The cabin of any cruising boat is the heart of the boat. It is the place you spend the most time and the place, if you are living aboard, you call home. Yet, in most boats it is a very small compartment in comparison to anywhere else we might choose to live. Moreover it is a compartment that needs to be comfortable, dry and functional at various angles and moving up and down in an ungainly way. Not even the pod of a space ship drifting in orbit has to accomplish some many tasks in such a variable environment.

Yet, sailors, designers and builders have over the years come up with systems below decks that can make this capsule a very passable home. For some sailors, it is their only home. For the crew of Clover, we once lived aboard without spending a night ashore for more than 14 months. The environs of the cabins below Clover's decks were home.

But whether you live aboard or not, there are may ways to make the interior of the boat comfortable and to give it the touch of personality that will mark it as you own place. There's a funny thing that happens once the boat has transformed to an individual family's needs: everyone starts talking about going home (to the boat) at the end of a day ashore.

In the process of giving a boat a personal stamp and making it functional and homey, there are some areas that will not only add to the crew's comfort, but will add to the value of the boat itself. The galley and the head are both areas that will benefit from sensible personal touches. But, the saloon and in fact every locker can usually be made to work better and to be more comfortable, whether the boat is new or a boat that has been owned and cruised by sailors before you.

The Galley

If you have ever tried to prepare a meal in an ill-equipped galley when the boat is hard on the wind and lurching along in a seaway, you will have encountered the problems that a well thought out galley should overcome. The cupboards will disgorge their contents every time one is opened. Bowls and utensils will slide about and end up on the cabin sole. Water and spilled ingredients will course about the counter space and make traction underfoot tenuous. And, the cook himself will he hurled about as he tries to handle hot pots and pans.

There are three conventional types of galleys, U-shaped facing athwart ships, U-shaped running fore and aft and bench-style which run fore and aft along one side of the hull. The athwart ships galley is the most difficult to work in at sea. The cook will constantly be fighting the tendency of a boat to roll downwind, or the angle of heel when going to windward. If you will be cooking in an athwart ship's galley, you will need to fit a galley belt and protect yourself from falling against the stove with a grab bar.

The fore and aft U-shaped galley works better. In normal sailing conditions it is possible to wedge yourself into the space and continue to use both hands for dicing onions. A galley stove should be gimballed on a fore and aft axis, so a galley of this design may expose you to the front of the stove as you work. If so, a sturdy stainless-steel bar should be in place to keep you away from hot burners and boiling liquids.

The bench style galley works well on large boats. In boats under 40 feet, such a design permits the galley to dominate the saloon so that meal preparation becomes a group endeavor instead of a one-man job. On larger boats, the galley can be tucked under the side deck and cockpit. If the boat has an after cabin, then the galley can double as a passageway aft. In such an arrangement, the cook is usually able to lean comfortably against one counter or a bulkhead while whipping up a meal. Like the fore and aft galley, the stove presents a threat, so it must be behind a sturdy bar that will allow a person to hold on or fall against it when the boat leaps off a wave.

No matter which shape galley you have, it seems a law of nature that as soon as someone goes below to prepare a meal --particularly something elaborate for a pleasant dinner-- that the wind picks up, the seas become square and a rogue weave pattern appears from some unexpected direction. If you are cruising offshore, it is often possible slack sheets for an hour or so to give the meal its best chance of survival. Yet, no matter what you do, cooking in rough weather is a challenge.

That said, a well fitted out galley will help you overcome the meal time maelstrom. First, the counters should be a hard surface that can be cleaned easily. Most builders today use Formica. While durable, you need to have a handy cutting surface on which to work. It make sense, if upgrading the galley to install a cutting board, fixed in place, over a fridge lid or on top on one of a pair of double sinks. The counter surfaces will be slippery, so it is important to have fiddles built across wide spaces that will catch pots and utensils when they are put down. These should not enclose spaces entirely, for you want to be able to sweep away crumbs and wipe the area down with a wet cloth.

The best arrangement for fiddles on a Formica counter is to have them removable. The fiddles should have two or more small brass rods or pegs fixed to their undersides which fit tightly into small copper or brass tubes inset into the counter. When you go to sea you can fit the fiddles in place. And, when you get into port you can remove them and store them.

Galley lockers need to be divided and then, when loaded, tightly packed. The simplest way to divide a locker with thin battens, at least two inches high, glued across the locker's base. Figure out what containers the locker will normally handle, measure them and then set the battens in to hold the containers in their places. On a rough trip we once had from Fiji to New Zealand, one of the plastic containers we use to hold liquids somehow fell over behind several other containers. We didn't miss it until Rosa noticed thick treacle running out under the locker door. A half a quart of the sticky ooze had spilled, which would have been humorous if it hadn't been blowing 25 knots on the nose at the time. It took all morning to clean up the mess.

Everything you use in the galley should have its own plastic container. Glass or cardboard won't hold up and will break or dissolve. The best containers we have found are made by tupperwear, Rubbermaid and Klick Klack. These can be bought in sets that nest one on top of another or stow tightly side by side. We keep weekly supplies of cereal, flour, crackers and other dry goods in large 2-quart containers with positive snap lids. Even wedged in place with dish towels, these occasionally begin to migrate about the lockers, but at least the contents stays contained and dry.

Spices, condiments and the assorted cans and containers are notoriously difficult to stow away neatly. The easiest way to deal with a dozen or more different spices is to install a full spice rack with its own tightly fitting containers at the back of a handy locker. These can be topped up from larger containers kept in a dry locker elsewhere. Small containers for items like stock cubes, sugar, honey, treacle and so forth should be nestled together to keep them from tipping over when the boat lurches. Plastic bottles of ketchup, salad dressing and mayonnaise often have snap lid closures. Yet, these rarely will stay closed if the container tips over. Once opened, these gooey fluids should be moved into tupperwear or screw topped containers and wedged into lockers tightly.

Plates, cups, saucers and mugs all need to have their own dedicated slots. Aboard Clover we eat off stone wear virtually all the time, reserving plastic plates and bowls for the cockpit or beach barbecues. While china or stone wear tends to slip about a bit, we prefer the real thing because it looks better, lasts longer in normal wear and is easier to clean. To store plates, cups and saucers, we have simple racks in our lockers. These are built to fit and keep the items in place no matter what the weather. The simplest method of constructing racks for plates is to start with a one-inch base and set four half-inch dowels vertically from the base to hold the plates tightly. With this system, if you change the plate size at some point, all you have to do is reset the dowels to the accommodate the new diameters. Bowls, cups and saucers need to have built-in boxes tailored to the correct size.

Glasses and mugs often find their ways onto shelves, either inside a locker or against a bulkhead. If you have room, mugs can be hung in a row on heavy brass hooks. We find that a small covering of tape on the hook will keep the mug handle from squeaking when the boat is rolling. Glasses need to be held tightly in place. The traditional method is to build a plywood holder inside a locker that has holes drilled to accept the glasses. But this uses a lot of space. We keep eight good quality glasses in such a locker, but our every day plastic glasses live above the galley sink on a shelf that is divided with battens.

The stove is the most important piece of gear in the galley. Years ago it was common to find kerosene or alcohol stoves on cruising boats but today virtually everyone sails with gas, either butane or propane. There are really four fuels you can contemplate using. Alcohol is not really a viable fuel for cruising because it is impossible to replace away from home and has such a low flame temperature that is on marginally effective. Kerosene offers the greatest cooking heat and Primus burners are both easy to maintain and repair and can be replaced worldwide. Yet, kerosene is smelly and it is often difficult to find cheap alcohol with which to ignite the burners. Butane has the next highest flame temperature and can be used in both butane and propane stoves. Butane can be found worldwide. Propane, which is used in North America and a few other countries, has a lower flame temperature than butane, but is perfectly satisfactory in most stoves.

The trouble with butane and propane is it's density. It is heavier than air and therefore will sink into the bilge if you get a gas leak. It is important, when installing either system, to store the bottles in a deck locker that drains overboard and to rig the system with a solenoid shut-off switch of the type sold by Marinetics. Gas alarms give an added measure of protection. Although commercial gases have an aromatic additive that is strong enough to alert even someone sleeping, a buzzer sounding will really get your attention.

Natural gas (CNG) is the fourth option. While this lighter-than-air fuel as gained some popularity in North America, it is not available worldwide. If you are building a boat from scratch and can design in a large compartment for the gas bottles, and you plan to stay close to supplies for the fuel, then CNG makes sense. It has the lowest flame temperature of the available fuels, so you will burn more of it but it will not sink into the bilge and become a bomb waiting to go off.

The amount of fuel you use will depend on the type and on how you use it. Aboard Clover we carry two 20-pound bottles. We prefer aluminum bottles because they do not rust and have a lifespan longer than steel bottles. In cold climates we use 20-pounds of propane in the galley stove every six weeks, so our supply lasts three months. In warmer climes, where we use butane instead of propane, our 40-pound supply lasts up to four months.

The stove itself should be designed for cooking both in port and at sea. Almost all modern boats will have a fully gimballed stove with an oven. It should be in stainless-steel lined compartment and hung on heavy pivots that are though-bolted to the bulkheads on either side. A stove is heavy. If it were to get lose it could kill a person or could cause a sudden gas leak. Three-burner stoves are normally the maximum size that will fit into galleys on boats under 50 feet. If space is limited, a two-burner stove can be used as well, although it is the rare cook who will enjoy such a limitation. The stove should have high steel fiddles all the way around and adjustable pot holders over each burner. One of the dangers of cooking in a seaway is falling against the hot stove or oven. If possible, it is wise to install a stainless-steel bar in front of the stove to protect the cook and to offer a grab rail in bouncy conditions.

The refrigerator should be treated just like a cabinet. If possible it should be divided with battens and shelves to permit plastic containers of various sizes to be stowed neatly. Boxes such as those made by Klick Klack are excellent for holding leftovers and will stack and stow tightly together. We use Tupperwear one-quart bottles for all liquids --except wine and beer-- because they can be wedged tightly together and will not come apart, leak or break when tossed around and dropped. Inside the freezer we use ZipLok bags for everything. Meats and fish that are to be frozen are first separated into meal-size portions and then frozen. If possible we buy our meat prefrozen which cuts down on fridge time after a large provisioning. To keep the fridge clean, we fitted a large plastic tray in the bottom which collects all sorts of oddments over a period of three or four months between defrostings and enables us to tip the whole lot out without having to sponge out the base of the compartment. If the freezer is large enough, it is helpful to fit removable baskets that enable you to get to the bottom layer quickly and permit air to circulate between frozen items enhancing the freezing process.

The last item of galley equipment that will be found on ocean sailing boats is a restraining belt. Such a belt is fashioned from canvass or sail cloth and should have rings and a sturdy hook in both ends for attachment to worm-eyes fixed to the bulkheads at waist level. The belt needs to be heavily attached to the furniture, for it will be supporting a person's weight and absorbing a possible fall. There are some offshore sailors who refuse to use a galley belt because it will restrain a person trying to flee from a spilled pot of boiling water. Yet, after having sailed many miles with a belt and many without, both Rosa and I opt for one. It makes cooking under way much less of a chore. A safety precaution, when using a belt, is to avoid filling pots above the one-third level to ensure that they don't become top heavy as the boat rolls or lurches.

The Head

When you think of the confined space of a cruising boat's interior, it seems a waste to sequester off one-fifth of it in a compartment that is used no more than a few minutes a day. Yet, a head, like a bathroom at home, is a very important space aboard the boat and deserves both ample room and care when fitting it out. Most head compartments are positioned forward and place the head itself athwart ships, with a sink forward and possibly a shower device on the bulkhead opposite. Behind the head cabinets are generally built in.

While conventional, this is not the best design for offshore sailing and cruising. When the weather is at all rough or the boat is on a heel, using the throne can be exceedingly difficult. When the U.S.Naval Academy was designing the new 44-footers to replace the venerable Luders yawls in which the midshipmen trained for 25 years, one of the refinements to make it to the final design was a fore-and-aft facing head positioned aft under the cockpit's bridge deck. The head faces forward and is positioned tightly between a bulkhead and the sink counter. When the boat is on a heel, it is still possible to sit reasonably comfortably on the thrown without the threat of being tossed off. Moreover, being positioned aft, it is away from the bow sections where the boat's motion will be the worst. It is away from most of the sleeping area so night visits to the loo don't wake everyone else on board. And, being at the base of the companionway ladder and near the engine, the compartment can also be the home of a heated wet locker. If you are designing a new vessel or drastically altering an existing boat, placing the head next to the companionway makes a lot of sense.

All heads leak. And all heads, in time, begin to have a distinct odor all their own. Both facts are only enhanced by the need on most cruising boats to have a holding tank linked into the system. The trick in living with a head is first to renew the seals on the device annually if you liveaboard or biennially if you only cruise in the summer. This won't stop the water migrating around pump handles and weeping off the bottom of the bowl, but it will slow the flood. Holding tanks need to be empty. At every opportunity, it is wise to pump out the tank and then, as soon as you are in legal waters, flush the tank with salt water and a weak bleach solution.

The cabinets in a head are often the place where masses of small toiletry items collect. These have the annoying habit of falling over and emptying their contents at unexpected moments. Once aboard our boat we were confounded by a serious-sounding hiss coming from somewhere forward of the saloon. A long hunt for gassing batteries, or a ruptured holding tank finally led us to the head cabinets where we found an aerosol can of hair mousse slowly but surely emptying itself into a plastic tray filled with razors and face creams and cotton balls. Like the cabinets in the galley, head compartments need to be broken into small sections with battens. Plastic trays that have sides at least three inches high can be set in place between battens where they will stay put.

For medical supplies, plastic fishing or tool boxes work well to contain what can be a large quantity of small vials and packages of unguents, potions and bandages. The boxes should be clearly marked with their contents and fitted into shelves with battens to hold them in place.

Unfortunately, the head cabinets often are also storage areas for towels and bedding. This may be the only place on the boat to keep these items, yet it is also one of the wettest areas in the interior so fabrics will tend to mildew. To keep linens and towels fresh, stow them away in plastic bags. Small sweater bags with plastic zippers work well as do heavy kitchen garbage bags.

By old standards a shower is a luxury aboard a boat and most builders and designers treat it that way by either eliminating shower facilities completely or forcing sailors to shower with a phone-type nozzle while standing over the head. This might work for occasional use, but if you will be cruising extensively and living aboard for weeks at a time, then a shower will be as important to the well being of the crew as the chart table. On boats under 40 feet or so, it is impractical to have a dedicated sower stall, although that is the best solution. If, however, you are forced to shower in the head compartment, rig a shower curtain on a track all the way around the ceiling to permit you to rinse off and wash without getting every square inch of the compartment wet. Narrow curtain track and sliders work well here. Normally, you will be able to hide the shower curtain behind the head door or in a corner when not in use. By using a wrap-around curtain, dampness can be kept out of the lockers and away from the head fittings and will therefore reduce mildew and cut down on dampness in the lockers.

A separate shower stall is a luxury that once used you soon can't live without. The compartment not only keeps all water from migrating throughout the head but also provides a space for hanging wet towels, rinsing salty clothes and even stowing gear while sailing offshore. Aboard Clover we have such a luxury and are thankful we do. It transforms life aboard from "camping" to relatively comfortable living. We've mastered the two-gallon shower, which is a thorough rinse-off, a wash and a final rinse. And, Rosa has become a mistress of the three-gallon session, which includes hair and all the other things she likes to do under a stream of steaming hot water. No doubt having a shower in regular use puts a strain on the fresh water supply. While a water maker (which we don't have) would eliminate that strain, we find we can live comfortably on 50 gallons per week --for all fresh water uses.

A Good Night's Sleep

On an offshore cruising boat, nine nights out of ten are spent either at anchor or moored to a dock. Yet, when you are planning to cruise far and wide, or even to makes two or three day runs up and down a coast, the need for real sea berths becomes clear. Unfortunately, most production cruising boats have not been designed for sleeping aboard while at sea. That is because there is a real difference between a good sea berth and the type of berth we want when we're in a secure anchorage. And in a boat of 30 or 40 feet, it's hard to have it both ways.

A good sea berth has several distinct qualities. It should be narrow, so the occupant does not roll about. It should be near the center of the boat where it will be subject to the least about of motion. It should be dry and warm, which means it can't be near an open hatch such as the companionway. And it needs to have a lee cloth to keep the sleeping sailor from tumbling onto the floor when the on watches tacks.

The best sea berth is a pilot berth positioned outboard of the settee in the saloon. This will be near the center of the boat and should pitch less than any other berth. It will be narrow and has the hull ceiling as one side, so it is naturally snug. A lee cloth can be arranged on the in-board side that ties off securely to eyes screwed to the deck head. It is far enough from the companion way to be dry. The berth is out of the way of other crew so it can be left made up all the time. Lastly a pilot berth can be enclosed with a curtain on a track that makes the small space into private quarters reminiscent of Pullman berths on old sleeper trains. If the boat is large enough, then having pilot berths on either side of the saloon will be a feature much praised by those who sail with you.

The next best sea berths will be the settee benches of the saloon. These are lower in the boat so they will be less affected by rolling than pilot berths. But a settee berth is right in the middle of the cabin, prone to wetness from the main hatch and exposed to any and all activity by the on watch. This berth can be somewhat enclosed by an extra large lee cloth, but it is definitely second best to the pilot berth.

A quarter berth can be a good sea berth or an unacceptable one. If the quarter berth is directly below the companion way ladder and not protected by a bulkhead, or if it is supposed to double as the navigator's seat, then it will be damp, in the on watch's path of travel and illuminated by the ship's electronics. You will have to be a very tired sailor to get any rest here. But, if the quarter berth has its own space defined by bulkheads and possibly a door, it will prove to be one of the favorite berths on the boat. Although not at the center of the hull, it will have only moderate motion. With a door closed, it can be quite, dry and very quiet. If the wind is howling on deck and the water rushing furiously by the hull, a quiet cabin will be very welcome to those going off watch.

Lastly, an after cabin can be an excellent place to sleep if it has sea berths, or a terrible place if all it has is a giant double bed. Big double beds are port side attractions. They have little use at sea. If you and your partner want to get together at sea, a reasonable single berth will do just as well as a queen size platform. The best arrangement for an after cabin is to have one large berth at one side of the cabin, which can be the double berth in port and a smaller single berth which can be the after sea berth. If you can close off the after cabin, you will find it a dry and pleasant sanctuary that will enable you to forget the wind and weather for a while --a very nice thing to do if you have a long way to go.

We have not mentioned the forward cabin because it is rare cruising boat that has a forecabin that can be used while at sea. The standard V-berths in most designs are pushed so far forward into the bow that they are at the point of maximum movement. Every pitch, every roll affects the bow. Moreover the noise of the rigging, the sound of the bow wave and the thumping of lines and feet on deck all conspire to make a person sick while keeping him awake.

Forward cabins that work at sea are positioned just forward of the saloon, with a head shoved into the forepeak. On some designs of fifty feet or more you will find two cabins side by side in this arrangement with upper and lower berths in each. This is an excellent use of space and provides four comfortable sea berths.

Yet, sleeping at sea is something cruising sailors do in the small offshore diversions between cruising grounds. For most of us, a good berth will be one used while the boat is level, the sea and wind quite and the anchor well hooked in the bottom. To fill that bill a berth needs to be comfortably soft, big enough, properly ventilated, adequately made with comfortable bedding and equipped with appropriate lights. Moreover, if possible there should be adequate berths on board for those being slept in regularly to be left made up all the time. It should feel like home, particularly if it is going to be home for a while.

Four-inch open cell foam is the standard mattress on most boats. While sufficient, a thicker mattress will offer more comfort. With modern foams it is possible to construct a sleeping mattress to suit your likes by selecting different types and laminating them together. Because the foam will be sitting on a plywood base, berths are all basically firm. Yet, if you like a soft bed yet you don't want your hip to bottom-out on the plywood, a mattress made of a four-inch layer of low density foam glued on top of a two-inch layer of high density foam will fill the bill. If you like a flat, hard bed, the four inches of high density foam will be right, unless you are very heavy, in which case six inches will be better. Combinations of foam can create just about any effect you like, except that saggy feel of a really old spring bed.

Foam looses its springiness with use. A mattress that feels firm under you will in time begin to conform to a body's shape. Having tried several different combinations, we have settled on a six inch mattress made of two inches of low density foam laminated on top of four inches of standard foam. On top of this we put a quilted bed pad, giving the whole mattress a soft but firm feel.

If you intend to spend a lot of time on board, then you may well want to give up sleeping bags and other camping items. Sheets and pillows with pillow cases covered with either a light quilt or blankets make a berth feel like a comfortable bed. Making form fitted sheets is not difficult. Or, just about every major sailing port has someone who makes form fitted sheets and bed covers for boats. And if you have a standard production boat, you may well be able to simply order bedding from one of the firms that advertises nationally. Percale, which is a blend of synthetic and cotton fibers, works well in the marine environment and is easy to wash and dry. It makes sense to have two complete sets of sheets on board, with the spares stowed in sweater bags or wrapped up in plastic garbage bags.

Blankets are necessary if you cruise out of the tropics. The best blankets on the market today for cruising boats are made of polypropylene. The material is similar to Pategonia's Synchilla, or the synthetic pile found lining wind breakers. In blanket form it is warm, light, easy to wash and dry and will not mildew unless left wet for a long period.

If you are having cushions made for sleeping berths, it is important to remember that the berth will be covered with bedding. Sheets alone will add about half an inch to the size of the cushion and blankets and bed covers can add another full inch. Make sure new cushions are cut small enough to permit the bedding to be tucked around the edge easily. If the cushions fit neatly and tightly onto the berths when they arrive, they are too big.

The last details around a comfortable berth are lights and ventilation. Every berth on the boats needs to have a small reading light in place above it. Double berths need two lights. These can be small spot lights that take 10 watt bulbs, but they must offer enough illumination for reading when all other lights are out.

Ventilation in sleeping compartments can be supplied by open ports, a hatch cocked ajar or via a Dorade vent. A wind scoop of some type can be a boon in the tropics. Yet, if you will be cruising in warm climes, small electric fans will more than earn their keep. There are several types of fan available. In our experience those that require the fewest amps are the most useful.

The Main Saloon

These days, just about every sailor in North America calls the main cabin of a sailboat the "salon." But as everyone really knows that's the wrong word. A salon is a French hall where parties are thrown and art and witticisms displayed; or it's a place to have one's hair coiffed. An English saloon, a word that comes from the French "salon", is also a great hall. But in maritime usage, it is the large public cabin on a ship. And in American usage it is a place to drink whiskey and have fist fights; so called because inventive types in the last century decorated their drinking establishments to look like the saloons of famous ships.

So, we call ours a saloon. We have parties there and have been known to drink a nip of whiskey there and have even had a few scuffles. A good main saloon will have to do many things well, for it is the focus of the boat's interior and the place where all the other spaces come together. It's also the place where the crew will spend the majority of its time. It should be well lighted, comfortable for eating, entertaining,reading, playing games and writing letters and journals. And, it should be the place that feels most like home.

There are several arrangements for saloons common in modern cruising boats. The most traditional layout is to have a drop-leaf table down the middle, with settee benches on either side and a pilot berth above one of the settees. In the days when boats were long and narrow, this was the most economical use of the limited space. Yet, one side of the table is always a passage way for those going forward, so only three people could sit comfortably at the table at any one time.

On more modern boats with wider beams, the drop-leaf table has given way to built-in dinettes which can seat from four to eight or more. The beauty of a dinette is the ability of several people to sit there while others are moving about the boat. If you are entertaining, or if the children are engaged in school work or if one person is busy writing letters, the rest of the crew can be busy in the galley or moving about the boat without disturbing the sitters.

In dinette arrangements, a settee berth is usually placed on the opposite side of the cabin, with either cabinets above it or a pilot berth. While the dinette is the main sitting area, the settee bench in fact will be the most used seat on the boat as it is the most central. It will also take the most abuse from sunlight, dampness, spills and feet. For that reason, when selecting foam and fabrics for the saloon, the whole should be modelled on the settee.

Nothing will establish a decor in the saloon more than the fabrics used. And, doubtless, few improvements will have more effect on resale. There are literally hundreds of different fabrics used by professionals in the marine trade, from fine linens to heavy duty industrial synthetics. On most cruising boats under 60 feet or so, it is impractical to use natural fiber-material. It is susceptible to mildew and rot, stains, stretches with wear and colors tend to fade in bright sunlight. For cushions that will be covered, berths in particular, inexpensive and durable synthetic materials are usually the best choice. Sunbrella is widely used for berths. In fact, Sunbrella is a good choice for the saloon as well, if you want a simple, traditional look at a modest price. The fabric comes in a wide variety of patterns --lawn chairs and awnings are often made of Sunbrella-- so you can match it to just about any scheme.

If you are looking for fabrics that will give the saloon more of a "living room" appearance, synthetics such as Herculon have proven to be durable, stain resistant and attractive. Beware of weaves that are loose for they will tend to stretch and tear. And, coarse fabrics may irritate sunburned skin. In the past few years, Ultrasuede has found its way onto larger boats and those fitted out for luxury. The material is comfortable to sit on, durable and is available in a wide range of unique and interesting colors.

Foam for the cushions in the saloon has to be firm and durable. When having new cushions made, make certain that the foam you choose will not lose its shape and resiliency too quickly. The best cushions will be laminates of high density foam on the bottom and low density foam on the top. Six inches is the best thickness, but most saloon benches are designed to accept four-inch cushions. On seats that will not double as berths, is makes sense to add a last third layer of foam or padding to the top outside edge of the cushion to give the seat shape and make it more comfortable.

Color schemes are a personal matter yet those who design yacht interiors will tell you that in the confines of a cruising boat bold patterns quickly become tiresome. Instead, it makes sense to use a solid color fabric and then lift the look of the interior with colorful patterns in the curtains and with throw pillows. While it can be a nuisance having several pillows loose in the saloon, they can double as spare sleeping pillows and are useful in the cockpit when entertaining.

Bookshelves are rarely large enough on production cruising boats and few come equipped with a way to hold the books securely in place. With a little ingenuity it is usually possible to find a nook or two to build in bookshelves. Make sure the shelves are wide enough to accept the standard size of paperbacks and that you have room somewhere for large books such as a dictionary, atlas, or desk-top encyclopedia.

To keep the books in place while underway, a thin batten can be fitted across the front of the books fixed by small brackets at either end. When you want a volume, slip the batten out. A better system is contrived from simple brass bars that can be bent into a wide U-shape, with short pivots bent into each end. The pivots fit into holes drilled into the inside ends of the bookshelf and the U-shaped bar fits outward around the fronts of the books in the shelf. When you want a book, lift the brass bar, which pivots in the holes, and slide the book out underneath it.

Pictures on the bulkheads will add color and personality and give the saloon a homey and personal feel. It is best to use plastic instead of glass when having pictures framed. Should you fall against the picture or if it comes loose from the wall it will not shatter.

Fixing pictures in place can be difficult. You have to decide if you are willing to drill holes into the bulkheads. If not, you'll have a hard time hanging anything large. For smaller pictures in light wood frames, it is possible to attach them securely to the bulkheads with Velcro tape that has a sticky backing. We use sticky backed Velcro to hold cushion backs in place and have found it works well when applied around the back side of a frame to stick it to the bulkhead. But, this is a temporary solution.

Hanging larger pictures requires holes and screws. With wood frames it is possible to drill a hole through the frame and into the bulkhead and then screw the frame into place. Use small squares of foam or sticky backed pads to hold the frame tightly in place. Metal frames or frames that are too good to be drilled can be hung with small brass eyes that are attached to the backs of the frames with small screws. The frame can then be screwed to the bulkhead through the eyes.

Staying Warm And Dry

Cruising in temperate climates where the temperature at night falls below a comfortable level can be a frigid experience that tests the humor of the crew. Rain and condensation can give the cabin a damp feel and when the boat is closed up on a cold night the simple act of breathing can add a lot of moisture to the air.

For comfort and to make the interior warm and hospitable, some form of interior heating will be appreciated by all who sail with you. Moreover, if you can keep the air dry inside the boat, you will keep the insides of lockers dry and cut down on condensation and mildew.

The simplest way to warm the boat is to use the old flower pot technique. Place a common terra cotta flower pot upside down over a lighted stove burner and let it get hot to the touch. An amazing amount of air will circulate around the pot and in a small cabin the air will soon be dry and warm. This system will even work on alcohol stoves, but the exhaust from an alcohol flame contains a lot of moisture so the effectiveness of the pot is minimized.

A bulkhead-mounted stove --of the type made by Paul Luke or Dickinson-- adds a pleasant touch to any cabin on a cold night and will provide enough warm air to keep the cabin dry and cozy. Stoves come in a variety of designs and burn with solid fuel, diesel, kerosene or even propane. Solid fuel stoves are basically fireplaces. Luke and Dickinson make lovely models with soap stone faces and brass fittings. These are vented through the deck via a Charlie Noble which keeps the rain out. Solid fuel stoves are dirty beasts. The fuel --charcoal works best--is dusty and requires a bin somewhere on the boat. The ash tends to climb the stack and will create a mess on deck. When the wind is really blowing, the ash problem is aggravated to the point that live sparks may begin fluttering around the Charlie Nobel. Solid fuel stoves will not burn all night nor can they be used safely while underway, so their use is limited to evenings in harbor. This maybe enough heat for occasional coastal cruising in cold weather,but if you are living aboard or want to extend the sailing season into the spring and fall, a more constant and reliable form of heat will be needed.

Kerosene and diesel stoves come in all shapes and sizes, from simple sheet metal pot bellies to elaborate fireplaces with tile faces and stainless-steel fretwork. Most are fed from day tanks that should be mounted on deck. The tank will most likely have a pressure pump to keep the fuel flowing to the burner at an even rate. The stack will pass through the deck and should have a Charlie Noble on top to keep the weather out. Kerosene and diesel heaters need to be mounted as low as possible in the boat and as near the center of the saloon as can be arranged. The stack needs to be positioned well away from a wood bulkhead and covered with a grill to prevent burns. In some installations, the heat in the stack will be insufficient to carry away the exhaust efficiently. In such cases, a small stack fan needs to be installed to keep the flow of gasses moving upward and out of the boat.

A well installed kerosene or diesel heater will warm a large space. Some models can be equipped with heat exchangers which can then be used to keep water in the hot water tank warm or it can be piped to small radiators in cabin remote from the saloon. There are many sailors who have wintered in freezing climates with nothing more to heat the boat than a good quality liquid fuel heater.

Propane heaters --such as the Wolter System-- have been developed to make use of the plumbing and exhaust system put in place for an in-line, on demand hot water systems. Bulkhead mounted and fabricated of polished stainless steel, these heaters are efficient convection type burners that put out a lot of heat for a small amount of fuel. If you are planning to use an in-line hot water system, then the addition of a heater will involve only a bit more carpentry and a relatively small added expense.

The most efficient way to heat a boat of 40 feet or more is with a built-in diesel furnace which feeds hot air via ducts to every cabin on the boat. The Espar system which is most popular with North American sailors, runs off the main fuel tanks and can be wired into the ship's 12-Volt system. The actual furnace is compact and can be fitted beneath a berth or below the floorboards. Ducts have to be run to vents and a source of fresh air needs to be provided to keep the burner going. Running off a thermostat, a diesel furnace will keep the boat at whatever temperature you choose and therefore can be made as efficient as you like. One of the real benefits of a forced hot air system is the ability to heat lockers --particularly the wet locker-- from the inside. Nothing improves a wet, dark night watch than warm dry foul weather gear and dry boots. While a diesel furnace will be the most expensive way to go, the convenience and flexibility of such a system will more than pay for itself if you find yourself cruising and living aboard in cold climes.

A Boat Is An Investment

If you have ever watched people at boat shows, you will have noticed that as they climb aboard a cruising boat they go straight below. They may linger for a moment in the cockpit, turn the wheel, get the lay of the deck, but their real interest is the cabin below deck. That's the home away from home. Builders of production boats figured that out long ago and often tailor their boat show boats to give them the homiest appearance possible.

There's no doubt that when you come to sell your boat, the same kind of attention to the details in the cabin will have the same affect. It should look inviting. A potential buyer has to be able to say to himself and herself that he can see himself sitting at the chart table or lying on a berth. If the cabin does that, then when the time comes you will be able to retrieve the financial investment you put into the boat.

Yet fitting out a boat for cruising is not an exercise in getting it ready to sell, even though that time will come. It is the process of tailoring your boat to your needs as sailors, as a crew and as a family. The interior spaces should reflect everything that makes you comfortable. It should be practical, attractive and well put together. It should be seaworthy, yet it can also be cozy.

If you have thought through the systems on board thoroughly, have planned for the types of sailing you will be doing with care, and have used the best possible gear, equipment and materials, then the boat you create will not only serve you well on the high seas but will retain its value. They say the two happiest days in a sailor's life is the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. If you have fitted out well and used a systematic approach, all the days in between should be happy as well.