Luxury Sub FAQ :: Tourist Sub FAQ :: Deep Submersibles FAQ

1. How safe is the submarine?

Last year, approximately 2 million passengers took dives aboard the world's commercial tourist submarine fleet, generally to depths of 50-100 meters. In the 14 year operating history of the industry there has never been a single serious injury or fatality to any passenger. The industry has a perfect safety record and so, civil submarines are statistically the safest form of transportation in the world today.

All of U.S. Submarines' vessels are classed +A1 Manned Submersible by the American Bureau of Shipping. Like FAA certification of aircraft, the ABS classification procedure is arduous, but results in unsurpassed safety. And, U.S. Submarines management team has experience with over 65 submarines and submersibles, including all of the diesel electric civil submarines built world-wide in the last 15 years.

2. What about crew training?

U.S. Submarines will provide crew training for the owner and/or his selected crew. Ideally, we like to have the crew participate in the last several weeks of assembly and trials of the submarine so that they can get intimate, hands on experience with the installation, operation and maintenance of critical systems. The crew will then have additional pilot and maintenance training during sea trials.

We can also provide experienced submarine pilots and maintenance technicians for an owner.

3. Is a license required to operate the submarine?

A private owner does not need a license to operate the submarine for leisure purposes but our in-house training program must be satisfactorily completed by the operator. In addition, if the submarine will be carrying passengers for hire in U.S. waters, then the crew must meet U.S. Coast Guard manning requirements. This means that the Captain is required to have a U.S.C.G. Master's license for a surface vessel of equivalent tonnage (500 tons in the case of the Seattle 1000) and will have to complete our training course which includes 40 hours of pilot in command time and 40 dives and surfaces and then take a U.S.C.G. examination based on our manuals. The successful applicant will then have a submarine endorsement added to their license.

4. How comfortable is it inside the submarine? Are there any changes in cabin pressure?

The inside of one of our luxury submarines is air conditioned and temperature controlled. Regardless of the operating depth of the submarine, the interior of the passenger cabin remains at surface pressure, which is one atmosphere. As a result, there are none of the pressure induced physiological effects experienced by SCUBA divers. A guest aboard a submarine can stay comfortably submerged for as long as desired, and the submarine can dive or surface at any rate.

The interior of the submarine is very luxurious with rich fabrics, beautiful woods and replete with the finest leathers. An owner can choose one of our interiors or work with an interior designer of their choice.

5. How does the air stay fresh inside the sub?

The submarine has a sophisticated central air conditioning and life support system. Basically, oxygen stored in high pressure bottles outside the pressure hull is injected into the passenger cabin in order to maintain a level of 21% by volume. The carbon dioxide respired during breathing is scrubbed out of the air by a special granular chemical contained in the main scrubbing system. The air is also dehumidified and heated or cooled as necessary. The Seattle 1000 carries enough oxygen to remain submerged for over three weeks without surfacing.

6. How flexible is the Seattle 1000 design in terms of accommodation plans?

The original interior calls for 5 staterooms and spacious common areas. We can change the interior accommodation to meet the owners needs and we can lengthen the pressure hull to provide more space if necessary. We also have designs for luxury submarines that are both larger and smaller than the Seattle 1000.

7. How deep can the submarine dive?

The Seattle 1000 is designed to dive to 305 meters, or 1000 feet. This is an optimum compromise that allows exploration at significant depth but also allows us to have very large viewports for exceptional visibility. If necessary, a small deep submersible could be carried "piggy back" by the Seattle, allowing a small group of 2-3 people to board the deep submersible through a transfer lock and dive to depths of up to 3000 meters or more.

8. What is the difference between surface and submerged travel?

While surfaced, the submarine acts very much like a yacht, although the submarine is heavier and has a lower profile. Cruising speed for the Seattle is approximately 14 knots, and the submarine has transatlantic range allowing the owner to travel virtually anywhere. When the submarine is surfaced the captain controls the vessel from inside the acrylic cabin in the superstructure or deck house. From here, he has an excellent view and access to all the necessary instrumentation for control and navigation, including radar, GPS, etc.

When it is time to dive the captain shuts down the diesel engines and switches to battery power. He then goes below to the pilot's compartment located in the bow of the submarine forward of the main lounge. From here he has an excellent view of the underwater environment through an immense forward viewport.

9. What advantages would there be to purchasing a Seattle 1000.

The owners of the Seattle 1000 would have, if desired, international notoriety for becoming the owners of the world's first large personal luxury submarine. Few subjects have captured the imagination of the public like personal luxury submarines. But beyond that, the owners of a Seattle would have the opportunity to explore areas that no human has ever seen before, from the brightness and splendor of tropical coral reefs to the silent depths of the sea at 1000 feet, a new frontier awaits. The sheer impact of the experience of cruising smoothly below the waves defies description.

10. What are the terms of purchase?

Initially, the owners would retain us to modify the design and develop the interior to meet their specific requirements. Subsequently we would sign a manufacturing contract that would require a 10% initial payment followed by four 20% payments made at easily verifiable milestones in the construction process with the final 10% on delivery. The price of the Seattle 1000 is $19.7 million. Construction time would be 24 months.

And for the Press:

11. What type of people buy luxury submarines?

Interested buyers tend to share one trait, they are all wealthy. We group them in to three additional categories.

The most interesting are the avid SCUBA divers and ocean aficionados who are very interested in the subsea world and view a luxury submarine as a vehicle for exploration.

With 2300 megayachts operational around the world, some costing in excess of $150 million, the stakes in the game of one upmanship are rising. Some yacht owners like the idea of having a larger and more unique toy.

The luxury submarine also attracts individuals who have never owned a yacht, but are fascinated with the idea of traveling beneath the surface of the world's oceans.

At U.S. Submarines we deal with all types of potential buyers, from wealthy Arab sheikhs, to world leaders and hi-tech mega-millionaires. However, virtually all insist on confidentiality.

Addendum January 28, 2003

I have been following your company for years and have enjoyed receiving your literature and recently going through the web site.

I am looking the possibility of buying a sub for personal use in a few years - similar to buying a yacht. I am looking at living on it with my wife and entertaining business partners etc., similar to what I might do in a yacht. The Nomad and Seattle information files on the web site are very interesting; however, the information leads to some questions. If you have some time, I would like to pass the questions on to you. I realize the questions may seem to be nit-picky - but I am trying to resolve my previous surface craft and submarine experiences with the possibility of having a personal sub built in the manner of your designs.

1. My wife is not so sure about this idea of living on a submarine. Can you provide an idea about what the available space is? What the view is out the side/front viewports. I went through the file about the Argos (consub.pdf) and though that is of some help - it is still a very different configuration.

Answer: The floor plan arrangements taken in conjunction with the general dimensions of the submarine found in the specifications are the best method of getting an idea of the space. Basically, the Nomad has a pressure hull diameter that is about 8 feet (2.45m) and so it can best be thought of as a motor home size interior.

The Seattle has a much larger pressure hull in the central section and as a consequence there is sufficient space for both upper and lower decks. In this case a mid-sized yacht is a good analogy in terms of available space.

The view out the viewports is simply stunning. We go to great lengths to maximize the size of the viewports (up to 6 feet [1.8m] in diameter on the Seattle) and to place them in appropriate spots for convenient viewing. The viewports are also convex spherical sectors so the downward view is improved over the flat type. All of the viewports are composed of polymethyl methacrylate which is remarkably transparent and very strong under compressional hydrostatic load.

2. I would want to be able to run the boat with just one of us at the controls- without a dedicated crew - is that feasible given the control console locations/visibility/above water deck configuration etc? In this regard, the Nomad seems to be about the right size for handling, while the Seattle might be a bit much to handle with only one person on the controls and one on deck for lines etc.

Answer: Both the Seattle and the Nomad have very sophisticated digital proportional F-16 style joystick control systems that allow for pinpoint maneuvering while submerged or on the surface. With lateral thrusters the subs can sidle sideways or spin in their own length. When submerged vertical thrusters make accurate placement in the water column quite simple. The above deck control stations are situated so that visibility is quite good. On the Nomad, you can open the acrylic hatch above the pilot's compartment and pass up the remote consolette which allows you to walk around the main deck and maneuver the submarine. A deck plug-in on the Seattle is also available.

At 72 tons one person can tie up the Nomad without too much difficulty. The Seattle, at 380 tons displacement has fairly stout mooring lines and while one person could tie the sub up under normal conditions it would be a good idea to have more than one person aboard in inclement weather or areas of significant current. Of course, if there are any people at all on the dock you'll have many curious on-lookers willing to take the lines.

3. For extended living/cruising etc. referring to the drawings in the .pdf files, the Nomad seems to be a bit short on space for food/ clothes/personal gear/navigation charts ... especially if there are guests on board - is this a true condition or is there a lot more storage than shown? How much more room is available in the extended Nomad?

Answer: Each of these submarines is built on a custom basis and the interior layout and storage reflects the mission profile and owner's lifestyle. On the Nomad there is space in the overhead and drawers under the furniture and seats as well as some closet space. People make month-long trans-Pacific crossings on 30 foot sail boats so with a little ingenuity the Nomad can hold everything you need for extended voyaging. But keep in mind that with a range of 1000 nautical miles you won't be offshore for weeks at a time.

The extended Nomad adds a private stateroom to the basic configuration.

4. Comparing to other yachts and surface craft and water current speeds, both the Nomad and Seattle seem to be underpowered and have cruising speeds that are too low for any serious cruising or distance traveling. Are there options available for increased power plant sizes with increased surface and underwater speed capability? Options for additional diesel fuel tanks to extend cruising range?

Answer: Like most sailboats, tug boats, cargo ships and work boats, submarines are displacement craft as opposed to planing speedboats and semi-displacement vessels like crew boats or some yachts. Displacement vessels are limited due to wave making resistance and the formula for determining hull speed in knots is generally 1.3 times the square root of the waterline length in feet. So, in the case of a boat with a 65' waterline the hull speed would be 10.5 knots. You can drive the vessel over hull speed and derive an extra knot or so, but above that the power requirements for extra speed increase exponentially.

Cruising on the surface at 10 knots in the Nomad or 14 knots in the Seattle is a reality that can't be changed. There is no such thing as a planing submarine speedboat as planing and semi-displacement hulls are comparatively lightweight with high power to weight ratios. Because a submarine must weigh as much as the water it displaces there is no such thing as a lightweight submarine.

The average port to port speed for a contemporary cruising sailboat is usually less than 4 knots. I myself have crossed the Pacific on a power boat at 8 knots. Serious offshore sailors understand the speed limitations of the environment. If you want to get there in a hurry, take an airplane.

An interesting thing does happen when a submarine submerges. The wave making resistance is eliminated and parasitic drag becomes the limiting factor. This is why most submarines have higher submerged burst speeds than surface speeds. However, once the submarine is submerged most are powered by batteries and the power consumption goes up exponentially with speed. So, you can go flat out submerged for one hour or you can cruise at low speed for days you make the choice. Today there are submerged power alternatives to batteries. Other AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) systems used successfully in submarines include closed cycle diesel power and proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. A closed cycle Stirling option is available on both the Nomad and the Seattle to dramatically increase submerged speed and endurance, but it adds considerable to the price and the overall complexity of the submarine.

Another alternative is to fit the submarine with a streamlined induction mast so that the diesels can be run while the submarine is just a few feet underwater. In this condition most wave making resistance is eliminated and the submarine can easily exceed hull speed by a considerable margin. However this is an option limited to our patrol and surveillance submarine models with highly trained crews.

Added diesel tankage is possible.

5. Is the mechanical room accessible when submerged? The Nomad drawing appears to show no access. Is the only access via the shower?

Answer: The access is through a water tight door in the bulkhead behind the shower. The shower can be moved to another location if this is a problem.

6. High-pressure air is available for surfacing etc. - are air fittings and filters/regulators etc. available to provide for SCUBA tank fills? Is low-pressure air available for floats/inflatable boats etc.? Are there air fittings in the above water cabin for divers to use the sub as a taxi down to a dive area? What a great way to explore a shallow water reef or wreck - non-divers inside monitoring, watching, and talking to the divers on the outside - everyone enjoying themselves.

Answer: Yes, HP fittings are available for SCUBA tank fills and low-pressure air is also available. External connections for a hookah rig are available as an option. With external divers care must be taken to carefully control the speed of ascent and descent to prevent equalization problems and air embolism.

In the Seattle 1000 a diver lock out/decompression chamber is available as an option allowing divers to exit and re-enter the submarine while submerged. A special training program is a requirement of sale.

7. Are there storage areas available (perhaps in the above water cabin) for snorkeling/diving gear; inflatable boat for shore access where water is too shallow; shore lines; overside ladders/ramps for pier or water access?

Answer: Yes, there is ample storage in the superstructure. A pressure proof compartment for outboard storage is also available.

8. It is not obvious in the drawings, but are there remote controls/ storage/housing areas for anchors and shore lines? How are they handled so as to not interfere with the front and side viewing portals?

Answer: There is an anchor windlass and storage system as well as a collapsible bowsprit for anchor deployment.

9. An auto-nav system is referenced - does it also have controls for maintaining submerged course/speed and/or for positional hover accounting for currents (in case a bottom set down is not physically or environmentally feasible?

Answer: Yes, there is basic autopilot/autodepth system. Dynamic positioning is an option and also requires a Doppler sonar velocity navigation system to maintain bottom station regardless of current changes.

10. Are the engine air intakes mounted up on the mast or on a snorkel system that would permit cruising with most of the sub below water level to avoid wave action in rough weather? Are there any periscope or camera video feeds from the mast to assist surfacing safely? Could be a big surprise if the sub came up in the path of a surface craft.

Answer: Semi-submerged cruising or snorkeling is not possible with a standard configuration. If it gets too rough, simply submerge and proceed on battery power.

There is a remote video camera on the mast. A telescoping mast with integrated video is an option.

Passive and active sonar systems are available and must be used prior to surfacing. Training in their operation is given in our mandatory owner training program.

11. Do your designs include desalinization units for fresh water or are the subs dependent upon shore water?

Answer: Reverse osmosis watermakers of varying capacity are available as an option and are recommended.

12. Any thought or possibility of recharging the batteries via solar power arrays on the upper deck - so as to provide at least a low speed propulsion in case of loss/over consumption of diesel fuel?

Answer: With both a large battery bank and a substantive quantity of diesel fuel there is plenty of power management and get home capability. The small battery charging capability of a solar array wouldn't be sufficient to make much difference in motive power of the submarine.

13. Is the sonar installation - upward looking as well as downward/ forward looking?

Answer: The optional high resolution color imaging sonar is trainable in up, down and forward directions.

14. Are there any provisions for radio transmission/reception while submerged? Any pop-up radio buoys in case of emergencies while submerged?

Answer: Radio waves do not propagate underwater. All of our submarines are equipped with dual frequency underwater telephones with emergency pinger/locators. A radio and/or satellite antenna-equipped surface buoy with retractable cable and hydraulic level-wind is an option.

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