Industry » Features » New Builds: Functional Crew Mess Design

New Builds: Functional Crew Mess Design

Jodie Clarke SOS

All too often the functional spaces on board a yacht are designed by people who are proficient in design and have the best intentions but have never been crew.

Actual on board experience living, working in, and utilising these spaces can provide valuable perspective that shouldn't be overlooked. Functional spaces with good flow streamline day-to-day operations and enable the crew to spend more time providing exceptional service.

The crew who are afforded the opportunity to provide input into design need to keep in mind that there will nearly always be restrictions with both space and budget. Space is at a premium and everyone wants more than they've been allocated. Plus, it's very rare that an owner allows an unlimited budget. Additionally, there are likely to be some logistical restrictions when it comes to placement of equipment due to engineering, plumbing, bulk heads, and safety features.

It can be challenging to come up with a good layout with all these obstacles but patience, persistence, and logic will pay off in the end.

Crew mess 600Pictured: Delta installed flip-up extensions on both ends of these tables to increase seating capacity without closing off the whole area. There's storage under all the bench seats and this is accessibly through cupboard doors on the mini benches. The corner of the Bain Marie is visible on the counter. 


The flow and layout of the crew mess design is critical to the success of the space as a workable area. The majority of the crew will flock to the crew mess around the same time for meals so the ability to handle high traffic efficiently is imperative. If your design caters to these peak traffic meal times, the rest of the day will be a breeze.

The deck crew will come in from the hot sun (and the engineers from a hot engine room) and a cold drink will be their priority. If they're able to get their glass and beverage without fighting through the crew, who are lined up to plate food, it will assist in functional movement of the crew.

Think the whole period through along this line and place the plates and cutlery as close as possible to where the food will be served. You want the crew to be able to get their drink, put it on the table, plate up their food, add condiments, grab cutlery, and not have to double back.

Have breakfast items and condiments in cupboards above the food counter so that they're convenient. Keep the sink and dishwashers together but in a location that doesn't restrict the pathway of crew or view of the safety monitors and television.

Preferably the crew should also be able to leave the table without having to interrupt too many people still eating, and get to the rubbish bin, sink and dishwasher without crossing through people still plating up or going back for seconds.

Laurel Crew Mess plan 600

Let's Talk about Equipment Fit Out

Installing a boiling and chilled filter tap in the crew mess alleviates the need to store massive quantities of bottled water for the crew, keeps the refrigerator free of clutter, and spares you from using a kettle. Many filter taps also have the option to introduce healthy minerals since these are often lost due to the highly efficient water making systems on yachts.

Soda fountains are also a very sensible addition. The quality of the product might not be quite as good as what you get in a can but the convenience of the system and the storage it gives you for other things certainly make up for that. The syrups are available worldwide and you can provide several options at once. The added bonus is that this system is environmentally friendly.

For practical purposes, place the ice machine as close to the water and soda fountain as possible. Although we have no personal experience, we recently read that water-cooled ice machines are substantially quieter than traditional models and are well worth considering.

Your beverage station would not be complete without a sophisticated coffee machine. We don't pretend to be experts on coffee machines but we can give you a few handy hints on what not to do. First, be wary of those lovely big industrial machines that you see in the cafes in Italy. They're great but they usually have a 'minimum' requirement of around 300 coffees per day and if they're not used to that capacity they become a nightmare for the engineering department. Do you really want your crew buzzing around on 300 espressos a day?

Rec room crew area 600Also, try to keep it simple for the crew to operate. The more manual the process the messier it's going to get. Automatic 'press a button' style machines solve this problem but the pods can be expensive and you do need to check that they'll be available in the areas you expect to cruise.

Some serious consideration needs to be given to the dishwashers you install. Miele is a quality brand that has a very strong presence on yachts, so they're a strong contender but sometimes the cycle length can be a bit frustrating. Short cycle dishwashers usually require the tank (basin at the bottom) to be filled with water which definitely does not work when you're in choppy seas. The drawer systems are usually too small for a large crew.

So what do you choose? We found that having one Miele and one short cycle Hobart worked well. Between the two you can fit all the plates and glasses from a single crew meal period for 25 plus and you're also able to use the Hobart to wash and sterilise all the serving platters.

By the time you cycle items through the Hobart and clean the crew mess, the Miele has also finished and is ready to be unpacked. When you hit rough seas you drain the Hobart but still have the Miele available.

Be sure to have the shipyard install stainless protective frame over any timber surrounding the Hobart. The basin water gets very hot and produces steam that damages timber finishes.

We highly recommend a waterless hot/cold Bain Marie for serving the crew meals. The benefits include:

  • The ability to keep food both hot and cold

  • Lineup at the microwave no longer occurs

  • Everything is safely stowed for sea through the whole service

  • The chef can prepare food directly in the stainless pans that insert into the Bain Marie (lasagna, etc)

  • Food is kept at a safe temperature for the full lunch period

  • Transparent lids that fit snugly on the insert can be used on leftovers and placed directly into the fridge

  • Less dishes for everyone - what's not to like about that!

When the Bain Marie is not in use the compartments are covered with flat stainless lids.

The shipyard will be able to provide you with some good commercial refrigeration options. If you have a soda and water fountain you won't need as much refrigeration space. Think about what you are going to need to store in the fridge and choose an appropriate size and model. Make sure the Bain Marie inserts fit (these can be stacked on top of each other) and consider what (if any) size freezer you need. The compressor noise and the loud sound of the commercial unit doors being closed are often overlooked. If the unit is placed on a wall that backs onto a crew cabin, it is a good idea to encourage the project manager to provide additional sound insulation in the wall between the crew mess and cabins that can be occupied by crew trying to sleep after overnight navigational watches.

Given the various worldwide requirements yachts need to comply with it is imperative to have separate receptacles for trash, recycling, and slops. Trash and recycling can easily be placed together in one slide out trash cupboard. We like the slops drawer system like the one shown in the picture below. The lid can be removed during meal periods and when not in use the counter is usable as if it doesn't exist. You keep a plastic tub inside the drawer that can easily be emptied and cleaned. 

The slops receptacle pictured is in a pantry that's out of use and has white service gloves temporarily stored in it but you still get the idea. There is a finger hole in the middle of the granite insert to enable removal and replacement of the lid. The design works even better with Corian. The plastic insert is removed by opening the drawer (top drawer of the facing cupboard).

Is a Crew Recreation Room a Luxury?

Of course not!  It's a multi-functional destination that can be used for:

  • Departmental and head of department meetings

  • Crew training

  • Computer stations for department heads to carry out administration (see the plan)

  • A living space for the crew to refuel and relax

A crew recreation room provides the ability for some crew to watch a movie together while others eat or play board games in the crew mess. The crew have somewhere to go when their cabin mate wishes to sleep. An alarm monitor and security camera monitor can also be accommodated and if you have a second television in the crew mess it takes care of the problems associated with trying to get so many people to agree on one particular movie or television program!

A Few More Things to Consider

If the galley is on a different level, a dumb waiter is helpful to transport meals and supplies to the mess.

When you purchase the crew glassware, check that the height of the glassware isn't taller than the height available in the Miele dishwasher glass rack (many highballs are too tall).

Make sure you select plastic cups that are dishwasher proof. Palm Products have a great line that are dishwasher safe and include a non-slip rubber base that works well in rough seas.

Install racks for tea towels and paper towel near the sinks.

Consider purchasing a large quantity of crew plates and plastic cups that double as casual plates for guest picnics and barbeque parties ashore. That way you'll have plenty of spare to cover inevitable breakages.

Obviously you need to have a vacuum close at hand and usually this will be a Miele. 

Speaking of vacuums, have you seen the Dyson Animal range (pictured left)? We love these powerful and versatile dust busters. When the stick attachment is added it is fantastic for a quick floor clean and it is also great for maneuvering into hard to get to places.

You might want to chain it up so that the deck crew don't steal it. 

superyacht operating systems2

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