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Watch Huge Superyacht Squeeze Through Dutch Canals

By: Scott Way

It's a one way trip, but if it's done right once is more than enough.

CNN Travel and photographer Tom van Ossanen captured the departure of Project 817, a 94 metre (310 feet) yacht from Dutch shipyard Feadship, as it passed through the tight channels near its Kaag Island facility to reach the North Sea. The yacht is headed for sea trials, but the first leg of the journey is a logistical masterpiece to weave it through some incredibly tight canals. The images captured by van Ossanen showcase just how tight the journey is, with the superyacht being guided through the city by a series of tugboats and passing within feet of buildings, bridges, and the shoreline.

The ship itself was designed by Azure Yacht Design & Naval Architecture and De Voogt and will be called Viva. The impressive superyacht features a new hybrid propulsion system with a cruising speed of 12 knots and a top speed of 20 knots. She also boasts a glowing pearl-white finish and an immaculate interior designed by Peter Marino.

A half dozen yachts are typically launched each year from the shipyard, but Project 817 is the largest to ever make the trip. Kaag Island is one of two Feadship shipyards that are inland (the other located in Aalsmeer), meaning every yacht delivered by the company must undertake the arduous (and expensive) trip before finally being set free.

"They [the two shipyards] are actually quite far from the North Sea, so in order to transport the yachts to sea, they need to pass a small canal to Rotterdam," he explains. "There's only one way to go" Ossanen told CNN Travel. "It's always quite an operation. Everyone loves to see it."

If you happen to be commuting through the city when one of the superyachts is passing through, prepare for some delays. "Sometimes it takes an hour to go through a bridge, and with the amount of traffic we have in Holland, it soon builds up" said Ossanen. Depending on the size of the vessel, the trip from the Feadship yard can take anywhere from 2-4 days. In the case of Project 817, it took a full 4 days.

The Vida carries a beam of 13.6 metres (44.7 feet) and had little room to spare during most of the route.

"This boat has been fully designed to actually fit the waterway," said Oossanen. "So they [the designers] probably couldn't add another centimeter to her length or another centimeter to her width. They maximized the design by using the limitations of bridges and waterways, which is quite interesting."

That doesn't mean the trip is easy, however. During the first stage the yacht had to be outfitted with pontoons to raise its draught and avoid snagging on the bottom of the shallow canal. Tug boats were then attached to the pontoons to guide it through. The ship then had to pass between a small bridge in the village of Woubrugge before reaching the city of Gouda, south of Amsterdam, a few days later.

Despite the cost of hiring a team of tugboats, not to mention arranging logistics with the city ports for drawbridge passes and canal usage, plus a crew of five aboard the yacht itself, no one is in a rush to reach their destination. The cost of damaging the boat, which is kept wrapped in a protective foil for the journey, far outweighs the logistical expenses.

"They [the captains] are very experienced in what they're doing," said Ossanen. "There's obviously a lot of money involved, so you want to do things properly. And if you're going to rush things, things can go wrong."

Ossanen followed the ship for two days of its four day journey and encountered curious onlookers all along the way. Having extensive experience capturing the yachts leaving the Feadship shipyard, he always tries to showcase each trip in a unique way.

"Every boat is different. It's always the same route, but I always try to find different angles. It's a challenge to picture it in a different way. I'm really glad this one worked out so well," he said.

Despite capturing some amazing photos, it may be the last time Ossanen and Feadship document the experience together. The company has opened a new facility in Amsterdam with capacity for superyachts up to 160 metres. Plus they also have a new 140 metre drydock at their Makkum shipyard, meaning the Kaag Island facility will no longer be needed for the largest superyachts. The Dutch government has also started widening the locks at nearby Kornwerderzand, which means the larger vessels being built at Makkum can travel directly to the North Sea in the future.

"They can easily build up to 160 meters in a new facility, so why would they still transfer such a big boat through all these canals and go through all the hassle?" said Oossanen. "Knowing the inside information, I think seeing a 94-meter doing this route is either going to take a while, or might not happen [again] at all" he added.

You can watch video of the impressive trip below:

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