In this post I want to talk about a few below deck features we really liked about our former boats — Elizabeth, a Bristol Channel Cutter 28 and Daphne, a Nor’sea 27. As we search for our new boat and peruse the boat sales websites, we find that the features listed below have subconsciously become features we seek in our new boat. This is not a comprehensive list, but just a few of the standouts. The first installment of this series discussed things we loved about their hull and deck configurations.
1. Good Sea Berths:
Daphne’s aft cabin provided two ideal quarter berths. A single person sized bunk with walls on both sides. Easy in and out, and with plenty of extra length for stuff beneath your feet because no matter how hard I try, stuff invariably ends up there. These quarter berths, like traditional pilot berths are out of the traffic zone. Quarter berths are extra awesome because of their proximity to helm. While sleeping offshore, I wake up easily, and when lying in the quarter berth it’s real easy to find out what’s happening in the cockpit without getting up. A simple call up to the cockpit for reassurance that all is OK is effortless. Bad sea bunks are: wide, in the bow, perpendicular to the centerline, hard to stay in, and stuffy.
2. Head Location:
On Daphne the head was located to the left of the companionway ladder, and I loved it. Firstly, it’s easy to access from the cockpit. It avoids the long march in wet foul weather gear past sleeping crew with harnesses clanking, and the inevitable wave-stumbling “Oopsies… I’m sorry I planted my hand on your forehead – it wasn’t me, it was the wave” apology. Making my way to the bow of a pitching, rolling boat and into an odorific, poorly ventilated hot box of privacy isn’t on my bucket list.
Heads are usually lined in fiberglass and designed to double as a “shower”. For this reason, they make great wet lockers, and there’s no better place to store your foul weather gear ready to grab at a moments notice than at the companionway. Sometimes I prefer to think of the head as a wet locker that also just happens to have a toilet. Like good sea bunks, “easy in, easy out” is always a good feature of a head, especially when you’ve been holding it a long time as often happens when short handed. For us, the head near the companionway makes a lot of sense.
I think u-shaped galleys works best. You can stand in a single location and reach just about everything, thereby avoiding bouncing with hands full between icebox and cutting board as the sea plays pinball with you. The galley gets hot, and an offshore dinner favorite, pasta, creates a lot of steam. Having the galley beneath the companionway allows for natural exhausting of both heat and steam right out the main hatch. And the ladder offers a place to wedge yourself against when the seas get feisty.
4. Handholds and Tight Spaces:
Huge expansive interiors look great at docks and entertain well, but are just a nightmare at sea. Handholds along the overhead are a start, but what’s best are things to lean your hip into as you walk thru the cabin with your hands full. Standing on the centerline of your boat, can you lean on anything and be hands free? On Elizabeth, the table usually works well for that – but are your table supports strong enough to support your weight in a seaway? In contrast to many of the newer production boats I’ve been aboard, traditional narrow, tight walking space are good things offshore.
5. Simple Systems:
We prefer manual everything. If it requires extra electric wiring, in the name of convenience, it’s bound to need maintenance, break down, and require money to repair in the name of inconvenience. Plumbing is one onboard system that is easy to keep simple. On board Elizabeth and Daphne the plumbing was 100% human powered. We used manual foot pumps, made hot water in the kettle, and got a little workout in by using the manual pump on the head. In fact, aboard Daphne Teresa removed the head altogether and used a bucket – pure and simple. Interacting with these systems on a daily basis with your own hands or feet, helps give warning when problems are developing. Oh while we’re on the subject, we also liked Elizabeth’s water tankage (75 gallons) was in the bilge, midships and on centerline.
6. The Threshold:
I notice a lot of what I’ve said as far as ideal location of the various parts and pieces tends to pile things up in the companionway area. It’s the heart of the boat. We both enjoy sitting in the companionway while on watch, our feet dangling down below, our heads above deck keeping a lookout – straddling the threshold. Don’t underestimate the importance of a comfy threshold, with a good view. Daphne had a good view from the threshold, but Elizabeth with her dinghy on the cabin house did not.
So these are just a few of the things we loved about our former boats, certainly far from an exhaustive list of things to consider when discussing offshore boats. We’d love to hear what offshore friendly features you like about your boats interiors in the comments.