Meet ‘Hanse,’ the 47.76-metre workhorse explorer that’s seen more of the world than your yacht

By Julia Zaltzman 9 January, 2023
Hanse Explorer yacht

The expedition vessel just went through a refit that transformed the research vessel into a luxurious superyacht. Sort of

The 47.76-metre Hanse Explorer tells the tale of a philanthropic charter guest who wound up buying the boat. Following its extensive 2020 refit, the explorer yacht sets the expedition bar high, with a vast 8,000-nautical mile range, a thick ice-class steel hull and one of the best dive centres aboard of any charter yacht on water.

It’s not a pretty boat by any definition, but has seen far more of the world than most explorer yachts. Originally built as a sea cadet training vessel at German shipyard Fassmer in 2006, the vessel is a frequent visitor to both polar regions and has accomplished several milestones. Hanse Explorer has summited Bouvet Island, considered the world’s most remote island, and completed the first ever fly-in/fly-out Antarctic yacht charter in 2008. But it was still a polar research vessel that could accommodate guests and not a luxury yacht by any stretch.

Hanse Explorer yacht
The Hanse Explorer on a recent trip to the South Pacific

That changed when the current owner acquired the vessel in 2019. He realised that the refit could add luxurious touches to this polar workhorse. “In 2009, I chartered Hanse Explorer for six months to enable a young Spanish marine scientist to run two expeditions, one in the Southern Line Islands and one in Cocos Island,” he told Robb Report, requesting anonymity. “They only needed it for two months, but I had to charter it for six to get the boat to the South Pacific.”

That trip funded the first two expeditions by Pristine Seas, a programme that encourages governments to designate large marine protected areas. “I got to know the former owner fairly well during that period and convinced him to use the boat to support science when he wasn’t using it himself,” he says. “So, 10 years later, when the boat was for sale, he came to me.”

Hanse Explorer yacht
The boat’s state-of-the-art dive centre is one of its big selling points for charter and research

The refit vision was to create a boat that could be used to support science, carry out reconnaissance work for the owner’s expedition company, and work as a charter vessel. As Hanse Explorer hadn’t been conceived for leisure, it lacked exterior deck spaces for guests to enjoy.

“I knew we would be heading to some tropical cruising grounds and wanted to open up the boat to make it as comfortable and interesting as possible,” says the owner.

Hanse Explorer yacht
The sauna is a nice feature for polar exploration

His first move was to install retractable fin stabilisers to mitigate roll in rough waters, both at anchor and under way. His next was to create a fully equipped lower deck dive centre, designed and installed by Moondog Dive Outfitters. It includes a mud room where guests prepare and return to before and after dives, newly acquired gear for 14 divers and a Bauer Nitrox membrane compressor, making the setup fully autonomous. Direct access to the sauna is a welcome treat, especially after cold-water diving.

“We put a massive amount of effort into creating a truly sophisticated dive shop,” he says. “During the six weeks I spent exploring French Polynesia, we went diving two or three times a day. If diving is an afterthought on a boat, it gets complicated, so the dive centre is the area I feel most proud of.”

Hanse Explorer yacht
The foredeck was redesigned with comfortable seating for charter guests

Hanse Explorer has two rotational captains that have been with the boat for more than a decade. The upgraded bridge is where guests eagerly gather to spot wildlife and cultural sightings. Approaching views as the boat cruises to new anchorages are made even more spectacular by direct access from the bridge to the bow.

Other effective changes include large sliding-glass doors that create a flow between the main salon and the exterior aft deck. The wall that previously separated the lounge and dining area was removed for an open-plan layout.

Hanse Explorer yacht
More doors, natural light and a peppy new interior dress up the former research vessel

The owner engaged German-based studio Miescke Design to add light and space to the interior. The colour scheme is neutral and mellow so as not to detract from the scenes outside. The seven-ensuite guest cabins were fully renovated, with the large master suite enjoying a study area and private lounge. On the upper deck, Cabana-style seating and contemporary swivel armchairs create a generous lounge area, which doubles as a private terrace for the master suite.

On the sun deck, lounge seating, sun pads for sunbathing, a Jacuzzi, cocktail bar and sound system add features that one would expect on a luxury yacht.

Hanse Explorer yacht
A section of the owner’s cabin

“The boat needs to work in both the polars and tropics,” says the owner. “I typically spend two months a year on board, but it was less about making it comfortable for me and more about what charter guests would enjoy.” Two Zodiac landing craft, which the owner refers to as “essential tools,” provide off-yacht transport.

As for jet skis or noisy water sports, it’s a firm no. “There are plenty of boats available for charter that are packed with all manner of toys, but my aim is for my vessel to help people explore incredible places as effectively and respectfully as possible.”

Hanse Explorer yacht
The redesigned upper deck has much more seating for guests

Hanse Explorer is headed to Antarctica for the winter season, before migrating up the coast of south America in early 2023.

The owner will be on board to cruise the Azores, Norwegian coast and then head across to Greenland, before positioning the boat in the Canadian Arctic for summer.

Hanse Explorer

This article was first published on Robb Report USA.