Horizon Yachts – Polaris
The Polaris 148 from Horizon, the yard’s first build in steel and aluminium, was built for the owner who enjoys eating, entertaining and most of all, exploring
Horizon Yachts of Taiwan has rapidly expanded its capabilities and marketing reach, thanks to ever-more ambitious projects that are aimed at a global market. The firm took a big step last year with the launch of its new flagship, Polaris. This 45-metre expedition yacht, dubbed the EP148, was designed and built on spec, and has some rather interesting design history. There is a curious mix of impulses on Polaris, starting from its high standards of construction to interior layouts that anticipate entertaining dozens of guests in evening cocktail fashion. The result is a rather unique yacht, and though its appeal may be limited to an enterprising few, it is still an interesting statement on what Horizon can do for a client.
Boats start with the hull, and this is where the story of Polaris begins. Horizon was aiming to build a larger expedition-style yacht, and after the experience of launching five of its 130-footers, the builder felt that the time had come to take some next steps. The biggest of course, was building its first steel-hulled yacht with aluminium superstructure. As Horizon up till this point had only worked in fibreglass, that alone was a significant step. At this point, the in-house team at Horizon knew that they were creeping up to the 500 Gross Tonnage limit, and decided that if they were to rise to the challenge, they might as well do it wholeheartedly.
So instead of a larger composite hull, Horizon turned to MTD of St. Petersburg, a Russian firm with a pedigree of designing tough ships for the far north, to help engineer a hull with Ice Class certification. Horizon also reasoned that they had plenty of experience dealing with third party certification societies such as DNV, BV and Lloyd’s Register that they could make the jump to an Ice Class D certified vessel. Horizon contracted the hull construction to Ching Fu, a large builder of steel boats, and sitting right next door to Horizon’s yard in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Ice Class certification by Bureau Veritas means that the boat is designed to withstand the impact of icebergs, and also has the appropriate safety, structural strength and survivability mechanisms in place to handle journeys above the Arctic or Antarctic Circles. A certification of Ice Class A goes to icebreakers, while Ice Class D might go to a fishing boat. The result of that certification is some features that don’t normally appear on superyachts, such as watertight doors at the aft main deck. Here, one normally finds wide, arcing glass doors that create a huge space when open. “In big following seas, you may have a lot of water coming on deck, and the boat needs to be ready for that,” says James Fwu, general manager for Horizon.
But the flip side of this is a yacht that owners can comfortably traverse tough conditions, which may not just be found in the high latitudes. If cruising the world in safety and comfortable sounds appealing, this may be a solution.
Horizon also made a point of including the latest in satellite communications technology onboard, with Wifi available throughout the yacht. The owner of Polaris can explore the world and run a company at the same time. Fwu points out that an American customer, who wanted a yacht to cruise from Mexico up to Alaska and back, was an inspiration. The construction of yachts such as Big Fish, which aim to allow for expeditions to the far flung corners of the Earth while maintaining comfort for the owner, were a further inspiration. Though Polaris was built on spec, the growing trend for expedition superyachts may serve them well. The boat is frequently put on show and available for sea trials from its base in Kaohsiung, with existing Horizon owners from Australia, Russia and Japan all coming to take a look, according to Fwu.
The range of this expedition yacht at 10 knots is roughly 4200 nautical miles. But Fwu notes that sea water ballast tanks have been installed on Polaris, and if an owner desired, these could be converted to fuel tanks for greater range and independent cruising. Horizon is even prepared to convert its seawater ballast tanks to fuel tanks on request.
Getting onboard Polaris, a guest is certainly treated well, and its obvious that this yacht can entertain a lot of guests. My first time aboard Polaris was during Horizon’s 25th anniversary party in the summer of 2012, and the yacht must have had at least 50 people on board, with little difficulty. My second tour, during the cooler months of January, was alone, but it was easy to see why nobody bumped elbows.
The sundeck is both large and thoroughly equipped to host parties. In the middle of the deck, there is a fully equipped service station with grill, wet bar, fridges and food prep space for crew who are surrounded on three sides by counter-space. There is even a teppanyaki grill in this area. Eight fixed bar stools surround this area, which also features a drop-down TV. Forward, there are two tables and settees big enough for guests to completely recline. Aft, there is a Jacuzzi with surrounding sunpad, stylishly arranged in an oval about the pool. There is plenty more room for loungers, and a day head is placed within one of the radar arches.
Moving down to the bridge or upper deck, the arrangements continue in their unusual way. A large aft deck is available for al fresco dining. Through large glass doors, this opens into a combination bar/media room. Eschewing tradition, this upper deck saloon can only be described as a flop space. A huge counter area to starboard serves as a bar and it takes up nearly a third of the floor space. Above the bar, a dropdown TV faces to port and a settee that runs the length of the room. The intention seems to be for people to lay back and watch movies whilst being served drinks and snacks continuously.
Lounging, drinking and eating are great ways to get out of shape, and almost as if as to underscore that point, the designers decided to put a huge exercise room forward of the cinema lounge area. Again defying convention, the gym/fitness area is full-beam and bisected by the main passageway forward to the stairway and finally the wheelhouse. The gym features both a rowing machine and treadmill to starboard, and an open area for stretching and yoga. There is also a steam room and sauna.
Heading down to the main deck, we find more innovations and design variations. Typically, a main deck guest area conjoins the dining space forward with the saloon/lounge area aft, which then opens on to an aft deck space for al fresco dining. On Polaris, these areas are separated by the bulwark partition. The dining space, which features a simple yet elegant arrangement, can be completely closed off and used for private entertaining or as a conference room. Simple yet elegant furnishings are the rule. The dining area is served by a wine storage space capable of holding up to 200 bottles.
The main lounge is a simple but again, elegantly designed space, which will be an excellent place to unwind after dinner. Wood panelling and cream fabrics and furnishings are used to good effect, and the windows are big and bright enough to make this saloon a treat.
The aft deck, accessed via those watertight doors, is slightly unusual. Outside of watertight doors, you do feel separated from the rest of the yacht. However, the entire aft transom area opens up to form a giant teppanyaki/wet bar/grill area. Food can be prepped and served direct to the aft deck table, which seats up to ten comfortably, obviating the need for discreet crew access to this space.
The galley on the main deck could easily be used to serve a sizeable restaurant. There’s counter prep area for at least three people to work simultaneously without ever bumping elbows. In additional to all the required workspaces, there are two large walk-in coolers that could stow enough food for weeks at sea. Handily, there is an alarm button you can push, should you accidentally get locked in the cooler.
Forward on the main deck, there is the master cabin. The owner gets well looked-after on Polaris, with the requisite full beam space, with a large vanity desk to starboard and twin loungers perched atop the drawers to port. These loungers, ergonomically designed to put the user in a semi-fetal position, seem a bit unusual at first, then you realise that if you just want to read a book in privacy or take a moment to reflect, this is the place to do it. An office separates the cabin from the rest of the yacht and comes equipped with a small library. There is a walk-in closet as well as full beam master bath forward.
Down below, there are four more cabins for guests, with two twins and two doubles. The double cabins have been placed aft, in front of the engine room, and Horizon has positioned the ensuites in between to dampen noise in the cabins while the yacht is underway.
Like the owner and guests, the crew have been very well looked after on Polaris. The captain enjoys a sizeable cabin behind the wheelhouse. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew have a lot of room in their main mess, with ample space to move around, do laundry (there are two sets of washer/dryer units), and comfortable cabins. Access to the anchor station on the bow is quick and workmanlike, owing to BV requirements.
Up on the bow, there is space for the MOB tender and two jet skis, deployed by crane. At the stern in the transom, there is a single main tender, dropped by hoist and easily retrieved.
Overall, Polaris is not the prettiest looking yacht that will pull into harbour. But, she is a sturdy yacht to be sure, and an owner can feel safe and comfortable in nearly any climate, and be able to explore almost any place on Earth. Not a bad thing to consider while you munch on some teriyaki chicken from your sundeck.
Technical Specifications – EP 148 Polaris
LWL (full load): 40.6m
Beam (max): 8.93m
Draught (half load): 2.8m
Displacement (light): 441t
Engines: 2 x MTU 12V 4000 M60, 1320kW @1800RPM each
Speed (max/cruise): 16kts/10kts
Range at cruise: 4100nm
Fuel capacity: 64,000lts
Guest accommodation: 12
Construction: Steel hull/aluminium superstructure
Naval Architects: Horizon/MTD
Exterior styling: JC Espinosa