We’ve been looking for a yacht sub for some time and recently ran into the VAS submarine models from GSE Subs srl in Italy, a mostly military contractor with a 30-year pedigree of building submarines. In the US they are represented by Nautilus Underwater Systems. The people at Uboatworx in the Netherlands also upgraded their design recently. Add the line of personal subs from SeaMagine in California and you now have some real choices when looking for a certified personal submarine from companies that have gone well beyond nice 3D models or unstable models with very minimum freeboard.
So I decided to dedicate a post to comparing these 3 models. Of course, there are also the SeaMagine submarines which I have covered in an earlier post.
The most affordable entry in this field is C-Quester 3. At about Euro 550 K you get a 3-seat sub that is certified by Germanischer Lloyd. The Quester 3 can also be configured to take the pilot and 3 passengers but while making this attractive in commercial use, I doubt it will be very comfortable.
There’s also a 340 kg payload limitation so ideally this 3rd passenger is a kid and the airconditioning needs to work. With its new lithium batteries it now has a very practical 6 hours of autonomy and 96 hours of life support.
With a maximum operational depth of 100 m. (300 ft.) you can cover any area where you typically would like to make recreational dives.
Weighing only 4.500 kg and relatively small, this is the only personal sub you can put on a big yacht as an afterthought. You may need a bigger crane but not much more.
The main drawback of the Quester models is its limited downward view forward due to the seat location. It won’t be a major issue for general sightseeing when you’re between a shoal of sharks or passing by a coral reef wall as you can see on the picture in an earlier post. But for but more serious work, including picking up things you’ll have a problem. But then again, you save almost $ 1.5 -2 million depending on the configuration compared to the next in line, the SeaMagine Triumph.
The Triumph is one big serious submarine that can take you all the way down to 153 m. (500 ft.) it its standard version and to even 914 m. (3000 ft !) with upgrades. The Triump can take a pilot and 2 guests in comfort and offers an extraordinary good view all around, providing probably the most exciting ‘immersion’ experience. It’s big, heavy (6.800 kg, 15.000 lbs), bulky and not very fast due to it’s un-streamlined shape but for serious personal diving and scientific work, this is one an awesome sub that’s hard to beat. SeaMagine also offers a smaller ‘Ocean Pearl’ model. It only takes one passenger so you get no shared ‘ohh and ahhh’ or practical commercial use. But, if you don’t have the space or the crane capacity on your yacht this may be an acceptable compromise and save you some money with standard pricing at $ 1.4 million.
For real serious ‘personal’ submarine work, lots of capacity and a host of unique options taken straight from the professional submarine field the VAS subs fit the bill . Like the Seamagine this is a submarine you have to plan for during new-built or have a dedicated ‘sub carrier’.
Starting at $ 2.6 million for the 4-person entry model you get a sub with a military heritage. The VAS is the only private submarine available with an optional diver lockout which allows you to exit the submarine underwater and investigate firsthand found objects of interest! The diver lockout also acts as a recompression chamber in the event of a diver medical emergency.
The VAS passenger compartment is made of 5cm (2”) thick steel and the viewports are a minimum of 15cm (6”) thick. All of this is wrapped in an extremely tough composite hydrodynamic envelope (you can actually tow this sub behind your yacht!). Historically, the VAS had to meet military standards of AK47 assault rifle fire. So if you want to go diving of the cost of Somalia you want a VAS .
Compared to the SeaMagine model you get an 8-hour range (versus 6 hrs) and more speed (or staying-at-location-capacity when there are currents), more interior volume, an extra seat, less weight (5 tons versus 7) and a smaller form factor. Like the Seamagine its classed (RINA) and meets the latest Cayman Islands standards for 96-hour live support.
Since the length is relatively adjustable, you can also easily request a VAS sub with more seat capacity. A longer hull also gives you better handling, speed and battery efficiency.
BUT, but, the VAS doesn’t offer the ’immersive’ view of the Seamagine. To their advantage they use large flat, distortion-free optics. This perfect vision will be essential when utilizing manipulators and close quarter maneuvering, as there is no guesswork in gauging distance. But then again, you’re still in a metal tube with windows versus a transparent shere you can’t even see when you’re looking upward in a SeaMagine.
The situation is different for every yacht and budgets differ too but I hope this post will help you make a decision about this sub is best for your yacht. As for ourselves, we had originally planned for a Seamagine Triump but we’re also giving thought to the VAS. But we will probably start out with a Uboatworx for budget reasons .