C-Quester 2: Built to Impress and Decompress

The C-Quester 2 is the smaller of the company's two personal subs; the other, the C-Quester 3, holds more occupants but is largely marketed to luxury resorts as an exotic excursion to offer guests. For our purposes, we'll be looking at the CQ2, a dedicated superyacht submersible.

c quester underwater

Photo from U Boat Worx

by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: Dry, 1-atmosphere dedicated superyacht submersible
  • Classification: Germanischer Lloyd (100 A5)
  • Manufacturer: U-Boat Worx
  • Maximum occupancy: 1 pilot, 1 passenger
  • Propulsion system: 2 x 1.3 kW Electric Thrusters
  • Top Surface Speed: 4 knots
  • Top Underwater Speed: 2 knots
  • Max operating depth: 100 meters (328 feet)
  • Ballast Tanks: 4
  • Main ballast tank capacity: 1200 litre
  • Compressed air capacity: 4 x 12 litre high pressure cylinder
  • Total power capacity: 21.6 kWh
  • Battery system: 2 x 130 VDC Lithium-ion battery packs- 15.6 kWh
  • Time to full battery recharge: 2 hours
  • Emergency battery: 96 hours for Critical Systems
  • Price: $650,000
  • Availability: Yes

The manufacturer says

"For those seeking adventure, the C-Questers offer a completely new challenge for underwater fanatics."

Overview

Called "an incredible experience" and "the best gadget I've ever tested" by Suzi Perry, co-presenter of The Gadget Show, these C-Questers, made by Dutch-based U-Boat Worx, kick off a beautiful daydream when you watch them in action.

The company's two models qualify as the first commercially available personal submersibles in the industry. The C-Quester 2 is the smaller of the company's two personal subs; the other, the C-Quester 3, holds more occupants but is largely marketed to luxury resorts as an exotic excursion to offer guests. For our purposes, we'll be looking at the CQ2, a dedicated superyacht submersible.

U-Boat Worx is part of a growing set of personal submarine manufacturers. Their competitors include SEAmagine Hydrospace Corporation, makers of the Triumph and the Ocean Pearl, as well as Sub Aviator Systems, makers of the $2.1 million ORCASUB, and Environmental Submarines, makers of the Green Submarine (or more accurately, makers and sellers of a set of plans for building the Green Sub—a set-up we'll be featuring down the road).

What we like

The safety feature deluge. U-Boat Worx addresses safety with an aggressive set of features, including jettisonable droppable weight, a releasable buoy, pinger systems and underwater communication, stainless steel dome protection and four days of life support.

The pilot certification. We're always quick to dismiss the need for people to know how to pilot vehicles on the water—a dismissal refuted by the thousands of deaths every year caused by careless people piloting boats. U-Boat Worx has a pilot certification program that addresses the full range of the CQ2's functioning systems (mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical), along with emergency situations and other issues. Bottom line, there are lots of things going on under water—ranging from military exercises to massive intercontinental cables that carry the internet—to make pilot responsibility a high priority.

The atmospheric setting. Being a "dry, 1-atmosphere submersible" means that the CQ2 can descend and ascend without any changes in cabin pressure. In short, no risk of getting the bends.

The Underwater Boat Concept U-Boat Worx's double-hull configuration means plenty of flexibility. A polyester, boat-shaped exostructure allows it to behave like a boat on the surface while giving it great handling under water; meanwhile, the second hull (the main pressure vessel) is a steel-bottomed hull with an acrylic window. The result is increased maneuverability, range, and storage independence (she can wait for you in water or on dry land and can be launched without a mother-ship).

What we don’t

The company name. Seriously, U-Boat Worx? Granted it would be worse if they were based in Germany. The 'U' in the World War I and II-era German submarine fleet of U-boot-waffe stood for Unterseeboot, and there's no indication that the 'U' here stands for anything else, since the Dutch equivalent is Onderzeeboot. Why would a company purposely invoke U-boats, the great Nazi terror of the high seas during World War II, especially a company in a country that had suffered so horribly under Nazi occupation?

The price. Not that it isn't worth the money, it's just out of reach for most. I asked Erik Hasselman from the company's sales & marketing department what it might take to bring down the cost of personal subs. "We hope that the size of the market will increase in the future. This [among other issues] might lead to cheaper subs. However," he added, "the cost of parts—which are all certified—will be hard to bring down."

Conclusions

Recent stops at the Monaco Yacht Show and the Dubai International Boat Show indicate just who can afford a CQ2. At half a million dollars, few of us will be running out to buy one any time soon.

Not that we wouldn't want to; undersea exploration by way of lithium-ion batteries sounds like a blast! The technology involved, however, may keep this sweet ride out of reach to the commoner for some time to come.

Here's an idea that might facilitate C-Quester ownership for us regular Joes: the folks over at the US Small Business Administration, in conjunction with President Obama's stimulus plan, have made obtaining SBA loans easier than ever. Why not start a small business offering sea-side tourists for-fee undersea exploration excursions, or offering the same to marine scientists and oceanologists researching coastal ecosystems and organisms?

The other option is to make the most of the CQ2's maximum allowable payload of 240 kilos (530 lbs) by shuttling drugs up and down Baja for either the Tijuana or the Sinaloa Cartels.

This isn't something we recommend.

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