That's why the Heatleys and the Lazzaras are so proud of Serenity. Not only does a custom-designed ramp replace the side-to passerelle when needed, but the boarding gate is a few inches wider to permit Pam access to the yacht. As of this writing, less than a month after delivery, Pam has used it a few times without difficulty.
And it doesn't stop there. A staircase forward and to port by the dining area that yields access to all of the staterooms except for the VIP (Nancy's room, accessed separately via the galley) includes a chair lift. The setup incorporates a seat mounted on rails that in turn follow the curve of the staircase's wall and end at the guest foyer. Sounds simple, but in reality, Brad says, it was "a bit more complicated" than the modifications mentioned above. The Lazzara team supplied a series of drawings to a vendor specializing in chair lifts to ensure that the one for Serenity would work properly. Brad adds that the stair design did need to be modified somewhat but that "the compromises are barely noticed" in comparison to the initial drawings, and the revision process went relatively smoothly thanks to the use of CAD in house and the vendor's cooperation. In addition, he says, the yard built preliminary mockups to understand how the chair lift would look and operate.
Once the chair lift arrives at the base of the stairs, Pam's stateroom is right there, designed with a 30-inch-wide door instead of the standard 26-inch one as well as a sliding shower door and a lower-than-usual sink in the en suite head. However, the sink isn't so low as to make anyone else feel uncomfortable using it, and if Chris hadn't pointed out how much wider the doorway was, I never would have noticed it. The bulkhead separating Pam's stateroom from Kim's adjacent stateroom additionally has double doors in the middle, which can be kept open if she needs assistance—or for late-night giggle sessions like schoolgirls. (Kim and a longtime friend from Minnesota who was onboard during my visit did exactly that.)
Other changes don't have as big an impact on the use of Serenity but were still important to the Heatleys. If you're familiar with the interior main-deck design of the Lazzara 80 (a model since replaced by the 84), you'll recall that the saloon and dining area were delineated by buffet-like cabinetry topped with columns. Chris, Kim, and Nancy all wanted an open layout this time around, certainly to ease Pam's passage but also for aesthetics. The Lazzara team's thinking was right in line: The columns and cabinets are gone, allowing the aft seating areas to flow easily forward to a drinks/games table and bar, then further forward to the dining area. And Nancy convinced Chris to forego the dark wood and fabric tones that had highlighted the 80: "It went from a Chicago steakhouse to an open, airy look," she says.
The galley features another change inspired by the 80, but this time in a positive way. "Mom and I love cooking," Chris explains, and they especially liked the 80's galley because of its swept-back forward windows. But Lazzara's original vision for 116 didn't incorporate these, so Nancy requested a skylight similar to the one aboard the 75 LSX Quad. The result is a vertical swath that spills light directly down to the C-shape dining spot. It also brightens the cooking area, equipped with an oven and warming trays, a side-by-side refrigerator and freezer as well as additional freezer drawers that can serve as refrigerator drawers instead. If the light becomes too intense or the weather just doesn't warrant it, the skylight turns opaque or can be concealed behind a shade, both at the flick of a switch.
Because the Heatleys plan to both charter the yacht and spend a lot of time together onboard, the three cabins for the captain and crew that Lazzara incorporated into the original design are a plus. But a problem arose a few weeks into the process. Even though the setup included one more cabin compared to the 80, and the staterooms were positioned aft instead of forward, Chris says he still assumed he'd have two pod-like stowage spots for PWCs, one on each side of the transom. It was a natural assumption, considering these are a hallmark of Lazzara Yachts. Meanwhile, Dick had designed the 116 without the port-side pod. Once Chris discovered the discrepancy, "it was a point of contention,"he says, but he quickly credits Dick with "working hard" to re-engineer the entire transom to make it work. And it does. In recent months I've been aboard megayachts 15 feet longer that had both smaller crew cabins and a smaller crew mess. Although two of Serenity's crew staterooms share a head, they're still adequate in elbow room. The trick Dick employed to accommodate the extra watertoy was to raise the single berth in one of these cabins about four feet. The other cabin has standard-style bunk berths. Meanwhile, the captain gets a double-berth stateroom with an en suite head.
The captain, Scott Gaffga, had his hands full when Serenity was to depart Miami for Fort Lauderdale the morning of the christening. The weather was snottier than expected, with wind gusts over 20 mph and four- to six-footers. After relaying the conditions to Chris and assessing the comfort level of the rest of us, he decided to run the outside route, in the Atlantic, instead of the ICW. The 116 (with stabilizers, of course) handled the conditions well over the next hour and a half. Gaffga kept us running mostly at 21 knots, with only an occasional bang and no shuddering. He says she's topped out around 28 knots in calm conditions.
A few hours after he and the crew had Serenity tied up at Pier 66, friends, family, and representatives from Lazzara arrived for the christening. Chris and Nancy each gave heartfelt speeches about what it meant to build their "dream yacht" and what it felt like to be welcomed into the Lazzara family. And Brad gave an equally heartfelt speech, saluting the Heatleys for their ideas and collaboration. But every so often, I'd notice one person with a particulary joyous smile beaming from her face. If her expression changed at all during the ceremony, I didn't see it, and I doubt anyone else did, either.
With apologies to the Lazzara family's culinary skills, all the pasta in the world pales in comparison to that smile on Pam's face. But I'm sure neither Dick nor Brad mind.
For more information on Lazzara Yachts, including contact information, click here.
This article originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.