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Review: Moonen Yachts 100' Explorer

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  1. Moonen 100' Explorer Yacht
    A Shipping Magnate Builds A Small Ship!

    Review by Judy Waldman

    In the clichéd terminology of small ship and expedition vessels, the Moonen 100 Explorer sets a new standard of understated elegance with a yacht that seems simplistically contemporary in her motoryacht persona, yet offers the robust underbody to voyage anywhere in confidence. One would expect no less from Moonen which has provided pedigree of builder, naval architect, designer, and owner to create this cosmic beauty with global aspirations.
    Rien Moonen was the eldest of 11 children born into a Dutch family paint company founded by his father in 1928. After studying commercial painting and attaining degrees, including 10 diplomas in painting, Rien worked in the family business and eventually, upon his father’s retirement, took over the company ownership and operation at age 28. With the continued and improved profitability of the paint business, Rien Moonen built a new boat for his family’s personal cruising at the de Ruiter shipyard then building motor cruisers under the names of Sea Star and Ocean Star. The 11 meter steel cruiser Rien ordered in 1963 became the anchor for Moonen Yachts. Rien ordered subsequent personal de Ruiter yachts including a 19 meter delivered in 1976. Through real estate development and business expansions, Rien eventually acquired the de Ruiter Shipyard which at that point had built over 300 yachts. In 1981, Rien received his first order for a custom build at the renamed Moonen yard in Den Bosch, Holland. During the next 18 years, Moonen built 35+ yachts between 59 and 108 feet primarily in steel although in the later years constructing aluminum hulls attaining speeds of 30 knots.

    In 1998 Rien Moonen called on Emile Bilterjist, a naval architect and a project manager at Damen Shipyards, to revitalize the Moonen yard. Emile eventually became an owner partnering with a well-known Scottish yachting family; today Emile is still an owner and the managing partner. Since 1998 Emile achieved success in building Moonen yachts up to 150 feet. A second yard, less than 50 kilometers away from the original de Ruiters yard, was opened in 2008 in Groot-Ammers to accommodate the larger yacht construction. Moonen proudly boasts more than 75 yachts in its fleet.

    The introduction of the Explorer Series in 2003 brought more success to Moonen’s highly acclaimed displacements models. In 2007 Moonen launched a 94’ aluminum 26 knot custom yacht named Nilo. More than half of Moonen owners have subsequently ordered an additional Moonen. And that includes Salim Erdem who after enjoying his Moonen 94 Nilo set his goals for distant horizons. In 2009 Salim bought out the Scottish family and he and his family became the majority owners of Moonen Yachts. This ownership served well for not only the construction of Salim’s personal yacht, but saw the sale of additional hulls. However, the calling of the sea after the Moonen 100 Explorer launching compelled Salim to sell the Erdem family shares in Moonen Yachts.
  2. Salim Erdem was born in Turkey and spent years looking at his home shorelines and dreaming of beyond. Besides an impressive resume and experience with the Maersk line of ships, Salim had a history of luxury yacht ownership. The 94’ Nilo, his daughter’s nickname, became what he thought was his ultimate yacht, until his new goal of a circumnavigation necessitated different parameters. As an owner of Moonen Yachts and with the previous experience of his custom built 94’ Moonen, Salim could exercise his desire for artistry and need for practicality at his own expense. The construction of the Moonen 100 took more than 3 years which included one year of architectural collaboration with Salim himself investing over 2000 hours of design time. With Vripack as the designer, Moonen could merge the Doggersbank concept with his personal goals of which primary was to create the best built ocean circumnavigating family yacht. The objectives included ultra-quiet and vibration free interior and exterior people places, extreme hull efficiency, serviceability of all equipment in foreign lands, safe flow of movement inside and on deck, low and easy maintenance, plenteous stowage for extreme passages, and primary usage for luxury accommodations for 6 with maximizing crew at 4 for full-time living aboard voyaging. These intentions are not only evidenced throughout the vessel but give an ethereal presence to her global essence.
  3. An obvious priority in the finished yacht would be seaworthiness and seakindliness on long passages. With transPacific capabilities, inherent stability was achieved by the Vripack designers building the Explorer as a 2 deck yacht, furthered by keeping the center of gravity low and long with a steel hull and aluminum superstructure, and utilizing lightweight materials where appropriate. Other requisites for all seas-all weather cruising included bulbous bow, double bottom integrated tanks, and watertight doors. Tank testing confirmed what Lloyds later certified. A striking profile with picture windows and understated elegance belie the can-do ruggedness expected of an expedition ship. Keeping the LOA to 100 feet, combined with easy disposition, allows for owner operation when short-handling is preferred.
  4. The sea trial for this review commenced at Porto Sole Marina in San Remo, Italy. Wending our way between the megayachts as we left the slip was easy with only an occasional tap of the hydraulic Hydromar 50kW twin prop bow thruster. Shortly after leaving harbor as we hit 4 knots, the retractable Hydromar 37kW stern thruster tucked itself into the hull. With winds of only 12 knots and the Mediterranean Sea giving us a mere short chop with some longer rollers, the Moonen Explorer wasn’t able to show her seafaring prowess. Her strut-her-stuff bravura would have to wait for a more arduous journey than offered on this cold, rainy San Remo day. But what she did show was impressive enough. She handled magnificently and effortlessly putting her through the regular twists and turns, S curves and 360s, and every test we could fabricate including finding wakes to take abeam. As we turned hard over at 11 knots, the Explorer had indiscernible heeling and turned on little more than her own boat length; without the Naiad Zerospeed stabilizers activated, there was only a slight and insignificant degree of tilt. Her turn-on-a-dime pivot point is so tight, than in need of a fast stop, it might be more efficient to turn around rather than hit reverse. We checked out her max speed of 13.5, but for more than an hour ran at her usual cruise speed of 10 knots at 1200rpm which at that headway left her with a range of 4,990 nautical miles – oh to dream…
  5. Visibility is excellent from both the pilothouse and the flybridge helms and the choice of steering station offers mother nature options. The superstructure is aluminum with welded window frames with double paned tinted glass. The stainless steel portholes have hardened glass.
  6. The Explorer’s bow typifies the elements comprising unique features below the surface of merely beautiful aesthetics. The 19” high wide cap rail offers convenience as a seawater deflection, but also provides well executed front row seating for multitudes when having a few dozen guests aboard. Large forward facing padded rope lockers forward of the Portuguese bridge increase the party capacity and viewing comfort. The platform for the anchoring system is comprised of a stainless steel base with the hefty equipment practically and artistically arranged. Note the chain locker access is not your typical in-deck hatch.
  7. There are several seating areas on the upper deck offering a choice of sun or shade, sitting or lounging, cozy coupling or megacrowd entertaining lending to a choice of either enjoying or avoiding the elements.
  8. Settee seating provides a beautiful vantage point for relishing the vistas, astronomic or gastronomic, underway or at anchor.
  9. Of the numerous choices for leisure time, the upper aft deck says, “Pick me!” Sun beds, chaise lounges, whirlpool, dining – my multiple choice would be “all of the above.” The section further aft, and separate from guest encumbrances, houses the Hydromar hydraulic Seascoter 1.65 ton 16 foot swivel crane with room for a 19.5 foot tender and 16 foot sailing dinghy.
  10. The generous swim platform welcomes owners and guests aboard via retractable passerelle to port or the gently sloped stairs to starboard. The aft deck is yet another comfortable dining and entertaining area before the grand entry into the yacht’s interior. The watertight entry door at the swim platform gives easy access to the exercise room and sauna and to the engine room. A Hydromar hydraulic retractable Seaswim ladder provides for easy aquatic activities access.
  11. Simplistic practicality is exemplified by the transom, yet unexpected features such as the “windows to the world” can be enjoyed while working the treadmill. The Hydromar hydraulic Seawalk passerelle swivels and telescopically extends to almost 15 feet and is remote controlled. The capacity is for inclusion of the hefty visitors weighing in at over (dare I say someone thought this possible?) 550 pounds. So, ok, maybe it’s for carrying heavy equipment aboard or for Noah style two by two boarding. Easy access in portside cabinet to the pumpout connections for dirty oil and blackwater. Starboard cabinet holds freshwater faucet and shower. The removable staple rails enhance the ability to use the swim platform as a repository for a second dinghy or jet ski.
  12. Whether sunbathing, lounging, or entertaining, the amidships upper deck is easily accessible from either the pilothouse stairs or the starboard side lower aft deck stairs and confirms the priority of ample and easy traffic flow continuing with the wide and low-rise stairs to the flybridge. This prime-time playground locates the 6-person Jacuzzi centerline. To starboard is the chef’s cooking center and wet bar.
  13. In spite of keeping the family yacht coziness as a priority, the 20 meter spacious and stable deck area brings the megayacht concept back in to play, literally and figuratively. Numerous seating and lounging choices with large and deep stowage lockers. All interior spaces and exterior lockers are kept cool and dry with a phenomenal fresh air system that houses its mechanics in the portside locker.
  14. Drinking bubbly in the bubbles while at anchor off South Pacific beaches or amidst the Arctic ices -- take your pick, or why not both. Can you imagine! Gives new meaning to “go with the floe!”
  15. Exploring exotic waters calls for pleasurable outdoor areas whether for entertaining or providing generous space for couple or family cruising. Good traffic flow on all decks gives easy access to the fun in the sun playtime. The forward upper deck area is simplistic, elegant, practical, multi-purpose -- all boxes checked on this one.
  16. Stout and sturdy apply to all aspects of this excursion yacht. The fold-down electronics lid is almost a two-person job even with the pneumatic ram. Full supports abound whether for the table or hardtop. Even the steps to access the masted electronics confirm sure-footedness. All seating has easily accessed large stowage beneath and includes the shipwide air circulation system to assure low to no locker maintenance and preservation of stowed items.
  17. The upper helm station is replete with the comforts and conveniences of sustaining communication, guidance, control, monitoring, and the modern wizardry of getting the vessel to where it is intended which for this yacht should be anywhere and everywhere. Furuno, Simrad, Raymarine, Sailor, Globesurfer, KVH – it’s all there in easy to see, easy to manage convenience.
  18. The large aft deck offers alfresco dining for 8 – 10. Beneath the padded settee is storage of course, but the portside seat beneath the cushion has a hatch with entry to the emergency steering station and exercise/engine room. The stairs to starboard lead up to the amidships lounge deck and flybridge. Portside and forward is a steering station and a wetbar. Line lockers port and starboard provide convenient teak seating for shoe removal. Additionally, both sides have a Cramm NCK 1500 hydraulic capstan. The starboardside deck has a door entry into the engine room. The side decks are wide and covered and have wing doors that allow the entire aft deck area to be self-contained. Note the reflections from the fine Awl-Grip high gloss paint on the high (44”) bulwarks. 15mm teak covers all exterior deck areas.
  19. Entry from the aft deck is through a pneumatically sealed glass door that operates by automatic sensors or can be remote controlled for sea mode or residential status, meaning the doors can be made watertight, weathertight, or normal operation. It must have taken a team of engineers to design its complex simplicity. This gives a metaphoric entrance to the salon which on one hand appears minimalist, yet is well designed in function and aesthetics. The silk teak walls are trimmed in walnut and parallel the walnut soles. The fine finish, excellent cabinetry and joinery, curvaceous styling, and alluring ambiance all contribute to the understated elegance.
  20. The picture windows were sized to offer maximum viewing whether standing or seated and to create the feeling of being at and on the water. Couch seating in the salon is for family comfort while additional seating is brought in for large social gatherings. On the starboardside ceiling, a drop down TV is concealed in the ultrasuede headliner. The cabinets contain multitudinous stowage and are designed to be at convenient access levels yet low enough to not interfere with the picture windows’ line of sight vistas. The window coverings are remote controlled, but with the tinted glass allowing magnificent quantities of controlled sunshine, I would assume the Roman shades would only be dropped when needed for privacy at dock. It’s like the salon and dining areas were designed around the windows and the panoramas took precedence. A priority well placed especially considering the seascapes this seafaring yacht’s locales are to proffer.
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