Boating: Getting Your Deep-Sea Legs

<< Back to Robb Report, January 2014
  • Elisabeth Eaves

Erik Hasselman bobs on the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Malta, protected by a clear acrylic sphere. A pilot and commercial director for the Dutch submersible maker U-Boat Worx, Hasselman is about to give a lesson on how to helm one of his company’s vessels. He releases air from the ballast tanks and the sub begins to descend. He then shows his passenger how to use the submarine’s thrusters and hands over the controls.

U-Boat Worx hopes that Hasselman has a chance to impart his subsurface skills to several more passengers in the near future. In the fall, the company debuted its newest vessel, the three-seat C-Explorer 3, the first of which is scheduled for delivery this spring. (The average wait time between order and delivery is about one year.) Because the International Maritime Organization requires submersible manufacturers to certify new owner-pilots, U-Boat Worx offers a training program that the company developed with the introduction of its first subs in 2008. The program requires at least one week of theory and one week of diving, during which trainees pilot a minimum of 20 dives. To date, the company has trained 25 pilots, most either at locations of the pilots’ choosing or at U-Boat Worx’s headquarters in the Netherlands.

U-Boat Worx offers two versions of the C-Explorer 3: a basic, $2.4 million edition that can dive to 1,000 feet and a $3 million version that can reach a depth of 3,300 feet. New owners should be prepared to either buy a support vessel for the sub or add a heavy-duty launching crane to an existing craft.

The new submersible offers several improvements over its predecessor, the two-person C-Explorer 2. Where the C-Explorer 2’s acrylic orb consists of two hemispheres held together by aluminum rings, the new model features a single sphere that provides greater visibility. With a 6.9-foot diameter, the new sub is also 2 feet wider than the earlier model. Its 42-kilowatt-hour battery offers twice the capacity of the C-Explorer 2’s, allowing the new model to operate for as long as 16 hours. Six electric thrusters (compared with four) propel the C-Explorer 3 to a comfortable 3 knots.

In price, size, and maximum depth, the 3,300-foot version of the C-Explorer 3 is comparable to the 3300/3 submersible from the Florida-based manufacturer Triton Submarines. The C-Explorer 3’s distinguishing features include having all three seats on the same level rather than having the pilot’s seat perched above the other two seats, as on the Triton. The C-Explorer 3 also has a control console attached to a wire so that passengers can take turns steering the vessel.

Hasselman says that most U-Boat Worx clients use the subs as toys aboard their megayachts. Prospective owners who want to try out a sub can join the company when it conducts demonstration dives twice a year in various locations, including Malta. 

U-Boat Worx, www.uboatworx.com

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