We’ve seen plenty of brave powerboating tangents and innovative boat designs over the years and not all of them have been positive. The bent bow on the Nimue 490 looks like a particularly counter-productive notion and so does every one of the various sub-surface concepts that requires you to wear scuba diving gear. I’ve personally tested a boat based on the flamboyant topsides of a 1980s Lamborghini Countach that instantly cured me of my childish fascination with the car. And I’ve been compelled to drive lots of noisy, sluggish hovercraft, all of which have done a fine job of sandblasting the flesh from my eye sockets. Happily, however, some design ideas have more merit than others...


(1) Fold-out side decks

A narrow beam on a monohull obviously has its dynamic uses underway, but when you moor up for a party, it’s far from ideal. With minimal strips of internal space, it’s the kind of thing that has you wishing you had invested in the broad open platforms of a catamaran.

Fold-out side decks: innovative boat designs

Wider 42: If it doesn't detract from the hull's hydrodynamics, fold-out side decks are a great idea.


So how about a monohull that can expand sideways to increase deck space when at rest? Believe it or not, it’s no longer that uncommon. Look at some of the craft from Continental and Explosion. Or investigate Wider’s excellent solution with integrated sponsons to increase stability as well as space. Given the limited impact on weight, complexity and cost, it’s a very effective leisure boating asset.


(2) Hidden aft cabin

I’m a huge fan of the aft cabin when it’s done well. It brings together genuine privacy with vast reserves of space and a panoramic view unmatched by anything you could configure in the central part of the boat or crowbar into a tapering bow.

Hidden aft cabin – innovative boat designs

The transverse aft double on Flipper's 880ST is a real treat.


But what I really love is a cabin you don’t even realise is there. The Scandinavians are masters at this, with builders like Targa, Sargo and more recently, Axopar (see Axopar 28 TT First Look Video) offering concealed sleeping spaces beneath communal seating sections that your guests will love. In fact, on a compact outboard-powered platform like the Flipper 880 ST (pictured), the surprise aft cabin can be so effective that you find yourself questioning the thought process of any designer who fails to offer the same.


(3) Sunken flybridge

While the basic principle is not exclusive to the brand, Galeon’s ‘Skydeck’ concept is a fine example of what can be achieved when the upper deck is pushed aft and sunken low (see the full Galeon 430 Skydeck review here).

Galeon Skydeck – innovative boat designs

The Galeon Skydeck concept: with the fly positioned lower down and further aft, there's room for a forward sunroof.


Not only do you get more attractive lines, but you also get reduced windage, reduced weight, improved performance and an opportunity to introduce light down to the saloon via a forward sunroof. Of course the downside is a smaller fly deck, but if it continues to offer a second helm, a dining space and a lounging pad, it’s very much a price worth paying.


(4) Rotating furniture

Rotating furniture on the aft deck is a great idea. It means you can set your seating, dining or sunbathing angle to enjoy the best of the view, to face the sun or to interact with the passengers in the saloon.

Galeon 500 Fly – innovative boat designs

The rotating aft bench on the Galeon 500 fly is full of merit.


Plenty of builders are now looking into features of this kind and while the designs are getting more complex, the real difficulty comes with assets like integrated galleys, which require a rotating umbilical for the power cables. Technical difficulties aside, its merits are beyond doubt. See boats.com for the full Galeon 500 Fly review.


(5) Pop-up top deck

The problem with a ‘Bird’s Nest’ style upper level is often the prohibitive air draught – particularly if it’s your intention to enjoy a bit of inland navigation. So how about a lifting lid that can be raised for top-deck entertainment and then lowered at the push of a button?

Aquanaut Andante pop-up roof – innovative boat designs

The Aquanaut Andante's pop-up roof means an upper deck without the restrictive air draught.


We’ve seen a very effective example of exactly that on the Aquanaut Andante long-distance cruiser and the result is simple: lots of space and versatility without any restrictions on your cruising grounds.


(6) Landing party

Sticking a set of wheels on the bottom of a boat is always likely to make the purist wince. But when it’s done as well as it is on the world-famous Sealegs RIB (see the Sealegs review here), its merits are undeniable.

Sealegs – innovative boat designs

Sealegs is the most capable amphibian the leisure market has to offer.


Though there are plenty of variations on this theme (see: 5 of the best amphibious vehicles), this particular system uses a retractable three-wheel system powered by an inboard Honda engine. Yes, it costs a small fortune compared to a non-amphibious RIB of similar size, but it’s beautifully engineered, so if you want a proper compromise-free powerboat and your lifestyle suits a craft that can be driven up the beach, there’s no longer a good reason to hold back.


(7) Magic galley

When you’ve invested in a floating bubble of decadence and repose, you don’t want to see the everyday mundanities of a passage at sea invading your happy space. That’s why on large, luxury motoryachts, the crew is so commonly tucked away in a forgotten corner next to the washing machines.

Brioni slide-out galley – innovative boat designs

Brioni 44: the slide-out galley is superb.


Some people feel the same treatment should be meted out to the galley and the best solution I’ve yet seen is on the Slovenian express cruiser, the Brioni 44. Despite enjoying the dramatic, low-profile lines of an Italian thoroughbred, the sheer quantity of equipment that emerges from the moulding beneath the port walkway is extraordinary. When your table is laden with hot food and chilled wine, you simply open the party space up again by sliding it away. It’s very cool – and given the lofty price tag, so it should be.


(8) Multi-purpose roof

Modern designers seem obsessed with the increasingly blurred lines between an open powerboat and a covered cockpit. There are now plenty of ‘alfresco coupe’ style craft with vast sliding sunroof sections, but there’s also now a trend towards a removable roof that enjoys additional functions when not in use.

Removable roof panels – innovative boat design

Reversys and Riva ane both investigating multi-purpose removable roof panels.


In the world of the blue-sky concept, the Reversys (pictured) uses a roof that flips upside-down at the touch of a button, so that the soft underside generates an aft sunbathing platform. Better still, the two-part structure enables you to rig not just a fully enclosed, weatherproof craft or a fully open racer-style plaything but also a semi-open ‘Sedan’ layout. Okay, so it hasn’t been built yet, but Riva’s 88 Florida has (see the First Look Video here) – and while both the finish and the conceptual clarity of that boat look less than perfect to me, the idea of a roof that is put to a couple of extra uses when removed from the main structure is one that is deservedly gathering momentum.

Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a journalist, copywriter and magazine editor with a long history in boating and a happy addiction to the water. He’s worked on boats, lived on boats, bought boats, sold boats and – when he’s not actually on board a boat – he can generally be found in his Folkestone office, tapping away at the computer and gazing out to sea.