Charting underwater volcanoes, researching spectacular ocean biodiversity, and learning from remote island communities – UMBRA’s owner has taken her on voyages to experience Asia-Pacific’s natural and cultural wonders.
UMBRA is one of the two original Damen Yachting YS 5009s – the deliveries in 2010 that created the Yacht Support phenomenon. Captain Llyn Buckwalter came on board when UMBRA changed hands in 2017. Since then he’s steered UMBRA though 37,000 miles of Pacific and Asian adventures and also supervised seven to eight months of yard work.
“I see UMBRA as more of an exploration vessel, rather than only support to the mother yacht,” Llyn explains. “This is one of the coolest boats to go around the world with. We like to describe her design as industrial chic. I’m a huge fan of the build quality and UMBRA’s seakeeping abilities. She’s super comfortable, with a max speed of 21 knots and comfortable 12.5 knots cruise.”
– Llyn Buckwalter –
“Being in Papua New Guinea feels like you’re back in time. The local population travels on hand-carved canoes. No one is commercially fishing there, the amount of fish and sea life there is incredible. It’s very remote. UMBRA was the only powered vessel around. We rarely saw even a ferry ship go by.”
The discovery goes two ways, as curious local officials come on board.
“Sometimes they think we’re a commercial company looking for gold or oil, so we bring them on board to show them they don’t have anything to be concerned about.”
Reconfigured for flexibility
You may remember UMBRA as the filmmaker’s helicopter base in the BBC Blue Planet documentary series. With Llyn supervising the refit, the new owner transformed her into a modular multitasker. Storing equipment nicely protected from the elements was a top priority. The refit included removing the huge certified helideck and converting aft water tanks into a 6 cubic metre gasoline tank with ventilation and pumping station, and on portside an engineer’s office with a milling machine, welding workshop, ventilation and proper insulation for sound damping.
“If the owner wants to do something different the crew can adapt quickly to a new role – adding a new piece of equipment or moving things around. The shipping container on deck is for storage, and is sometimes removed and stored on shore.”
Take the twins diving
The Owner loves diving – deploying the fleet every six weeks for diving trips. Finding all the dive faces and reef depths with UMBRA’s multibeam sonar is one thing. Exploring them is another. For that, UMBRA has two Triton submarines on board. That means not only that more guests can enjoy the dive experience together, but also the two submarines can see each other – creating an extra dimension to the adventure. In addition to submarines and all the toys (jetskis, surfboards, kite gear, tenders), a main focus on UMBRA is scuba diving and scuba support – from tank facilities and gear stores to an inflatable decompression chamber (stored in the container on deck). UMBRA carries at least one dive instructor on board at all times and everyone on the crew is dive certified.
“ If you’re on a regular white yacht, you are only looking for a place to anchor, whereas with UMBRA what the crew does it that we are constantly looking for new places to explore.”
Going below the surface in search of underwater volcanoes was also the perfect opportunity for the crew to use UMBRA’s pioneering WAASP multibeam sonar set-up. UMBRA is wirelessly connected to the four other boats in the fleet – the mother yacht ROCHADE, the mother yacht’s tender, and two of UMBRA’s tenders. It is the first group of boats in the world to be connected with five WAASP systems. Each of these systems link together so they never have to go into an area without knowing the seafloor bathymetry. Building the dive profile, while looking into the types of currents and obstructions, makes UMBRA a proper exploration platform.
“We are actually doing some of the beta testing for the WAASP set-up, as nobody else goes out and does a 500 plus metre 3D reef mapping without being a research vessel. If you’re on a regular white yacht, you are only looking for a place to anchor, whereas with UMBRA what the crew does it that we are constantly looking for new places to explore.”
Self-sufficent off the beaten track
Working far from established yachting infrastructure – or any infrastructure at all – Captain Llyn, his chief engineer Luke Martin and crew have to fend for themselves. They have plenty of capability with the Main Deck garage/hangar and the workshop below, so if they need something done, they fabricate it themselves.
“We keep everything working and going, carrying most of the spares for the mother yacht, too. We’re always trying to constantly improve UMBRA from a practical perspective. Taking function more than form on her, making it the most crew and user-friendly boat we can.” Even going into some of the most remote parts of the world, carrying 6,000 litres of gasoline means that they also don’t need to worry about tenders and toys running out.
UMBRA and 48-metre mother yacht ROCHADE, together with the tenders, form an exciting fleet to discover off the beaten track destinations. UMBRA carries a total of 12 crew with accommodation for seven extra specialists, such as dive instructors, submarine specialists, etc. The plan is to go to the Maldives and then cruise around Asia-Pacific for the foreseeable future. Llyn will take UMBRA ahead of the mother yacht to all of the spots that they’ve designated on the trip to take the guests on, so they can map the areas in advance and see where the best anchorages lie. When they have the guests on board, they can move them to an anchorage and enjoy water sports the entire day. The whole area will be already mapped out, so that the guests don’t need to look for the atolls.
When the family that Captain Llyn Buckwalter was working for bought UMBRA and offered him the opportunity to be a captain in the Pacific supporting the mother yacht, he took it immediately, having 20 years of both commercial and yachting experience as he was the perfect candidate for the role.
“Everyone on the crew is very excited to work on her. It is a lot of hard work, but it’s fun. The crew take a lot of pride and ownership of UMBRA and I consider it an educational platform, as there is always something new to learn on board. From mapping to operating the huge crane launching a variety of boats, it’s all exceptionally well done by the crew.”
“From mapping to operating the huge crane launching a variety of boats, it’s all exceptionally well done by the crew.”