Designing for children on board superyachts

Fifteen years ago, a client with four small, active children approached Hargrave Custom Yachts to design a 19.8m Monte Fino motor yacht. The owner asked the build team to incorporate an aft deck enclosure much like a batters’ cage that would keep his children safely ‘contained’.

Aboard for the first time, the owner surveyed the enclosure, asked if it was strong enough, and then proceeded to launch his 210-pound frame against the screen blocking the steps to the swim platform. As he bounced back he concluded, ‘That’ll do.’

During the demonstration his five year-old had set off to explore the interior. Within 30 seconds the port engine fired up.

Without missing a beat the owner muttered, ‘We’ll have to do something about the bridge, too.’

Anyone who has young children understands the patience necessary to venture out to something as innocuous as a grocery store with them in tow. The thought of bringing them aboard a moving vessel might seem completely impossible. Yet, before you change your lifestyle, know that it’s feasible to take small children cruising safely and without losing sanity.

Vessel type plays an important role in the design consideration. Sailing yachts, with their open decks and tendency to heel, might provoke the most trepidation for parents, yet today’s emphasis on safety and comfort in every area of the design and build makes sailing yachts an increasingly popular choice for families, especially those who want their children to experience nature up close and personal.

The 2001 Abeking & Rasmussen Alithia was built for a first-time owner who wanted to take his family – five children ranging in age from 5 to 14 – on a two-year circumnavigation. Every detail was carefully calculated for this purpose in this high-performance sloop. She featured a lightweight Alustar hull designed by Bill Tripp whose long waterline afforded not only a stable platform, but good response and manoeuvrability.

When children are considered at the design stage, it is easy to incorporate special accommodations for them. Andrew Winch designed the interior of Alithia to house a maximum of 18 people, including the family, two teachers, security personnel, the crew and two occasional guests. The children were housed aft in a five-berth stateroom that included a large worktable and six computer workstations.

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