Designing crew quarters aboard superyachts

21 January 2015
The crew of E&E: a picture of a happy and content superyacht crew.

The saying ‘Happy crew, happy ship; happy ship, happy owner’ is often heard around shipyards and designer’s offices, but the challenge lies in making this truism come true. One sure-fire way is to expand the crew’s living spaces on board – an enhancement that will be mandatory on many superyachts when the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) comes into effect. But some yachts have taken the initiative to provide exceptionally accommodating crew spaces before any regulatory agency requires it.

‘As a shipyard we try to set as high a standard as possible for the spaces where the crew sleeps and leisures,’ says Michael Breman, Lürssen Yachts’ sales director. ‘Our boats are larger, and therefore it’s easier to lay out a boat in a proper, professional way.

‘Some owners are more generous than others…” he adds, citing the 83.5m Lürssen Northern Star, launched in 2009. She has a two-deck crew area that incorporates a crew mess and lounge on the lower deck and a private crew gym on the tank deck.

Northern Star yacht can accommodate up to 13 crew.

‘What’s special about Northern Star is her owner. He wants to be sure that the crew is happy; that way he keeps his crew,’ Bremen says. ‘He doesn’t want to see new faces all the time.’

Another owner known for his attention to crew comfort is Dennis Washington, who recently transformed the 91.75m Evergreen into the 100m Attessa IV, winner of the 2011 World Superyacht Award for Best Rebuilt Yacht. According to Attessa IV’s captain, Ted McCumber, her crew spaces were enlarged substantially during the rebuild.

‘We actually took away some of the guest areas and made nicer spaces for the crew,’ he says. ‘We spend a lot of time at anchor; without the space we’d go nuts because there are not that many places we can tie up to.’

When Captain McCumber and the owner toured the crew accommodations on Evergreen prior to starting the rebuild, they immediately decided to change the configuration of the cabins.

‘A lot of the staterooms had three bunks, and the boss said, “There’s no way we’re going to do that,”’ says the captain.

Attessa IV accommodates her officers and chef in private staterooms and also has individual cabins for her therapist, pilot and two staff supernumeraries who may come aboard.

Some motor yachts feature a corridor below deck to give crew access to the length of the vessel.

_Attessa IV’_s crew area also features an officer’s mess and a separate lounge for non-English speaking crew.

‘We run with a lot of Filipino crew, so we gave them their own space so they could speak their own language and be comfortable,’ Captain McCumber says. ‘On their time off, it’s hard to speak someone else’s language.’

Even more remarkable is the yacht’s new, two-level combination gym and crew lounge in the bosun’s locker area. The fitness centre features weight sets, heavy bags, treadmills, LifeCycles and stair steppers, while lounge amenities include two flatscreen TVs. It’s also a practice area for Contraband: a band that some of the crew have formed.

‘We can seat about 16 on huge couches and beanbags. It’s really kind of a neat spot where everyone relaxes. The area gets used every single night,’ McCumber says. ‘We probably spent $2 million dollars on that one space. It was a pretty big deal to do what we did.’

Giving the crew their own dedicated deck (or decks) may be common on superyachts in the 100m range, but it’s practically unheard of on smaller vessels. That’s part of what makes the 42m ‘soft expedition’ vessel E&E unique.

On the Turkish-built and Vripack-designed E&E, the master stateroom is on the bridge deck and four guest suites are on the deck just below it. That leaves the entire lower deck – about 39m in length – dedicated to crew use and storage.

‘The main focus of this project is to put the guests on the right level where they should be. If they pay a substantial charter fee, then they should be in premium location,’ says Bart Bouwhuis, Vripack director of design.

When E&E operates with six crew (plus captain), each crewmember has his or her own en suite cabin.

‘This has a perfect crew accommodation, not only cabin-wise and bathroom-wise but also crew lounge-wise,’ Bouwhuis says. ‘This is a crew lounge you would only see on a yacht of 50m – if you were lucky.’

The crew deck also has a good-size laundry room at the foot of the central crew stairs, allowing efficient transport of laundry to and from the upper-deck guest accommodations.

_E&E’_s six en suite crew cabins are configured with bunks, but Bouwhuis says, ‘In daily operation, they will have only one person per cabin.’

If necessary, two crew can double up and make a cabin available for a nanny or other supernumerary staff. Bouwhuis reported that the sleeping arrangements are big enough to meet the MLC 2006’s requirements – and this on a 42m boat.

Vripack pioneered this private crew deck arrangement on the 36.8m expedition yacht Jasmine a decade ago. ‘It has a very high return charter rate,’ Bouwhuis says, but admits, ‘This concept has not been followed – and I don’t know why.’

The 1999 56m Trinity Pangaea (ex-Dream; ex-Samantha Lin) is another example of an expedition yacht with enviable crew quarters. Her raised foc’sle forward is used to house a large crew lounge and mess, leaving space on the lower deck for roomy crew cabins, some with side-by-side berths rather than bunks. Pangaea’s crew also has private access to the exterior decks for outdoor recreation time.

‘We literally had people throw résumé’s on the boat at the Fort Lauderdale show,’ says Billy Smith of Trinity Yachts.

A large crew mess and laundry room round out E&E's crew area.

While traditional ‘white yachts’ typically can’t offer the sort of bonus crew space found on an expedition yacht, several new projects feature innovative owner and guest accommodations that benefit their crew areas in major ways.

Take, for example, Trinity’s 60.3m Areti. On this new launch, the owner’s suite is on the upper deck, where the wheelhouse would be on most yachts of this size. The wheelhouse was moved to the main deck, but raised a few feet above deck level for a better view of the waters ahead. This enabled Trinity’s designers to fit a unique ‘crew upper loft’ deck beneath the wheelhouse and above the lower deck.

The loft area is fitted out with six spacious, double-bed crew cabins that share three heads on the deck below. Her lower deck has two additional bunkrooms with en suite heads, a large laundry and an extra-large crew mess.

‘Trinity’s position on crew,’ Smith says, ‘is that if you have a good crew you are yachting, and if you have a bad crew you are boating – and there’s an enormous difference.’

Even on motor yachts that place both guest and crew quarters on the lower deck, some designers and shipyards are coming up with ergonomic and efficient areas for the crew. The second Picchiotti Vitruvius motor yacht, the 55.8m Galileo G, designed by Philippe Briand in collaboration the Vitruvius team, is a good example. Galileo G’s crew mess is more than 150 square feet, and the laundry is almost that large.

Galileo G's crew quarters are designed with long-term cruising in mind
A private crew gym on the tank deck.

Star Fish has an owner’s deck, complete with swimming pool, which let Marshall turn the valuable real estate on the main deck forward into a home-away-from-home for her crew. In addition to a huge galley, there is a large crew lounge to port – a major change in design from Big Fish, which has its lounge on the lower deck. Star Fish’s crew lounge incorporates a media area/coffee bar, small galley and large dining/meeting area. It features large, floor-to-ceiling windows that would not be physically possible on the lower deck.

On Big Fish, the crew quarters are finished to the level of the guest areas and are similar in décor. But when Marshall asked the crew about the new boat, they surprised him by saying they didn’t want as intricate an interior this time.

‘They wanted an interior with much less maintenance, and in addition, they wanted another décor that designated that they were in their off-time, so that they don’t feel like they are just in another space in the owner’s quarters,’ he says. ‘So the décor in the crew lounge is a bit like a trendy café. It’s decorated like nothing else on the rest of the boat, so it’s purely their space.’

Another improvement that Star Fish offers the crew is private access to the exterior deck.

‘From the crew lounge, they can go directly up onto the deck, instead of having to go through the owner’s spaces,’ Marshall says. ‘They end up with sort of an inside/outside crew space, and on nice days they can let fresh air into the lounge.’

Star Fish is not MLC compliant, ‘but it’s really close,’ Marshall adds. (His next design for this owner, 54m Sword Fish, will be designed to MLC standards.) In Marshall’s opinion, the MLC regulations on outdoor recreation space for crew may have an even bigger impact on superyacht design than the regulations for their sleeping areas. The question for owners, he says, is: ‘Where do you want the crew to hang out outside?’

Update: Star Fish was badly damaged in a yard fire during 2012. Her hull is currently for sale to a buyer who wishes to complete her superstructure.

Showboat International December 2011/January 2012

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