The benefits of upgrading seem obvious. Stepping up a size or two will often increase the cruising range, while more volume means more space for the accommodation and systems. The result is more comfort, more capacity and when it comes to planning adventures, the ability to dream big. It’s a natural step.
But for some, like David Braben, the decision to upgrade from an Oyster 575 to an 885 was influenced by a different set of requirements, along with the suite of key Oyster services, that made the plan to upgrade work.
When David was thinking about the next stage, he had a clear objective.
After two enjoyable seasons based in the Balearics with his 575, this proactive owner realised that his next step would involve a professionally crewed boat. But for a lifelong sailor who has been used to and enjoys running his own boats, this was not such a natural change, at least not at first.
“It felt a bit like going to the ‘dark side’, but in practice, it meant that we could arrive on the quayside and depart,” he explained. “I loved the 575 and while we hadn’t had her that long, I was attracted to the practicality of moving to a crewed boat. The main reason was that work pressures meant that we knew we would have fairly small windows in which to go cruising, often it would be only for long weekends.
“With constraints on time, knowing that the boat will be ready to set off once you arrive means you can plan more effectively. You don’t have to do the shopping, you don’t have to find out what that annoying red light might mean, you can just go, rather than having to work through a list of routine but time-consuming tasks first.”
THINKING ABOUT UPGRADING YOUR OYSTER? OWNER DAVID BRABEN EXPLAINS THE INS AND OUTS OF MAKING THE LEAP FROM AN OYSTER 575 TO THE FLAGSHIP 885.
David was also keen to make the boat available for ‘light charter’ as he describes it, to help offset some of the running costs.
“While this is possible with all the boats in the range, stepping up to the 885 meant that we could offer a much broader range of possibilities for potential charterers, both in the layout of the cabins and the degree of privacy that we can offer at this size.”
So, after a good deal of research, David, who has a background in electronic science and computer game development, commissioned Achenar, the tenth 885 to be launched when it was handed over in 2021.
A keen sailor since childhood, he first took to the water in a Mirror 16 with his father and then helped him complete an Achilles 24 from a kit. Larger boats followed, culminating in a Moody 54 that provided many years of enjoyable family sailing and gave them a well-developed sense of what mattered on a boat, both above and below decks.
David’s experiences when chartering had also shown him how important it is to keep on top of maintenance tasks. He sometimes found himself fixing a boat’s long-standing faults, usually electronic, often to the bemusement of the charter company!
When it was time to choose a boat of his own, with his wife Wendy also an experienced sailor, David gravitated towards an Oyster
“I have admired Oyster ever since I’d been looking at boats,” he said. “The 575 is beautifully designed and as with the others in the range, Oysters makes such good use of space which can’t always be said of many of the rival manufacturers.”
The Brabens kept their 575 in Palma and the guardianage service provided David with the assurance that the boat was being looked after on a day-to-day basis.
“They look at the boat regularly and if, for example, you need some work done on the engine, they will chaperone the contractor on board. Oyster will bend over backwards to try and help you. Palma also works very well as a base due to the frequent flights available from the UK and elsewhere in Europe.”
The step up to a professional crew aboard the 885 was facilitated through the Oyster Crew service which has impressed David.
“Charlie Durham, who runs the service is great. She seems to know everybody and the calibre is high. Crews do move on from time to time, so to have this service to call on is very helpful and makes the process easy and reliable from an owner’s point of view.”
Another aspect of the running of Achenar is the decision to make her available for charter via the Oyster Charter service. This has been particularly useful when the boat is in the Caribbean.
“Chartering takes the edge off the running costs and practically speaking it’s harder for us to use the boat as much out there because you have to invest that much more time in flying long-haul. The service is very good and Oyster build a great relationship with charter guests - we have a lot of repeat charterers.”
But it’s not just services that David is enthusiastic about, the Oyster events calendar ranks highly too.
“We have been to a lot of regattas and they are great fun, they really are sociable.”
And while his working life currently makes taking part in Oyster rallies unrealistic, he can see a time when this could become a possibility.
So, what of the boat? Once the 885 was chosen, David worked closely with the team at Oyster to realise his vision.
“They were great at showing me the wide range of options and choices, as well as the decisions that other owners had made which was a huge help. I certainly believe that one of the best things you can do when working up your own boat is to look at as many other boats as you can.”
“Achenar is the raised deck saloon version of the 885. It’s spacious and airy and makes the saloon space look bigger, especially with the visibility forward.
“The master cabin has plenty of natural light, thanks to three vertical portlights on each side. The two guest cabins, each with an en suite, can be configured as either twin or double depending on the preferences of that week’s guests.
“Having three comfortable and adaptable cabins aft is great and the joinery throughout is beautifully worked.”
Forward of the deck saloon is a cabin which David describes as a ‘snug’, with a large screen and comfortable furniture and which has a removable longitudinal bulkhead that allows the space to be opened up through to the galley.
Forward of the galley is a skipper’s cabin with an en suite and a crew cabin.
On deck, Achenar has a Hall Spars carbon mast and boom, with a sail wardrobe by North that includes 3Di Ocean mainsail and furling headsail finished in black taffeta. Reefing the mainsail is via Hall Spar’s Oceanfurl in-boom system.
“I’d never had in-boom before, but one of the things we’ve done, which I cannot recommend more highly, is to have a camera fitted at the mast that looks down the boom,” he said. “One of the key things about in-boom furling is that you’ve got to get the main to go in squarely when it is being furled otherwise you risk damage.
“We have a boom angle indicator at the helm, but the camera, which also has an infrared function so can be used at night, is the equivalent of having someone up the mast looking down the boom to ensure all is well. With the Lewmar remote control system, the mainsail can be furled single-handedly.”
The combination of the carbon rig and the weight of the mainsail stored on the boom rather than in the mast has a noticeable effect on the stability and comfort of the boat at rest, particularly when anchored.
David’s scientific background is evident in the amount of thought he has given to the systems with which Achenar is equipped. To begin with, there is no gas on board, so all cooking is electrically powered. This, together with a washing machine, tumble drier, refrigerator, freezer, microwave, several TV screens, a hefty watermaker and air-conditioning throughout, means that the chosen system has to be robust.
There are two generators, the main batteries are lithium-ion giving 2800Ah, taking their charge from eight Mastervolt units, and there are six inverters.
“We probably don’t need six inverters but the fewer you have the hotter they run, so distributing the load evenly between them means they are running cooler and are less likely to fail.”
Having this level of electrical capacity at his disposal means that the boat can be beautifully quiet at anchor and overnight, even with the air-conditioning running throughout.
During the specification phase, David did consider some further options including hydro and solar power for battery charging and he may pursue a permanent bimini-mounted solar array in the future.
Self-sufficiency is important on a boat of this size. With a draft of 3.5m, the number of places where Achenar can berth for water or connect to shore power is something that needs to be factored in. In the Caribbean, a self-contained electrical system is particularly important because of the difficulties of adapting to the 60Hz US-based system which is often encountered.
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There is also full satellite connectivity on board via a KVH system mounted on the lower spreaders, allowing David to conduct business from the mid-Atlantic should the need arise. This also produces benefits for accurate weather forecasting and routing.
“I’ve been amazed at just how good weather forecasting is now. Having access to the GRIB files just gives you that extra reassurance.
“On our return across the Atlantic, we saw that a storm was developing and we were able to make a 90-degree alteration of course to the south of the Azores which was unusual for that time of year. Some other boats that were crossing at the same time hadn’t picked this up and were caught in 70-80 knots, whereas we didn’t see more than 30. In helping us avoid potentially damaging conditions, the system probably paid for itself.”
David is very much a hands-on owner and when it came to the systems on board he was pleasantly surprised that the 885 was more familiar than he had imagined.
“Something Oyster do very well is that when the boats are scaled up, say from the 575 to the 885, many of the systems are instantly familiar. From a continuity point of view, both for me as the owner and for the crew, this is important.”
“Also, the main engine room and machinery space are impressively spacious and have proper standing headroom and are easy to get around. All the main systems are located there and are easy to access.”
So, what of the future?
“We do want to go to some more adventurous locations. We’ve not yet been to the ABC in the south of the Caribbean [Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao] and we’d like to go through the Panama Canal and visit the Galapagos Islands. But overall, I just love being on the boat and enjoying the marine environment, in both the Caribbean and the Mediterranean – it’s just such a joyous place to be!”
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