Dutch-built Altena 50 Pilot­house

Passage Maker - - Contents - ag Pike

When you get on a brand-new trawler owned by Theo Koop, the boss of one of the world’s lead­ing ven­dors of yacht sta­bi­liz­ers, you can ex­pect it will re­main up­right. Ro­torSwing has sup­plied sta­bi­liz­ers to many of the world’s largest su­pery­achts, as well as to the U.S. Navy, so he must rank highly as an ex­pert in sta­bi­liza­tion.

As you would ex­pect, the new Altena 50 was fit­ted with the lat­est prod­uct from Koop’s in­no­va­tive com­pany, and he was so proud to demon­strate its zero-speed ca­pa­bil­i­ties that he had rigged up the sys­tem to show off its func­tion­al­ity even though we were along­side a berth in calm wa­ters. But by chang­ing a pair of wires, the owner was able to make the sta­bi­liz­ers op­er­ate in re­verse, rolling the boat when it was steady along­side and be­com­ing steady when the sta­bi­liz­ers were stopped. It may sound strange but this was the only way to demon­strate th­ese re­mark­able new sta­bi­liz­ers on a day that was de­void of waves.

Un­like pre­vi­ous ver­sions of the prod­uct, this lat­est ver­sion of Ro­torSwing’s in­no­va­tive sys­tem can op­er­ate when the yacht is stopped. Ro­torSwing sta­bi­liz­ers pre­vi­ously re­lied on boat move­ment, gen­er­at­ing a right­ing mo­ment with a ro­tat­ing cylin­der that pro­trudes from the side of the hull and uses the Mag­nus ef­fect to cre­ate an up­ward or dow­nard thrust to counter the rolling of the hull. This new ver­sion, how­ever, can sta­bi­lize the boat at an­chor by sim­ply mov­ing the sta­bi­liz­ing cylin­der through the wa­ter to gen­er­ate thrust, rather than re­ly­ing on the move­ment of the whole boat.

The new Ro­torSwing sta­bi­liz­ers work equally well when un­der­way as we found when try­ing to cope with the con­sid­er­able wash of the mighty in­land wa­ter­way barges that tra­verse the Dutch canals. And while the Altena 50 has a multi-chine steel hull that is close to a rounded-bilge in shape (which would pro­vide good sta­bil­ity on its own), ev­ery lit­tle bit helps when it comes to a smooth and com­fort­able pas­sage.

With the hull de­sign of the 50, Altena has struck a good bal­ance be­tween com­fort at sea and in­te­rior ca­pac­ity. Many de­signs puff out the bow sec­tions to cre­ate as much in­te­rior space as pos­si­ble, which can lead to ex­ces­sive pitch­ing in a sea­way. But on the Altena, the bow sec­tions are rel­a­tively fine and a cer­tain amount of flare has been in­tro­duced in the top­sides, which should make this a dry ride in head seas. You may not get quite the large dou­ble bed com­fort in the bow cabin found in some com­pet­ing yachts, but the Dutch are noth­ing if not prac­ti­cal and many fa­vor V-berths in the bow. Bear in mind, how­ever, that what one owner finds is a good so­lu­tion, an­other might want to change. And ev­ery Altena is cus­tom as far as the in­te­rior is con­cerned—within the lim­its of the struc­ture, of course.

The more I see of Dutch steel yachts, the more im­pressed I am. Not only can th­ese masters per­suade the steel to bend into beau­ti­ful curves, but they can give it a fin­ish that any fiber­glass builder would be proud of. The beau­ti­ful paint jobs on yachts like the Altena 50 not only of­fer a life­time of pro­tec­tion but also have the deep lus­ter of paint that can never be achieved with the gel

coat sur­face of com­pos­ites.

The yacht tested was Altena’s raised pilot­house ver­sion of the 50, which of­fers a spa­cious wheel­house with a panoramic dash dom­i­nated by a pair of large Ray­ma­rine screens. The view aft is blocked by lock­ers, but the cur­rent owner has over­come this by fit­ting a cam­era that dis­plays a clear view on a dash LCD of what is com­ing up aft of the ship. This should be im­por­tant for ev­ery­one at sea but it is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant on the Dutch canals where huge barges travel at 12 knots and de­mand right of way. In a yacht the size of the Altena, you don’t ar­gue with them!

The re­verse-an­gle pilot­house win­dows of­fer a clear view and wipers are fit­ted to the front and side win­dows to main­tain vis­i­bil­ity. Th­ese win­dows are dou­ble glazed to both re­duce sound and min­i­mize heat loss. At the rear of the pilot­house is a set­tee with an in­no­va­tive slid­ing ta­ble that can be moved to al­low easy ac­cess. On each side of the pilot­house, a wa­ter­tight door leads to the wide side decks that make it easy to move around this yacht.

The sa­loon is at a lower level with the com­pre­hen­sive gal­ley at its for­ward end so serv­ing is close to the re­cip­i­ents at the sa­loon ta­ble. It all looks com­fort­able and cozy with a ris­ing TV com­ing out of the lock­ers op­po­site the U-shape set­tee. While I gen­er­ally like to see fid­dles around the stove in a gal­ley, per­haps

th­ese own­ers have enough faith in the sta­bi­liz­ers to keep the boat steady while cook­ing. Over­all, the gal­ley was well de­signed, with the ex­cep­tion of one fridge door that opens aft. Af­ter a lively pas­sage pitch­ing into a head sea, the fridge con­tents will tend to slide aft and con­gre­gate be­hind the door, re­leas­ing an avalanche of food and con­tain­ers when the door is opened.

Easy stairs down from the pilot­house give ac­cess to the ac­com­mo­da­tions be­low, in­clud­ing a com­fort­able two-berth cabin and a sin­gle in ad­di­tion to the V-berth in the bow. The for­ward master cabin has di­rect ac­cess to its own bath­room while the oth­ers share fa­cil­i­ties. But again, own­ers can choose from a wide range of cabin lay­outs.

A unique fea­ture through­out this yacht is the use of bam­boo as the wood both for the pan­el­ing and fur­ni­ture, and even on the decks. Bam­boo is an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly choice but also a prac­ti­cal one as the fin­ish looks good and sup­pos­edly does not change color with age.

Out­side, the cock­pit of­fers a com­fort­able sit­ting out or din­ing area with its tran­som set­tee and teak ta­ble. I am a bit con­cerned about the moor­ing ar­range­ments with their beau­ti­fully crafted stain­less steel fair­leads in­set into the bul­wark. They have quite sharp edges on their out­board lower edge, which could chafe

through a rope quite quickly if there were any move­ment in the boat when along­side. It’s a com­mon fault I have seen on many boats and shows what can hap­pen when style takes over from seamanship. A more prac­ti­cal ap­proach is seen with the fender stowage, which is in easy-ac­cess lock­ers on the coachroof.

Hid­den away in the bow­els of the Altena is an ad­vanced propul­sion sys­tem that com­bines a sin­gle diesel en­gine with a pair of elec­tric sail drives to of­fer a va­ri­ety of propul­sion op­tions. The twin John Deere 130-horse­power diesels drive the 50 along at a use­ful 10 knots with eco­nom­i­cal cruis­ing at 7 knots. Switch off the diesels and the two Sonic sail drives with fold­ing pro­pel­lers pow­ered by elec­tric mo­tors will give a speed of be­tween 2 and 3 knots, which is enough if you just want to idle along, en­ter sen­si­tive ar­eas, or fish. There is not enough elec­tric power to of­fer a sig­nif­i­cant boost if you use elec­tric and diesel power in tan­dem, though. The elec­tric drives do of­fer a get-home pos­si­bil­ity, how­ever, with the gen­er­a­tor sup­ply­ing the power to keep the bat­ter­ies topped up, and a pair of large bat­tery banks give a use­ful en­durance un­der bat­tery power alone.

I would ques­tion whether the elec­tric drives have enough power for har­bor ma­neu­ver­ing, but one rea­son for choos­ing th­ese elec­tric power units is that they have the same elec­tric mo­tor as is em­ployed to power the bow and stern thrusters. Th­ese thrusters, com­bined with the diesel en­gine and a large rud­der, pro­vide all the ma­neu­ver­abil­ity you could want, and they can all be com­bined in a com­pact hand­held unit that al­lows you to con­trol the yacht from any­where on board re­motely. While this does of­fer con­ve­nience for sin­gle­handed sail­ing, the owner is ner­vous about us­ing this por­ta­ble con­troller as it puts quite a bit of trust in the elec­tron­ics per­form­ing when you need them.

A cock­pit lad­der that is ar­guably too steep pro­vides ac­cess to a fly­bridge where you gain panoramic views of the hori­zon com­bined with a good so­cial area. The mast, which car­ries the en­tire an­tenna and the mast­head nav­i­ga­tion light, can be low­ered elec­tri­cally to re­duce air draft. The ten­der stows up here as well with a small crane for launch and re­cov­ery, but an al­ter­na­tive stowage for the ten­der is on the nar­row swim plat­form.

The Altena 50 is a high-qual­ity trawler yacht that demon­strates that steel con­struc­tion can be a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to more com­mon com­pos­ites. All the in­te­rior sur­faces be­hind the pan­el­ing are sprayed with thick sound-dead­en­ing foam, which means that sound lev­els are re­mark­ably low and all you hear of the en­gine is a low rum­ble that is re­as­sur­ing rather than ir­ri­tat­ing. The yacht tested was the first in the se­ries and, as the builder pointed out, its pro­duc­tion was rushed to get it to a boat show and it is now head­ing back to the yard for com­ple­tion. With a pow­er­ful pro­file, the at­trac­tive Altena 50 makes a great ad­di­tion to the trawler yacht mar­ket.

This page (clock­wise from up­per-left): Cen­ter­line helm with a neatly laid- out dash fea­tur­ing twin Ray­ma­rine MFDs; Sec­ond state­room doesn’t carry much head­room, but both twin bunks are com­fort­able and ad­e­quate for guests or lit­tle ones; De­tail of the sa­loon ta­ble; Size­able L-shape gal­ley and stowage op­tions be­fore the raised pilot­house. Op­po­site: Beamy sa­loon with plenty of seat­ing and stowage.

The Altena 50 fea­tures twin board­ing steps from the swim plat­form, safe bul­wark heights, large hawse pipes, and a de­sign that blends tra­di­tional ac­cents within a con­tem­po­rary pack­age.

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