About us

Discover Urchin

Our vessel

When designing a sailboat, the vessel’s purpose shapes her design. Urchin’s purpose is to explore high latitudes as a ‘go-anywhere’ expedition vessel.

She is robust and strong, giving her the ability to withstand violent ocean storms. She can enter remote and sometimes shallow locations, sailing long distances in comfort and speed. Urchin is self-sufficient and has built-on redundancy in all her systems, making her the perfect home at sea to crew and guests alike.

Urchin Specs

Seaworthiness & Comfort

Ensuring the comfort of our guests and crew is a top priority for Urchin, our expedition vessel. With three well-ventilated double berths, equipped with heating systems, we guarantee a comfortable stay even in the harshest conditions. Each berth also comes with ample storage and charging ports for our guests’ devices.

For hygiene, the heads and separate shower facilities are at the ready, while the galley serves up hearty meals to keep the guests and crew fueled for their adventure. In addition, we provide a water maker, washing machine, microwave oven, gas hob, diesel heater, and a drying cabinet to keep your sailing gear dry and ready for use.

Urchin is designed by Ed Joy who was formerly Senior Sailing Yacht Designer in the office of the legendary Chuck Paine. The design is called the “Good Hope 56” denoting her 56ft length. Her sister ships Seal (owned by Hamish and Kate Laird) and ArcticEarth (formally Eva) already have reputations in Antarctica and the Arctic as capable expedition vessels.

Urchin was built on the lessons learned through their development, incorporating some design elements to increase her practicality and a ‘keep-it-simple’ design philosophy. In one sense, Urchin’s systems are agricultural in their ability to be repaired and maintained with limited resources at sea, all while having state-of-the-art design to ensure sailing efficiency, safety and performance.

Once the design was finalised, the building process began. Jacobs Bros at that time had just completed Eva at their premises in Grassy Park, Cape Town, South Africa. Stuart had considered many builders, but on seeing the workmanship of Eva, decided that Jacobs Bros would be the ideal builders of Urchin.

Fuad Jacobs, and his sons, Sieraj & Taariq Jacobs agreed to take on Urchin with the goal of producing a complete build of hull, deck and fittings as well as the interior and machinery and equipment installations. The technical skills and professionalism of Jacobs Bros can be seen in every element of Urchin’s construction. We are grateful to Jacobs Bros for their passion, commitment to excellence, and contributions to the construction of Urchin.

Sub-contractors Southern Spars and North Sails provided the spars and sails to complete Urchins and have done an equally fine job.

Hull: Urchin is an aluminium monohull weighing approx. 28tons with a length of 56ft. She has modern hull shape for speed and a comfortable sea motion. She has a lifting keel and rudder to enter shallow anchorages.

Rig: Urchin is a cutter rig with a 23m high mast. Her main sail has 4 reefs that can be reefed at the mast by a single person using the 2 electric winches, and 1 manual at the mast. She has a twin main sheet system that allows for fine main sheet trimming, and her main sheets lead back to 2 electric winches in the cockpit.

Her cutter rig has a 115% Genoa and a much smaller 50m2 staysail that can be reefed to a storm jib. Her Genoa and stay sail sit on Harken furling units. The furling lines and job sheets run back to primary and secondary electric winches in cockpit.

Her mast is supported by runners leading to manual winches, while an hydraulic kicker helps to de-power the main during reefing, as well as trim the main sail.

Power: Urchin is powered by a John Deer 150HP engine, she has a Cummings diesel genset as a secondary power source. Her solar panels are capable of powering all critical systems on board.

Water & Fuel: Urchins water maker is capable of producing 150l/hour which fill her 1100 litre fresh water tanks. Fuel is stored in a 2100 Litre tank. Everyday Urchin polishes her fuel from her storage tank to her day tank to ensure clean fuel for her engines.

Speed: Urchin has a cruising speed under motor of 7 knots. She is capable of making passages of 150nm per day sailing into the wind while she can exceed 200nm a day running off the wind.

Safety: Urchin has top of the line safety systems some of which are built into her design. Her water tight compartments ensure that the vessel is unsinkable. Water inside Urchin is quickly taken care of with her 13 electric automatic bilge pumps, each connected to an alarm system to identify water ingress. She has a fire suppression system for her engine room which also is confined to a water-tight compartment. Urchin is also capable of sending a distress call anywhere in the world with an array of Satellite phones, EPIRBS, HF and VHF radios and SART’s. Part of her navigation equipment include Chart-plotters, AIS, and Radar to navigate safely in any conditions.

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Meet the team

Stuart Kirk

Director & Captain

Stuart Kirk, owner and captain of Urchin and director in Urchin Sailing Expeditions, commissioned the vessel to fulfil his dream of owning and sailing a high-latitude exploring vessel. As a commercially endorsed SAMSA Yachtmaster with thousands of ocean expedition miles, he has successfully captained Urchin on many voyages and expeditions, establishing it as one of South Africa’s leading expedition vessels.

Jason Mills

Director and Land-based Operations

Jason is a commercially endorsed SAMSA Yachtmaster. He runs the land-based operations for Urchin Sailing Expeditions. He founded Mills Boat Academy and has years of experience sailing around the South African coastline. He works closely with guests to ensure a world-class experience and sometimes joins Urchin as co-skipper.

Charlie Kirk

Captain of the Watch

Charlie is affectionately known onboard as Captain of the Watch.  She is a knowledgeable addition to Urchin’s team, has her Coastal Skipper’s ticket, and being Stuart’s wife, has sailed on Urchin from the day she was launched. Charlie also brings a wealth of skills, as she comes from a legal background, and currently owns Meshuggah Hand Made – her artisan chocolate and confectionery company.


Luxurious and hardy yacht. Enjoyed my 10 days sailing from the roaring 40's to Cape Town. Captain Kirk and Co-skipper Tor were lovely and enjoyed sailing with them. If you're lucky you'll enjoy the excellent food cooked by the land crew that's in the freezer.

Hareen De Silva, Former General Practitioner at National Health Service

Beautiful and comfortable yacht, extremely competent and happy Captain and crew, but what makes Urchin sailing truly stand apart is their heart. Stuart and Charlie make you feel at home with their sincere kindness and yacht-spitality. The only reason I am sad to not be spending 8 more days at sea is I won’t be enjoying their delightful company. Thanks for a great trip.

Megan Dalton, Gough Island Restoration Project

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