American Yachts and Shipbuilding’s Genesis — By
Diane M. Byrne — January 2003
|Welcome aboard Genesis, whose wheelchair-friendly spaces top a list of truly innovative features.|
Stick around the yacht business long enough, and you're apt to hear people make grand promises about bringing something new and different to the market. Inevitably, however, you find that the "revolutionary" design amounts to a disappointing blink-and-you-miss-it styling change, or the hyped accommodations plan is simply full of that, hype.
This is not one of those stories.
Instead, this is a story about a group of industry veterans--a yacht owner, a designer, and two build consultants/project managers (one a captain)--who from personal experience felt important features were missing from megayachts being built today and decided to construct a fleet on spec that incorporated them. They christened their business North American Yachts & Shipbuilding (NAYS), and the first fruit of their efforts, the 153-foot Genesis, is turning the heads of yachtsmen and yes, even other builders.
But it's not just the distinctive Ralph Lauren Home interior that everyone's discussing--although it is a first for that renowned company, and it is rare for a yacht-building team to go outside the traditional Fort Lauderdale design crowd. People also aren't just discussing the exceptional safety features (some to fulfill MCA requirements, others solely because NAYS wanted them)--although the Hi-Fog fire-suppression system connected to 600 sensors throughout is certainly noteworthy, targeting a fire's origin instead of soaking the whole vessel. No, the standout feature is the seamless way the yacht's four levels of social areas are wheelchair-accessible. I've been aboard yachts where one of the owners was disabled, but either the boats were much smaller or (sad to say) only the main deck was navigable. Genesis marks the first time I'm aware of a yacht being built on spec to provide this type of access.
While I'd met a few of the NAYS principals before, I didn't just take their word for it. I toured the yacht twice, the second time with Harry Horgan, executive director of Shake-a-Leg Miami, and his father. Shake-a-Leg is a nonprofit organization that runs therapeutic programs and recreational activities for disabled and able-bodied people alike. An avid sailor who sustained a spinal cord injury as a young adult, Horgan teaches kids and adults how to sail onboard specially equipped craft.
On the day of our tour, Genesis was docked side-to, but unlike most yachts this didn't present an access problem for Horgan. A custom ramp (which stylist and space planner Luiz de Basto says evolved from "dozens of storyboards," not just drawings) led to the specially designed lifting platform at the stern, which at the touch of a button rose to the aft deck. (If Genesis had been stern-to, a one-piece, extra-wide passarelle, complete with high siderails and a ramp that screws in at each end, would have done the trick. And if we'd launched the tender, the crew could have deployed another ramp that leads from the swim platform to the customized 22-foot Novurania.)
Another touch of a button (contained within a stainless steel NAYS compass rose logo) opened the door to the saloon, revealing the first challenge to Horgan's wheelchair, albeit a minor one. Because of MCA safety regulations, all entries from the exterior of the yacht must have raised sills to prevent water intrusion. Horgan was able to get the wheels up and over it, but he pointed out that other individuals might have difficulty navigating the entry. Doug Hoogs, one of the NAYS project managers and a captain, co-project manager Roberto Lottino, and de Basto listened intently, and de Basto even demonstrated how he could design a small, snap-in-place ramp that could stow in a cabinet when not needed.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.