Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters - VOYAGE 500 PP
Dates Reviewed: Oct 26th - Oct 30th 2010
Charter Location: West End, Sopers Hole, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Yacht Chartered: VOYAGE 500 PP
Locations: Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Charter Advisors Recommendation
W-I-D-E-R IS Better
The VOYAGE 500 PP catamaran is at the heart of the VOYAGE Charters fleet. Being 50-feet long by 30-feet wide, they are quick and ultra stable. We can see why they'd have more of these 50-footers than anything else. The VOYAGE 500 is big without being bulky and can be easily handled by two. The amenities, saloon, and galley are rivaled only by top-notch resorts. From a galley that puts most kitchens on land to shame to small but useful things, like an onboard ice-maker. Living aboard on a VOYAGE 500 PP is a real deal vacation! Strong, wide, crisp sails, and a slick hull combined with her live aboard amenities make her one of the best multi-hulls we've had the pleasure to review to date! We fully recommend the VOYAGE 500 PP and VOYAGE Charters to our readers. "Knot Bad" and the Crew at VOYAGE Charters did so well, they earned the first Multi-Hull, 5-Sail Award of 2010! Families, couples, and dudes, check out the VOYAGE Charters Fleet. You won't be disappointed.
Charter Company Overview
Susan at VOYAGE Charters helped us set up our charter and was a joy to work with. She arranged for our sleep aboard night and made sure we had a taxi waiting at the airport on arrival. When we got to the base early, her crew in Sopers Hole at the West End of Tortola had everything in order, and didn't miss a beat. "Knot Bad" was ready at 4 p.m., right on schedule for our evening boarding. Walking up to "Knot Bad" for the first time on the dock, her beam (width) stood right out. At 30-feet wide she"s as wide as some yachts are long! With a LOA (Length Over All) of 50-feet, her wide beam is actually in proportion. But when situated around yachts wearing a different badge, her beam and low slung, low windage design sets her apart visually from the crowed. Why all this on the width of the VOYAGE 500 PP? Because it is central to the experience aboard. Her wide beam creates comfort, space, speed, safety, stability, and a ride with an easy going muted quality to it. From that first sleep aboard night to the last night on the mooring, we enjoyed and put to use every inch of extra space, all while doing our best to keep our prideful smiles to a minimum. We had to. If we didn't we'd be sailing around all week looking like a bunch of grinning idiots.
What They Say About Themselves
Discover performance sailing in the British Virgin Islands on our exclusive fleet of premier, award winning catamarans.
VOYAGE charters luxury catamarans have a very high standard of amenities onboard each of our yachts. Designed by sailors, from bow to stern these yachts are built to ensure high performance under sail as well as style and comfort at anchor.
If you are looking for a bareboat charter, a bareboat with a Skipper only, an all-inclusive crewed charter or spectacular day trip while you are in the British Virgin Islands, or planning a large multi-boat group charter, look no further. VOYAGE charters offer outstanding service from the beginning of your charter planning until you step off the yacht. Our friendly and professional sales and base staff go the extra mile to ensure you have a wonderful experience on your charter vacation.
This is how Charter Advisors looks at "value." A value is a good deal. A value is zero "buyer's remorse." A value is feeling (and knowing) you got more than your money's worth. If this is also what you'd also consider a value, the VOYAGE fleet has your name all over it. Catching one of the VOYAGE specials makes value is even greater (sign up for their newsletter to get the best "unpublished" deals). "Knot Bad" may be the smoothest and fastest ride we've had on charter review thus far. A VOYAGE yacht is hard to compare to other yachts. She comes from a totally different mold and is set up with amenities and systems that are akin more to a power yacht then a sailing yacht. Things like an ice-maker, triple galley sinks, auto delays built into the power systems (staggering how and when things turn on to manage load). Flat screen TV, DVD player, underwater lights, engine gauges at the helm, a VHF at the helm, chrome throttle levers. The list goes on and on. All these things added to the value, the sailing fun, and most importantly, the quality of our time aboard.
Recommended or Chosen Charter Yacht
For years we've seen the South African built VOYAGE Yachts plying the waters of the BVIs. To say we were curious about these "different looking" yachts would have been an understatement. Mostly because they looked so wide and so low slung. We swore there had to be no room in those speedy looking hulls. We wondered about interior space and how these things were laid out and if that low slung bridge deck did much wave bumping. It just looked so different!
We were very glad when Susan at VOYAGE Charters recommended we hop aboard a 2009 VOYAGE 500 PP PP aptly named "Knot Bad." The PP indicates "Knot Bad" has the Premier Plus trim level. VOYAGE offers three trim levels. Regular (500), Premier (500P), and Premier Plus (500PP). The different levels categorize the yachts on their level of amenities, updates and age. Don't need a flat screen? The "regular" one will do just fine. Want all the bells and whistles? Premier Plus, baby!
We were not disappointed with Susan's recommendation. "Knot Bad" was indeed, not bad at all! We only had to get past a bit of guilt for living so high on the hog while easily sailing at double digit speeds! Our early concerns about the potential lack of space in the hulls couldn't have been farther off base. This was one spacious yacht. The four cabin, four head, plus crew quarter's layout meant we had LOTS of space. The sleek hulls and powerful sail-plain provided lots of fun when we weren't lounging in style aboard this wide beauty! "Knot Bad" is a great example of space and speed on charter.
We're looking forward to checking out Susan's other recommendations. Including the brand new, soon to be seen in the BVIs, VOYAGE 520. It's a 52-footer that has been re-designed with the input of VOYAGE Yacht owners and charterers. We've learned, if Susan recommends it, it's definitely worth serious consideration.
Video - On Deck Tour - 2009 VOYAGE 500 PP, "Knot Bad"
This trip we opted to provision on arrival. There is a trick to doing this though. You've got to keep in mind when the nearby grocery shops are open. A late in the day arrival will mean closed stores. We scheduled our arrival at VOYAGE Charters base for a few hours before our check in time at 4 p.m. Plenty of time to check out the shops in Sopers Hole and do our provisioning at the Marina Market and Kelly's Market, a 5 minute walk down the road. A 5 minute walk can save you 20% or more sometimes!
We did an overnight stay in San Juan on our way to Tortola. Going this route we didn't arrive the same day we left, but that's ok. Our goal was an early arrival in Tortola. Doing the overnight and taking the early flight out of San Juan got us to the VOYAGE base before lunchtime. We landed in Beef Island at 10:35 a.m. and we're quickly whisked away by taxi to Sopers Hole on the West side of Tortola all the way on the other side of the island. It took just over 45 minutes to go from the airport to the VOYAGE Charter's base. We arrived early and we actually had a good nights rest to boot! None of that up at 4 a.m. junk!
Arrival at Base
Early arriving guests can throw a monkey wrench into things for a charter company. The yacht isn't scheduled to be ready and the charter company suddenly has people who are sometimes new to the area on their hands. VOYAGE Charters had zero hiccups when we showed up a few hours early. They were friendly and happy to help us while they wrapped up the prep work on "Knot Bad." During this time we went though all the paperwork that could be done before boarding. We went over the charter paperwork and receipts, boat bag, boat phone, map card, tool kit, and local charts. When we were done, we still had a couple of hours on our hands. The VOYAGE Charters crew asked if we'd like to board early or if we had other plans for the remainder of the afternoon. We actually did have things we needed to do, but really appreciated the option to board early. We left our bags at the VOYAGE base and kept our normal 4 p.m. boarding time. We went about our afternoon, checking out yachts dockside, attempting to eat the world's biggest beer-battered hotdog at Pussers (gave up on that one!), shooting photos, and doing the all important provisions shopping. Our 4 p.m. boarding time came quickly.
Sleep Aboard Night
Sleeping aboard at the docks in Sopers Hole is different then in Road Town and Nanny Cay. With a nice current flowing though from Frenchman's Cay, the water here is about as clean as it gets in a Marina. There is also a nice breeze, keeping the no-see-um's at bay, giving you options for nighttime cooling. A/C or C/A (Caribbean Air!)?
Our review 2009 VOYAGE 500 PP, "Knot Bad" was in tiptop shape. She was clean, shiny, and smelling good! Boarding with bags was made all that much easier with a gangway attached from dock to stern transom. It's awfully nice not to have to do the "bag pass" or the "Leap of faith" just to get your luggage aboard. Once aboard we found way more space then we expected and realized we were in for one comfy night. A huge cockpit with high sides (great for those with kids) solid double sliding glass saloon doors, fully outfitted helm, extra large saloon and galley. The wrap around settee in the saloon looked more like the leather couches we're used to seeing on 70+ foot motor yachts. The low "coffee" table, really set off the "living room" effect. The business end of the saloon is all grouped together at the navigation table with 12v and 120v systems nicely separated with charger and inverter controls in the middle. The VOYAGE 500 PP is a yacht with little overlap between living spaces. Everything has its own space, and plenty of it! With our early exploration complete, we settled in and ordered up some takeout from Pussers in A/C'd bliss.
The hardest choice that evening was the decision between "starboard" or "port." Which side to sleep on? Hmmm... Starboard. Tough choices for the day done, we turned in, and in the process made the last discovery of the day. Memory Foam mattresses! We drifted off to sleep, each wondering what other surprises might be in store tomorrow. Briefing day!
Motion At The Dock
A quick note on dockside motion. In previous reviews we've written about how some marina docks can create an unnatural motion onboard when tied to the dock, especially those with more wave action or odd currents. We're talking about that movement of a boat moving with a wave or current only to have that motion abruptly stop when the dock lines go tight. Properly sprung dock lines help quite a bit. But they don't eliminate movement, just tame it. The motion at Sopers Hole was mild. The constant current supplied though Frenchman's Cay keeps the water nice and clean, but it also gives the water though the docks and moorings a constant direction. VOYAGE Charters crew sprung our lines well, minimizing our movement at the dock that evening. Instead of feeling an abrupt stop, we had more of a muted pause. Good seamanship starts at the docks!
Provisions, we don't need no stinking provisions! Actually we do need provisions, but as we mentioned earlier, we opted not to go the pre-ordered route this time. With the amount of time we had before boarding combined with our location at Sopers Hole, we had plenty of time to do our own shopping and we were in the right place to do it. The Sopers Hole Marina Market was only a few steps away from the yacht and Kelly's local market is a mere 5 minute walk down the road. We were able to source everything we needed right there. The only trick was timing the frozen and cold items. We had to wait until we were close to boarding time to pick these up for obvious reasons. Note: The Sopers Market closes at 4:30 p.m. Kelly's Local Market is open until 9 p.m.
Morning of the Charter
Chart Briefing and Check In
After a fully restful night the crew was chomping at the bit to get a move on, but not before a sailor's quotation of coffee and a hearty breakfast at D-Best Cup. They've got D-Best dang sandwich in Trellis Bay and D-Best breakfast here in Sopers. Really. You've got to try the honey mustard chicken sandwich at D-Best Cup in Trellis Bay. Addictive stuff! Ok... back on track. With the crew fully caffeinated and stuffed with eggs and bacon, it was officially time for our onboard briefing.
Having already picked up our boat bag, map, phone, charts, etc, the day before, we only had to check in with the office and let them know when we wanted to do our onboard briefing. By 9 a.m. that morning, Giles our VOYAGE Charter's briefer was onboard ready to take us though our check-out checklist and full yacht briefings.
Yacht Check-out Checklist
The VOYAGE Charter's checklist is slightly more boiled down and to the point, and that's fine by us. We've seen some that list nearly every item onboard (instead of only the things you really need to know about). Giles pointed out every item of importance and interest even if it was on the list or not. It's kind of nice to be directed to each item rather than searching yourself. Giles paid special attention to items unique to "Knot Bad." Her breaker placement, generator, gas grill, the location of tools and parts, where flippers, masks, and snorkels are stored (enough for 12!), how the flat screen works, etc. We found everything in its place, in good repair, and ready for action.
Click to see "Knot Bad" - Voyage Charters 500 PP's yacht review.
Yacht, Mechanical, and Safety Briefings
We continued on to the mechanical and safety briefings with Giles leading the way. Giles turned out to be one of those easy to talk with guys that knows his stuff, but doesn't rub it in. He made us WANT to listen without trying. He took us though each and every system of the VOYAGE 500 PP. Giles showed us every system aboard and again, paid special attention to items unique to "Knot Bad."
We started at the bow and worked our way stern above decks. Then did the exact same below decks. We located every breaker, switch, and went over the operation of her systems in detail. Giles shared a few tricks "Knot Bad" had up her sleeve (like the auto-helm steering by wind instead of by course!). He was very detail oriented. We spent the most time on the "Boom Derrick" dinghy lifting system. This wasn't because it was complicated, but because it's was a totally new system to us. We've never had a boom that extends to a full crane that uses the main halyard to lift a dinghy off deck. It's something you want to be sure you understand completely before you shove off, even if it is easy. Our briefing time with Giles lasted just over an hour. It actually flew by. VOYAGE yachts are the same as any other yacht, but where their different, they are definitely different. The briefing Giles gave us was genuinely interesting and helpful. We came away with new auto-helm trick and we learned how to run an in-boom crain. Not too shabby for just over an hour! With all the briefings done it was time to get off the docks and out on the water.
Leaving the Docks
About thirty minutes after our briefings wrapped up, Giles hopped back aboard to guide us out of our tight slip. He expertly turned and twisted that big 50-footer with only a few feet on each side to play with. As we exited the dock he demonstrated a way "ferry" their catamarans sideways. This trick made it easy to increase or decrease the distance between the hull and the dock by slipping sideways, just like a bow thruster. Pretty cool stuff (see the "Knot Bad" Yacht review for more on this tid-bit). Giles drove us to the fuel dock and started backing her down, stern to. He handed the controls over to our Capt. Kevin who backed the yacht the rest of the way to the dock. Once our stern was within about a foot of the dock, Giles jumped off and waived goodbye. Capt. Kevin nudged the throttle forward and we were off, heading to Jost Van Dyke. We had only one problem. We were supposed to be going to Norman Island. A quick tap on our still orienting Captain's shoulder and one U-turn later, we were on our way.
Noteworthy While Underway
Function In Its Form
Being that "Knot Bad" is one of VOYAGE Charters Premier Plus level yachts, everything onboard is kept updated and top of the line. What really stands out is how all her amenities work with the space and layout. There are no "forced fits." This holds true throughout the VOYAGE 500 PP. But one of the best examples of VOYAGE's unique use of functional space and layout is in the cabins. The "VOYAGE style" works in more ways than one. Beyond fitting the cabin into the form of the yacht, the placement of the bunks puts those at rest closer to the centerline and center of gravity. Meaning, further reduced motion at anchor or mooring. And because the bunk is farther inboard, away from the hull, there is little sound intrusion. Those in the stern bunks didn't have to listen to the dinghy happily bouncing in the wavelets all night and the folks up in the bow were insulated from the sound of any chop or that occasional "tapping" mooring ball. You know the one. It shows up on a windless night, drifting back and forth tapping on the hulls. Thoughtful, form-fitting, and functional touches are yacht-wide and make time aboard just that much better. The VOYAGE 500 PP is fast, friendly, and most importantly, functional.
Living And Playing Aboard
The living was easy aboard "Knot Bad." Waking up in the morning, walking up the companionway steps to the expansive saloon, sliding the double glass doors open and taking in the sunrise from the equally large cockpit is worth the price of admission alone. When the rest of the crew got up and began rambling around, they had plenty of space to do it. Coffee, bagels, french toast, whatever. Every crewmember has their own thing in the AM. With the room afforded by the VOYAGE 500 PP, everyone had the space for their particular morning routine, without having to take turns. This fact alone pretty much guarantees a good day ahead.
Most afternoons were spent sailing from favorite spot to favorite spot. Lunch and snorkeling always go well together, but making and eating underway went hand in hand just as well. Either way, the stability and ease of everything aboard "Knot Bad" made for easy living no mater where we were. The only difference is where we dined. On the hook or mooring, the trampoline usually wins out. Underway, the breezes and shade of the cockpit made it ideal. Well, except for Captain Kevin. Lucky for him the helm has a nice flat surface just above and behind the wheel. Yep, his very own "Captain's Table" at the helm! Now that came in real handy!
Evenings on a VOYAGE 500 PP are slightly different too. Absent in the saloon is the usual horseshoe shaped settee bench and dining table. Instead indoor eating is split between the high-top breakfast table separating the galley from the saloon and the "coffee table" in front of the couch (settee). Which, by the way is situated perfectly facing the TV! Group dinners were held in the cockpit with room for eight at the table. Sitting at the cockpit table, on memory foam padded seats, with the white rear screens down was the utmost in private outdoor dining comfort.
Like It's On Rails
The VOYAGE 500 PP literally rides on rails. The hulls are narrow, slicing though the water leaving little wake. The 30-foot beam places the hulls as far apart as possible creating a low center of gravity and some serious stability. Her narrow hulls combined with her wide stance, low windage design, and crisp sails, delivered speed though the water while giving a quick, smooth, and solid feeling ride.
A Back Deck With An Aquarium
One of the other unique features on the VOYAGE 500 PP is the dive platform. This teak deck spans the width of the hulls and is wide enough to store the dinghy while underway. With the dinghy in the water this space literally turns into a "back deck." It's a wide walkway, diving platform, and tanning spot. It was a favorite place for our crew to hang out at anchor. It was during one of these hang out sessions that they discovered another use for the "back deck." It was front row seating on "Nature's World Aquarium." The view down though the gin clear and turquoise water from its slightly elevated perspective didn't disappoint. It was a clear, nearly glareless shot straight to the bottom with a view of everything in between. Not that we had to look too deep. Checkout this encounter we had with a fish we nicknamed "dinner." If we weren't in a BVIs national park it sure would have been!
Video: Kelly's Grouper
Sound Of Silence
Aboard a charter yacht you get to know the "noises." The sound of an electric (or manual) head being flushed, the sound of the water pump turning on, the sound of the fridge. Even the sound the engines make at different RPM's. Captains, even charter Captains "tune into" their yachts. Even if they don't realize they are. The sounds, smells, and feel of the yacht feeds the senses. On the ocean, your senses come alive. When a sound, smell, feel, or whatever changes or is absent, a good Captain will have a pretty good idea "what's up" almost right away. Some of this "sailing by the senses" is replaced on the VOYAGE 500 PP with gauges. Why is this the case? Because it's so darn quiet aboard. Beyond being well cared for, the VOYAGE yachts are solid with thick bulkheads and hulls. Dense soundproofing in the engine bays and the underside of engine hatches. Even the generator and A/C compressor are sound insulated. If it makes noise, it's been moved as far away from the living spaces (indoor or out) as possible and sound insulated. The solidness of our charter review VOYAGE yacht eliminated nearly every sound and vibration. Add all this up and we were aboard a yacht that could run her systems without telling everyone they were running! Thus, the need for gauges. Rather than "hearing" what was going on, we had gauges to tell us. We could barely hear the generator running and we didn't announce our location every time we flushed. Nor did we wake up crew in their cabins walking around above decks late at night or in the early morn. "Knot Bad" is seriously solid and quiet!
Easy to Sail, Very!
When we first approached the big 50-foot VOYAGE catamaran we imagined how some not used to this size yacht might be intimidated. Interestingly enough, one of the most common notes that kept coming up during our review was how easy and simple "Knot Bad" was to sail and maneuver. A VOYAGE 500 PP can look imposing at the dock. It dominates most mooring fields, but once behind the controls, she becomes and extension of the helmsman. Her larger stance and length was never a hindrance, nor did she feel bulky. Rather it felt solid, easy to drive, and inspired confidence. It's hard to describe a yacht that is big where it counts but feels "small" when it suits her.
When sailing, "Knot Bad's" overall size and streamlined hulls keep the ride smooth and fast, leaving little wake. The electric main winch cuts the effort out of raising the main and her width creates an extra margin of safety and comfort. The low center of gravity inherent in the VOYAGE yacht design made our 50-footer feel planted and predictable.
Motoring and motor sailing turned out to be more fun than we expected too. We had lots of happy surprises on this review! With engines alone 8 knots came at three quarter throttle (2500 RPM). Full throttle (3000 RPM) took us to 10 knots. Having the dinghy up on deck rather than dragging behind surely helped our speed though the water. "Knot Bad" also has reserve power above 3000 RPM. It's not power for daily use, but if you needed to really crank on the power, you've got a few hundred RPM in reserve. During our power testing we found proof of her efficient hull form in the ease she gained and kept her speed and by the lack of wake streaming off the sterns. Even at full revs "Knot Bad" made only the most minimal rippling wake.
One afternoon, the wind was down, but not gone. We went for sails alone and only managed 3 knots. Not enough wind to sail our downwind route, but we wanted to still sail! Time for a cruiser compromise, some motor sailing was in order! With a light breeze just off the starboard stern quarter, we unrolled the cruising jib and let it "belly" out. We backed the throttles to just over idle. That's when the next surprise came. With only the slightest nudge from the engines, we were doing 8 knots. That's the same speed we were doing with the engines revved up! Now this is what we call Hybrid Propulsion!
In the mooring field the twin engines combined with her slippery hull and prop / rudder arrangement made her dance on the head of a pin. One of our favorite mooring spots is also one of the tightest. We bring every yacht we review here. It's the true mooring test spot. We have only one real rule for this test. It can only be done by two. One at the helm and one at the bow with boathook in hand. In other words, the minimum crew. What makes this place so good for our needs? The wind is always at our back on approach and there is a very, very shallow reef circling the entire area. There's not much room to play with and a 180-degree turn is almost always mandatory. We've seen yachts go aground here more than once. Usually doing that 180-degree turn a bit too wide. Slipping past other moored yachts, using our engines for steerage, "Knot Bad" spun like she was attached to a pivot, into the wind and stopping on a dime to pick up the mooring. It might sound challenging, but "Knot Bad" made it simple. The VOYAGE 500 PP did it all with such ease we caught Captain Kevin yawning while mooring it up. Challenging no. Confidence inspiring, yes. Well, unless it's so smooth it's boring.
Video - "Knot Bad" Underway
We rant and rave about these little silver flying saucer looking things that pass for grills on most charter yachts. Besides being only big enough for 3-4 burgers (at best), they're charcoal. Nothing against charcoal, love it at home, but it makes a mess aboard. And let's face it, we have to literally light a fire onboard to use the thing. Like most experiences aboard the VOYAGE 500 PP, grilling is also different and taken up a notch. Start with the fact that when we boarded the yacht we thought we were missing the grill.
The grill is stored under the cockpit seat in three pieces: a grill box, a post, and a gasline hose. That's right, GAS line! Everything attaches via quick-release connections and fittings. First the post comes out and slides into a steel grommet in floor the "back deck. Then the grill box slides onto the top of the post with a click and setscrew. Lastly the gasline is cinched into place on the side of the grill and inserted into a gas port on the inside of the port hull. In all it took just over one minute to set up and light. Three minutes to heat up. And about eight minutes to to cook the burgers. We went from set up to done burgers in under fifteen minutes. With charcoal we're talking thirty to forty five minutes from beginning to end. The grill aboard "Knot Bad" made grilling quick, easy (and clean!). This is a grill that actually "matches" the yacht.
A/C That Manages Itself
This one is a bit "geeky cool" but sometimes these dorky little things make a big difference!
Cranking up the A/C. As we've discussed in previous reviews, yachts with A/C systems have a start up procedure. Warm the generator up. Turn on the first A/C zone (breaker) then wait a few minutes. Repeat for each zone or A/C compressor. If we never chartered with another company besides VOYAGE Charters, we might never know this process even existed. The A/C system aboard "Knot Bad" manages itself! Start the generator, let her warm up as usual, then flip on all the A/C breakers at once. The power management system turns on each zone at the appropriate time. Many times the system got it all up and running faster then the "usual routine" would have. During our time aboard we tripped zero breakers. We never had to reset anything!
The A/C system worked very well on shore power and generator. The A/C is broken out into four zones, with controls in every cabin.
Dinghy / Boom Derrick
In a yacht full of uniqueness, one of the most unique feature of the VOYAGE 500 PP is the "Boom Derrick." Or as we liked to call it "the Crane." This nifty feature allows one person to lift the dinghy off the back deck, put it in the water and retrieve it. It goes a little something like this.
The main halyard is outfitted with a snap shackle. A quick tug and the halyard is free from the mainsail. Bring the halyard to the back of the boom and line it up with the two guide pulleys and lower the line to the dinghy. The halyard gets attached to a ring in the center of the dinghy, and it's ready to lift. The main electric deck winch does the heavy lifting just as it would raising the main. Once the dinghy is hovering over the deck, the boom is extended out over the water, taking the dinghy with it. Clear of the back deck, the dinghy is lowered as simply as easing the sheets.
We found the Boom Derrick to be easier than davits and we enjoyed added piece of mind (and a turn of speed), with the dinghy stowed on deck (not dragging and not swinging). One less thing to tend to makes it just that much easier to let the yacht loose under sail. And, not having to shorten the painter every time we moored up is one of those little luxuries we didn't truly appreciate until this trip! Just pull in and park.
Every day we lifted and returned our dinghy from its on deck cradle. We initially thought the first time we put the dinghy in the water, we'd just leave it there and drag it the rest of the trip (like we tend to do with davits). But the "Boom Derick" was so easy (and kind of fun) to use we stowed on deck the dinghy every time we went anywhere.
A Gourmet Galley
The galley aboard this VOYAGE 500 PP is stocked to the gills (is there a pun here?). It's arranged in a long horseshoe shape. On one side are a counter, drawers, and electric lighting 4-burner stove / oven. The next counter over, there's a triple sink with our favorite feature, the saltwater faucet (though we had so much fresh water we didn't bother with it!). On the other side, facing the saloon is a long serving table / breakfast table with a working counter top below. Hidden under the counter is the microwave. Every appliance and utensil you might need underway is provided. Not only that but all are top of the line. It's almost like VOYAGE took a high-end kitchen from a fancy BVIs villa or resort and made a "yacht version." We'd say it's like cooking at home, but the galley aboard "Knot Bad" just might be better than home.
Cabins, Bunks, And Bridge-Decks, Oh My!
The layout and space in the cabins is different like most everything else aboard the VOYAGE 500 PP. The space is used well and creates a feeling of openness, comfort, and quality.
Rather than using the hull itself as cabin space, VOYAGE goes a slightly different route. The narrow hulls and added width create more bridge deck space allowing for beds and bunks to be moved inboard. Essentially, the hulls serve as hallway and storage space. The cabins combine both the hull and bridge deck space, with the bunk in the bridge deck area. Bunks sit around shoulder height, so you literally "climb into bed." Though the bunks are elevated, there is plenty of space to sit up without skinning your forehead. The four to five steps (depending on what you count as a "step") leading up to the bunks looked like they'd be challenging for our 5-year old crewmate. The only trouble we had was keeping her from climbing them over and over. She loved climbing in and out of these bunks! And they weren't challenging for those of us over five either!
To say those "bridge deck bunks are comfy" would be an understatement. Each night when we laid our slightly salty heads down for the night, the space-age mattresses conformed to our tired bodies as "Knot Bad" did what a yacht does, and rocked us gently to sleep with her slight motion on the mooring ball, anchor or dock.
Each cabin was equally outfitted with individual A/C controls, ensuite heads (with electric plumbing where it counts!), cabin lights, reading lights, copious amounts of shelving space, a hanging locker, and built in end tables. For open air, there are wide opening portlights in the head and in the cabin along with a white tinted hatch positioned over the bunk for max breeze on cool evenings. The all-important 12v and 120v outlets are right next to the nightstand and part of a panel that has A/C and cabin light controls. It's all in one spot an easy reach from the bunk.
"Knot Bad" is one of the few sailing charter yachts with a proper crew cabin. Catamarans 50-feet and under usually put the crew in the forepeak births. On larger yachts these crew cabins can actually be quite nice. On the VOYAGE 500 PP, the forepeak areas are used for stowage and the crew cabin is moved to the center bridge deck. There are two large white tinted hatches located in the middle of the foredeck (right behind the trampoline). The first thing that hit us (quite literally) as we opened the hatches was the cold air! Crew aboard this yacht get to share in the A/C goodness. Rather than the single bunk found in a forepeak birth, there is a queen size bed filling the entire space. Fluffy pillows, a reading light, and fan awaited any crewmember that wanted seclusion. We found we could have easily treated the crew quarters as another bedroom. It also doubles as an awesome play area for kiddos (unless you're underway of course). Open the hatches, pop em in, toss in some toys, and they're good to go! The hatches are too high for them to climb out so once they were in, they were in! A built in playpen for kids and potentially some adults we know too!
Hatches Are Private And Lockable
Every hatch aboard has a couple of interesting features. Most obvious is the fact that every one is tinted white. The white does a great job with privacy and reflecting heat. We had no worries about someone on deck getting an accidental peek as they walked by a hatch on this boat. The white tint also helps the numerous hatches all over this 50-foot sailing yacht hid in plain sight. The other cool thing about these hatches is the built-in locks. A small tab in the center of the hatch locking lever locks and unlocks the lever. Close the locking tab and you can't open the hatch, inside or out. Anyone on the inside can unlock them, but from the outside, you're secure. Getting to find and play with new or "extra" features aboard charter yachts is definitely a perk to this kind of work!. But what we appreciate most is when the "extra features" are actually useful and thoughtful!
We've covered the goodness of electric heads before. And we still feel the same. A good electric head is a true luxury. We'll take any head as long as it works, but the electric head brings an extra touch of civility to the water. The electric heads aboard "Knot Bad" are premium quality and deeper then most. These little details matter! It was as close to at home as we've seen. Every head was "odor neutral." No smelly heads! They were fresh from the beginning of the review to end. . A well working septic system is hardly ever noticed, but a poor working one sure will be! We're happy to report that the heads worked well and went without notice!
The rest of the "bathroom" is straight forward functional simplicity. The shower is the sprayer type, extending up from the bathroom sink to a clip on the wall. Of course VOYAGE yachts put an "extra touch" here to. The shower pump out button is located where you'd expect it to be, but you don't actually have to use it. The shower pump turns on automatically. We found little luxuries like this throughout the yacht.
Video - "Below Deck" Tour
Groups and Families
The VOYAGE 500 PP is the ideal size for four couples or two families. She does have room for two more if you include the air-conditioned crew quarters. The sleeping quarters, the galley, saloon, and cockpit are spacious and welcoming for larger groups. She also has the space to "support" these groups (room for more than one in the galley for example!) There's room for everyone. Be it in their cabins, hanging out, watching TV, or whatever. There is something and someplace for everyone.
The galley has space for two easily. Three in the galley would not be out of the question on "Knot Bad." The more people in the group, the more welcome help becomes. And when there is more working space, it's much easier to accept (or request) the help. The triple sink, huge (and very cold) freezer and two fridges make cooking for these bigger groups possible.
The one thing we count on with bigger groups or when families come together aboard is that everyone is different. Some wince at the thought of turning on that big flat screen surrounded by the beauty of the Caribbean, while others would rather avoid sunburn and kick back on the couch with a beer and remote. To each their own. The amenities aboard "Knot Bad" allow for just this. Each person aboard had options that suited them. This is not always the case (or even usually). Part of the adventure aboard is adjusting to life aboard, but aboard a VOYAGE 500 PP, those new to time on the water will have little to adjust to. Well, besides the motion stuff. Yachts like this create "Sea Peeps" for life!
Fuel And Water
"Knot Bad" is set up to manage the main fuel tanks on her own. No changing tanks required. She's also set up with a separate tank dedicated to the Northern Lights generator. It's once again, one of those things that just makes sense. This VOYAGE 500 PP has a habit of doing logical things! Having a dedicated tank just for the genny, makes it just that much easier to crank up er up, and fire up the A/C (every night!). It's especially nice to know you're not touching the fuel for the engines!
The water tanks are self-managing like the fuel. There is no searching behind a settee cushion for a tank changeover lever. The tanks are large enough that we didn't require a top off during our review either.
Both the fuel and water gauges are located in the center front of the saloon. At first this seemed like an odd location. Basically on the front "wall" right below the center saloon hatches. Once we got underway, Capt. Kevin figured out the positioning the first time he dipped his head down from the helm to look inside the saloon. The first thing he noticed was the fuel and water gauges on the far wall. Looks like the folks at VOYAGE Yachts thought it would be a good idea if the Captain could see fuel levels at a glance. Simple, smart and all in one place. We also noticed another byproduct of the gauge location. Everyone onboard could clearly see the water tank level. We've come to theorize that with the gauges in plain sight, there was some effect on the crew. We noticed everyone onboard was glancing at them daily and we also noticed we were hardly using any water. We're not sure if there is something here or what? But, the one thing we know for sure, is that the water tank levels were on public display and we somehow went though the least amount of water per day, ever. And Captain Kev really liked being able to see the fuel levels from the helm.
There was exactly ZERO adversity aboard "Knot Bad." The weather was perfect. The North Swell was up and the Bubbly Pool was a bubbling!
As we noted earlier, the VOYAGE 500 PP is a slippery boat. She also carries enough sail and momentum to make tacking rather simple and gratifying. She sails like you think she should (and sometimes even better). Raising and striking the main is simple with the electric deck winch and the cruising jib creates plenty of power in a more manageable size. Which is nice being that the jib is where we "put our back into it" with the manual winch. Steering is positive and solid. She feels connected, with no slop. Tight, like a sports car, just with a more comfy suspension. Clutches, drums, winch handles, and levers (including throttle) have a solid feeling to them. There's nothing floppy about this yacht (unless the wind dies!). "Knot Bad" carries high quality Quantum sails. They're crisp and showed no signs of stretch, chafe, or fading. Nothing looks (or sails) worse then a nice yacht with stretched out baggy sails! At 50-feet long and 30-feet wide, "Knot Bad" is not a small boat. Even so, we regularly sailed her with only two crewmembers. She's set up well, her systems worked exactly as they should and her grin inducing ride (do I have salt in my teeth?) had us looking forward to getting back out on the water every day! Destination be damned, we just wanted to keep sailing her!
This was our first time reviewing VOYAGE Charters. Before we left the docks we discussed their return process ahead of time so we knew what to expect on our way back. It was even easier than we expected. Even after they told us what to expect. Odd. But a true.
Instead of calling ahead to let the charter base know we were on our way in, we headed directly to the VOYAGE Charters base at Sopers Hole. "Sopers" is a active marina and a regular day and overnight stop. It's also one of two clear-in ports for Customs and Immigration (the other is on Jost Van Dyke), so there are mooring balls a plenty. We pulled up to a mooring near the VOYAGE Charter's fuel dock, took the dinghy ashore, and let VOYAGE Charters know in person that we were back. We were asked if we'd like to park the boat at the fuel dock ourselves or if we would like to have someone park it for us. We opted to watch and see what we could learn. Twenty minutes later Rain came out, hopped aboard and we parked her at the fuel dock five minutes later.
As usual, the Charter Advisors crew started to gather up the keys to unlock the fuel and water caps when one of the VOYAGE guys said very nicely, "Oh, you don't have to worry about that stuff, we got it." They sure did! They filled us up and parked us in a slip, plugged us into shore power, and left us aboard in the A/C to finish up our packing while we waited for our taxi. Pleasant surprises, friendly people, and great customer service all around!
We begain this review trip with our notions of the different VOYAGE Charters fleet. What we walked away with was an appreciation for their unique design and their true value. The experience aboard a VOYAGE yacht was outstanding. It serves people just taking their first charter trip and those who've had their share of Caribbean seasoning equally well. VOYAGE Charters maintains a unique fleet with exceptional safety, features, and value. We'd have a hard time comparing them to just about anything else out there. The VOYAGE yachts and VOYAGE Charters crew earned Charter Advisors top review award, FIVE SAILS, earning five out of five! Their friendliness and customer service stands out, even above the shiny boats parked just out front. And that's not easy to do! Charter Advisors will be covering other VOYAGE yachts, bigger and smaller in future editions.
By The Numbers
VOYAGE Charter works with every client individually. They offer daily and weekly rates, with discounts announced on their website and specials on their email newsletter. Susan Lepton at VOYAGE Charters worked with us. She made her passion for sailing and the Caribbean clear from the beginning. It was also clear that she wanted to help us find the right experience. If her fun-loving and detailed personality doesn't win you over, the packages she puts together just might!
Note: Minor fees and deposits such as permits and insurance deposit, are not listed. The above totals are not to be used as exact costs as these costs change often. This budget summary is intended for planning purposes only and to give a good idea for the average costs involved. The costs listed above are as per what we were charged at the time of charter.
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev