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The Chair Choice

The Chair Choice

When it comes to comfort and the overall design of your boat, your choice of helm chair is one of the most important decisions you will make. It Is one that will ultimately determine whether your voyage will be a pleasant one – or one that leaves you feeling sore and sorry.

Your selection relies heavily on your boat’s primary purpose. Are you taking it out on the high seas, or cruising through canals? Is it going to be battling waves at length, or cruising along the coast? Are you going to be on the ocean for hours on end, or just making runs across the bay to Moreton Island?

And who is going to be using the chair? Height and weight are major factors when it comes to dictating the mechanics of your helm chair.

Michael Melfi, managing director of M Melfi Designs, firmly believes that your helm chair is a pivotal part of your boating experience and should be built to last. He has been designing and creating customised helm chairs and marine upholstery for more than 30 years. “I’ve had one chair where the owner has spent 2,800 hours in the chair, and the only slight wear and tear was the top of the arms,” he explains.

Selecting a helm chair is not a decision that should be made flippantly. It requires time and consideration. Chairs with inferior materials in the structure can wear out more quickly or collapse if put under sustained pressure. Bounce from rough seas might be more inclined to work some parts lose – so it is important that the selection of chair matches the chair’s purpose.

Michael strongly recommends a customised helm chair for anyone with plans to set sail. He believes that someone on the water regularly should be investing in a high quality, customised helm chair that will provide longevity and, ultimately, pay dividends – especially in health and comfort.

The first factor that is central to how your helm chair is produced is where it is situated on the boat. Whether it is going to be exposed to the elements or kept inside is a major determinant in what shape the chair takes. “If the chair is going to be somewhere that is wet, the foam changes. Standard foams will retain water and rot,” says Michael. “At M Melfi Designs, we use a quick drying foam (QDF) that is waterproof and holds no moisture, preventing any mould or rotting.”

Structural integrity is another fundamental consideration. To maintain the utmost structural integrity and ensure longevity, Michael uses either 316 marine-grade stainless steel or aluminium for the frame, which oxidises and then slows any potential corrosion to a snail’s pace. Stainless steel is what he recommends and uses in the majority of his own helm chairs, as it is a heavier and hardier metal that lasts. He also ensures his helm chairs have the minimal number of welding points, which creates an incredibly strong internal structure to withstand whatever force their chair may encounter.

The next decision a boat owner should make is the size and shape of their chair. A multitude of different features can be employed to give you a chair that is truly personalised. Popular models include short chairs with small backs, or a tall chair with a deep back and full headrest. Boat owners can also ask custom designers for a double helm chair that will allow them to set sail with a first mate. M Melfi Designs can make any of these chairs bench mounted, pedestal-based or electronically controlled – and with optional footrests – ensuring your sailing experience is exactly how you like it.

The final decision to make is the overall look and design of the chair. M Melfi Designs offer upholstery options, including different materials like vinyl, leather, or fabric – coming in a range of colours that suit the existing interior design of your boat or your intended design, if your vessel is undergoing an overhaul.

In all cases, choosing the right helm chair can mean the difference between a pleasant boating experience and a torturous one. Michael affirms, “A good helm chair feels like sitting on a lounge. It’s something that will provide you with the ultimate comfort and will last you forever and a day. With M Melfi Designs, you can trust that with the highest quality metals, materials and customisation, your helm chair is one that will stand the test of time.”

To consult with M Melfi Designs, call Michael at 0412 862 447.


By Chris Logan