Monday, August 01, 2011

Mystery Yacht - Alucia - in Cordova

Last night people pointed out a yacht in the water near the ferry port that had a helicopter on deck.  People were wondering what celebrity might be in town.

This morning as we sat on the Alaska ferry, Chenega, waiting to head out, I noticed the mystery ship was just ahead of us.  After a week of almost rain-free weather, today Cordova was socked in and I had to shoot through through a raindrop dappled window.

I got a better view as we finally left the dock. (A car waiting to come on board couldn't start and we were 50 minutes late leaving but only 20 minutes late arriving in Whittier.)  I was able to get this clearer shot and saw through the binoculars that it's called Alucia.

Yacht Insider gives some history:

"Alucia originally was a submarine tender built by the French in 1973 and called Nadir. Her current owners have all but obliterated that persona, having just completed a rebuild that makes Alucia a private motoryacht with accommodations for scientists and documentarians alike. In addition to the yacht-like cabins aboard, Seattle-based Joseph Artese Design penned onboard laboratories, an aquarium, film editing suites, and satellite hookups for beaming live footage of discoveries to the world.
Alucia has been built as a specific hybrid,” said Rob McCallum, who was the project manager in Washington state, working with Kirilloff & Associates on the rebuild naval architecture. “Alucia is capable of making the largest private contribution to marine science since Cousteau’s Calypso.”

A February 2010 Artesedesign (they design yachts) article identifies Mike McDowell as the owner:

“We wanted an expedition yacht with formidable ability,” explains owner Mike Mcdowell. “and that’s what we got.”
. . . A notoriously staunch vessel in the face of rough weather, Nadir caught the eye of McDowell, an australian adventurer passionate about science and oceanographic exploration. Mcdowell had earned a reputation by leading tourists and amateur explorers on expeditions to the distant reaches of the globe. some of his adventures included taking russian icebreakers to the North Pole and diving to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. Through his company, Deep Ocean Expeditions, formed in 1998, McDowell was among the the first to offer commercial tours to the Antarctic, leading dive explorations to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and eventually conducting submersible expeditions on deep ocean excursions. He was the first to dive on the battleship Bismarck and was an early visitor to the RMS Titanic with his submersible team.
Noticing the disconnect that often accompanies the design of expedition ships and the needs of their users, McDowell was inspired in 2004 to found Deep Ocean Quest and commission the Alucia rebuild. he wanted a vessel that could work comfortably in remote and challenging regions.

Who's Mike McDowell? A University of Queensland site offers this (and they have a photo):

A geophysicist in a former life, Mike has built a career from adventure and exploration in some of the most inaccessible regions on Earth and beyond. A leading innovator in expedition cruising and ecotourism ventures, Mike founded Quark Expeditions, pioneering the use of icebreakers to take expeditioners into the frozen reaches of the Arctic, Antarctic and the North Pole. In the late 1990's he founded Deep Ocean Expeditions, the first company to make abyss-rated submersibles available to the general public. More recently, Mike co-founded Space Adventures, a company successfully offering space travel to the public. Over three decades, Mike has specialised in nurturing bold, 'off-the-wall' concepts from concept to fruition. With Deep Ocean Quest and Deep Ocean Australia, he sees a unique opportunity to combine his passion for adventure with his lifelong interest in science and technology.

So, how can former geo-physicist adventures afford a ship like Alucia? We know from above that there was also a silent partner and we don't know how much each contributed. But it would appear that at least some of McCormick's customers have plenty of money.

AdventureCruiseGuides gives us a sense of how pricey Deep Ocean Quest adventures can be.  They say offer a 13 day program with a seven hour dive to the HMS Titanic for $60,000.

Sydney expedition cruise company, Adventure Associates (AAs), is offering places on the 11-hour roundtrip to the wreck in conjunction with Deep Ocean Expeditions (DOE) who have been taking paying divers to the depths since 2001. Australian Mike McDowell launched DOE in 1998 but is perhaps best known as founder of benchmark expedition cruise company, Quark Expeditions, in 1991. Coincidently, McDowell is also the new owner of AAs, having purchased the company from founder, Denis Collaton this year.
Before you rush for your Visa card, the 13-day program will leave you very little change from US$60,000 and you’ll spend just seven hours in contact with the wreck itself. And, yes, you pick up your own airfares. Can you take home a souvenir from the deep? Hmmm… let me ask.

But wait!  It appears she was sold May 2011.  From Boat International:

Stuart Larsen at Fraser Yachts tells me he and joint listing agent Tom Allen have sold the extraordinary 55.75m motor yacht Alucia.
All custom superyachts are by their very nature unique, but Alucia is something else again. She was originally built by the Auroux yard in 1974 as the support ship for the French research submersibleNautile. She was  completely stripped, rebuilt, rewired and re-equipped, while a thorough reworking of her superstructure gave Alucia a new submersible hangar, a sundeck and a helicopter pad.
She’s the only ship in the world to carry three deep-diving manned submersibles and this, in conjunction with her decompression chamber, mixed-gas dive support, powerful sonar and tenders, make her one of the most sophisticated  sub-sea exploration platforms ever built.
Her interior has been fitted out to superyacht standards and accommodates up to 16 guests in a master, double and four twins plus four Pullman berths. With a range of 10,000 nautical miles at 11 knots, Alucia was asking $38 million.  Her interior has been fitted out to superyacht standards and accommodates up to 16 guests in a master, double and four twins plus four Pullman berths. With a range of 10,000 nautical miles at 11 knots, Alucia was asking $38 million.
Stuart ponts out that she was used by Hollywood director Jim Cameron to discover the remains of Titanic and most recently as the mother ship to the Woods Hole scientific expedition that found the Air France wreckage off the coast of Brazil.
It's too late to contact Larsen tonight and I doubt he'd tell me who bought it anyway.  

Some other places you can learn about the Alucia:

The Deep OceanQuest site offers a detailed description of the  ship.
Super Yacht Times gives all the stats.


  1. Hmmm...I was on board. Some of the above is true. It was an amazing voyage.

  2. Anon Nov 30. Wait! You can't just leave that teaser of a comment. Tell us more! Or at least email me so I can ask more.

    Where did the voyage begin, go, end?
    How many days?
    Did you use the submersibles?
    Where? What did you see?
    Were you a tourist? Working scientist? Crew?
    There's lots more I'd love to know.

  3. She's back in Seattle for another refit to be named BETA to complement the owner's other yacht ALPHA, one for each hemisphere!

  4. Anon, Dec. 20 - thanks for the update. BETA? That's a step down in my opinion.

  5. Nope, she's still Alucia. I am involved with this project. That is all the info I can offer


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