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Whether heading deep south or way up north, DON McINTYRE’s new 50-foot private five-star expedition ship ICE will prove unstoppable and oh-so comfortable. Our treasured adventure writer lets loose with the exclusive story behind the new McIntyre 50 Motor Sailer

McIntyre 50 Motor Sailer

Tastes change as we mature and, like most kids, it was some time before vegetables became enticing and even longer for blue cheese to lose its 'spitter' quality. Now these things take top billing on our table. So it is with my ultimate private expedition boat. During the previous 20 years, I have been involved with all manner of adventure and "hose out" type boats that successfully carried out serious voyages all over the world. And with Antarctica and The Reef on the itinerary, great numbers of people came along for the excitement.

Now, let me tell you something else: my wife Margie and I have never had an en suite or any real privacy in any of our boats. In fact, apart from Huey - aka Sir Hubert Wilkins, the cutest little expedition ship you have ever seen measuring 36m, 600 tonnes, with a helicopter, and ice-class hull - we had never even owned a hot-water system on a boat. Not the done thing for we 'adventurers'!

With the prospect of another lengthy refit looming and then owning another 'utility type' expedition yacht, Margie and I started to question our plans. We began with a clean slate, but were greatly influenced by a recent three-month trip along the Great Barrier Reef and up into New Guinea. I was skippering a beautiful 78ft semi-displacement motoryacht named Belize. It belonged to a mate, Marcus Blackmore. Margie was cook and deckhand.

We had an absolute ball and came to like the luxury of a wheelhouse when the weather kicks in. Not having to deal with sails or wet-weather gear was simply extraordinary. How could we now not consider a boat with a flying bridge, air-con, flatscreen TVs, ice-cream maker, queen-size beds, and so on? But we weren't quite ready to lose sails altogether and what we decided on was a four-wheel-drive of the sea. Importantly, this new boat would be just for us and, as such, she needed to be able to freeze into the ice should we decide, all over again folks, to winter in the Antarctic for a year.




Five-star ideas came freely and we would need to spend about $2 million dollars to build our private expedition boat in Australia. But I knew China was the place to be, so a two-year hunt began. It proved very challenging to find a yard prepared to build a custom steel, ice-strengthened motor sailer, which you could trust, let alone get a quote or estimate. At the beginning of this process I had read about George Buhler Diesel Ducks (DD) built by Seahorse Marine (SHM) in China. They were rugged steel troller or trawler yachts with a strange get-home sailing rig. I brushed them off as "not for me". They looked a bit too agricultural. Two-years later, I was cruising the web and WOW! 

Seahorse Marine had re-worked the concept into something that looked the part and their new prototype DD462 caught my eye. Seven boats had been ordered in just a few months and the prices were unbelievable when compared with the standard spec. Could this get close to what we wanted? I was knocking on their door within a few days.

The American owner of the Seahorse yard (see, Bill Kimley, had been in China since the 1980s and with his Chinese wife, Stella, they knew what they were doing. So began an interesting relationship over the next three years, which included 15 visits to the country and around 45,000 man-hours building what has now become our own prototype of the McIntyre 50 Motor Sailer.

If you ordered a standard production DD462 you would probably make one visit to the yard before you picked up your finished boat. Not so with our boat dubbed, appropriately we think, ICE. The workers proved capable of matching the highest quality anywhere in the world, but they did not understand the Southern Ocean, so were very amused at some of our modifications. We'll get to them soon.

Anyway, I struck a deal with Bill and Stella to build me a fully custom boat, with what eventually amounted to nearly 400 modifications, large and small. What you see hereabouts in this exclusive story is the culmination of 30 years experience, with the new objective being to have a boat that can truly go anywhere, anytime, in five-star comfort, carrying plenty of toys, with just Margie and me or a bunch of friends.

In my opinion, ICE is one of the best boats SHM has ever built. Among the 'Duckers' (a cult following of those who have, or dream of having, a Diesel Duck.), ICE has attracted a lot of interest, with more than a few enquiries about wanting a copy. More commonly, people are just amazed at the systems and features. Often DDs are the essence of simplicity and built in someone's backyard. With SHM you get a lot of boat for your buck and it will include a huge standard inventory. In fact, Bill will build you a complete package standard DD462 for $US499,000 drive away. With the Aussie at US93 cents that is some deal! 

The McIntyre 50MS is nearly double the price of a standard DD462 but even with all the mods, ICE remains incredible value for money. For 29 years in the marine industry, I have always said you get what you pay for and in this case you get a bit of me thrown in! There are no options on the McIntyre 50MS - it is all included, turnkey, as you see it here (except for the toys and electronics). I will personally supervise construction with an independent surveyor and you will get an oceangoing SUV.

I should also let you know that a McIntyre 60MS is also on the drawing board. With the same beam and draught, it will be 0.60m or two feet longer in the engineroom/pilothouse and then have an extra 2.40m or eight feet forward of the saloon, allowing two double cabins, port and starboard. The ketch rig stays, but will carry a much bigger sail area, thus becoming a 40/60 motor sailer. 




You need to think of this article as me telling you about "my boat", rather than an independent "boat test". Yes I have a vested interest in promoting the boat, but this whole story idea you are a reading now was driven by the response to my first Trade-a-Boat column months ago where I talked about motor sailers. I should also premise the following with the line that this is not your average boat! But if you want one do let me know. On the other hand, if you have not come to appreciate blue cheese yet, no problem.



George Buehler is the master of simple, honest, solid passagemakers, with all the information at Diesel Ducks have made and continue to make some incredible voyages all over the world. I like everything about their heavy displacement and full-bodied design that carries the beam forward and aft. The huge buoyancy forward creates plenty of lift without being jerked up by extreme flare. I call it a modern fishing boat that's hard to call a "she", as "it" is more akin to a workboat than a graceful yacht. Oh, a five-star workboat mind you, built like a ship and to megayacht standards. All 40 tonnes of it!



Ice strengthening came easy for this hull, as scantlings are way oversize from the start. Only the second highest grade of certified steel available in China is used (the highest is reserved for the military!). When the structure is complete, all welding is x-rayed by the China Ship Classification Society (CCS is equivalent to Lloyds), who also carry out a full stability check when launched.

ICE is completely self-righting through 360?. The sandblasting and epoxy protective systems inside and out are too numerous to mention here. Suffice to say, the boat will be on the water for 100-years plus! Hatches and ports are all big-ship standard that simply will never fail. The 20mm thick laminated pilothouse windows are also heated forward to stop any condensation or ice build-up. The pilothouse top, flybridge, all deck lockers and aft cockpit are fibreglass, which works well. To protect the 32in stainless steel prop and rudder (all removable while afloat), ice fins and an ice knife are fitted, as well as a custom machined rope cutter that will rip anything apart. From the moment you step onboard the McIntyre 50MS the 'feel' hits you. You are on a very solid structure.




This is not a mass-produced interior at all. Think solid teak, hand-built, with real care by craftsmen, insulated to Antarctic standards, with three reverse-cycle air-conditioners, diesel central heating and engine-driven hot-air blowers to cover it all. Ultra leather and laminated foam keep you comfy and there's enough storage space to supply a family for a year.

You could let anyone loose with a sledgehammer inside this boat and it would take them some time damage it. Four watertight compartments, plus the anchor locker forward, will keep you afloat and a double hull through the front half of the boat adds extra security if you think 8mm steel is too thin. Sea Glaze watertight doors from the UK secure all compartments and, as rugged as they are, their ease of use and good looks match the boat's style. You have complete access to every part of the hull, under cabin soles and behind lockers. Servicing plumbing and other systems is very achievable.

The forward cabin has an upper and wide 1.5m-sized lower berth, hanging locker with a chest of drawers and dresser. The saloon has a starboard side lounge with a pilot berth behind. The computer station is complete with a lock-away stool and space for scanner/printers. Opposite the desk, on the port side, is the forward head and shower, with manual saltwater flush head (aft head is electric freshwater flush), then there are a large dinette and a servery between it and the galley. The galley has it all, including granite bench tops, domestic fridge/freezer and chest freezer, convection microwave, garbage compactor, water filters, range hood, and so on. Even the pressure water is backed up with filtered fresh and raw saltwater foot pumps. All systems are designed to operate with little or no power or in "save freshwater" mode.

Across from the galley is something I have always dreamed of - a "real" red toolbox, workbench and drill press in a stand-up engineroom. It is an amazing space. You could eat your dinner in it, it is completely watertight, with dual everything, and the John Deere sits pride of place. Moving into the aft cabin is a world of its own, with a huge queen bed, and en suite, plus a washer/dryer. The 750kg battery bank is under the bed and access to all the steering gear is very easy. All eight sleeping positions have lee cloths.

To me, the pilothouse defines the motor sailor and the McIntyre 50MS has an impressive one. It is bigger than the hut I lived in with Margie for a year in Antarctica. You can cruise along in the helm chair with the windows, hatches and doors open, listening to music, or button everything down to crash through the worst of it happening before you on the other side of the glass. You are not in the bilge down below, which is the case on most yachts, and you are not in the cockpit getting wet. The Stidd helm chair is so comfortable you need the watch alarm to keep people awake at night. Glare shields pull down over all the side and forward windows and everything onboard can be monitored from the Stidd. You can eat dinner here if you want, and the off-watch can sleep on the pilothouse settee and still have others sitting around. The chart table is big and will hold anything you need for a circumnavigation.




King of this space is the John Deere. This is "the" engine for a tough boat. Their reputation is big in the trawler market, so I know it will be good for 20,000 hours. The 150hp freshwater cooled, turbocharged engine is matched to a 3:1 Twin Disc gearbox. The drive chain includes a PVC flex coupling to cover the ultimate prop-ice strike, then a constant velocity joint and thrust bearing to help any alignment issues, all on a 2in shaft through a PPS dripless shaft seal. The shaft and rudder bearings all fit in a fibreglass sleeve, inside the steel tubes, to last forever. The photos hereabouts show a "temporary" exhaust heat wrap, while my custom-built heat shield (exhaust thermal blanket) was being modified. The exhaust runs dry for most of the way and then is a wet exhaust for the last third through a muffler that can be closed off if needs be.

Start-up can be done from the helm position or in the engineroom to begin the engine checks. There are two forced air-inlet blowers and one hot-air outlet blower, each with individual switches that can reverse the blowers to allow hot-air evacuation at shut down. You can also pull air-conditioned air from the pilothouse into the engineroom if needed at any time. 

Two sea chests are fitted. Everything runs off the main forward unit, but the secondary covers a backup for the primary functions and can be brought on line at any time.

The generator has the option of swapping to a keel cooler and dry exhaust if the boat is sitting in a block of ice with no liquid around it. When that happens the toilet becomes a bucket! Fuel runs through the usual Racor filters and there is a fuel-polishing system. Five diesel tanks are located under the saloon sole and a sixth is under the marina aft deck, giving nearly 7200lt and 5000nm range. You can transfer from all tanks to the duty tank through a simple manifold and transfer for trim to all tanks. The tank breathers are very good, running up and into the stainless steel handrails on deck. The large single diesel fill point and excellent breathers make spills nearly impossible.

Oil Changes are very simple with a Jabsco oil pump plumbed in direct to the engine, gearbox and generator. A lube-oil polishing system is set up, which means if you don't want to change oil for a few years, you can use it instead with a few additives.

Every Important issue is monitored on an alarm panel at the helm position. A fire-flood system will activate automatically, or can be fired from the helm should the ER fire alarm sound. A video camera allows the helmsman to keep an eye out for steam or smoke between engineroom inspections. The engineroom door has a small port for the same reason.




Unfortunately, I don't have space to write a book on this but I could. It is all built to ABYC specification and starts with everything running in conduits and finishes with solar panels and an Air-X wind generator. Necessity dictates a 12/24V and 110/220V system with Victron Chargers/inverters linked to a 9kVa Northern lights generator.

The John Deere has its own alternator and a second 120amp/24V Balmar to top up the 750amp 24V battery bank, made up of 2V cells guaranteed to last 15 years, but they should go 20 years. Redundancy is the name of the game with options to back up and switch between everything. All electrical controls and battery switches are outside the engineroom and everything is alarmed and has excellent monitoring panels. All runs are labelled, as is every individual electrical fitting (and there are plenty) allowing a cross match with the electrical drawings at any time.

There are 26 different lights just in the saloon (mostly LED) and some very effective mood and night lighting, right up there with any megayacht. That concept carries throughout. You can burn up the power, or conserve it if you are frozen in the ice. Your choice! There are plenty of Aqua signal deck floodlights and a remote spot/floodlight.




All hoses are certified for the purpose. Each watertight compartment has electric and manual pump-out facilities. The engineroom has the ability to use the engine-cooling pump in an emergency. The hot/cold pressure water in the heads drains to a separate greywater sump for pump out and there are two blackwater holding tanks (forward and aft), with gauges and alarms. A Katadyn 160, 24V desalinator keeps the 950lt freshwater tanks topped up. Tanks have level gauges as well as sight glasses that meet ABYC specs. The air-cons are supplied cooling water from one large 220V pump, with a second standby pump fitted ready to go. A freshwater pump also backs up the high-pressure saltwater deckwash. You blast the salt/dirt off first with saltwater, followed by a fresh rinse if you have it. A strong freshwater rinse goes to the heavy-duty windscreen wipers.

As the ultimate backup, there are two portable salvage pumps, one 220V and the other 24V ready to put anywhere or even act as a fire pump. Still don't know how you get through 8mm steel though!




Nothing will break, believe me, and it is all stainless steel. Bollards are everywhere and the massive anchor handling gear is simply the way it should be on a 40-tonne boat. The 120lb CQR is self-launching and the second roller has vertical side rollers to stop all rope chafe. Mud dams keep the deck clean and the second anchor is locked in place securely ready to go. There is a huge 68lb Fortress anchor and 70lb Fisherman's anchor under the sole in the aft cabin. Anywhere a rope or wharf will come in contact with this boat there are stainless steel anti-chafe rails fitted. The stainless steel Anderson winch forward allows the crew to use braided lines to set up moorings in heavy weather while the bigger stuff is positioned. Even Jessica Watson could do it!

The cabin top rope reel holds twin 200m floating mooring lines and the aft rope reel holds 100m of 20mm nylon and then on top of that is the same again with 15m of chain for the second anchor warp. A second 100m length of anchor chain is carried below; (under the aft cabin sole) should the 120m (400ft) main anchor chain ever be lost. Sounds like a lot, hey, but on the first voyage to the Philippines, we had to run for cover and sit out a typhoon. I used plenty of it and the Fortress saved the boat!

The two aft-quarter bollards are set up to shackle a bridle for towing management or running a drogue. The aft targa has two swinging cranes on each side that lift outboards, the Flopper 'Fish' or anything we should recover from the deep!

The flybridge is the best thing on the boat and probably the cause of comments from people walking down the marina when they say, "What is it?" You rarely have sails and a flybridge, so it confuses people but I'm here to tell you it's fantastic. If the weather is good, bad or indifferent, day or night, whatever, it's always more fun up there. I have had the best night watches on the flybridge. As for sundowners, bring them on. This boat is all about fun and exploration, possibly even blue cheese!

If you cannot find a slip big enough to haul out, there are four massive stainless steel lifting lugs for the boat connected to huge ring frames. Just find a bloody big crane with bigger shackles and you can lift this boat onto the wharf.

The cockpit and deck lockers are fibreglass and there are plenty of them. On the marina deck, down aft, is a 225lt stainless steel petrol tank for the outboard on the Zodiac and flying boat, plus hot and cold shower, duck board and swim ladders. You'll find the fishing gaff in the big lazarette on the port side.

The aft cockpit is out of the sun and wind and is a safe place in heavy weather, if you're not using the side door into the pilothouse. The huge sidedecks allow easy movement around the boat and even our custom-built, lockdown/removable wheelie bin for garbage will roll to the side gates, which drop to form a ladder to the marina.  




Supplied by Allyacht Spars in Queensland, the mast is built to Southern Ocean specifications, double sleeved to the spreaders and designed for easy handling with a furling boom and batten cars/lazyjacks on the mizzen. Steps and a crow's nest are good for The Reef, ice or just pure fun! One person can handle every aspect of this efficient sail plan.

With only two tonnes of lead in the keel, ICE is incredibly stiff. Sailing in 25kts of breeze on the beam and full sail, we get 4kts, enough to get you home if you run out of gas. With the John Deere ticking over with sails, you save a heap of fuel, with 7kts at one gallon (3.78lt) an hour.

Importantly with the sails, you can always balance the boat in extreme weather and seas to assist handling in virtually anything. With a trawler yacht in the Southern Ocean this is vital. If you do not want to sail, just leave them packed away and for a couple of gallons (say 8lt) an hour you make 7kts. The lee sails from Hong Kong include a storm jib and all have been specified by me. No spinnakers as I am happy to motor, but there is a booming out pole for the right conditions.




This is where the fun starts. If you have never sailed with stabilisers before, you don't know what you're missing. They're great. These are exactly the same as used on Nordhavn and most other world-travelling trawler yachts. Jointly engineered by Allyacht Spars and SHM to my specifications, they are easy to launch and recover. When deployed the 'Fish' create drag costing less than half a knot, but the comfort factor is extreme. At anchor they will kill all rolling, so life is good! Just like that damn cheese.




Ever tried to keep up with the latest computers? Electronics are the same, so I keep mine standalone and relatively simple. I don't believe in technology for technology's sake. I wanted the old Raymarine Pathfinders as they were built bulletproof and I found some old stock. I have sonar, two radars, an EPIRB direction finding and alert system for lost Zodiacs, people or Polaris, all the usual radios and satellite communications. There are SkyEye real-time sat, weather/ice picture receiver, twin autopilots, plus a watch alarm to stop the helmsperson falling asleep. I have a screen by my "bed" (too comfortable to call a bunk) in the aft cabin to monitor everything and an intercom to the pilothouse and bridge.




Name your poison! To me cruising is all about people, places and toys! I have a big dive compressor, four complete dive sets and six cylinders (the dive buckets fit in the rack on the aft cockpit cover), underwater communications and metal detectors, a big black Zodiac, two long boards, a Walker 10 sailing sailboat, inflatable kayak, folding bikes and my own Polaris flying Inflatable amphibious boat (Google Polaris FIB). I hang the Polaris in the aft davit and then fit a second lower davit for the Zodiac. Did I mention the ice-cream maker?




The devil is in the detail and there is a small book of specifications for the McIntyre 50MS, far too many to bore you with here. If you need more info on this or the standard Seahorse Marine DD462 I will happily give it to you. Not everyone likes blue cheese and I can see the nose of a few diehards squirming at the thought, but I am here to tell you that this boat is all about the things you can do and the fun you can have with it, not about what looks normal. I think it would be hard for anyone not to have fun on a boat like this. My biggest problem is finding time to use ICE, as life is full, but the time will come. Pass me the crackers please!




Specifications- McIntyre 50 Motor Sailor




Approx $1.2 million for fully custom boat with comprehensive standard spec list. Boat supplied turnkey, excluding electronics. Only option is colour of paint and furnishing. Comes with air-con, heaters, desal, 9kVa gen, bowthruster, inverter chargers, Fireflood, Stidd helm chair, stainless steel everywhere, Floppers, sails, washer/dryer, garbage compactor, anchor gear, safety gear, ice-cream maker, etc, it's all there! Even the red toolbox.




Electronics and satellite gear




$1.1 million




Material: Certified steel with five epoxy coatings, filled and faired
Type: Chine hull, full-keel troller concept
Length (overall): 15.55m
Beam: 4.75m
Draft: 1.85m
Displacement: 41,000kg (fully loaded)
Max Speed: 9.1kts (under power)
Cruise speed: 7 to 8kts




Berths: 6 + 2
Fuel: 7500lt
Water: 1000lt (plus desalinator)
Black and greywater: 250lt




Make/model: John Deere 4045TFM
Type: Four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine
Rated HP: 150 at 2600rpm
Rated torque: 508Nm at 1800rpm
Displacement: 4.5lt
Weight: 460kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Twin Disc/50:50 at 3:1
Props: Michigan four-blade stainless steel 30in x 22in workboat style




Ocean Frontiers Pty Ltd,
Hobart, Tas, 7051
Phone: (03) 6229 5460


Find McIntyre boats for sale.


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