantages nobody can deny. Up on deck it´s best for the crew (imagine sailing with small children and family) to have the cockpit being placed as nearest to the swivel center of a yacht as possible. This will minimized nauseating effects of the boat´s motion. Also, this configuration creates a very special layout: An “owner´s layout” that is favoured by most yacht brands manufacturing for classic owners like Hallberg-Rassy, Najad and other big names.
Going through the corridor there´s a huge (and believe me, it is huge indeed!) bathroom passing by. A separated shower is customary, electric toilets are a matter of course. I love the fine Teak and marvel applications and again wondered (a bit) what the energy consumption of this vessel might be. Then you enter the aft cabin, or owner´s cabin, and you are instantly bewitched and forget about such things as battery capacity or generator power. The owner´s cabin is pure eye candy.
I just love the three big vertical windows, a design signature of Oyster Yachts, and here in the owner´s cabin you can clearly see their intent. I can imagine myself lying here in the huge bed, awaking after a long and relaxing good night´s sleep, sun is up already and there´s fresh air streaming down through the open hatches – looking outside to see the blue water of our anchorage reflecting sunbeams to the cabin through these big windows. A dream. A dream for sure.
Have I mentioned the sheer size of the bed? There´s also enough space in here for a two-seater settee to get undressed and dressed, or just receiving a phone call from the poor beloved ones we had to leave at home. A dedicated worktop with a small stool to maybe do some work here in the small onboard-bureau and – of course – a fat screen. There´s stowage everywhere you look and I do not doubt that this cabin can be home for anyone sailing aboard this fine vessel.
But again, here we have it, this British understating style. Not a waste nor a showing off of wooden fittings, just the courtly but subtle application of leather-veneered panels, fine accents of colours and the wonderfully concerted interplay of fine materials, fabrics and their impression of one´s mood. This is a very nice concept of a modern, trendy but not to overly designed ship´s cabin. I loved it here.
Being Guest or Crew aboard an Oyster 745
But you have not necessarily be the owner of this beauty to enjoy a sailing trip aboard. Same applies for the crew, I would say. Standing in front of the main forward bulkhead in the saloon one can go either left or right. Let´s proceed left where we enter the crew´s area. First up is the galley.
We find it snug in here: There´s enough room to work freely but also narrow enough to provide for a safe stand in rougher seas. To the ship´s hull side there´s a large Corian-like worktop (crafted from one single piece of material) with a nice stainless steel double sink and a 4-burner stove. More than enough stowage for plates and stuff as well as for provisions is without question provided here.
To the right hand side there´s a dishwasher and even more stowage, as well as some refridgerating space. A very large freezer-fridge-combination is situated at the end of the galley at the next bulkhead, separating the galley from the crew´s quarter. The galley is also equipped with an oven (including an exhaust hood), a microwave oven and – sadly enough – with the unavoidable Nespresso-machine (which would be the first thing to get expulsed from the boat if I were the owner, even before the carpet is removed).
From the galley there´s a door leading to the forward crew´s compartment consisting of a double berth cabin in Pulman configuration plus en-suite bathroom. Even here, the Oyster is boasting a nice wooden interior that has the same finishing quality as the rest of the boat. Oyster crews must be happy crews indeed.
From the crew´s cabin another rather heavily manufactured door leads through the forward bulkhead (or is this the collision bulkhead?) to the sails locker, which in itself is a huge room with some three metres in height. This sails locker can provide for a rather discrete entrance to the crew´s quarter. I can only imagine how many sails and other stuff can be stored here for the long journey.
I loved view back to the saloon when standing in the galley. The whole boat´s interior has a very welcoming atmosphere and makes a deep impression on me. It´s a ship-like feeling but not the wooden overkill as seen on many other yachts: It´s this more modern approach I find so inviting. I think the designers made a very good job here in combining light, material and layout to achieving a most welcoming atmosphere.
Again, the same for the guest´s cabins: From the main bulkhead choosing the door to the right hand side we will enter the large guest cabin. There´s a big bed, a nice porthole window (which can be opened) and en-suite bathroom boasting all amenities you would expect here. Sufficient stowage is provided but I find a studding sail for the bed is more than helpful if you don´t want to get pushed out of the bed when the yacht is heeling to port side.
And, last but not least, there´s yet another guest´s cabin. This time it´s two separated beds and again a very nice interior. In fact, crew´s and guest´s cabins on this yacht are far more attractive than some of the owner´s cabins of other yachts I´ve seen – which is no wonder, since on a +70 ft boat even a small “chamber” would register as a full-size cabin on smaller sized yachts.
All in all – like after visiting her smaller sister – the Oyster 745´s interior was a blast. She is a stunning beauty. No matter where you look at, no matter which panel you open and corner you are sneaking behind, you barely find anything criticizable about her interior design. Of course, energy consumption is a big issue on this boat and “true” circumnavigators like Jimmy Cornell would argue that you aren´t independent on a yacht like this. On the other hand – every owner can customize his order at the yard to any level desired. Well … at least the owner was able to do so until lately.
One Dream of a Yacht
What a shame, one might think, that such a great product, such a great brand and with it a whole chapter in yachting is about to end. The Oyster, this I could witness with my own eyes, was a true magnet for a multitude of visitors at Duesseldorf boat show. The yacht is an awe-inspiring example of what is fascinating us at seafaring – it makes us dream, sends us way on a journey. The more it breaks my heart to read all the horrifying news about the company´s fate.
As terrible as a lost keel might be, I find it rather hard to acknowledge that the loss of the keel of POLINA STAR III was the cause of the trouble of the company in the first place. Like so many other “lost” brands in yachting, the often announced criticism in forums and on blogs regarding “alien” investors and mainly profit-driven interests behind the financing of yards, we are also very harsh reminded of the fact that the boating industry is an industry in the first place: It´s there to make money.
I can only hope that there will be a solution found soon. For the 170 employers of the British yard as well as for the associated businesses and all the Oyster owners (especially those owners with half-finished hulls). I also hope for us, yacht afficionados, that the brand will soon be revived, alive and kicking because it would be a true loss for the whole boating industry if Oyster is lost forever. Most important, I hope for the sake of the high quality of the product that a new financier will be interested in going on making such superbly built yachts with the same emphasis on quality and finish. It would be a shame seeing Oyster revived as a pure brand but the actual product being outsourced and “optimized” for the streamlined financial business. We don´t want to see Oyster coming back as a hollow brand´s name.
In the end, melancholy prevails. On the one hand I am still so elated by the vivid images of the Oyster 745 at Duesseldorf. Such a fine vessel, such a superior building quality. On the one end the never ending stream of news, hints and rumours. Let´s hope for the best …
Read all articles on Duesseldorf by clicking on this hashtag: #boatshowduesseldorf
You may also like to read more about blue water cruising:
Sailing a Rolex: The Oyster yachts 575
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