Let there be light

US leisure vessel designer Ted Fontaine tells Ship & Boat International how his antipathy towards dark, below-deck living spaces inspired the design of the new, single-level Surfari 53 coastal cruiser

Surfari 53 cockpit

"Play, eat, sleep, swim and sail"; it's a mantra that Ted Fontaine, naval architect and owner of Rhode Island-based Fontaine Design Group, believes that leisure craft should abide by, albeit one that may have been forgotten a tad too often in today's market.

Seeking to combine the high performance expected of a competitive racing vessel with the comfortable, spacious environment typical of family-oriented leisure cruisers, Fontaine Design Group's new Surfari 53 design incorporates a single-level floor plan, placing the cockpit, helm and control stations on the same plain as the living / entertaining area, primarily to promote what the company terms 'an active outdoor lifestyle', as well as offering an aesthetically attractive and light environment for users entertaining at dockside.

"Perhaps it's my age but I have grown to despise going up and down companionway stairs to get to the dark interior of the typical sailboat, especially when sailing shorthanded [as a couple] or alone." Fontaine tells Ship & Boat International

"A common lifestyle pattern, at least here in the US and other places I have visited in temperate climates, is that most homes are laid out where the kitchen is the grand room, the place where people tend to congregate, and where hopefully the space is bright and filled with light, and has a direct connection to an outdoor living space. However, on boats, the spaces are typically completely divided, in most cases by solid wall, small hole and steep steps. Every time that somebody wants to nibble on some food or fetch a drink, they must enter the dark belly of the boat, up and down the stairs all the time.

"There had to be a better way. With the Surfari 53, I set out to build a boat that would be the answer to those who share the same needs as I do - be it for a day, a weekend or a week of coastal cruising. I wanted a boat that can be handled by one or two people, yet also be capable of accommodating family for extended voyages or afternoon adventure. And, of course, it had to be pretty."


The Surfari 53 concept could also boost safety, he adds. By incorporating a single level from the twin steering wheels to the forward enclosed saloon, galley and navigational / command area, the pilot is able to keep a constant eye on sea conditions on lengthy passages, and move inside and outside of the living area without losing his or her bearings. "I imagined that the interior was nothing more than an extension of the wide open cockpit," he says. The natural step to take, then, was to include the 'interior' on the same level as the cockpit.

The vessel concept was developed by Fontaine in cooperation with Peder Eidsgaard, director of London, UK-headquartered leisure craft specialist Eidsgaard Design. Measuring 17.2m loa x 4.65m, the Surfari 53 features glass sliding doors to further bolster the aesthetic appearance of space and brightness, and futher 'blurring the line between interior and exterior", Fontaine says.

Two helm stations have been factored into the design, both featuring carbon fibre wheels and situated aft of sofa-style settees. These stations will house navigational repeaters for the radar, as well as chart plotter and autopilot, and engine controls for the vessel's twin Volvo D2-75 diesel models, each rated 57.4kW, and each driving a folded four-blade propeller. When the cruiser is operating in engine mode, speeds of more than 11 knots will be achievable, Fontaine predicts.

The single level living quarters will feature: a wet bar area; a convertible dining table, situated to port; a TV, fitted to a lifting platform; and a helm control station, forward to starboard.

The Surfari 53 will have the capacity to sleep six people in three private cabins, below deck, comprising a full-width master cabin and two twin guest cabins. Each guest cabin has an oversized lower double berth, with a second single berth outboard and above, complete with a hanging locker and drawer space. An oversized shower area has been included for guests in these rooms, while a private shower facility is included within the master cabin.


The below deck area also features a galley, equipped with microwave oven, fridge and freezer, a sink and a three-ring cooking surface. Fontaine adds: "For the occasional guest or extra children, the dining area can sleep one and the cockpit seats two more, for a total of nine people." The cabins can also be customized to suit any special needs or requests the owner might have.

Fontaine continues: "It was critical to have designated storage to carry stand up paddle boards, surfboards and kayaks, so the family can enjoy the destination as much as they enjoy the journey. The twin engines will each be housed in an insulated compartment that is located under the port and starboard cockpit seats. Each insulated compartment is in excess of 3.5m3, providing more than enough space for the engines and miscellaneous mechanical gear."

Meanwhile, the area directly under the cockpit itself will be reserved for the aforementioned "water toys," offering 6.5m3 of space.  An extra 2.2m3 of space is available underneath the saloon/galley for galley stores and supplies, and this space sits on top of the built-in tanks and machinery.

Other vessel capacities include 5.7 tonnes for ballast, 1,135 litres for fresh water, and black and gray water capacities are intended to amount to 225 litres each. North Sails will provide the vessel's Dyneema-toughened sails. The hull will be constructed from epoxy resin-infused composites, with Core-cell foams with solid laminate being added to the hull bottom, as well as in way of the keel and centreline. Core-cell foams will also reinforce the Surfari 53's high load areas.

Now, all that remains is for Fontaine Design Group to secure its first order. "The primary market is here on the US Eastern seaboard, and the Pacific Northwest, where coastal cruising amongst the islands and inlets is predominant," says Fontaine, adding that the finished vessel could also make an ideal choice for Caribbean-based motor sailing vacations. SBI