Aboard the Mega Yacht Pushbutton | Showboats

Design Showcase

 How the mega yachting community is acquiring better living through circuitry.


Louis as Dante by Valery Rockwell, Mixed Media
Louis as Dante by Valery Rockwell, Mixed Media

Louis Postel

One just assumes that any gadget works.

Especially at sea where it sort of has to work.

 Otherwise, owners would simply condemn the dang thing to walk the proverbial plank.

The real challenge for yacht designers and technos today in ’08 is how to make any kind of automation truly elegant – an experience as sleek, user-friendly and beautifully-designed as the vessel itself. Call it the IPod Epoch of the Digital Age, the new universal standard for intuitive ease. An Ipod-ish remote control from Lantic Systems, for example, really feels good in your hand, solid and round like a perfectly smooth skipping stone with just the right heft and shape for curling your forefinger neatly around.

Called affectionately the Lantic Puck, you just can’t help diddling with it like some sort of Rubik’s cube while alternately issuing rapid-fire commands: – “raise drapes and lights for the Sunrise Scenario”, “find and play Yo Yo Ma’s Bach Cello Suites in reverse order”, “surf the net for restaurants in Monaco before we dock in twenty minutes.”

And, now, once this has been accomplished, imagine stepping into the shower. You’ve just turned on the spray when there’s heard a gentle knock. A stewardess arrives with an espresso. What to do? Well, thanks to a high-tech glass called Priva Lite, you simply touch a button and the glass fogs up completely. Embarrassment easily avoided. Then from the bathroom mirror appears a TV screen – you can catch CNBC’s Squawk on the Street without having to hustle back to dripping wet to the stateroom. Actually when it is time to dry off, you could plant yourself before a roaring French limestone fireplace just like the one on Microsoft Paul Allen’s Tatoosh 301’. Is it dangerous? No, not at all, mate, because, glass doors will automatically seal off those dancing, licking flames if/ when the boat ever rolls.

Winning Lloyd’s of London’s seal of approval was a challenge recalls Tatoosh’s interior designer Tom Achille of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. In a way the Tatoosh –now eighty years young — was the perfect ship on which to demonstrate the luxury and comfort of push-button living. Its original owner, mobile phone magnate Craig McCaw, possessed the wherewithal and savvy to employ all the known geniis of automation and to set the standard for M/Y’s in the coming millennium.

For a prime example of how the effect of a great gadget can so improve an owner’s life consider the little remote on the night table of the Tatoosh master suite.  It controls the matchstick shades across the windows as well as the nubby silk blackout shades that create three different compartments out of this vast, full-beam space. You can work late while your partner sleeps. That’s the idea which now seems commonplace, but says Achille, “it would have been totally impractical to do manually.” In other words, he would have had to divide up the master with walls – an entirely different proposition.

All this was in 2000, of course. What gadgets might Achille install in his next Tatoosh?

The Tatoosh

“I like the automatic closets,” he says. “You have these racks and rails with the dry cleaning in them where you can punch in the outfit you want for the afternoon right on your  computer; say D-39 the pink suit, purple scarf and red shoes. Prive Glass which fogs up at the touch of a button is something we are doing in homes that’s perfect for yachts as well. Shower enclosures, sky lights – anywhere where you sometimes need privacy. Especially if you don’t want any kind of window covering, shades or drapes. You want everything very clean and streamlined. And when you want the light and the view of the ever-changing scene outside your window – the living art that yachting’s all about — you can get it just by simply hitting ‘De-Fog’.

Marco Struik of Struik Hamerslag Yacht Interiors and Refits in The Netherlands heads up interior production for such marvels as Lady Christina, Mirabella V, Lady in Blue and others. He agrees with Achille that Priva Lite glass offers brilliant design enrichments with its ability to change magically from opaque to translucent. “On the Trinity’s Marlena 144’ we would have had a labyrinth situation if this glass didn’t exist. The galley would have had to have been totally separated off from the dining room.” Now with the new electronic glass sandwich “Marlene maintains its open structure and a view of the galley without any of the smells and that sort of thing.” Infra red controlled automatic doors save wait staff the trouble of having to push down a lever while holding a serving platter.

As the heart of keeping things simple and streamlined, Struik sees the Crestron remote control system (comparable to Lantic) as “a great development. In the past you had to have twenty different remotes for video, TV, air-conditioning, etc. Now you can have one device per area.” And that’s huge.  Think of all the aggregate storage space – all the nifty custom-made drawers in every room – required to store those twenty remotes!

But what happens if the control of this one remote happens to become contested? You want to watch this and your teenage son wants to watch that? “I would say the one that gets there first probably gets the controls. That’s a good rule of the sea I think”, says retirement community developer Charles Mann III, who’s quite pleased with the Lantic Pucks on his Royal Denship.  The gadgets are “pretty much fool-proof. And I am not a computer-savvy person.  I didn’t even have a computer till two years ago when I was forced to by the younger people that work for me. I expected it to be more difficult, but it’s almost overly-simple. ”

Mike Kelsey is the CEO of Palmer Johnson. He sees gadgets like the Lantic Puck (and the Lantic touch screen walls units) as speaking a universal language. Guests on yachts may know nothing about yachts, but entertainment and other experiences are something they understand instantly. Great gadgets make for an instant WOW. “They all gather ‘round and talk about them. It really heightens the experience on board. The Lantic Puck on our boats is something everyone likes to hold on to and play with. The more you play with it the more you figure out how many functions it has. It brings everything together. It’s the kind of thing we dreamed of as kids being able to do but the technology just wasn’t there. Should you experience a glitch of any kind as you roam the high seas, 24/7 Lantic technicians in Denmark can go into your system wirelessly, analysis it and fix it, “as long as it’s software. Broken hardware’s a different story.”

“I can recall in my decades of building boats how neat it used to be to just to fit a great, big video cassette recorder into a piece of joinery,” says Kelsey, “You needed a separate remote to turn it on, and another for the amplifier and so on. Pretty soon you have a drawer full of remotes. And inevitably someone loses one; or when the battery goes dead steals one and puts it in another. And it’s all a nightmare. Now you can control everything while holding a drink or a baby in your lap.”

There’s something cool and elegant about this image of suave dexterity unleashed by high tech. Gadgets need to do what they’re supposed to do – natch — in this IPod/Lantic/Crestron/Priva Lite Epoch we’re now in. But they do more. Much more.  The new gadgets are designed to make you feel like a million bucks, like you’ve got the world quite literally in the palm of your hand and what else is the whole wide M/Y experience meant to be but that?