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Insight: The quest for the perfect tender

Written by
Gemma Fottles

Everybody knows that tenders are, in many ways, the lifeblood of all superyacht operations. Whether it’s the crew jumping in the tender and zipping around to pick up groceries and supplies, being transported safely from shore to your superyacht, or simply cruising around small coves, bays, and hard to reach secluded destinations, a tender is an essential part of ensuring the best experience of the superyacht life. 

Pascoe's fleet of tenders
Pascoe's fleet of tenders

With that being said, investment in a good, seaworthy and aesthetically pleasing tender is a wise decision. But with a larger tender requiring a substantial amount of dedicated space on board - sometimes at the sacrifice of living areas - and a tender custom-built to match her mothership a pretty substantial cost, it can be easy to treat the tender as an afterthought. We caught up with the experts at X-Tender, Pascoe, Castoldi and Compass Tenders to hear their thoughts on how to make the most of your tender on board. 

Xtender Savannah 9.3m tender
Savannah's 9.9m tender from Xtender

Many superyacht owners would argue that the investment in time, energy and money into a beautiful, big tender is not worth it when you can get a no-nonsense tender for a fraction of the cost. What makes the investment worth it?

Pascoe: When it comes to selecting tenders, owners should remember the saying: ‘Buy cheap - buy twice’. Often any saving on the initial purchase will be lost in on-going maintenance when it becomes apparent that the less established and cheaper brands are not able to offer the level of in-service support and aftersales care that comes from a dedicated superyacht tender brand.

Compass Tenders: A good tender doesn't have to be a 'big' tender. A good tender has to be safe, dry and give the owner and his guests an appropriate level of creature comforts. My thought is that it's the correct investment for an owner to get the best tender he can and that investment should be in line with the mothership. There is no substitute - guests need to be safe and dry whilst travelling between shore and superyacht and with yachts anchored offshore more and more, to not be able to make it ashore because of wind or sea state just isn’t an option. At the end of the day, it's all about guest safety and comfort, which doesn't include getting soaking wet!

Castoldi: Firstly, I don’t think the focus should be on the size, it should be on the price to quality ratio, reliability and performance. You can get large tenders which are substantially much less expensive than a small custom tender, for example. But either way, I don’t think that investment in a custom tender is worth it considering that a bespoke tender must be considered a prototype, surely not free from all the defects of the one-off product. At Castoldi, we make tenders produces in series, deeply tested, that work for thousands of hours, ending up with a superior product. You just can’t get it right the first time, in my opinion, so these custom tenders that are worth millions of euros… it’s slightly absurd!

Xtenders: Important to notice: custom does not mean good. There are custom builders that use the same techniques and quality finish as production boats. Regardless, and despite the relatively small size of the custom tender market, the differences in build quality and technologies are big. Smaller tenders are easier to store on board of the yacht, but that is where the advantages end.

One who wants a small, cheap, mass-produced tender probably doesn’t have much experience with tenders. First, the majority of the mass produced tenders are of poor build quality, hence they can be heavy and difficult to maintain. Companies just have to take major shortcuts to bring the price down and stay competitive in the business-to-consumer market.Tango tenderWhat impact does a good tender on the superyacht experience for owner, guests and crew?

Castoldi: A good tender is extremely important for any superyacht. When a yacht is moored up, all of the movements from the boat will be undertaken on the tender - from grocery shopping to transporting guests to shore. Tenders should be seen as work boats, they never stop. So on a practical level, a good tender is essential. Furthermore, if you have a luxury yacht and you’re tender is some little outboard, then it doesn’t make sense. Guests want to experience the level of luxury they get on a superyacht with every element of the experience, and that includes the tender. 

Pascoe: Tenders play a key role in the overall superyacht experience for owners and their guests. With large yachts forced to anchor offshore, the tenders are the only representation of the mothership at the dockside and the first element of the yacht that guests will come into contact with when they start their time onboard.

A good tender should, therefore, show the same attention to detail and the mothership whilst performing perfectly in all weather conditions with complete reliability. If a guest arrives by private aircraft, is chauffeur driven to a marina only to be transferred to the superyacht by a basic leisure boat which covers them in spray during the passage then the tender becomes the weak link in the entire process.

Xtenders: A good custom tender allows the owner and the crew to present their requirements and wishes before the design starts. That means that they should get exactly what they need. The owner will obviously enjoy the accurately matched to his yacht styling and finish of the tender. The tender will be a true part of the yachting experience. For the crew, it means, a tender that is easy to store on board, good after-sales service and specific usability features that are included into the design.Black pearl LimousineBlack Pearl Limousine from Pascoe International

What are some of the more common mistakes made when selecting a tender?

Compass Tenders: To avoid mistakes, careful appraisal of the tenders’ use and the age groups the tender will be used for is essential. For me, RIB's aren't a great option as superyacht guest tenders as they tend to have low freeboard, so they’re potentially wet and present a feel of sitting on the tender, rather than in it. Also, elegant and safe boarding can be challenging with a RIB, as you generally have to stand on the air-filled tubes.

Xtenders: Quality varies a lot per brand, testing the product and gathering experience of other users is essential. Some clients insist on certain features that at the end badly influence a total design and durability of the tenders.

Castoldi: In my opinion, buying a one-off custom tender is the biggest mistake you can make. Sure, on yachts of 100+ metres, okay, but on a smaller boat, I just think it doesn’t make sense. Owners should invest in a decent sized tender, reliable and that performs well. In fact, the tender should be as big as possible. The bigger the tender, the better it is.
Madame Gu's limo tender
Madame Gu's limo tender from Compass Tenders

Part of a lack of investment in tenders is the fact that there is simply no room on board many superyachts to accommodate a substantial additional vessel. For an owner considering whether to sacrifice living space for tender space, what would you say?

Xtenders: Without a doubt, rearranging interior space to fit the largest tender possible will maximise the yachting experience. Especially for those who fancy active leisure activities. In 8 years I have never heard an owner saying that his tenders are too big. A bigger tender will extend the reach of the yacht without sacrificing the comfort. It will also connect the yacht and the shores and ensure the unique experience starts already during the transfer to the yacht and ends when dropping off back at the vast land.

Another trend on bigger yachts is to have a larger number of specific boats such as sailing boats, wakeboard boats etc. It may be a better option to create a dedicated space for a larger multipurpose tender instead of stuffing the yacht with numerous smaller ones.

Compass Tenders: We are finding that tender stowage areas are becoming more and more challenging in relation to crew and owner expectations. Tenders can quickly become compromised through lack of stowage space. It's not only length that needs to be considered, it's height. This is becoming more and more relevant to open tenders as well as limousine tenders, as owners are demanding solid T top biminis to shield seating areas. If crew members are going to be required to supervise long periods of watersports activities, then shade from the sun is also a must. Again the LOA and guest use of the mothership should be carefully considered so the appropriate tenders can be built or sourced. 

Castoldi: I would always recommend sacrificing a bit of living space to accommodate a bigger tender. This doesn’t always have to be such a big sacrifice, though, with more and more yachts featuring completely different configurations. But if an owner is questioning whether or not they should, my advice is that you definitely should!

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