Expert advice: improvements below decks

Our top advice on improvements on a yacht below decks to make life at sea comfier and better for all cruisers

For all that owning a cruising yacht brings up ideas of cruising under blue skies over azure waters on deck in full sunshine, in truth, a significant amount of time for any cruiser will involve not being on deck at all but in fact being below decks.

And if you are at an anchorage, sleeping between watches, preparing something to eat, or even sheltering from the rain while you eat then below decks is where you will be. Making sure this part of your boat is as comfortable as possible is a big part of ensuring you enjoy any cruise and particularly if you are planning on being aboard for a longer period of time.

Here, Yachting Monthly’s panel of experts have gathered together to bring you their top tips for improving your boat below decks.

Are you sitting comfortably – John Willis

The stainless steel tube armrest holds the removable cushioned side panel safely in place. Credit: John Willis

The stainless steel tube armrest holds the removable cushioned side panel safely in place (see photo below). Credit: John Willis

I am privileged to be the custodian of a Frances 34 Pilothouse. In one corner is a comfy seat for the watch keeper to sit and read.

It works brilliantly so long as I am on starboard tack. Change to port tack and I am left wondering where on earth I am going to sit without falling out or off.

Credit: John Willis

I visited my helpful stainless steel fabricator, who made me a stainless steel tube armrest.

This slides into a bigger tube retained by a massive bracket bolted to the front bulkhead of the starboard cockpit locker.

The arm rest is inserted into the tube alongside my watch keeper seat, held in place by a split pin.

The two-inch thick stainless steel tube is more than strong enough, doubles as a low-level hand hold and can be removed in seconds. Next I had a cushioned side panel made.

I can now sit comfortably and safely fore and aft on either tack.

This idea could be added to any seat, such as the end of a saloon berth or perhaps a navigation seat, with minor modifications.

An extra gambled work surface – Graham Snook

Using the stove as a gimballed work surface can prevent spillages. Credit: Graham Snook

Using the stove as a gimballed work surface can prevent spillages. Credit: Graham Snook

It’s never easy to leave tea or coffee brewing while sailing, and while manufacturers make handy stove covers, they aren’t practical at sea.

I’ve found the four-mug holder Muggi to be a great help when sailing. However, while it stays put, the contents of the cups don’t.

A simple solution is to use the stove as a gimballed work surface.

If you don’t have a Muggi, or the stove is hot, a saucepan large enough to hold the mugs in will keep any spillages at bay.

Both the saucepan or the Muggi can then be carried to the cockpit in one trip.

Be sensible with your stowage – Graham Snook

Baskets can be useful for storing tins. Credit: Graham Snook

Baskets can be useful for storing tins. Credit: Graham Snook

Keeping things together on board makes finding items quicker and less problematic.

Rather than keeping tins on top of tins so you have to remove a layer of cans to access the ones below, take a trip to your local hardware or homeware store and see what stowage solutions you can find.

It’s far easier to store a layer of cans in a basket that can be removed in one go.

Homemade gimbal – John Willis

The gimbals were designed to clear the stores below the hob. Credit: John Willis

The gimbals were designed to clear the stores below the hob. Credit: John Willis

I replaced my cooker and oven with a hob and grill. ‘A step too far,’ said my ocean-going mate who likes to do clever things like bake bread.

But I rarely used the ‘incinerator’ and the first mate pointed out it opened up a useful storage space beneath.

If the idea was sound, the execution was not.

The damned thing wouldn’t gimbal, so I decided it needed weight below, like a keel.

Fortunately an ocean-going sailor friend and genius engineer took one look at the situation and disappeared to his workshop, emerging a day later with two solid stainless steel weights, mounted on threaded rod, which he through-bolted to the cooker base.

They weigh about 2.5kg and they are mounted at each end of the hob, so that they clear my stores below – and it works.

Why hobs are not sold with similar devices is beyond me.

I also decided to make holders for my drinks containers.

Two stainless D-rings screwed into the woodwork behind the hob, with a piece of bungee cord, did the trick.

Protect saloon seat covers – Helen Melton

Saloon seat covers down below on a boat

Covers will help your saloon seat covers last longer. Credit: Helen Melton

Our first boat was only two years old in 2003 when we bought her.

She had been kept in great condition by the previous owner and the saloon seating looked smart and clean.

We are tidy by nature and therefore quite concerned about the cushions deteriorating with whatever our family and the weather were likely to throw at them.

Luckily for me, my husband’s mother had taught him how to use a sewing machine.

We bought a hard-wearing denim fabric and plenty of elastic, and set about making a set of easily removable seat covers.

They worked a treat; pulled on and off when necessary, washed beautifully and kept the salt and stickiness off the fabric in a really cost-effective way.

Source: Yachting Monthly

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