Recently, on a charter with a new Oyster 575 ("Endless One", hull #2) I had time to evaluate the yacht from a viewpoint of a passenger 'just along for the ride' as well as someone who sails. It's a lovely Blue Water yacht, obviously made with great care and craftsmanship and is decidedly deserving of its reputation in the industry. Likewise, we were extremely pleased with using Oyster Charter on this vacation. Everything was attended to in a professional manner and we had a splendid time!
This review is not mean to bash Oyster but just to note some design decisions observed while on board that I would have made differently. Perhaps someone else will have a different opinion than I and that's what makes the world go round.
Part of my thought process is from the position of someone who dreams of a yacht that is designed to be sailed more easily solo. As such, I viewed this Oyster 575 with this idea in mind and it fell short by a good margin. Perhaps I'm living under the illusion of being able to sail a larger yacht solo but other yachts (like the Hallberg-Rassy) appear to be designed to be safely operated in this fashion. I know it takes time, knowledge, technique and a compromise in the feature set for the yacht to be able to be handled solo but that's OK with me as I'm dedicated to learning, practicing my skills and growing with the capabilities of the yacht.
On the other hand, as someone who chartered this yacht for a while, to be pampered, I found it way too small to be used as a luxury charter. While the skipper and chef went out of their way to provide for our needs and give us privacy it's just impossible on a yacht this size to have much privacy at all. Through no fault of their own, we were constantly bumping into each other (see below about the galley location). While this size yacht is fine for two to operate by themselves along with two more guests, the fact that the aft cabin is where we resided and the galley was between us and the rest of the yacht made it impossible for the crew to perform their jobs without us interrupting them on the way to or from our cabin. They were gracious in our interruptions but nevertheless, I felt bad each time I asked them to allow me to pass on my way to our cabin.
For the future, any crewed yacht I go on *must* have separate crew quarters in the rear along with the galley leaving the saloon and forward areas clear for just the guests. Also, nothing less than 72-80 feet in size would be comfortable for a crewed situation.
- I love the big yacht feel, handling, wonderful speed and ride of a larger yacht. This is way different (in a good way) than I expected (coming from sailing 40' yachts) and I'm very pleased with the comfort and performance of the Oyster 575. It's a magnificent yacht!
- Chartering allows one to enjoy the 'result' rather than endure the work. Meaning, on our charter we could have chosen to simply sit back and leave all the work to the crew while sipping wine and peeling grapes (not really, but you get the idea). The Oyster Charter crew was fabulous and took extremely good care of our needs. I must note that Andy, the skipper, went way out of his way to answer my innumerable questions and allowed me to occasionally take the helm under his watchful supervision. The feeling one gets from having the wind move 26 tons of mass through the water while you are handling the helm is an experience we should all dream of. It's absolutely amazing...
- I love the dinghy stored on the davits. This is way better than towing it behind you or strapping it to the forward deck. A very classy way to handle a real issue (see my notes on 'dinghy garages' below).
- The outside hatch to the saloon is very secure and has side bolts to boot. I'm not sure if it really is more secure but sure looks like it to me.
- The forward sun-bed (in front of the mast) was a very pleasant place to watch the stars at night and we spotted the International Space Station on a number of evenings.
- The finish work on the interior wood is fantastic. As a woodworker myself, I can appreciate the effot to make it look this good. Oyster has a lot to be proud of in this yacht, it's a real tribute to British craftsmanship.
- The steps around the bed in aft cabin are an issue for me. I've gotten out of bed sleepy to try and find footing going to the bathroom and stubbed my toes constantly (obviously I'm not a quick learner). Likewise, the multi-level flooring is all over the yacht (stepping down into the galley, the forward cabin, etc). I simply don't understand why they designed this way (actually, I know it was an intentional design decision to provide for a raised saloon but the tradeoff is too high IMHO).
- The smooth finish on the steps into saloon from cockpit is very slippery. Some grip on the surface would greatly facilitate climbing in and out of the saloon when a heeled over. Also, the flooring throughout the saloon and cabins is slippery as well. Looks beautiful but functionality has suffered.
- All shower doors are solid (i.e. not folding) so you have to crowd way over on top of the toilet to open the shower door wide enough to get in (at least if you're a normal guy like me).
- I wish Oyster had a better mattress option than what we slept on. It was way too thin for comfort as a true replacement bed for the one we have at home. For a 'second home' the bed should be fantastic. Instead, I was looking forward to getting back to my regular bed at the end of our charter.
- The location of the winches are not set up for single-handed sailing. You have to either step out of the helm area to the cockpit (leaving the helm on autopilot) or move to the edge of the yacht to be able to work with the genoa and jib sheets. In foul weather, this would appear to be an issue. Even in good weather, a cockpit full of guests would have to contend with sheets in their way. Not an optimal configuration.
- On the other hand, having two head-sail winches seems unnecessary for this yacht as they never put the jib and genoa up at the same time (this yacht had a solent rig) yet they had to move sheets around each time they decided to use one or the other. Perhaps making all winches electric would eliminate the moving around of sheets but regardless the pile of ropes all over was constantly getting tangled anyway.
- While discussing the solent rig, I really don't understand it. The genoa is the biggest 'accelerator' you have yet... it's the hardest to deploy and tack (having to completely furl it in before you can deploy it on the alternate side). Why? Where's the advantage here (your chance to comment below...)? It seems a cutter rig would allow you to use the genoa more (having to furl 1/3 of it in instead of all of it in). At this point, I'm not a fan of the solent rig. Correct me if I'm wrong.
- It seem having a manual genoa track and car causes one crew member (sometimes both) to have to go out on deck to make adjustments despite the seas or weather. Not a great situation either in my book. Seems dangerous in bad weather.
- I don't like two helm wheels and two consoles on this sized boat. There, I've said it! It seems whatever instrument I want to look at is always on the other console. Likewise, physically moving from one wheel to another is not comfortable either when tacking or jibing. A solution (albeit an expensive one) is to duplicate all functionality on both consoles). I'm not sure why two are warrented on this yacht.
- The soft dodger and bimini top are really no protection from rain at all (except if it is gently coming straight down with no wind). In addition, the plastic windows get grimy no matter how careful you care for them and you have to be very careful as they scratch easily. Between normal use and UV I give them a max of two years before having to replace the entire soft dodger.
- Having a gallery on the way to the aft cabin is a poor setup for a crewed yacht. We were constantly bumping into the crew and with them so close to our cabin, there is a real loss of privacy (i.e. chef is banging pots around 2 meters from our bed at 6:30am) while the skipper is overhead in the cockpit making preparation for departure. Regardless, solitude is hard to find on a yacht this size.
- The fancy snap-up cleats look nice when you are in the marina or at a boat show but are a pain-in-the-ass to actually use. There's a loss of time when trying to tie something off quickly. When you forgot to snap them up in advance it becomes an issue as I noted on a number of occasions.
- The cockpit table is big, not very easy to put up and down and takes up way too much room in the cockpit area. The sharp edges underneath scraped me dozens of times to the point I became irritated with the design! Also, the unvarnished surface stained easily and has to be cleaned often to keep it looking proper (varnished would have just wiped up easily). Also, the selection of a 'cooler' feature in the table (rather than a fridge) with a drain that just fell to the floor of the cockpit wasn't optimal either. I'm not sure why the water drain couldn't have be routed to the cockpit drain so the teak floor was dry instead of wet all the time.
- The manually deployed passerelle is a royal pain in the butt and took 10-15 minutes to assemble and install. Hydraulic is the way to go instead on a yacht of this level.
- The lack of a substantial swim platform was a problem too. Whether getting in/out of the dinghy or climbing up after a swim, the built-in platform was not large enough.It would accomodate only one person at a time. However, having a nice fresh-water shower was a terrific and welcome addition.
- The deck is really cluttered with too much 'stuff'. After seeing so many yachts with clean decks, it's hard to imagine why Oyster still puts out a boat that makes it so hard to walk around. I dont' know how many times I stubbed my toe while trying to get to the bow.
- Not related to this Oyster... the 'dinghy garage' concept may work for the Mediterranean but around the Caribbean all I saw was a 'garage full of plastic toys' with no room for a dinghy and yachts towing the dinghy behind them. I assume this is because of the time and effort to move a dinghy from the water to the garage and back again or the joy of having a huge place to store 'toys'. I favor the davits for the dinghy for a cruising yacht and can't see the storage as enough reason to 'steal' 2 meters from the interior space on a yacht. This is expensive landscape and I'd like it for myself, not some inflatable toy.
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