Arksen 85 Yacht Review

Arksen 85 Yacht Review

A long drive in the pouring rain, a ferry ride across a boisterous sea, a boat trip in a rising gale, and finally here you are, striding up a gangway, into the compound of a busy shipyard and a huge grey shed, its massive doors groaning in the wind.

This is not your typical yacht-building premises. For one thing, it’s in England, on the Isle of Wight. Sure, yachts are built in England, but not too many in places like this. For another, this yard’s core business is fast aluminum ferries and workboats, so there is no sleekly styled receptionist, no coffee, no Range Rovers in the car park, and no besuited sales executives anxious to know about your journey.

But then Arksen is not your typical yacht builder. It describes itself as an adventure company, and the capabilities of its yachts are designed to match the ambitions of the most intrepid owner. The first two all-aluminum Arksen 85s were contract-built at this rain-lashed shipyard in East Cowes. They’re outwardly identical, but beneath that thick plating, very different beasts.

The first one to hit the water was the more conventional of the two. Powered by twin 350-horsepower Scania diesels on V-drives, it recorded a top speed of 13.9 knots during sea trials, but the big story is its cruising range of around 5,500 nautical miles at 9 knots. The key is not huge fuel tanks—although they’re pretty big—but light displacement and an efficient hull design, from the legendary Rob Humphreys studio just across the water in Lymington. Described as ‘fast displacement’, the low-drag underwater form resembles nothing so much as the ocean racing yachts with which Humphreys made his name, with a fine entry, a gently curving bilge, broad, buoyant stern sections and shallow transom immersion. Stabilization comes courtesy of Humphree fins and interceptors, with old-style, manually deployed flopper-stopper outriggers as a back-up—and you can specify gyros too, if you want. This is a yacht designed for independent operation, a long way from home, with not just systems redundancy but also simplicity built in.

As the first 85 was undergoing sea trials and pre-delivery checks prior to handover, the second one was coming together at the East Cowes shipyard. Begun as a private venture by Arksen and fitted out with an automated diesel-electric propulsion system from Praxis in Norway, it features three 200kW generators, a pair of 246kW electric motors turning the prop shafts, and 160kWh of lithium-iron-phosphate battery power. There are PV panels too. The main benefit of this complex fit-out is near-silent operation, both when underway and at anchor.

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Beyond these radical differences in their powertrains, the two 85s have much in common. The standard layout sees three cabins on the lower deck—a master amidships, with a study opposite, a double ensuite cabin to starboard, and a twin-berth to port. Up on the main deck there’s a spacious galley to starboard, a big seating area forward in the salon, and a folding auxiliary helm station right forward, under the windows—the idea being that this will be a more comfortable place to keep watch in rough weather than the wheelhouse upstairs. There is a great view from up there, though, with windows on three sides—and not just any windows. All the glass is literally bulletproof—an inch thick—and intended to withstand the very worst the weather can dish out without the need to fit deadlights.

Naturally, there is plenty of opportunity to customize. The first boat was fitted with a very appealing single-seat navigator’s station on the port side of the wheelhouse, which probably ought to be a standard feature. Meanwhile, the second boat had a much larger dining table in place of the standard dinette. There is also the option of a main-deck master stateroom forward, and either one or two crew cabins in the bows.

Arksen is an unusual boat company, and the 85 is far from ordinary. Outside it has a certain rugged chic, all unfaired aluminum and naked weld seams, while inside it’s fitted out for comfort, even luxury. Ultimately, it’s a cruising boat—but for cruises measured in months, or years.

Arksen 85 Specifications:

LOA: 89’10”
Beam: 23’
Draft: 5’1”
Displ: 216,049 lb. (loaded)
Fuel: 4,623 gal.
Water: 1,585 gal.
Power: 2/350-hp Scania DI09 070M
Price: from $12.24 million

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This article originally appeared in the June/July 2024 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.


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