And so I was happy when I learned that the newest breed of Rob and Tom Humphreys, the Oyster 495 was about to attend the Hamburg ancora Yachtfestival that is currently taking place in my home marina. Excited as I was, right on the first day of the show – sun was still shining as weather was about to change the coming days – I sneaked all along the pier side where the new Oyster was moored as the next to last boat, excelled in prestige only by Michael Schmidt´s Y7. Oh boy, what a beauty!
I had followed the Oyster multimedia channels during the making of the boat and also spoken extensively with Rob Humphreys about the concept of this “small” Oyster. I welcomed the fact that they went for an entry level boat of “just” barely 50 feet (hull length), which is a big boat for sure but in relation to what I have in mind when I hear “Oyster”, that´s a surprisingly small boat. Seeing the 495 in real live, nearing her from the rear, I instantly admired the signature design elements which I love so much about this brand.
I never really quite liked the extended transoms by Oyster, as for example seen on the 745 in Düsseldorf some 3 years ago. So, the classic negative transom, clean, closed lines with a brand new bathing platform concept was not just candy for the eyes but a tick of one of the Oyster-must-have-boxes. Speaking of candy, the mint-colored hull wrap is indeed a polarizing choice but I personally loved it: a looker for sure and certainly a color raising attention, which was this boat´s mission touring the spring/early summer boat shows of Europe.
I absolutely applauded the designers for having integrated those signature three vertical hull windows which I missed on previous “smaller” Oysters so much and always pitied the owners of those boats: almost as if the yard had said: “Well, get a bigger one and you´ll get the sexy windows.” Those three windows are a defining element and absolutely necessary on an Oyster, in my opinion.
I couldn't admire the boat in her full beauty as she was boxed in so tightly, but for me seeing an Oyster in real life is always an occasion for sure. Walking around the hull on the pontoon, I discovered so many details and was also able to look at the small things, like Sika seams, the caulking of the Teak-deck or the quality of choice of the fittings, winches and deck gear. First grade, I shall say, but I assume this is standard on a boat like this.
Oyster Yachts Sales Director Richard Gibson agreed to let me aboard just before the show would open the next day and despite the fact that it was raining cats and dogs he welcomed me and invited me to board the ship. The Oyster 459 is made for long oceanic travel and that can be seen when taking a look at her deck layout: The classy center cockpit boat has a solid, high and rugged freeboard that instills trust in her sailing capabilities and stability.
The double steering pedestals are equipped with latest push-button technology and her winch layout conversant to people who know Oyster. Mainsheet is furled completely hidden, no traveler though. Two mighty Genoa winches right next to the steering wheels and two more secondary (Gennaker) winches right aft on the large free and flush aft deck area. You can sit down at the wheels and have a wonderful elevated view over the raised salon and over the wide sidewalk.
The size of the cockpit may appear small and tiny – I just returned freshly from the handover of an Oceanis 51.1 which has a similar size. But the differences couldn't be more apparent: While the one boat is made for amenity-rich cruising, mainly in the Mediterranean, during summer season for enjoying a smooth vacation, the other boat is made for serious oceanic long haul travel, maximum safety and comfort at sea. I have sailed the Atlantic Ocean in such a Med-styled yacht before and I can say that I see the advantages of having a smaller – yet safer – cockpit. When at anchor, anyways, the whole boat will become a sunlounge (especially the huge flush bow area) and so I can see no disadvantage here.
I walked all around the boat from stern to bow and back the other side, admiring the “cat eyes”, another Oyster signature which are the huge windows of the raised saloon. Absolutely well designed, well proportioned and so sexy to look at. That's a design only Oyster can sport so leisurely yet admirably second to none. No other – in my opinion – making similar boats, like Discovery or Contest, do it so beautifully than the yard from Southampton.
Richard welcomes me down the entryway in the saloon which, upon going down the stairs, I instantly recognize as being that of an Oyster: The raised saloon-concept is a specialty of these boats and I absolutely love it: You bump right into two large settees on either side of the saloon, both underneath the vast windows which are flooding the area in natural light. To starboard a large folding dining table can welcome crew and guests, to port side another settee invites to sit down, relax after a tiring shift at the wheels and have a hot cup of tea.
That's it: No galley to pass, no WC to go by, you just go down and can relax, a great way to welcome crew and owners “down”. Another difference to classic cruising boats, where half of the saloon is packed with non-relaxing things like galley and day-heads. I could envision myself in this saloon so vividly … such a great concept!
To starboard side, a step down, the galley: For a 50-foot yacht the size is enormous and this galley for sure offers the ship's cook the whole range of tools and space to prepare and serve edible treats to his crew. Again, the galley is large but also narrow enough to offer a safe working environment in high seas when the boat is sailing with lots of heeling or thrown around by heavy seas.
Behind the galley's bulkhead the bathroom of the aft master cabin is located which is to be reached by going to the right upon coming down. The sailor will have to pass the nav station of the ship. As with every serious oceangoing boat the Oyster 495 as well offers a full-size chart table with stowage, a nice little seat to be sitting at and a huge main switch panel that can be extended with surplus electronic gear and displays by the owners. Going further back you'll reach the master cabin.
And, yep, it's an Oyster for sure: The aft cabin is huge. The three vertical hull windows must be a breathtaking view when the boat is sailing through the deep blue water. The outlook through these when at anchor at some exotic island must be heaven. I loved the fresh yet somehow classy design. I am sure the yard offers different styles, fabrics and materials, colors and wooden material to have a boat that fits your individual stylish demands.
The kind size bed is a real “free floating” island in the cabin. As it is accessible from both sides, getting into or out of your sailing gear will be very easy here, no need to do it whilst standing and crawling into the bed from the feet-end to the pillows as this is the case with so many boats. There is also a small settee on port side that may also function as a place to get dressed/undressed.
The Oyster is made for long haul trips, one can clearly see this by looking at the details: Stainless steel padeyes to fit lee cloth are already fitted to the boat's ceiling which is a thing I have only seen in Hallberg-Rassy yachts so far. There are many other of such details, like grab handles here and there ensuring safe passage through the boat even in foul weather.
The bathroom is decently sized, as well as the forward VIP-cabin, which is the fore cabin and a smaller, sleep-only Pullman-berthed cabin to starboard which may be occupied by the crew or kids or other guests. Vis-à-vis an equally large sized second bathroom will be used by guests as well serve as day-WC during sailing time.
All in all she is a remarkable boat and an Oyster I quite liked. Coming from the bigger sized boats I must say it was kind of a “culture shock” to see the level of perfect craftsmanship, absolutely low clearance between panels, perfect wooden materials and the superior English design which is the “naval understatement” I so dearly love about Oyster in such a “small” boat, but it made my day. A boat worth striving for the lone sailing couple, a great competitor to the Amel 50 or the Discovery 48, a stand-alone concept and unique in her class.
So, when it comes to serious long travels in style, coconut route discovering the world in luxury and real seamanship, I'd choose the Oyster for sure. She is a warrantor of the sailing trip of your lifetime and ticks almost all the boxes of my personal “must have”-list. Her amenities, the level of comfort are unrivalled, the space offered below decks is amazing and her looks and style spot on. Bravo, Oyster team, this is a dream yacht for sure!
Rain set in again and as I ran down the pontoon to our own booth I briefly looked back: The pretty Oyster stuck her sexy fixed bowsprit out of the berth, her mint-colored hull seemed to glow against the rainy-greyish backdrop. She is quite a looker! Gusts of up to 7 Beaufort set in, rain pouring down pressed hard by the heavy wind: What a nice weather to sail in her, I thought, and dreamed myself away, envying the skipper crew who'd have the pleasure to sail this beauty away after this show has ended.