Giving Raised Decks A Higher Profile.

Magyar, drawn in 1926 by Saunders & Roe, shows just the right way to handle a raised deck.

It’s been surprisingly rewarding to turn a naval designer’s warm eye on the vessels short-listed for the 2019 Classic Boat Awards, the global design award that celebrates excellence in classic and modern-classic yachts. Full disclosure: one of our recent boats, Anna was nominated in the Spirit of Tradition category. But the other nominations have design stories, as well. We’ve been cheerily struck by the preponderance of designs featuring raised deck configurations. No fewer than three out of eight short-listed in various power boat categories are full-fledged, throwback designs that feature a classic broken sheer, and an elevated foredeck.

These vintage designs are worth a closer look. Let’s start with Magyar, a 45-foot wooden launch drawn by Saunders-Roe, in the Isle of Wight back in 1939, that features a just-about-perfect execution of a raised deck. Note how the sweep of the foredeck translates elegantly into the after-cabin trunk, and lowered sheerline that leads aft. Look closely at the front of the well-positioned deck house, and you’ll see how neatly both deck and trunk structures are finessed. It might be worth trying to draw those lines yourself. If you do, you might find the secret. Hidden in the delicate, just-off-vertical stem upfront and the cutie of a canoe stern way aft, are the softer vertical elements that frame the central deck structures amidships. The result is a pleasant, well-proportioned vessel. Magyar is registered with the National Historic Register of Ships in the United Kingdom, and saw compulsory service in World War II. Where she fell on hard times. We think she has been restored for all the right reasons.

Countess of Light, from around 1933, is not shy about raising decks, cabin trunks … and more decks.

Also worth the study is Herbert Wood’s Countess of Light, circa 1933. This entertaining design takes a raised deck and cabin trunk to a completely new level. Literally. Starting upfront, with the stem, is an extra-high stemhead that feels like bloodied vikings might be lurking nearby. That’s the structure that allows the raised deck to diverge from the sheer by an additional 30 percent of  the hull’s freeboard. And if that seriously-raised deck is not raised enough, the structure supports an additional half-cabin trunk, that looks like the roof windows from the New York City’s old IRT Local Subway line. This multi-level raised-deck structure then charges aft to do battle with complex mid-ship structures that include a second mini-trunk, a not-so-shy pilot house and yet more trunking aft. There are charges and defeats and smoking ruins everywhere. And on one level this boat is Picasso meets Lake Boat meets Marvel Comics. But on another, Countess of Light, celebrates what a raised deck can do, for those are not shy about the possibilities.

And for that, dear Countess, we salute you!

Why A Raised Deck Make Sense.

So let’s take a look at the design logic underlying a deck getting raised in the first pace. In any boat bigger than an open dinghy, there will always be pressure to increase internal volume for the shelter and creature comforts of the crew. Headroom below is what makes for a good cruising boat. And usually, this increase in internal volume and height can be achieved by adding a cabin trunk above the conventional sweeping sheerline and continuous bow-to-stern weatherdeck. We’ve all walked forward on these side-decks, that run next to the cabin trunk to grab mooring lines, tie up alongside a dock or deploy fenders.

This design study for Paradigm shows that raised decks offer dryer decks, more space and ease of construction.

But a standard recessed cabin trunk has downsides. First, cabin trunks are complicated. There are additional corner posts, cabin beams, and tricky engineering solutions. Second, cabin trunks cover a big old hole to be cut into the deck, a deck that is an essential structural element of the boat. The cabin trunk therefore, must be strong enough to provide structural continuity across that hole in the deck. That structural detail requires yet more reinforcements, engineering and time to build. Third, the cabin trunk has to be crafted without interfering with the side-decks and foredeck, both of which need to be spacious enough for convenient on-deck maneuvering.

You can try scrimping on the cabin trunk, to make for bigger a foredeck and easier anchoring work, or sail changes, but then life below could become one nasty head banger after another. Or you can skinny-up the foredeck to cut down on the below-deck concussions, but every single trip forward can be an opportunity to go for an unplanned swim.

That’s good logic for eliminating the cabin trunk by raising the  deck edge sheer with the hull  high enough to create that desired interior volume. This does away with awkward side-deck conundrum entirely. The sheerline is then firmly “broken,” — that is, it’s made discontinuous — at a logical point in the design. And the higher foredeck walks proudly forward, towards the stem. This sheer ”break” transition has often been accomplished with some kind of sweet shape, like a tight sweeping curve, that connects the raised deck with the lowered sweeping deckline aft.

But sometimes other shapes fair the two sheerlines together, say the large inverted “powder-horn” sweep of a classic American sportfisherman.

Why Take a Raise.

Done right, raised decks can be make serious style statement, like this study for Citronella.

Once over the logical hump for a raised deck, it’s easy to list the benefits for the concept.

  • More interior volume, with headroom all the way out to the sheer.
  • Simpler construction that is unfettered by an intrusive trunk.
  • Stronger deck beams that offer better support for decking and vessel hull structure.
  • A drier boat, that features additional freeboard forward.
  • A boat that is easier to work aboard and maneuver.

While you do need to step up to get on the foredeck, once there your movement is unencumbered. You are safer and well above the water and the waves.

Most importantly to us, we dig the bold and distinctive style of a raised deck configuration. These raised structures need to be designed and built carefully. But if care is taken, a raised deck can be just the ticket to make good a boat a classic.

To see our take on the raised deck design, take a look at our “Citronella”, Kodiak”, and “Paradigm” concepts sketches, here.

It’s just the right kind of strong “retro” feel we like to see in an ultramodern, powerful luxury yacht.