2: Handicapped-Accessible Boat
By Richard Thiel — November 2001
Melton's creation, the 70,000-pound Unlimited, measures 86 feet with an 18-foot beam and a 31⁄2-foot draft. Fabricated of 5086 marine-grade aluminum, she's powered by a pair of 200-hp Volvo Penta AD41P diesels, which are mounted in an insulated housing in the stern to reduce ambient noise and vibration. Mated to Duoprop drives they produce a modest 11-knot cruising speed. At that speed, Melton says, range should be well in excess of 400 miles, even with the 20-kW Westerbeke genset running, given the boat's 300-gallon fuel capacity. Bow and stern thrusters provide effortless close-quarters maneuvering, assisted by a stern-facing audio/video system with helm display.
There are two helms, an exposed one on the bridge and an enclosed one in the main saloon. Both are wheelchair-accessible, yet comfortable for an able-bodied captain to use while seated in the helm chair. Either way, the helmsman will enjoy good sight lines forward while seated. Instruments and gauges are tilted to allow a clear view from a lower height, and the Volvo-Penta engine and thruster controls are mounted on an extended arm to make them easy to reach. Electronics below include Raymarine chartplotter-GPS and depthsounder and Standard Horizon VHF; a portable Standard RAM Mic provides VHF communications on the bridge, and both stations have full Volvo Penta instrument panels. Other systems include a Trace inverter, Headhunter II MSD, and an electronic corrosion protection system to shield the hull against electrolytic corrosion. Unlimited also carries 200 gallons of fresh water and has a 300-gallon holding tank.
Naturally Melton was concerned that his boat be easy to board, so there are four doors, all 3'4" wide. One is at the transom for stern-to docking, and there are port and starboard portals just forward of that. All open onto the stern deck, which has room for lounge furniture as well as for guests using mobility aids such as wheelchairs or electric scooters. The principal opening is forward of amidships and provides easy access to either the forward stairway to the bridge or to the saloon.
Inside, the centerpiece of the layout is an electro-hydraulic elevator that provides passage between the main deck and bridge. It runs off the genset but also has battery backup and manual override and can accommodate one wheelchair along with two ambulatory guests; there is also a spiral staircase at the stern for the nonimpaired. Additional passage is forward on the starboard side via a staircase. Three feet wide and with a gradual grade and sturdy handrail, it provides easier access to the upper deck than the more decorative aft spiral staircase and also serves as an emergency exit to lower wheelchair users from topside in case of a failure of the elevator.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.