A yacht builder in Italy has taken the idea of a raft to an entirely new realm. You might think a raft is a row of plastic drums or logs tied together to get you across the nearest river but this is something very different; in fact, we’d be more inclined to refer to it as a bespoke houseboat.
The pandemic has created a surge in global demand for leisure vehicles, mainly motorhomes and caravans, but yacht sales are also up and there’s renewed interest in vessels such as narrow boats, river boats and houseboats in certain parts of the world.
Renzo Piano, who designed The Shard building in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, has teamed up with a Norwegian friend and client to create a very different kind of raft, one that is a raft in name only. The pair approached Nauta Design and naval architect Francesco Rogantin to create Zattera, which means raft in Italian. Inspired by purity, simplicity and the natural environment, Zattera is not about the performance or range that is usually associated with yachts; instead it’s about the simple pleasure of relaxing on a calm sea with family or friends. It’s designed to be the kind of vessel you board at a small harbour and sail not too far offshore to relax, unwind, take in your surroundings and leave the world behind.
Zattera will measure 24m and is being built at Castagnola Yacht in Lavagna, Italy with sustainable materials including extensive use of wood. Its environmental theme continues with a Siemens Energy hybrid propulsion system, including lithium-ion batteries connected to an electric motor that allows for silent movement. Besides no noise pollution they also providing power when coupled with solar panels.
But it also has two 180kW diesel engines, capable of propelling it to 12 knots and with a cruising speed of 10.5 knots, though Zattera’s creators haven’t disclosed the cruising range yet.
What really stands out is the wide deck with its glass structure providing an uninterrupted view of the at sea or in port. The deck also features masts — not for sails, but for loading or unloading dinghies and as the supports for awnings to keep those in comfort.
The keel’s mixture of woods will provide maximum space and strength. There will be one master cabin for the owners as well as two guest cabins, crew quarters, a galley and even an office space. The lower deck will feature a luxurious saloon with a large skylight at its centre. The feeling of nature will be further enhanced by the floor of the saloon being at the waterline, which together with the windows will make it feel as though you are walking on the water while inside the boat — at least that's what the designers have told us.
Zattera is quite a different take on life on board, but one that provides a modern interpretation of a very traditional way of boating and, for that matter, of living. It takes the idea of the houseboat like those on Lake Kariba or Dutch waterways and not only brings it into the 21st century, but also enables those on board to venture further afield, onto the ocean. It could well prove to be a genre we will see even more of as people search for ways to switch off.