This unusual boat from the Netherlands is a global trotter and a local cruiser.
Sometimes, I’m not sure why I accept certain sea trial assignments. I mean, what am I going to bring to the discussion based on a three-hour sea trial that hasn’t been revealed already? Take this review, on the No Limit Ships 1550 (NLS). I’m thinking, These guys just crossed the Atlantic, from Amsterdam, all the way down the East Coast of the U.S. and landed in Ft. Lauderdale. What can I add to their travel blogs and testimonies that they haven’t already experienced? Well, for one, I can certainly validate some of their findings based on just a three-hour tour. I can also relay to Sea’s readers that his yacht doesn’t have to span an ocean to be a worthwhile vessel for one’s cruising needs.
Beauty, Well, You Know…
This is not a typical white-hulled, bling-bling yacht. No, it looks like a pilot boat or a search-and-rescue vessel. Commercial but utilitarian in its building style, No Limit Ships does build workboats and yachts — they just happen to look alike. The 1550, like the other models, has a hard bottom with tubing that rings the hull. Basically, it’s a rigid inflatable. A raised bow akin to a Downeast-style boat keeps the pointy end up so it can fight the head seas. An aluminum superstructure sits atop the steel hull and adds to the low center of gravity and stability.
Keeping it Steady
The 1550’s low center of gravity helps to make a stable vessel. Add in the air-filled tubing, and it makes for a steady ride in the slop. I can attest to that, as we ventured offshore of Port Everglades, Fla., on our test run — smack into a 4-plus-foot chop that wasn’t sure which direction it was coming from, or going to. On other yachts this might have been a white-knuckled ride. On the NLS 1550, it was just another jaunt offshore.
With a deep, sharp entry point at the bow, the hull slices well into the seas. At speed with the hull rise, the tubes are out of the water. But get into the slop and the eight-chambered, pressure-controlled Henshaw inflatable collar adds so much stability, almost like outriggers, the 1550 can head out on days when others remain tied to the dock.
“There’s no need to pick and choose your boating days,” said Piet “Peter” Wierenga Jr., the same-named son of one of the founders. “If you need to be there, this is for you.”
Besides adding a tough appearance, the tubes also work as fenders along a dock, so additional fenders may not be needed.
To be certain, due to the yacht’s low profile and the windy conditions on test day, we did take some good spray and a few waves over the deck, but the bow never dug in, we maintained control throughout the journey and the three Ealto adjustable windshield wipers squeegeed the glass spotless with each pass. Twin Volvo Penta D9 inboard engines — connected to direct drives and producing 575 hp each — and five-bladed props delivered enough power and bite to dial the speedometer up to 25 knots, but the 1550 can easily pull back to a leisurely cruise of 9 knots.
Just because the NLS 1550 is all business outside doesn’t mean it lacks a softer side. Giving buyers a choice of interior wood and material finishes, No Limit Ships will customize each vessel as the buyer desires. Our ride had light wood in the pilothouse, which added to the open and airy feeling created by the three large forward windshield panes and side and aft glass. I also like the fact that the entire inside of the yacht had heated floors.
On center is the helm — really a smart workstation — with counter space on the left for charts and gear, a raised console for the display screens, a flat dash for extra devices and a right-side peninsula counter for the throttle controls and rudder stick. Electronics installed on my test ride included twin Raymarine E120 navigation systems with multifunction displays, a Volvo Penta engine monitoring display, a Humphree Interceptor Trim System controller, Max Power bow and stern thruster joysticks, a Holland Nautic rudder control lever and more. Visibility from the single Recaro helm seat was excellent, and a cushioned seat to port will accommodate an extra set of eyes to keep watch or peruse the charts. There is an outside control station for nice days (or when the captain needs a bracing dose of salt water to the face).
Aft to port is a corner L-shaped settee with foldout wooden pedestal table.
Creature comforts can be found below, starting with a large salon fitted with a portside L-shaped settee, a wood table with leaves, a TV and a stereo system. To starboard is the galley, which includes a four-burner Fagor electric cooktop with pot guides, a Whirlpool microwave, Webasto refrigerator/freezer drawers, a double sink and more.
Space utilization is key, and NLS has tucked and used every inch of space, including putting the washer/dryer in one of the heads.
Forward is a master stateroom with a center queen berth, a skylight, storage, and an en suite head with a shower stall and a silent head with a macerator. Midship, under the upper salon, is a guest stateroom with twin berths and storage. A day head is located between the staterooms.
Don’t be taken aback by the NLS 1550’s Dutch roots. Founded in 1996 by Evert Stel and Piet Wierenga Sr., the builder’s mission was to create an extremely seaworthy, safe and comfortable ship — a ship with “no limits.” That was certainly proven when the 1550 sailed 5,000 miles along the Northern Atlantic route, departing The Netherlands for Ft. Lauderdale, with stops along the way in the United Kingdom, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the U.S. East Coast, and arrived just in time to be introduced to the U.S. market at the 2016 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. Check Google Maps. There are some long transits between those stopping points — four days or so in some cases.
No Limit Ships are sold around the globe, mostly for commercial applications (e.g., governments, dredging, oil/gas and survey businesses) and are now being built for the recreational American market. To date, there have been 28 of the 1550 hulls built. They are fully customized yachts, thanks to the metal construction and ease of making changes. Essentially, no two No Limit Ships are the same.
Access to the cabin is via an aft door or two Seaglaze side doors, and it’s evident by the layout of the outside decks that this is a bluewater cruiser. Check the details. Each side door has three hinges with five screws per hinge side — that’s 30 screws right there. Well done! Railings and cleats are welded to the aluminum structure, drain holes make quick work of shipping water off the surface and sidedecks are sufficiently wide enough that the crew can walk normally forward and not have to shuffle along. Grabrails and railings are seemingly everywhere: along the house, around the cockpit, at every step up. Safety is a key aspect to the NLS 1550, and it’s noticeable. At the bow is a beefed-up railing and a bow ladder, for reboarding after beach landings.
The boat’s Downeast styling brings an inherent low profile. Even with a plethora of antennas, a radar dome and lights, the arch isn’t a hassle. It easily unlocks and pivots down, which was perfect for our transit on the New River in Ft. Lauderdale. We didn’t have to wait for a single bridge, since the boat had only an 11-foot air draft with the arch down.
As mentioned, there is an outside helm station. Situated at the aft end of the house structure and directly over the engine room door is a platform that has sufficient room for two or three people to stand.
The cockpit has plenty of side-to seating. Under that seating and in the deck is plenty of storage. With beefy hinges and two or three dog latches per cover, the under areas will stay dry.
Boarding from the dock is easy thanks to sidedeck gates and an aft dropdown transom door that acts as a step for boarding or departing. It’s also used for access to the transom swim ladder.
Man the Con
Heading in from our sea trial, I was able to get some wheel time, actually pretty much all the way back to the dock. Handling was effortless in a following sea, with very little side-to-side rocking. Thinking about it, there really wasn’t any. I mean, this yacht had exceptional stability (did I say that already?). Even spinning the boat beam-to in the inlet was a rock-solid experience.
On the inland river, the rudder control lever was all I needed as I navigated the tight turns and large yacht traffic. Responsive, easy and predictable are safe words to describe the handling.
Wierenga Jr. noted that the customer base for the NLS 1550 is a no-nonsense type personality: “A four-by-four driver who needs to be there and probably has limited time.”
No Limit Ships touts the 1550 as an “all-weather vessel.” Let me add that it’s also for all oceans and rivers, and for any time the owner needs to get there. What did I bring to this sea trial? Well, the validity that No Limit Ships builds a darn good yacht.