Not-so-Benign Design

26 October 2010 By Lucie Ferrer

With so many new yachts being built, you might imagine that by now designers and shipyards would have worked out how to make them not only comfortable and attractive to owners but also practical spaces for the crew to live and work in. Unfortunately, as we know all too well, that isn’t always the case.

There are certain designers and builders who are well renowned for placing the emphasis on style over practicality, or for that matter, logic. Speaking in generalities, most crew give a hearty bunch of tulips to Dutch boats but shake their heads and say “Mama Mia” when it comes to re-living seasons spent working on their Italian counterparts. The fact of the matter is that when it comes to building yachts what the owners want is, as ever, all that matters; the crew just have to learn to live with the results.

One chef described his experience of having the “plastic fantastic” he was working on rushed out of the shipyard by overzealous owners before the galley was fully operational. Having provisioned for a week’s cruise and a busy owners’ trip, he was horrified to find that the fridges froze everything solid whilst the freezers could only manage to partially freeze items in some areas whilst others regions were colder than space and froze everything to well beyond the point of reasonable resuscitation. He had to keep the fridges slightly ajar to prevent things from freezing and could only use certain corners of the freezer, ensuring food was well insulated in Tupperware containers to protect the contents from frost-bite. What little food that hadn’t already been ruined was lost in heavy weather when the fridges that couldn’t be properly closed emptied their contents up the crew stairs during the night.

Lack of storage is a big complaint across all departments. At times entire rooms are sacrificed if the owners can’t see the benefits of losing that space to the crew. A chief stewardess says the owners of the vessel she worked on opted to reclaim the pantry space in favor of making it a beauty salon/massage room, which needless to say was never used. The stewardesses had to use the galley and crew mess to prep and serve guests, a space invasion that naturally had a negative effect on the whole crew.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the owners, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the laundry room was also a waste of space and turned it into a steam room/sauna. Although, any stew who has spent days at the coalface of the rolling machine and ironing board would argue that that isn’t a massive leap anyway. The washers and dryers had to be re-housed in the engine room, to the engineers’ delight, and to the stews had to do the ironing in their cabin from then on. Nothing like bringing your work home with you, eh girls….

The deck department has their own set of woes, including systems for launching tenders and jet skis which leave much to be desired in terms of safety and practicality. One deckhand described how the tender garage on his boat was too small to comfortably house both the tenders and the mechanism with which to launch them, meaning that someone always has to hang over the edge of the swim platform and “encourage” the toys into the water – a particularly dangerous endeavor in big swells or high winds. The best part for him was that the owners have commissioned another, larger yacht which is being built with the exact same design flaw, on a bigger scale. Bravo.

We can dream that one day the needs of the crew will take priority in the design of yachts, but until the day that Satan skis to work and pigs with wings circle overhead all we can do is to try to make the best of things and help each other overcome the daily headaches caused by poor design and planning.

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