8 Questions for Luxury Yacht Designers Clear Group International

The master bedroom of a yacht designed by Clear Group International.Is it possible that luxury yachts can lead the way to global sustainability? That is the strategy and aim of Joyce Clear, founder of Clear Group International, a company that specializes in designing spectacular, functional yachts that are in the forefront of environmental innovation.

Your career started in the financial field. What led you to yacht design? My father was a commander in the navy, and we grew up with a love for the ocean. When my business partner passed away at age 34, I felt the need to pursue what I love. So I went back to school for interior design. When a residential client asked if I’d decorate his boat, the minute I stepped on board I knew that’s where I was supposed to be.

The master bathroom of a yacht designed by Clear Group International.How does a luxury yacht justify its carbon footprint? Yachts are floating islands that are sustainable on their own. When you’re out on the ocean, you’re not plugged into land; you need everything to operate the yacht. Plus, to get it built you literally employ thousands of people. And when entering different ports, provisions are needed, adding to the local economy. So every boat is a mini-business.

What does that have to do with sustainable design? We are leveraging the power and reach of the yacht industry to effect positive change—it’s the new generation of yacht design. The rich and famous are always pushing new technologies forward. Their chefs are making organic food, they’re going to the healthiest spas and restaurants, and they expect that level of health and wellness on their yachts.

What’s your design procedure? We ask: “Don’t you want to feel better getting off this yacht than you did when you got on it?” Then we look at several categories—from propulsion and air quality to fabrics and finishes. We consider every decision made on board—from cleaning agents to sunscreen. We often take land-based applications and transform them for the maritime industry. There are a lot of solar applications and electric batteries, and there’s a way to turn ocean water into hydrogen for propulsion with a clean drinking water byproduct. Tables and chairs can be used to power your phone. In the process, we get the chance to create positive trends in the world.

The interior of a luxury yacht designed by Clear Group International.What other challenges are faced in boat design? You never have a right angle, so you need innovative solution-oriented craftsmen. With limited space, you have to maximize every square inch. Weight distribution sets limits, you can’t just put the kitchen facing west. And you have to choose materials that can withstand salt water, mold, and wear and tear.

How does biomimicry play a role? My inspiration always comes from nature. We look at a leaf under a microscope to see the cellular structure and mimic that in design, or copy the engineering and strength of a cocoon.

You also started nonprofit Ports of Cause to protect global waters. What was your motivation? I’ve always had a reverence for the oceans, and I want to make sure we care for them. Eighty percent of the garbage in the ocean is plastic, and we just can’t live like this anymore. Living a purposeful life is at the heart of what I do.    

Do you live on a boat? No, my dogs need an acre or two to run around. But I do have a little boat on my pond. There’s nothing like being on the water.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Sea Change.