yacht seal sailing in front of icebergs

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expedition yacht seal

Seal at anchor with four lines ashore

yacht seal near cape horn photo Skip Novak

Seal near Cape Horn

Botanists hard at work in South Georgia Island

Seal at low tide with the keel and the rudder raised


Pushing through slowly through brash ice, Antarctica

A tough aluminum sailboat to explore high latitudes
and support scientific and adventure expeditions ...

designed to our specifications by Chuck Paine and his team, particularly Ed Joy.


* 56 foot aluminum cutter

* swing-up keel and rudder for intentional & accidental groundings

* raised saloon for dining, lounging, cooking, and navigating witih a view

We designed and built Seal after a combined sixteen years of sailing in high latitudes, and set sail in 2004 from New Hampshire, USA. Since then, we've sailed her about 65,000 miles, including to Greenland, Scotland, five seasons in the Antarctic and South Georgia, Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean Channels, the South Pacific, around New Zealand's South Island, through Micronesia and Japan, and on to Alaska.

Seal has a pivoting, ballasted centerboard for safety and ease of maneuvering in shallow areas and marginally charted regions. Both the rudder and keel lock down at sea, but when unlocked in coastal areas they can be lifted mechanically or will "kick up" in an unforeseen grounding. Because they both pivot, rather than being permanently fixed or (even more vulnerable) lifting straight up into the hull, the chances of damaging the keel or rudder in an accidental grounding are greatly reduced. Seal is the first high latitude cruising boat to ever be successfully fitted with a kick-up rudder. We hit an uncharted ledge at 8 knots, and the rudder kicked up without even losing any paint. Most boats would have lost their rudders in a similar hit.

The ballasted lifting keel is a well-proven feature on several high latitude boats, but for the first time (as far as we know) it's being combined with a raised saloon, a popular configuration on fixed keel yachts. While these two features both sacrifice some interior space, they add enormously to the safety and comfort of the boat, particularly when cruising in cold climates.

The raised saloon is particularly exciting because it allows us to navigate, cook, eat, and lounge with a view of the surrounding world. In the high latitudes it is almost always too cold to eat on deck, and the most spectacular part of the day is usually missed while the crew huddle around the heater deep in the hull.

The ten raised saloon windows are made up of two layers -- a 1/2" heat strengthened triple laminate, a 1/2" air gap for insulation, and 1/4" acrylic-coated Lexan on the inside for thermal insulation. In bad weather, 1/2" Lexan storm covers can be fitted over each one.

Down below, two watertight bulkheads divide boat into three compartments for added security.

The interior is divided into five cabins, with enough double and single bunks to suit any combination of couples, singles or families. The forward cabins have work desks and all cabins have 120 VAC/60 Hz power for your laptops and charging equipment. (Nearly all 240 VAC laptops and video chargers, etc. will also run off 120 VAC. 240 VAC/50 Hz power is available at the charging station for cell phones, battery chargers, etc.)

Heat is provided throughout the boat by a radiator system driven off a reliable Refleks heater - these heaters can be completely filled with water and be running again in 15 minutes ... unlike most yacht heaters which stop working if any moisture creeps into the exhaust. (The hot water heater also runs off the Refleks, so hot showers are available at any time, unlike most yachts where the heater is plumbed to the engine and is only available while underway or immediately after.)

When we're motoring, heat and hot water can also be generated by the 115 HP Cummins diesel, which provides backup, or simply hot water when it's too warm out for the Refleks heater.

We have an extensive library with emphasis on high latitude regions: histories, biographies, natural history, field guides, etc.

Music: CDs (incl MP3 & WMA), IPOD ready, cassettes.

There are several large bays down below to store your bulky expedition equipment - skis, pulks, climbing gear, or research equipment. Each cabin has numerous lockers for smaller items.

We find that most of our guests who have cruised on sailboats before find SEAL to be an exceptionally comfortable boat. Heat, hot showers, real-food meals, and dry comfortable cabins come as a welcome surprise. For our guests with limited sailboat experience, SEAL may be a bit more like camping than you might expect on an Antarctic "cruise." If creature comforts are the most important thing on your list, you may be happier on a cruise ship, but if time ashore and an intimate experience with the wildlife and spectacular scenery is what you value, you may find that sharing a cabin, washing a few dishes, and being truly part of an expedition are worth a bit of "roughing it."

All Seal's voyages are "expedition style." All guests are expected to participate in the voyage by standing watch and helping with sail handling and boat keeping to the extent of their abilities (no experience necessary).

Below decks, all guests help out with food preparation and clean up, as well as look after their own cabins and equipment.

SMOKE FREE: There is no smoking permitted aboard SEAL. (Note that in many of our cruising regions, smoking is also prohibited ashore.)

Seal Vital Statistics



17 m


47' 3.5"

14.9 m



4.9 m

Draft keel down


2.7 m

Draft keel up


0.97 m


27.5 tons

24.9 m tons

Sail Area

1550 sq ft

144 sq m


21460 pounds

9734 kg


9760 pounds

4427 kg


11700 pounds

5307 kg

Mast from deck IM


21.4 m


547 US gallons

2070 l


53 US gallons

200 l


402 gallons

1525 l


80 pounds

36.3 kg


Cummins 6B5.9M

115 HP

DC Genset

Yanmar 2GM20

140 Amps/24 VDC


8 people for

100 days

Range under power

2500 naut miles

4630 km

Build Photos:

Rogues' Gallery All who helped with the build

Metalwork, Kanter Yachts Ontario (links to the rest of the build pictures can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the Metalwork page)

Launch & Fit-out, Durham, NH (links to the rest of the build pictures can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the Launch and Fit-out page)


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