Yachts We Have Reviewed
Yacht Chartered: "Knot Bad" - Voyage Charters 500 PP
Dates Reviewed: Oct 26th - Nov 30th 2010
Charter Company: VOYAGE Charters - VOYAGE 500 PP
Charter Location: Sopers Hole Marina, Frenchman's Cay - West End, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Charter Size: Two Adults - One Child
Yacht Type: Catamaran
Manufacturer: VOYAGE Yachts
Make: 500 Premier Plus
Yacht Size: 50 Feet
Layout: Four Cabin - Four Head - Six Showers
Five Sail Award Winner
We'll show you all our cards right up front. We loved the time we spent aboard the VOYAGE 500 PP, "Knot Bad" as we put her through the paces. We had many surprises aboard, but none of them bad. In any trim, VOYAGE yachts are slick, stable, and high quality sailing yachts. The sum of her parts combined with the experience she provided created an extremely enjoyable review trip and one heck of a value, one we'd suggest to nearly anyone, even if they don't need quite the space of a 50-footer. In recognition, Charter Advisors has awarded VOYAGE Charters our highest review score: Five Sails!
The Voyage 500 PP is a sailing Catamaran. Beyond that, she breaks from the pack. As an example, where other yachts of this size have tall fly-bridges or "pop-tops," she has a sensible low helm arrangement. Situating the helm center right, so to speak. Her helm location is similar to smaller 44 and 42-footer, just slightly farther forward, closer to the center of gravity which reduces motion at the helm. The differences are for good a reason. Just like the narrow hulls and the low profile, where the VOYAGE 500 PP is different she is refined. Where she deviates from the norm, she innovates, and when she sails, she sails smooth and fast!
VOYAGE Charters and their "out of the box" yachts have always been on our list. It's that "different" thinking that goes into these things and the long and lean looks that made them so appealing. They are wide, low, with narrower hulls than on most charter catamarans. Intriguing. So when we met up with Susan from VOYAGE Charters and she suggested we take "Knot Bad," a 2009 VOYAGE 500 Premier Plus (PP), we jumped at the chance. We really didn't have much of an idea for what we were getting into. We've sailed lots of boats though the years and we were getting to hop aboard something totally fresh to us. That in and of itself is pretty cool, and rare! Good, bad, or otherwise, we were looking forward to experiencing whatever was in store. Namely, a prime opportunity to put a VOYAGE 500 PP though its paces. We packed up and headed head down to the VOYAGE Charters base at Frenchman's Cay, in Sopers Hole on Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Did It Live Up To Expectations?
This is a tough one. On one hand we expected we were stepping aboard a sea-kindly, speedy catamaran with all the amenities with room for 10. Once we were aboard we learned we could not have expected some of what was delivered. What we did expect was not exactly what we pictured. Nearly everything except the sailing gear is done in the "VOYAGE" style, tweaked just so, making for a very useful and comfy yacht. Here's what made the top of our "different is good" list.
Automatic Power Management - No more timing when we turn on A/C breakers.
Ice Maker - Why doesn't every yacht have one of these?
Cabins / Bunks - Unique bridge deck bunk arrangement for space, comfort, and speed!
Dive Platform (Back Deck) - Super cool and super useful! Now we have a place to park the dinghy, hang out, or cook with the gas grill!
Boom Derrick (the crane) - Lifts the dinghy off the dive platform with the greatest of ease. And we kind of felt cool using a crane! Simple and way easier then we expected!
Ease - From sailing to mooring to cooking, the VOYAGE 500 PP is easy to sail, operate, and enjoy beyond our normal expectations.
"Knot Bad" is not all things to all people, she is a yacht that's been optimized for groups and couples that want to sail fast in a luxurious yacht with the least amount of effort. You know what? That might just describe most everyone. Well, in that case, maybe VOYAGE yachts are all things to all people, unless that person is looking for a Monohull!
VOYAGE Yachts are known for their sleek and slippery design. Once all 123 square meters of sail was set, we learned first-hand what this really meant. Our VOYAGE 500 PP planted herself as the sails powered up. Her narrow hulls were easily driven while the fine bows knifed though the swell and chop. On board we felt speed, stability, and the pure pulling power generated by her sail plan.
The weather was right in the BVIs this time around (last trip we were becalmed for most of our review!). Except for a brush with Hurricane Tomas, we had decent wind and sunny days. "Knot Bad" was put through her paces under sail, motor and motor-sailing (the cruising version of tacking to windward). Her motion and ease of operation were constants regardless of the mode of which mode of "sailing" we chose.
The electric main deck winch raises the main with minimal effort. With the helm positioned lower than most 50-footers, she has the added benefit of a low boom, allowing her to carry more mainsail while keeping the boom well clear of our heads. Raising this sizeable main was simple with the powered up winch. Setting the jib was almost as easy. The furling release line is just abaft the helm station on the starboard side (easy reach for El' Captain). The jib unrolls easily with the coach-roof mounted manual jib winches. It's slightly more work furling it back up with the stern mounted furling winch. Especially if the Captain doesn't depower it as much as he/ she should! Lines are run neatly at shallow angles (keeping friction to a min.) right to their corresponding winch.
Underway with sails up, she slices through the water with no bucking or hobby horsing. On a reach, we saw 8 knots most often with double-digit runs between 12 and 14 knots when the wind picked up. Wind ranged between 18 - 25 knots (not including the gusts). She tacks upwind better than most, managing to keep her speed up inside 27 degrees. Her ease though the water also made short work of tacking and jibing. Downwind she managed 4 to 6 knots in similar conditions. Sailing off the wind is key to keeping the speed up downwind.
One day we got a heads up that Hurricane Tomas was heading our way. It wasn't going to hit us, but we had some storms coming in nonetheless. To stay ahead of the weather, we put the twin 56 HP engines in gear and motored those slippery 50-foot VOYAGE hulls at 8 knots without pushing her past three quarter throttle (her ideal cruising speed). Full on she'll tick over 10 knots, but the fuel waste just isn't worth it unless the extra power is really needed. But it's great to know that there is this kind of power in reserve, just in case.
Another day we were sailing downwind in some light air and decided to see how this big VOYAGE yacht did motor sailing with assistance from the jib. The pure sailing was a blast! But the motor-sailing was eye opening. Under engines alone, we held a steady 8 knots at cruising RPMs. When we unrolled the jib and eased the throttles to just over idle, and we made the same 8 knots! If the VOYAGE 500 has a magic number, it's got to be 8! We burned next to no fuel, pointed "Knot Bad" exactly where we wanted to go downwind, while matching our motoring speed. Very nice!
The auto-helm aboard "Knot Bad" works great, but she also has a wonderful feel on the helm. It feels solid. Like a direct connection to the rudders with no a hint of slop. She responds to a touch without being touchy. We did far more hand steering then we normally do on a review, if for no other reason than the sheer enjoyment of sailing a well set up and speedy yacht.
All this speed and ease under sail would mean little if it was a bone jarring or seasickness inducing ride. The location of the helm keeps the Captain from riding the ol' hobbyhorse, the narrow hulls slice through more then they seem to go over, and the wide stance keeps everyone on their feet and glassware upright. The VOYAGE 500 is a quick boat, but her speed is equaled (or bested depending on who you talk to over here) by the comfort she provides.
Video - "Knot Bad" Underway
"Knot Bad" is one of the most unique yachts we've had the pleasure to review. She breaks from the pack in her layout, styling, and execution. The differences in her design are purposeful and lends either to comfort, speed, or ease of use (simplicity). The VOYAGE 500 PP has many unique features, but some are exclusively VOYAGE. Like the dinghy lifting system called the "Boom Derrick,"or the innovative "dive platform." Other features aboard VOYAGE yachts are not exclusive to them, but are usually found on yachts outside the bareboat chartering world.
The folks at VOYAGE Charters keep their fleet in tip-top shape. The care they give is easy to see across their fleet of yachts. When we picked up "Knot Bad" she was well prepped like we expected, but it went further. Her bright work was also polished up as were her hulls and decks. Basically anything that could shine, did. And boy did it ever! It made it just all that much more fun getting her salty!
The space afforded by the VOYAGE design has to be seen to be truly appreciated. We say this because for years we've sailed around these yachts. And for years we swore up and down that there had to be limited space below decks because of its low profile and narrow hulls. Boy were we wrong! The interior space is amazing. Huge saloon, big galley, and lots of space below decks. Once we stepped onboard, the VOYAGE design really made sense.
The helm station is located in the cockpit rather then on a flying-bridge. A couple steps up is all it takes to reach the wheel and a helm seat big enough for two. A sliding white tinted hatch, built into hard top bimini above the helm station slides inboard to give a clear view all the way to the top of the mast. The helm is positioned low on the starboard side. Everything that's needed to sail the yacht is right there within an easy reach for the Captain. Well, with two exceptions: the port jib winch and the main deck winch. Both reside on the port side of the boom. Not ideal if you're single-handing the boat, but just about perfect for a couple or group, which is exactly who'll be sailing these 50-footers.
The helm is purposeful and is equipped with a large chart plotter, wind, speed/depth, auto-helm, RPM, VHF, engine temp and pressure gauges. "Knot Bad" also has a small dodger built into her design. There is a zip-in plastic "window" that fits between the top of the coach roof and the top of the large bimini. With this gizmo in place, the spray stayed out of the cockpit on our more lively runs, and it kept the rain out of a good portion of the saloon during those over night sprinkles. Everything aboard is high quality and worked as it should. With all this goodness at the helm, one thing stuck out above the others. Oddly enough, it was the engine throttle levers. Most often, these are plastic-like things that work fine, but each seems to have their own personality. Some slide back on you a little, others don't quite line up (catamarans) with each other. Our review VOYAGE 500 PP had two gleaming chrome throttle levers with stout metal caps over the neutral selector. When she's put into gear, the lever doesn't slide. You have to push it until it makes that "snick" sound. It's like a BMW finding first gear. You always know when she is in gear and when she's in neutral. After watching yachts 'dance' around a tied mooring ball as many times as we have, a throttle that is solidly in neutral is very much appreciated! All it takes is the slightest RPM and there goes the yacht, slowly dancing around the ball!
This is the most creative, unique, and direct, approach to "dinghy management" we've seen on a sailing charter bareboat, and it's unique to VOYAGE yachts. The Boom Derrick is a neat piece of equipment. Inside the boom resides an extendable "crane boom." This slides out the back to lift the dingy clear of the yacht and set it down in the water astern, between the hulls. At first glance it looked interesting, but not something we intended to use each and every day. Again, our assumptions were way off base. Operating the Boom Derrick was far easier then we ever expect it would be. It was kind of fun too! Using the Boom Derrick goes a little something like this.
First, head to the mast and extend the mast steps. These little guys make it simple to climb up to where the mainsail and the halyard meet. Once up the steps, unclip the shackle attaching the halyard to the main. With the line stopper open (important if you want the halyard to come with you), pull the halyard along the length of the boom, align it with the two pulleys at the back of the boom, and lower to the dinghy.
Clip the halyard to the steel ring in the center of the dinghy's lifting strap, and you're all set to lift.
Now to lift and lower. Wrap the main halyard around the main electric deck winch and lift. Once the dinghy is floating just above the back deck, lock off the halyard, remove it from the winch, and place the "boom extension" line on the winch. This extends the boom, moving the dinghy out over the water. Once it's clear of the dive platform, this line can be locked off and removed from the winch. The last step is wrapping the halyard around the winch one last time (three turns min.), and lowering the dinghy into the water just as if you were easing the sheets.
It might look like a lot to read, but it's actually pretty simple and quick. Not to mention it's a one-person operation. Sure, two people make it even easier, but it's pretty darn easy for one. When Giles at VOYAGE briefed us, (See VOYAGE Charter Company Review for more on the briefing) he made clear the operation of this system was easily a one person job. We took it as a bit of a dare! In the end Giles was proved right!
Dive Platform (Back Deck)
This is another "unique to VOYAGE" item. A wide teak deck spans the width of the hulls astern of the cockpit. Where davits would be mounted on many catamarans, VOYAGE builds a wide dive platform (we dubbed the "back deck"). This space saw quite a bit of use. Underway it kept our dinghy high and dry. On mooring, it expanded our living space, gave us an awesome fish watching spot, and was a "proper" deck to do some grilling to name a few. We didn't do any diving on this trip, but we can definitely see how this dive platform comes in handy, in more ways than one!
Like everything else we experienced aboard the VOYAGE 500 PP, attention is even paid to the grill. For the first time in a review, we actually like the on board grill! No little silver flying saucers on "Knot Bad." Instead we had a large "box type" propane gas grill. That's right, propane! It's large, easy to stow and set up, and it cooks quickly without a mess.
The grill is stowed under one of the cockpit seats in three parts. The grill box, the grill stand, and the gas line. The stand is inserted into metal grommet in the back deck. The grill slides onto the top of the stand and is locked into place with a wing-nut. With the grill assembled, the only thing left is to insert the gas line into the side of the grill and twist. The other end connects to a quick release gas port on the inside of the port hull. Just push it in until it clicks. With a flip of the gas solenoid switch we were ready to grill. From beginning to end, the process took less than two minutes. The grill is large enough for six burgers or steaks (depending on size, you could fit even more). There is no eating in rotation as food fits on the grill.
When the cooking was done and the grill cool, the whole thing breaks back down and goes back under the seat, leaving a clean deck, with no grill hanging off the side, and no charcoal mess!
The first time we saw "Knot Bad" there were a few things that jumped right out at us. First is the impression of the yacht itself. The next was the large cockpit. Then, as the sliding glass doors were opened, it was the saloon that took center stage. And boy did it. The vastness of the saloon became readily apparent the moment you walk though the door. The added width of the VOYAGE 500 PP was sure put to good use! Looking forward to starboard there is a large wrap around leather couch with a low "coffee" table right in front of it (just like at home!). Looking to port there's a wide and long U-Shaped galley with breakfast table and tall barstools (fixed to the floor). Once inside and seated on the couch (sorry, settee) we found ourselves feeling even more at home looking directly across at a large flat screen TV mounted on the aft bulkhead. The TV is mounted just above and to the left of the navigation table.
We're starting to sound like a broken record here (for those of you old enough to remember what those are), but as you can probably tell, the saloon is also "VOYAGE Unique." Wood is used sparingly, the form of the saloon flows mostly with white bulkheads and walls, trimmed out with grey and chrome accents. When we first heard the interior design described to us, it sounded a bit stark. We like our warm wood. But once we were on board we realized "stark" was not the correct word. "Modern" describes it better. Wood wasn't left out, the interior was designed to have minimal wood and veneer. A stark boat would be one that was designed to have those shiny wood veneers, but omitted them. That was not the case here. Put it this way, we didn't miss our wood! This was one complete boat. VOYAGE seems to have executed each element of this yacht though their own lens with an eye for interior design, functionality, and performance. How else does a clear hatch get installed in the floor of the saloon?!
Galley Built For Three
It's true. You can fit three people in the galley with elbow-room to spare. The width and depth of this U-shaped galley is what makes this possible. One person can be working the stove, another can be working side by side or at the sink, while someone else has another countertop with a microwave for food prep or serving. Standing at the opening of the "U" looking forward is a triple sink with a saltwater faucet. To the left is an electric light stove and oven, flanked by Corrian countertops. On the right is a microwave oven and a large prep or serving counter and the tall "breakfast counter" (or bar for the single folks out there). There's ample provisions stowage throughout the galley including the two large top opening freezers and wall-mounted refrigerator. Galley amenities are all top of the line. The stainless steel toaster, blender, and coffee maker got the most attention from our crew. The flatware, cups, plates, cooking utensils, and grilling utensils are all provided. Sure we could fit three in this galley, but most often it was one at a time. When each of us took our turn on K.P. we felt like an actual "Galley Chef." Some even asked if they could do double duity! Space abounds. Cooking is so much easier and enjoyable when we're not constantly having to shift things around just to get to something else.
A true on board luxury! We're used to freezing our forearms off carrying large bags of ice from some remote beach front "store" (hut, guy by a ice freezer, whatever), then getting frostbite running it down the dinghy dock. Then ferrying it back to the yacht. Not exactly simple or easy. As long as we have drinks in the cooler, we'll need ice. And as long as the sun shines over the Caribbean, we need fresh ice about every two days. The VOYAGE 500 PP has its own answer to this long standing "ice gathering charter tradition." An ice-maker. A simple and direct solution to a problem that's never actually been identified. Ice runs are just part of the chartering experience, right? Or is it one of those things that could be improved upon? Apparently VOYAGE thought so. We'd be hard pressed to prove them wrong. Let's keep one thing straight though. We're no wusses. We'll haul ice with the best of em. But given the option, we'd sure rather walk across the saloon, open a door, and scoop up ice to our heart's content, than do the "frostbite run!"
The ice-maker is located just to the left of the nav station (as you face it) about knee level. VOYAGE Charters provides a few bags of ice to get your trip started. But we hardly used them because, well, we had an Ice Maker!
The cabins aboard a VOYAGE 500 are where her unique design and space planning is most evidently on display. It doesn't take a yacht reviewer to see that the cabins are just a bit different. Yes, all the elements are there. Bunk, stowage, lockers, room and reading lights, A/C controls, and ensuite electric heads. It's how they are meshed with the design of the yacht that makes them so different.
The hulls are narrow, so the cabin cannot be contained in the hulls exclusively. Rather, the hulls act as the hallways with stowage galore. In the cabin, the hull and bridge-deck are combined to create an open and again, unique space, with the bunk relocated to the bridge-deck. Marrying the space of the hull with the bridge-deck keeps the hulls slim while creating a lot of cabin space. The location of the bunk in the bridge-deck space has a few extra benefits.
The bunk is closer to the center of gravity reducing motion and its farther away from the outer walls of the hulls, keeping things quiet. The trade off? There are four steps up to the bunk. It's your call if that's a drawback or not. We liked the elevated bunks, steps be damned! Once up on the bunk, it conforms to you like one of those NASA space-age mattresses. We can't say enough about the comfort of these cabins, except maybe this: a well-rested crew is a happy crew!
The unique layout, the added comfort and quiet afforded by this design, is matched in every cabin.
The crew cabin is another unique feature aboard a VOYAGE 500. Traditionally, aboard 44 to 50-foot cats, the crew cabins are located in the forepeaks. Forepeak births are single bunks accessed either though a deck hatch or though a bulkhead door in the forward cabin. "Knot Bad" has a slightly different location for the crew. The crew cabin is right in the center of the forward bridge-deck. It's accessed via two large hatches on the deck. Sporting a queen size bed, A/C, a reading light and a fan, this crew cabin can act as a fifth bedroom with no issues at all (so long as those staying don't mind entering though the deck hatches). As far as crew goes, it doesn't get better than this unless there is a large power yacht involved! We used this space for stowage and as a "play-room" for our youngest reviewer. With the large hatches wide open, we could keep our eye on the young one while hanging out on the trampolines. There is a safety factor here too. We know she's not going to get out unless we lift her out! The hatches are too high overhead for a youngster under eight years old to climb out (depending on how tall they are of course).
All heads aboard VOYAGE 500 Series yachts are electric. From the 500 through the 500 PP. Every head has its own portlight (port hatch), electric push button head, sink shower, mirror, and cabinets. The shower is the sprayer type with mounting clip on the wall. There is only a slight space and layout difference between the forward and aft heads, but they all feature the same amenities. It's when you use the "facilities" that the VOYAGE touches stand out. The shower bilge pump for example. Normally the shower water is pumped out when the pump-out button by the sink is pressed. VOYAGE added an automatic float switch. We'd shower and the pump kept the water cleared out without any button pressing. The head (we're talking the flushing kind of head now) is also different than what we've become accustomed to. It looks the same others we've had aboard and the electric flushing system operates similar. But it's obvious this is no run of the mill electric head. It's of "normal" proportions (as in like home). Not too tall, not to short, and a bit deeper. Hey it's a review, we have to touch on the these things, especially if it matters. Believe us, we wouldn't bother with these details if it wasn't for a reason. Even the simple and "functional" areas get top of the line equipment. The quality was also backed up by the lack of any odor! Looking good is nothing if things aren't functional, useable, and well built.
A dinghy is a dinghy to us. As long as it's in good shape, clean, and not too small, we're pretty much good to go. The 10-foot dinghy stowed aboard "Knot Bad" was also treated to a bit of "VOYAGE streamlining." It has a permanently fitted lifting bridal, the handles are extra thick, and the gas tank is stowed in a stowage well/step in the bow out of sight (makes a nice seat too). No more stepping over (or on!) the gas tank. A little touch like this cleaned up the already spotless dinghy, created more useable space, and looks nice. Stowing the gas tank also increases safety. The fewer times the gas tank gets kicked or bumped, or whatever, the better! Once (not on this trip) we had a guest accidentally step on the tank, pulling the gas line off just enough where it looked like it was attached, but wasn't. It was something we didn't notice at all until the middle of the night on the way back from Saba Rock. That's when the dinghy ran out of whatever gas was left in the engine. A stowed gas tank would have prevented our long and dark paddle that night into a 20 knot wind! (If we ever have a dinghy engine stall again, we'll check the gas line first!) Unlike that experience, the 15 HP outboard attached to the stern of "Knot Bad's" dinghy started easy and had more than enough power to scoot the little guy along quickly! Another item unique to us was the painter. A double "V" painter instead of a single center line. The "Y" setup allowed the dinghy to be tied to both hulls, centering it astern when towing. We didn't get around to actually towing the dinghy though. Given the option of towing or putting the dinghy on deck, we put it on deck (less drag!). If the lifting system is easy to use, why not use it?!
Tight Quarters - Big Boat
We've heard chartering friends of ours lament over how they wish they could charter a larger yacht or a catamaran. Or wish they could get out on first time bareboat charter but just can't because they are so intimidating and big. We do understand where they are coming from, but at the same time, it's hard to understand too. We can say this about the 500 PP, it's easier to dock and moor then many 42-foot Monohulls. The twin engine factor just can't be beat. Aboard this 500 PP we learned a new extent of catamaran maneuverability. She pivoted in just about her own boat-length when we had to catch a tricky mooring ball. She holds her position when the crew is tying up with ease and she can ferry sideways. Yes, sideways. The VOYAGE 500 has a prop and rudder set up that allows all 50 feet to slide sideways like a bow-thruster with no noticeable rudder kick (ever). There are some pretty tricky new docking systems out there, but it's hard to beat thoughtful engineering and proper instruction on the helm. The shallow rudders bite well until we're below 3 knots, then engines did a masterful job of pointing us where we wanted to go. The twin engines aboard cats really do bring them down to size. The VOYAGE design capitalizes on this with clear sightlines at the helm, solid metal throttles, and a helm wheel with just enough pressure to give feedback. Sitting still she looks big, but once out on the water, under-sail, powering along, or doing a flat-spin to catch a mooring ball into the wind, she seems to be the just the right size for the job.
"Knot Bad" is a big boat meant to carry a good size group. We're glad to report her stowage is up to the challenge. The cockpit has multiple stowage lockers built into the cockpit seats and floor for outdoor items. If larger items need to be put away, they sink nicely into the forepeak stowage wells under the white tinted bow hatches. These things swallow fenders. We only had to use one to stow all six of our fenders! Empty travel bags are no problem!
Inside, lift any cushion on the couch and there places to put the bulky goodies that need to stay inside. The nav station has its own storage cabinets and shelves as does nearly every dedicated space aboard the 500 PP. Down the companionways, each hull is lined with lockers, cabinets, and shelves on both sides. We travel with a lot of extra gear on our review trips. Sometimes our bulky items have difficulty finding a home aboard. We didn't have that issue on this trip. There is so much stowage below decks that some cabinets are simply dedicated to linens and towels. A regular occurrence at home maybe, but extras stowed in their own "extras" cabinet? Now that's a lot of space.
Thank you to our VOYAGE Charters briefer Giles! He did an outstanding job getting us squared away before we left on charter. Sure he covered all the important stuff he was supposed to, but he went a step further. He remembered what that newly installed, unlabeled switch in the nav station did. With a "Hey guys, check this out, I think it's this one!", he flipped the "blank" rocker switch on the 110v panel and two very bright purple / blue lights mounted on the stern hulls illuminated the water between them. We had underwater lights! Like we said, thank you Giles! We've always wanted underwater lights on a sailing yacht. It's one of those things we've seen on large power-boats and big power yachts, but none of us had ever seen them on a sailing bareboat. Every night we had a tarpon show. Fifteen to twenty at a time! Huge fish! Once the sun is down and these lights are on, the show is better than TV and the movies combined. Squid join the party along with sharks and some other things we can't quite identify. It's hypnotic. Now we have a new question to ask before we go review a yacht. "Does it have underwater lights?"
Ever went sailing with the A/C running? Well, aboard the VOAYAGE 500 PP we could do just that. The generator is designed to be used underway, so long as we're sailing and the engines are off. Hoist the sails, cut the engine, start the genny, and crank up the A/C. This is just a bit too much luxury for us, but we can see its appeal for sure.
The large main A/C unit is located in the port lazarette under a heavy layer of sound insulation. Operating the A/C aboard this 500 PP is beyond simple. Start the generator and let her warm up for a couple of minutes. Then open the breaker door at the nav station and flip on all the A/C units at once. That's right. Flip them all on at the same time! This too is unique aboard a charter bareboat. "Knot Bad" has a power management system built in. No more timed A/C breaker flipping (if you've chartered a yacht with A/C you know what we mean). With the power system clicking things on at the optimal time, all four A/C zones were blowing cold quickly.
Each cabin is outfitted with its own A/C control panel. Temp is displayed along with on/ off, and temp adjustments. Each cabin's controller also controls the air blowing into its section of the saloon or galley. For example, the galley is on the forward port side. To turn on the A/C in the galley, turn on the forward port cabin's controller down below. Basically, figure out where you want the cold air to blow, find the closest cabin, and turn on the A/C. Or you can do like we did. When we ran the A/C in the daytime, we only used the two starboard cabins. It kept everything plenty cool, even in the port cabins somehow (they had the A/C off). The cold air down below just sat down there and kept it comfy without loading things up. Because of the power management, we could set the A/C controls in each cabin, and leave them on. We'd power down the system at the breakers. This way when we turned everything back on, each cabin was pre-set and we didn't have to go to each panel turning them on.
Power / Genset
The power aboard our review 500 PP was provided via a large 6kw Northern Lights generator with its own fuel tank. Like the A/C compressor, the generator is mounted in the aft lazerette engine bay covered in sound insulation. Genny controls are located in the "nerve-center" a.k.a. the nav station. To start her up, flip the master control switch on the lower left from off to generator, push and hold the start button for five seconds or so (or if it's cold press, the glow switch and start), and release. That's it. She's up and running. Gauges on the control panel in front of the nav desk will show current voltage, amps, and usage. Technically, with this generator and power management system we could pretty much start loading the generator up right from the get go, but old habits die hard. Our generator got the courtesy of a five min. warm up each time we started her (recommended for any on board generator). With the generator running, every power amenity was at our disposal.
There were so many surprises. Some big, others small. The power management system was a big surprise! The manual inverter was little surprise. Little surprise? We'll explain. With all the automated power on board we were surprised when the inverter was the manual type. Don't take the word "manual" the wrong way, an inverter of this type is actually quite the luxury. Well, maybe that's a stretch. Inverters that automatically switch on when the generator's running work fine. Generally these systems also charge the batteries automatically too. It keeps things simple and easy. But, with systems like this you can't turn on the 110v outlets unless the generator is running. There is no option to invert the power off the batteries. There is no actual inverter panel with an "invert" button. We prefer the manual panel like the one aboard "Knot Bad." It looked identical to the panel aboard the 2006 Bavaria 46 Cruiser we reviewed (which got the top award thus far for Monohulls). The good systems don't need to change much, if at all. Good is good. We could turn on the 110v outlets, generator or not. And the battery charger ran when we decided it was time. You might be asking, why does it matter? It matters to this extent: On a previous trip we had the automated inverter. Our early rising Captain got up alone up at sunrise, he wanted his cup of coffee, which required the 110v coffee maker. Being the morning person he is (before his first cup of coffee) he fired up the generator (at SUNRISE!). He was wise to make enough coffee for the whole crew. There is a real benefit to having manual control of the inverter. Most times we need a 110v outlet on a mooring, it's for a short period of time. All the major "device" charging was done when we're motoring, charging the yacht's batteries, or though 12v chargers. We're very happy to see that the 'auto-luxury' thing was taken only as far as it should be. To the extent an actual sailor would have auto-systems. "Knot Bad" combines tried and true and high tech systems that work in concert, each doing what it does best. Not a bad way to go!
Refills And Topping Off
Water Tanks and Refills
With 200-gallons of fresh water in her tanks, there was not much concern for running out of fresh water anytime during our review trip. It's pretty clear that the tankage aboard is intended for a large group. Our only top-off was at the end of the trip, and the VOYAGE dock crew took care of all that for us!
Our review trip wasn't quite long enough to require any fuel refills either. We'd need to be aboard for more than a week or be very heavy handed with the throttles to burn though the 115 gal. of on board fuel. In total there are three tanks. Two self-tending tanks for the engines and one dedicated for the generator. We expected to burn a bit more fuel on this trip, just due to the size of yacht, but we were wrong. Those hulls are so easily driven with her two 56 HP engines. Between the optimized hull-form and those efficient engines, we sipped fuel like some 42-footers we've reviewed.
We've pretty well covered "Knot Bad" under sail, but we had to add one thing here. Sailing the VOYAGE 500 PP is a grin inducing ride! You can kick it into high hear and even those new to sailing can stay relaxed. They can get the wind and salt in their hair or hang out in the cockpit out of the wind. The stability inspired confidence and that let everyone just chill and have a great time. No matter how quick "Capt. Zippy" wanted to go! "Knot Bad" is fun for the sailor and the "land snorkeler" and neither has to take turns to let the other "have their fun."
The wide decks on the VOYAGE 500 can accommodate a nice array of water-sports gear from kayaks to boards of any kind. But she also takes care of the little stuff, like swim ladders on both hulls. Low handles for easy swimmer boarding and convenient tie-offs for floats and the like. Under the center cockpit floor hatch we found two dive bags loaded with fins, masks and snorkels of all sizes (child though adult). All were clean and ready to use. Sixteen sets in all. We joked about starting a snorkel gear rental business for a few days. We had enough gear to do it!
VOYAGE yachts have clearly been designed for speed and comfort. But it's also clear that they are designed as a launching platform for just about any on board water-sport activity you can think of. It's the extra touches that give it away. Things like transom showers in both transoms, the wide and deep transom steps, and the large dive platform to name a few.
"Knot Bad" is one of VOYAGE charters Premier Plus (PP) yachts, meaning it's as outfitted and updated as it gets. It really showed especially in the "entertainment" area. Sitting just above and to the left of the nav desk is a large bulkhead mounted, flat screen HDTV hooked up to a DVD player (hidden inside a cabinet above the nav desk). With the right connectors, we could hook up and play movies from our iPads, iPods, and iPhones. There's also the new iPod friendly stereo, with crisp sound inside and out. But even with all this cool technology on board, we were the most entertained sitting on the 'back deck' (dive platform) at night with the underwater lights on watching all the tarpon and sharks.
One word: "sleek." At a glance it's pretty easy to tell VOYAGE yachts are different. Low slung, wide, with extra long and lean legs. The 500 PP looks trim and quick from any angle. Her design style is different from just about anything else currently being chartered in the BVIs. All VOYAGE yachts are instantly identifiable and show their purpose through their design. These boats stand out, be it under sail or in a mooring field. They just look quick!
Video - VOYAGE 500 PP Moored Up
Sailing the VOYAGE 500 PP is a pleasure. It sails like we want a catamaran to sail. It's solid with a muted motion, easily driven hulls, and is very simple to sail. We enjoyed "Knot Bad" as much under sail as we did on mooring. None of us ever felt worn out or sore at the end of a day of sailing. The uniqueness of the VOYAGE design added to our enjoyment and showed how their approach really works. The thoughtful space planning, the set up of the systems, the build quality, and the extra touches are evident throughout our on board experience. VOYAGE Charters has evolved their fleet of VOYAGE Yachts though input from owners and charters. It's clear they have listened carefully and applied what they've learned. The latest incarnation of the Voyage / Owner / Charterer brain-trust is the new VOYAGE 52, hitting the water sometime around Feb. 2011. We're looking forward to seeing what they have up their sleeve with this one! We recommend our readers take a close look at VOYAGE yachts of all sizes. There's a range of yachts to fit various needs and price points. Yes, they are different. But as you can tell, the differences made all the difference in the world!
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev
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