Zeelander 68 – When a boat becomes a ship.

© Richard Corbett 2013

I recently had the opportunity to visit Holland as a favour for a friend of mine.   My friend is seriously considering buying this vessel and he asked me to check it out for him – so I did!

The weather on my arrival at Amsterdam airport was unseasonably sunny and warm – perhaps an omen.  Bob Fritsky from MarineMax, who are selling the Zeelander motor yachts, was waiting for me in an open top car would you believe, yes, it was that sunny!

On the drive down to where the Zeelander 68 was moored, Bob was telling me about her and the more I listened the more excited I became.  This is no ordinary 68 foot boat.  It seems the boat is actually owned by the man who founded Zeelander, to use as his own boat.  This man has a reputation for fastidious attention to detail, which apparently is reflected in the 68.  By now I was champing at the bit – Bob had done his job and I couldn’t wait to get on the boat.

Finally, after an hour, we arrived and there she sat, in all her splendour.  It’s funny, but from pictures taken of her, you don’t get the feel that she’s nearly 70 feet long but as I walked up to the dock I could see for myself how majestic this boat actually is.

Now, I’m a pretty cynical chap and I’ve been in the boat manufacturing industry long enough to know what to look for.  I immediately set about searching for flaws in this ‘amazing’ boat.  In the end I have to admit that I was disappointed and elated all at the same time. Disappointed, because I simply couldn’t find anything to speak of which was wrong with this boat.  Elated, because this boat was amazing after all. The attention to detail is on a different level to anything I’ve come across previously.  Simple stuff which you would take for granted, you can take for granted – unlike some boats I’ve been on before, when you come across things that stand out like a sore thumb and you wonder why somebody hasn’t picked up on it and fixed it; it’s not rocket science guys!

There were some lovely touches on this boat too.  The master’s cabin was truly excellent and the en-suite had a bath – a must in my opinion, although, not to everyone’s taste.  There was also a ‘walk-in’ wardrobe – nice touch and plenty of room in front of and around the bed for dressing and undressing.  The VIP cabin forward was well appointed, with plenty of space and a roomy heads area.  There were also two other double cabins, sharing a ‘day-heads’, which again, was nice and roomy.

Also on this deck was the entrance to the engine bay.  It was like walking into the engine room on a ship and this gave me my first clue as to what I was dealing with here.  The systems in the engine room were clearly designed with a professional and knowledgeable approach to long distance cruising.  I’m not going to go through everything in detail but suffice it to say that the equipment and layout in there was a level above your normal motor yacht and more in keeping with Atlantic crossing vessels that go to sea in extraordinary conditions without batting an eyelid.  Moreover, with the door shut, it was absolutely silent throughout the rest of the boat and with the measures taken to reduce vibration it was almost impossible to tell if the engines were running.

The next deck up has the saloon, galley and lower helm.  The lower helm position afforded a good view forward, all the equipment necessary to control the boat systems and a comfy seat for whiling away the hours when on passage.  For me though, the most impressive area on this deck was the saloon.  Immediately aft of the helm position is a table capable of accommodating all the passengers and more.  It is so nice to see that this has been thought through.  I dread to think how many times I’ve been on a vessel that sleeps 8 and has the space to feed 4.

By now you must be wondering if there was anything I didn’t like about this boat.  Well, in truth, there were a couple of issues.  For one, the boat seems to be missing a giant fridge.  There is a good size fridge in the galley, a large wine cooler and down on the lower deck, opposite the entrance to the engine room is a cavernous freezer.  Nevertheless, I think given that the whole point of this boat is it is designed to be self-sufficient and more than capable of making extended passages in huge comfort, the chilled storage space could be more extensive – 8 people consume a lot of food and drink in a day, especially when they are sat around relaxing.

The other issue I have with this boat is the lack of hand holds and the low height of the rail running around the deck.  This boat is designed to move comfortably through rough seas – stabilisers of course!  If you are out in rough weather, stabilisers or not, there is always the chance of being swept overboard and low rails and lack of hand holds shows up as an omission to me.

Also, and this is a personal preference of mine, the decks had fake teak on them – I am not a fan of this product and you will have to decide for yourself which is best for you.  I guess I’m a bit of a traditionalist but there is a lot to be said for having this finish instead of real teak.  Firstly, the finish will always look the same and simply doesn’t weather in the same way that real teak does. The other real benefit is therefore, that maintenance costs are minimal compared to the scrubbing and teak oil application required for real teak.  There is one down side;  the fake teak does get hotter than real teak and some will find this uncomfortable under bare feet.

Now the really interesting bit – how does she perform at sea.  Well actually, we didn’t go to sea but headed out into a small inland waterway instead.  This is when I discovered that this is not a boat but a ship.  The Royal Navy, apparently, define a ship on the basis that a ship leans out on a turn and a boat leans in – this is why submarines are referred to as boats; they lean in.  This ship, leant out!  That is not to say it was disconcerting.  In fact the lean was barely discernible and that was without the stabilisers.  No, far from it, this is probably one of the most comfortable vessels I have been out on the water on.  It was windy enough for the water to be choppy but with a little encouragement and some nifty work on the wheel I made some waves of our own and the Zeelander just cut straight through everything. There was a good view all around from the flybridge and plenty of space for socializing too but I did think the seat could have been more supporting for those longer passages!

In conclusion, I suggest that this is the perfect ship to make long, interesting, sociable, comfortable, safe and confident adventures on.  Do not expect to go whizzing along at break bank account speeds as this is not designed to be the craft for that type of cruising.  Instead, enjoy the peace and tranquillity, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the company of your friends and family and enjoy the economy as you waft along at a graceful 11 knots consuming minimal fuel.

Here are some links to check out if I’ve whetted your appetite for a Zeelander:

http://zeelander.com/

http://www.marinemax.com/

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

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