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8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement

What design criteria go into making a good cruising boat interior?

This is an area where I feel that I’m well qualified since, so far, I have spent approximately 30% of my 70 years living afloat and most of that while actually going places. So here are my thoughts:

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John Rushworth

Oh! dear, I feel guilty already. It is time for the ocean long term voyaging sailors to have their say, not us engineers. I can’t claim to be a voyaging sailor. The longest I have spent at sea in my own 26′ boat is 3 days covering 188 nm. Hardly a qualification. And large military and commercial vessels, don’t count so I can’t lay down that experience. But I do class myself as a mariner.

Suffice to say I agree with John and Archimedes. One of the first things I want to know is displacement, but the engineer in me says I’d also like to suggest manufacturers quote that and gt too, as opposed to nt which is more to do with cargo space.

Gross tonnage or gt being a unitless index related to a ship’s overall internal volume. That together with displacement would help me compare boats for space, far more than length or length on the waterline – which for me has more to do with attainable displacement speed and stability when taken together with beam and other stability factors.

When attempting to compare like for like about what you can fit in a boat do we want to know displacement and gt too?

John Rushworth

Hi John,

It is why I posed it as a question as I am not sure either. All I know is when skippering Jet Boats of say 60ft, is that gt could be different between two vessels of the same size and gt was what we had to go by, not displacement. As I understand gt from Wiki it is calculated based on “the moulded volume of all enclosed spaces of the ship” and is used to determine things such as a ship’s manning regulations, safety rules, registration fees, and port dues, whereas the older gross register tonnage is a measure of the volume of certain enclosed spaces.

I guess what I’m saying is we could have two boats of the same length but different displacements with the heavier one potentially having less internal volume subject to the density of materials used – yet without digging deeper it does not tell me for example how it is distributed or what weight of glass it is built with for instance. I’m just wondering what other factors we need to know to ascertain useful spare internal volume for ‘stuff’ based on a light ship.

I guess we would need to measure if you like the volume of air in the vessel and also to know where the largest volumes are placed in relation to denser materials, which could inform next to a set of stability curves.

My point being you could go on two different boats of the same displacement, length and beam but with differing internal volumes for ‘stuff’? It’s been a long day, maybe it is I who is confusing matters….

Jean-François EEMAN

Hi John,

No both Johns are not confused…
In case of aluminium and steel do not forget that the boat will be (should be) insulated… On a Boréal insulation is 8 cm thick…
We do not loose 8 cm as the insulation is partly placed in between the structure, but we do loose space.

John Rushworth

Thanks. Just like say a Sadler 34 with a double skin. Less internal volume, more flotation and ‘unsinkable’. Now add in insualtion (cold in Scotland) and the boat has shrunk for stuff 🙁

Dick Stevenson

Homage to a dedicated shower “room”
Dear John,
This is probably way too long and subjective for most to go through, but I wrote it a while back and find it relevant for this topic. And I have been having fun, over time, thinking of the less obvious design decisions that allow a good offshore boat to also be a superb home rather than just a fast safe platform for adventures. It is especially where those 2 goals intersect that interest me.
When we bought Alchemy (another 40 footer), one design decision that I noticed, but little thought of, was the inclusion of an enclosed shower room. Gradually, its many attributes, on passage and at anchor, have been revealed so that, at this point, I consider a dedicated shower to be almost on a par with the importance of indoor plumbing. Bear with me:
A separate dedicated shower
Dimensions: (approx)
1. Think telephone booth with an added bench on the side
2. 85cm x 56cm (standing 50 x 50) with a bench (essential) for sitting tucked under the side decks
a. The size is just big enough for washing without gymnastics, but small enough for safety showering at sea
b. I am a bit larger than average I suspect
3. Sump is the standing area, 50x50cm and is a 24cm deep fibreglass tub with a drain
4. The entrance is slightly bevelled from square
a. Entrance is mostly athwartships so stuff (including people) does not fall out when heeled
1. Bottom of companionway steps
a. All wet gear has an easy, out of the way, water contained, place to go
b. Helps keep all wet gear from going further into the boat
c. Makes stored gear readily available
2. Head and shower are part of same area.
Attributes on passage
1. String lines with loops in the shower
a. All wet gear goes in there, hung on hangers and ready to go and drying as well as possible
2. Gear can be gotten quickly out of the cockpit or off deck by being tossed/put in the shower easily and be contained (read not underfoot)
3. Heavy weather use
a. When anticipating a heavy weather situation, gear (parachute anchor, drogue etc, long rodes, chain) can be accessed and stowed in the shower, ready at hand and contained, but out of the way for when conditions dictate their use.
i. From the shower they can be assembled, and made ready for deployment, yet safe and out of the way.
4. On a more prosaic side, it is hard to over-estimate how good a hot shower can feel on passage: how beneficial to sleep, to being relaxed, feeling human, feeling in control etc.
a. The bench, small area, and athwartships entrance combine to allow me to safely shower even bashing to wind in moderate conditions.
b. This may be personal, but, like a cup of tea, taking time for a shower just changes one’s perspective in a good way.
Attributes at anchor (especially in cool/cold weather)
1. It is always nice to shower
a. We have an extra long hose and run the shower out the portlight when swimming. Then we soap and rinse in the sea and spritz off with the shower.
b. The last year or more we have been in colder climes where swimming is not our recreational activity and showering where the whole head does not get a soaking (and the work that entails) is a joy.
In marinas
1. We do all our showering aboard.
a. We do not have to walk, sometimes long distances in dodgy weather, to shower in locations where cleanliness is often poorly monitored.
b. Sometimes you have to pay extra for showers.
Other attributes
1. With the high sides, the sump can be used as a tub for laundry which can be left soaking and sloshing (agitating) for periods of time without worry about spilling.
a. This can be done under sail (maybe best done)
1. Must find a way in winter to heat water when you are not using the engine regularly
a. Same/similar issue when at anchor for over a few days
2. Adds moisture to the interior of the boat in the winter when you least want it
a. We squeegee the sides and wipe down.
b. But we run a de-humidifier all winter now.
3. Takes up interior space
a. Alchemy is 40 feet and altogether my head and shower seem no larger; just use space differently, than other boats our size and larger.
4. Promotes excessive water use.
a. Like with all consumables, be aware of your vessel’s limits.
b. In 10 years I have taken very short showers to conserve, but I have rarely not showered.
c. We live aboard full time so we appreciate the ability to operate (within reason) as if we are in a land based home with all its resources.
i. When possible we shy away from actions that promote us feeling like we are camping.
ii. Throwing buckets of salt water on ourselves and swimming while on passage is fun, but not so much when cold out and your goal is to get clean and climb into bed.
5. Adds to overboard discharge of questionable stuff
a. Short answer is people wash boats & cars etc and flush into the sea
b. Longer answer is too long to enclose.
My best to all and I congratulate you for persevering to the end.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Ed Kelly

I love the explanation and logic in Dick Stevenson’s thoughts on a dedicated shower. A luxury that should be a necessity on all boats. Too little thought on this key element in the design of vessels.


Hi John,
2 thoughts
1. obvious but often forgotten is to have the main saloon berths parallel to the centreline (many are not) and if you can take them out to 7′, better for us taller people.
2. Galley, rather than “U” shape, go for what is sometimes referred to as “G” shape, with a centreline return -only needs to be 18″ – is far safer and more comfortable than trying to rely on straps etc and easily fits within you 7′ allowance. Just make sure the stove is not within the enclosed footprint so you cannot fall against it.

Matt Marsh

Two quick thoughts.

Berths: Length must be no less than 200 cm (6’6″). Any less than that will make bigger / taller crew (like me) VERY grumpy. Lord only knows what the marketing guys are thinking when they point to a cubbyhole the size of my desk and say “look, double bed!”.

Head: One comfortable, reliable head is far better than two cramped ones. We get by just fine in the summer with one shared between 6-8 people; one per cabin seems like a horrible waste of space.

Jean-François EEMAN

Dear John,

There is indeed much more to learn form a lot of people. And it is not an exact science.
We look forward to read all comments.

On the new Boréal 52 & 55 we have enough space to have just behind the front cabin a real work space with a bench.
We believe that a real work space or bench is somewhere where you have enough height to stand in front of, and enough place to move you arms…
If it is not the case, you’ll beter work outside…
And on the rear platform you have a big flat area where you can easily place a foldable workbench…

On the 44/47, there is no real possibility to make in the aft cabin an area/bench where you can really work…
But indeed as you say most crew/owners do not need permanently three cabins…
So we have made in the line of what you suggest a modular cabin.
Either it is a cabin with either two bunks; either storage and one bunk, either just storage on two levels using the space in the best possible way…
You remove the cushions and you have an ideal space to store boxes…
As the aft cabins are the best place to sleep at sea : you have an extra crew for a long passage : you put back the cushion and you have an ideal sea berth…
When you sell your boat second hand: the space is either storage room, either cabin… You do not loose the potentiel clients looking for something specific.

C . Dan

“Perhaps a small portable workbench with vice could be designed that locked into place in the modular cabin and also on deck”

The would be an amazing and unique feature for the A-40, and is just the type of clever innovation that is evidence of a top-notch design.

Keep it coming!

Jean-François Eeman

I know Colin has a vice which fits in his winch… Seems and excellent idea to me.

Marc Dacey

John, while I have standing head room in my forepeak “workshop”, I can’t wear a hat and would block the lighting.

I have therefore decided (unsurprisingly, as I am a lifelong cyclist) that a simple bicycle seat on a short length of pipe (chromed if one prefers) would make the best workshop seating. Advantages include having two legs to brace oneself in the “riding” position, a small footprint, a seat and post that is easy to stow, and you can get most of the bits from a salvaged exercise bicycle…which seem ubiquitious.

I’ve posted a picture of my workshop design here:

As for the rest of your post, I strongly concur with all of your points, particularly the safety aspect of a narrower hull form.


its some time after your post, and some images on your site are no more available. Unfortunately exactly the image of your workbench is missing – would it be possible to re-enable your photobucket account?

Marc Dacey

Certainly, thanks to the machinations of I am gradually reloading these photos from my own hard drive as people request it (as you can imagine, it’s a lot of work), so I will prioritize this. A lot of bloggers have been inconvenienced by this and other image-hosting websites. Thank you for your interest.


Thank you for making the images available again.
Now I’m wondering how you’re accessing the forepeak as you have the settee leaning at the bulwark?

Jacques Landry

Hi John.

These are all excellent and comprehensive ideas about what an oceangoing vessel should be. As you say, very few sailboats have been designed that way.

I have an older 38′ steel boat and the interior was custom design by the owner. It is mostly as you describe it, but with a few things shorter (3′ lazarette, 5′ U-shaped galley, smaller chain locker) but the rest at 7′. It is a narrow boat, and I feel it has as much usable living space than many fatter boats, it just does not look like it at first.

Unfortunately, the single bathroom, although roomy, secure, and efficient does not have a shower. I would love to add such luxury but wonder about all the water (read humidity) generated by this in a boat interior ? We are talking all varnished teak, even the roof. Do you think retrofitting would be wise, or even possible ?

As for a workshop, I have a piece of 3/4″ plywood on which I install a vise that I can either attach onto the chart table (which is large and has a settee) or in the cockpit. Not the best, but better than nothing. I also use one of the wood fenders (2″x8″x72″) when I need to do any heavy banging!


Victor Raymond

Although my boat is rather smallish (47 ft) for what it contains, I have two heads, 4 single bunks, one double bunk (just abeam the mast post), deep galley, chart room, engine room with work space and storage, interior watch station. What I don’t have have is a standup saloon. What, you say, how can that be? This is the most cavernous spot on the boat so you sit down at the table to eat or converse; you don’t walk around and risk being thrown from one end to the other.
There is plenty of storage. In fact there are several places that are so deep I can stand and not be seen. (Good for hiding from pirates.)
Although we have only 50 mm of solid insulation virtually no space is taken up with framing due to the Strongall method of construction with thick aluminum plate.
I am sure this boat would not be for everyone but as for offshore safety I don’t think you will find one with less empty space. The downside is that there are many different levels. One can get a good workout just moving quickly fore and aft throughout the day. I have not met Peter Smith but he could not be a tall man. Fortunately at 5’8″ I am not either.
But yes, I do wish, I could have purchased a Boreal at the time but that window of opportunity is gone now.

Dick Stevenson

John, Matt and everyone,
I agree that 2 heads is an extravagant design feature for the boats the size we are talking about but there is (at least) one fine reason to have two heads on a vessel. When you are in waters that are crystal clear and a lot of swimming/snorkeling is being done a holding tank is quite neighborly. Our holding tank is modest in size and, used for all deposits, lasts for only a few days, and that is for just 2 people. Those boats with 2 heads can use one head to pump overboard liquid waste and use the other head with a holding tank for the more solid deposits probably tripling their time at anchor till the HT is full.
Best to all, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Matt Marsh

Dick, that’s an interesting point about holding tanks vs. pumping overboard. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me, as the whole Great Lakes system and all Ontario inland lakes are 100% no-discharge zones.
I wonder if you can get something like a Separett solid/liquid separator for a marine head….


Dick, we have done exactly the same with our vessel. While overseas, when we knew that the other cruisers were shitting in the water, I couldn’t bring myself to do the same. But the holding tank lasted much longer when we used the forward head for #1 pumped over, and the aft for #2 into holding. Not proud to to say it outloud… But it is how we operated in certain places. Many of the French boats didn’t even have holding tanks. It also helped out when valves on one of our Jabsco’s went south. We still had another head to use until I could get replacement parts.Maybe it’s not a good enough reason to tailor your small voyaging boat around but it worked for us at the time. And don’t tell anyone I said so…

Dick Stevenson

Jacques, We shower daily on a 40 ft boat. I agree w/ John that it is not a big deal in the scheme of things. We help the humidity level by squeegeeing down the shower sides and then wiping what is still wet with a small towel and hanging that outside. A side benefit of this practice is that the shower will need cleaning far less often and the soap scum is gone.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Eric Klem


I think that these are very good tips to start with.

The only thing that I would add is that the design must work at many different angles of heel and while rolling. I had always accepted that interiors became somewhat unpleasant once you got offshore and that doing anything down below would be a struggle. When I sailed aboard my uncle’s boat (not an offshore boat actually but an S&S designed racer similar to a NY32) I suddenly realized that the interior and actually most of the boat was just as easy to move around in when heeling and rolling as when sitting on the hook. It is hard for me to point to specific things but somehow the entire layout just worked. The placement of handholds still worked when heeled, there are special blocks to stand on at different angles of heel, you could still use the sinks and stove, etc. One of the most noticeable things to me was that I still had headroom when the boat heeled over which is not true on a lot of boats where you suddenly need to stand under the side deck. I haven’t sailed aboard his boat in a few years but I will try to pay attention more next time I am aboard and see if I can figure out why it felt so much better than other boats. In this day and age, I suspect that it largely consists of the designing rotating the boat on their screen with a human model in there to see how everything works.


Marc Dacey

When reading about the first gen of post-war cruisers, like those of the Hiscocks and the Smeatons, one is struck by the quite different layouts prevalent at the time: the vast stowage and tiny “living space”, the heads where the V-berths would go, galley gear on the centerline (meaning frequently offset companionways) and little in the way of aft cabins, these being vast and partitioned lazarettes.

Part of that was due to the long overhangs, of course, but much of it was due to deferring to what worked at sea rather than what served either a sort of lubberly prissiness or an attempt to replicate shore-based accommodations.

I’m not saying I want the layout of Wanderer III (or its 30 foot LOA!) or adore the decisions of the Pardeys, but we have in some senses abrogated a lot to the designers of boat interiors that should be dictated by the ocean’s behaviour, not fabric swatches.


Hi John,
also many interesting features on “sv Seal” on a vyage boat basics, isn’t it … ?

Jean-François EEMAN

Hi Bruno,
Hi John,

We seem to have the same references…
Jean-François Delvoye and Hamish spent time together in Ushuaia discussing about their view of an ideal voayge boat before building each their own. It is the same approach (also with Peters’ Kiwi Roa) : people with a lot of experience transforming their vision into reality without any commercial considerations…

I visited Seal in Ushuaia during my previuous vovayge. So many ecxellent ideas. BUT before transporting them to other boats like for instance the A40 do not forget she is
1) a work boat (charter)
2) she is really big (56′)
3) she is designed (by Chuck Paine, we should not forget him !) as a high latitude cruising boat…

Victor Raymond

Peter Smith completed my boat for the previous owner just before he started his own Kiwi-Roa. So many things are similar and yet many things are very different. I guess he was trying out ideas on Rajah Laut in advance of his own boat. The most distressing part is that he did not really pay attention to the electrical system like Kiwi-Roa. I am not sure why he did not go for a swinging keel as I find that one safety factor most experienced sailors miss. I am sure after his recent capsize he is wishing he had one as it would have most likely prevented it.
Good luck with your boat building and say hello to Jean-François for me. I would have enjoyed building a new yacht with Boreal.


Hi John,
also some interesting features to check on those tough voyagers :
sv Seal :

and sv Kiwi Roa :


Gd day,
yes indeed, kind of professional boats, but great basics can for sure be learned from those intensively used designs in extreme conditions, and they actually keep it to some very simple ideas which might be applicable in smaller sizes (my old 33′ is full of those, i’m lucky), but indeed, 56′ is a nice size !

as you all so nicely discribe in this post, the interior design is definitely crucial for the seaworthiness or in this case the crew fitness and wellness, and those guys can for sure tell us a lot abt it by experience !!
seaworthiness will always remain a basic for any true voyager, i guess, in coastal waters (the danger is ashore !) as well as offshore,


I have spent many hours in the past sitting in Kiwi Roa’s saloon drinking red wine with Pete! He recently completed a very stormy passage between the Falklands and Cape Town, during which Kiwi Roa was put to the ultimate test, being capsized to an estimated 170 deg. Fortunately his “tree”of a mast remained standing, there was no significant flooding of the interior and only some damage to deck equipment plus water in both engine and generator. Hopefully he will write about this as he has some interesting observations.


Hi John,
A couple of things I did not see mentioned.
We like a narrow companion way in bad weather. We always go down the companionway steps backwards and having walls on both sides of the steps gives the shoulders something to stop the body from swinging out of control when seas make for serious conditions. I’m always thinking that going down the companionway is one place for a bad fall and a serious injury. Hand holds are important but like you say holding on when the body is being tossed is hard to do especially if you are tired from a long hard watch, Those walls on both sides of the companionways steps are a life saver. So many modern boats have a fully open companion way with no walls at all.

The other thing we like that we don’t see much in new boats is a strong drip ledge under the windows or port lights. On our last boat a Mason 44 those drip ledges were a great place to hold on to while going forward when below. They were strong, at a good level and deep enough to to get a hand grip on. They were also great for our son who was not tall enough for the over head holds. Al Mason was brilliant when it came to sea worthiness inside and out. The narrowness of the Mason 43 and 44 helped make his interior design a safer boat to do passages in.

Our new boat the Boreal 44 has many of the same qualities and that was important in us selecting the boat. But I think I’m driving JFE and JFD crazy when I tell them I want a seat belt in the dog house so if we were ever knocked down or hit on our port beam with a large wave there would be no way to be bounced head first down the companionway steps while taking watch.

Victor Raymond

My guess is that if you follow their instructions for steep breaking seas i.e. raise the keel, you will not find yourself needing that seat belt. They only recorded capsize of an Ovni was in the North Sea when the crew did not raise the keel. Of course it came back around but the crew and boat were not quite the same afterwards.
However if you still want a belt installed I would go for the full body harnesses that race car drivers use so your head can’t slam on the chart table in front of you.
Enjoy your Boreal (I am jealous and happy for you).


Hi Victor, nice to hear from you.
The seat belt thing is more of a joke between Boreal and us. But you know I think we will put one in eventually as it is a sound idea in many boats. The race car seat belts are what the Dashews have in their boat. I’ll never forget the first time aboard their boat and seeing seat belts everywhere with shoulder harnesses. Made you think about others experiences. Always a good conversation piece with them.
Yes we look forward to sailing the new boat with centerboard in many positions and of course with the centerboard up in steep seas. We have the electric lifter instead of going to the mast to raise centerboard, we can just press a button at the helm to lift or lower. This will make it easy for us to experiment with the centerboard in many positions on many points of sail and in different seas. Like you I think we have a better chance of not having a knock down in a centerboard boat than a full keel boat but I believe that every boat can be knocked down no matter what anyone says.

Victor Raymond

Hello Steve,
I don’t remember seeing seat belts on Wind Horse but maybe they were stowed or I was concentrating on the view as we moved around the harbor.
In any case JFE has informed me that your ballast is in the keel root which is an interesting development. It certainly has it’s advantages and I look forward to hearing how you like it.
We also have an electric horizontal drum winch to raise and lower the keel which is very handy. (Similar to a truck winch but much larger.) In fact we can also raise and lower by hand or using an portable electric drill should all else fail.
Enjoy your fine new vessel. I am sure it will bring years of wonderful memories.

Jean-François EEMAN

Hey Victor,
Good to “speak” to you here.

Good point.

When I heard about that story of capsize I got in touch with the norwegian skipper and eventually met him… It was the only recorded capsize so we wanted to understand.
“Capsize” means much different things : they did indeed put the boat on her side (spreaders and mast in the water) while the keel was down but they did not go “all the way” or overturn…

Steve’s Boréal will have his lead ballast (not cast iron) in the keel embryo (and on not on the flat bottom of the boat)… They stability curve cannot be compared.

In conceptual approach the fact you can raise the unballasted keel (or is than a daggerboard) while sailing is different from for eg Seal’s ballasted swing keel which is essential for stability of the vessel.

I hope when of this days we will lay for anchor together in the same bay.


Victor Raymond

Good to connect with you here too. I was not aware that you were making the Boreal with different ballast options. On Rajah Laut we have the bulk of the ballast in bilge but there is another 1000 kg in the keel itself. It was an option with Meta at the time.
Yes, capsize does mean different things and I always hope I don’t have to find out either.
I do hope we share the same anchorage someday soon.
Warm regards

Wilson Fitt

A minor point has impressed itself on me while attempting to stay enthroned during a heavy sea and steep heel angle aboard various boats. The head should face forward or aft with bulkheads or counters close on both sides and a good firm handle to grab. This helps the user to maintain an appropriate and secure attitude without fear of being dislodged.

More a matter of management than design, all crew members regardless of gender should strongly be encouraged to pee like a girl. It will improve head hygiene noticeably.

Victor Raymond

Another great use for seat belts.:)
On a more serious note: we tend to sail flat bottomed swinging keel boats a little flatter i.e. less heel, so head orientation is less of a problem. Also because we can not point as well, these type of boats don’t pitch and bang quite as much going to weather. Depending on waves if we can hold 60 degrees apparent we are happy. Probably the Boreal can do much better with its wave cutting bow.

Marc Dacey

It’s not ridiculous in heavier conditions to consider a change to a point of sail that favours a successful “release” in the head, if the sea state allows it. I would rather head up or bear off than rebuild our head, OR I would encourage the use of a properly fitted out “storm bucket” on the centerline (with a securable lid!) rather than a head that might be on the (very) high or (very) low side.

Of such small considerations are happy crews and co-skippers made!

Greg Silver

Noted recently in the toilet compartment of a tour bus I happened to be riding on: pictogram silhouette of a man standing and peeing, with the circle and slash (meaning do not do this). I plan to make one of these for my boat. Gentlemen, please be seated.


Some good old basics on interior design (and others) by rod stephens can be read here as well …


Thanks Burno for the info, lots of sound advice from the old boys.
One thing they mention is ventilation. I have noticed on many of modern blue water boats the lack of good sound ventilation possibilities while underway. Yes they have plenty of hatches to open while at anchor but lots of new cruising boats do not have dorades for good air flow on passage. Dead air on passage in a moving boat can mean sea sickness for many while below working the chart table, cooking in the galley or trying to get some sleep when not on watch. A good dorade system that have screw in plates that can be put in in severe weather so if a knock down did occur the dorades are water tight. Another thing I have noticed on boats that have dorades is that few put some screen over the pipe that allows air to flow to the inside of the boat. If your sailing in the tropics the dorade is one sure way the ugly cockroach can find its way inside your boat.

To help ventilation low amp fans on the market today help move air. We think every section of the boat should have fans that can be easily turned on when occupying that section of the boat. Having a fan in the sea berths can make a whole lot of difference in how much sleep the off watch crew gets when the tropical heat and humidity abound.

Another issue for those who sail in the tropics is good screening for all hatches. On our last trip across the southern Pacific we know of 12 sailors who came down with dengue fever at different ports and anchorages. Out of the 12 sailors 5 of them were not able to continue because they became too sick. One can only imagine the disaster of trying to get your boat some where safe or a place where you can sell it if you are no longer able to continue. Maybe they got dengue fever on land but we did see the mosquito that causes dengue fever aboard our boat in places like marina in western Samoa and in many of the islands, dengue fever now finds its place in most of the tropics. Good screening any more is a must on a cruising boat and I forgot to mention Malaria in places like Panama, PNG and Borneo.

Marc Dacey

There are very few “boat books” I’ve deemed essential ove r the years: Beth Leonard’s “Voyager’s Handbook”; one or two of Jimmy Cornell’s books; Dave Gerr’s big ‘un on boat mechanical systems come to mind. But two I return to over and over again are Nigel Warren’s Metal Corrosion in Boats and Roger McAfee’s The Warm, Dry Boat. Both topics (corrosion and ventilation) are intimately connected and no place more so than on a steel sailboat.

So the “big Dorades” thing is very important to me, as I think it is the exchange of air aboard a boat that reduces condensation and general unpleasant damp aboard. It’s a topic that is ignored in favour of air-conditioning or propane bulkhead heaters, neither of which can always adequately keep a boat warm and/or dry.

I remember stepping aboard an old fellow’s Alberg (I think) a few years back on a blazing hot day. He had a canvas tarpaulin over the boom (many had a plastic version to deflect sunlight) and a windscoop over the forward hatch. Just before we went below, he emptied a couple of buckets of water over the canvas, soaking it. Within a few minutes, the interior was cool with a slight breeze from fore to aft. I recall noting the ice cubes lasted a long time in the rum!

I do not know if such simple techniques as making use of a wetted tarp to evaporate heat away from the boat are still appreciated, but it’s a skill I intend to retain.

Steve Guy

Great post and comments. Whenever I try to imagine or draw my ideal accommodation plan for a forty foot boat I run into this problem: there are three things I want immediately below the companionway, the galley, the chart table with quarter berth aft and the head with stall shower/foulies locker. Trouble is that there is only really room for two of the three. What to do?

Steve Guy

Maybe a “J” shaped galley with access aft. Perhaps we could rethink the need for a dedicated chart table as we get more electronic, though the idea is hard for me to swallow. One could use the salon table for emergency paper chart work… Not ideal solutions.

Steve Guy

John, for an arrangement that includes head, galley and chart table right below the companionway, see pacific Seacraft’s Crealock 40. The boat has a big butt and displaces 23,000 lbs. but it might be doable on the A-40. See Ferenc Maté’s “World’s Best Sailboats, Volume II” p.145

Bob Tetrault

This has been a good “brainstorming” session, hopefully everyone has learned or confirmed something that will add to safety or comfort in a proper voyaging boat. A lot of what I might have contributed after reading John’s first post has been covered in detail so I will try and focus on what may not have received enough attention in my opinion. My “opinion” comes from professional schooling, experience and mostly the School of Hard Knocks. My seagoing career began as a teenager on offshore commercial fishing vessels, Maine Maritime Academy graduate, merchant marine officer on tankers, ocean going tugs, hopper dredges, more offshore fishing, and the past 25 years cruising with my family on S/V Sea Return between Trinidad and Canada’s Eastern Provinces. Philosophy; way before functionality comes stability, sea keeping ability, and comfort. I don’t go to sea in any vessel where I can’t confirm the stability characteristics. Operators need to understand the nuances of their particular vessel, not the class or model. Most designs are stable off the table, it’s the owners modifications and handling that begin the slide toward minimum stability. Most racers are not cruisers, coastal day boats have no business planning a Gulf Stream crossing, know your stability curves, update them after significant modifications and understand what to do to keep them maximized. “Take care of your boat so it can take care of you”. Now that we have that basic criteria out of the way here are a few ditto’s. Ventilation; dorades and lots of them, able to be closed water tight from inside the vessel equipped with screens. We do not open hatches at sea, ever! It always bothers me when I sea photos of boats sailing downwind in the trades with the big deck hatches open, you are only one roll away from a major down flooding event. Only generous articulating dorade vents can provide enough ventilation and still be safe. Properly mounted solar vents can help but personally I don’t believe they are rugged enough. Shower stalls; equipped with handholds, drain at all angles, close to the CL as practical as others have pointed out. I want to add mixing valves. Not only do these save water they also prevent scalding. I have them fitted to the heater and faucets. Heads; a head you cannot stay on is dangerous. The bowl should empty at all angles, not lap you while being used and be located where motion is minimized. Mounted and plumbed in a way that assures the joker valve is not the only barrier between you and the sea. I failed to shut the seacock in a squall once and sheared the two bolts off the pipe flange securing the joker valve. This happened with a proper vented loop on a “Skipper”. Galley; lots of good advice here already. Sea Return is a cc ketch with a walk through galley. There are advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement. We have oversize cockpit hatches inboard of the galley. These are wonderful for passing meals etc between the watch and galley. The gimbaled stove however can block access to the aft cabin on a port tack when well heeled. We usually rely on pre cooked meals in heavy weather because of this feature. The sink can be drained at all angles although it needs to be pumped. Watermaker; except for fishing vessels (that carry 10-20 tons of wet ice) I have always gone to sea with a Watermaker. We consider it as important as a good autopilot. We rarely take water from shore and then only after testing. Maybe because I’m paranoid from contracting amebic dysentery in Guatemala but I will never again drink water I didn’t produce and test. My first generation unit lasted 22 yrs with three membrane changes. My new unit is more efficient, user friendly, and a must have in my opinion. Equipped with a UV filter it can be used cost effectively almost anywhere. I routinely FW rinse the entire boat every dawn at sea, this helps keep the salt and dampness out of the interior and contributes to a happy crew. Autopilot; two units complete with independent drives permanently mounted and available at the flip of a switch. If the pilot will not safely steer in all conditions then reengineer a system that will. A good working vane steering system could be substituted for one unit provided its at the ready. SR is 53,000 lbs displacement so I have little experience with vane steering on larger boats, but expect and read where we may be at the upper limit. I’ve sort of gotten off on a tangent here away from “what makes a good interior” but bare with me. The autopilot whine, clicking, whirl, chatter and power consumption are an ever present issue better dealt with up front. We have a Simrad pilot plumbed to a big single Ratheon hydraulic ram that is quiet, uses minimal power and can steer better than me. The other unit, a Benmar with a stepping motor and chain drive uses more amperage and will awake the dead when it occasionally gets caught sleeping and needs to catch up. The issue here is noise and power consumption. Handholds; I haven’t seen a boat with too many yet. Thru bolt them after a lot of thought about proper placement. We have teak and holly brightly varnished soles. I’m slowly converting over to a mild patterned Treadmaster. My broker says those T&H soles add value so I’ve been dragging my feet but mine are dangerous pure and simple. Bunks; a sea bunk with a proper lee cloth for all off watch crew has been showcased, I’ll only add that one must be able to feel secure while in one but able to vacate in a hurry if necessary without compromising safety. I hope I’ve contributed in a meaningful way John. I could go on and on but enough for this post.

Marc Dacey

Very good points. I wouldn’t worry about the T&H soles; the type of potential future buyer who would appreciate everything else aboard wouldn’t miss them. If you would, however, I would direct your attention to the types of marine non-skid flooring that do a reasonable impersonation:

Victor Raymond

Marc and Steve

When on Steve and Linda Dashew’s Windhorse I noticed they had a very slip resistant yet attractive sole coated with walnut shell mixture. The nice thing is that I am quite sure it could be applied to existing soles with the appropriate concoction.

Marc Dacey

Victor, thank you. I’ve heard of that treatment for exterior decks but not interior soles.

John Lundin

As we build out the interior of a 45′ Alu hull, I’m eager to mockup some alternative arrangements. This has been a great thread that tells me some of my ideas may actually work! Since you can’t really sleep in a heaving v-berth, this entire fore area will be storage dedicated to sails, outboard, tool bench, bikes, skis, whatever we need. The boat won’t have dedicated cabins, but rather two pullman style sea-bunks stacked amidship, and a twin quarter-berth leading astern. Since 97.3% of the time we’ll be cruising as a couple, the lack of privacy should be little bother. The advantage will be a reasonably open layout that’s easier to heat and keep dry in cold climates, plus lots of storage in accessible places. Also, this allows us more dedicated volume for a large nav-desk, functional galley and dedicated shower room. The trick will be positioning handles throughout, most likely a ceiling mounted rail. Curious if this approach of minimal compartmentalization is being considered for the A40?


This is a post that hasn’t seen anything new in a while so why not? I was on a boat a number of years ago that was just short of 40′ and one of the things I liked was the bottom of the companion way. When you got there you were standing on a grate looking at three doors, forward to the main salon, port straight into the shower (through it to the head and then a door to the salon, access hatch on the back to a huge lazzarette) and the starboard opening into a quarter berth. No need for wet to ever get forward of here. Some sort of convertible arrangement would turn the quarter into a work room and the engine on this particular vessel was between the laz and the quarter – don’t know if this was a ‘V’ drive or not…


John Zeratsky

I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Outbound 46.

We just ordered one for live-aboard cruising and offshore voyaging. I can’t speak from personal experience (yet), but it was the only new non-custom boat that met our criteria. It has a lot of what you’re talking about here, John.

– Huge standup forepeak with watertight bulkhead
– Narrow interior with storage behind the salon furniture
– Workshop and tool storage in the lazarette
– Massive tankage in the floor

Construction on our boat (hull 65) is starting soon, so I can’t comment on the process. But the design seems just about perfect, and from inspecting used boats of the same model, I feel very confident in the build and installation quality.

John Zeratsky

Outbound does offer the option to replace the forward head with two large cabinets; we are considering it.

Thanks for all your great work here, by the way. I have been reading each of your online books. The material has been immensely helpful to me as we are specifying the new boat and planning everything from spares to maintenance checklists.

John Zeratsky

Thanks John. I am aware of the problem. The builder does not offer the option of a smaller engine. We will have to live with the engine and do our best to use it appropriately.

John Zeratsky

If only you could get EVERYONE to read AAC. Then we’d all be better off 🙂

Thanks for reminding me about the exhaust temperature gauge.

Greg Silver

I’ve just subscribed to AAC and have been binge reading today. We are nearing the tail end (I hope) of a refit and preparing for relaxed winters in the tropics aboard a sailboat to avoid Nova Scotia winters. My vessel of choice, after much looking around, is a 1980 Niagara 35, classic layout. Workshop in the forepeak, lots of storage, good access to most systems (I did put a hatch in the cockpit floor to get better engine access) a v. nice narrow galley, not so nice sleeping accommodations (so called double-quarter berth and and a regular quarter berth which would be fine for a small guest). My solution for the sleeping, as my wife and I like to do this together: I converted the dining table to drop down to settee level, and we now have a queen size berth athwartships, just ahead of the mast, mid ship. Given that we will be in the tropics, next step is a screened enclosure in the cockpit, with a new (yet to be made) binnacle-mounted dining table which will become our dining area. We can use the quarter berth(s) at sea, but we expect to be at peaceful anchorages much of the time where we will have the luxurious mid-ship mega berth, and dine in the cockpit, or at somewhat smaller snack-bar tableau in the aft portion of the main salon. I don’t know if this is a novel approach, but we think it will work for our anticipated life-style on board. I did a similar berth conversion to our Nonsuch 26 which we cruise in Nova Scotia and this has worked out very well. The key is the cockpit enclosure to provide a comfy dining and living room. I’m enjoying AAC and looking forward to learning more as we complete our refit. It’s been especially interesting reading the refit stories on this site and when I’m done, we will have our own to share with you.

Marc Dacey

Greg Silver: I have friends in the Caribbean who have lived aboard a similar-vintage Niagara 35 for many years. They’ve stopped actively blogging, but you may find a wealth of information on how to get the most out of the “traditional” layout on their blog:

Interestingly, both of them are well over six feet tall, making their opinions on space allocation pertinent!

Greg Silver

Thanks Marc!


Hi John,

I know this is an old thread, but you’ve recently encouraged us to point out errors we may see in the articles to improve the reliability of the content. I’ve seen something to the effect of, “I have been momentarily weightless at sea many times over the years, indicating an acceleration of over 1G, which will be 2G on the other side of the cycle,” thrown around on this site a few times, and while it seems credible, with its nod to science, for me it does not pass muster. That is not to say that your point, about thinking seriously about having more handholds and also having an interior that does not rely on them, is not valid, only that the argument needs to be reconsidered.

The false premise is that the sensation of weightlessness is the result of being at 0 G’s (to invoke the cycle, the variance on one side of the cycle would have to be equal to the variance on the other, so if you want to end up with 2G’s, you need to drop to 0G’s). This is not the case. The sensation of weightlessness comes from your mind’s perceived sensation of acceleration being different from its expected sensation of acceleration. (and this can be evoked even at much slower accelerations than at freefall – as a demonstration, we’ve all felt the brief sensation of weightlessness in a high speed elevator, and yet, we safely made it to the lower floor without floating around in the interim). The exact same sensation can be exhibited by stepping off of a high diving board, or even missing a step when walking down stairs. In all these situations we can be sure that exactly 1G of force is being exerted on us.

You’ve attributed the sensation of weightlessness to the idea that Morgan’s Cloud is launching you upwards, and there of course some heaving forces involved and therefore greater than 1G, however, boats and waves simply do not accelerate upwards fast enough to create the forces you’ve attributed to them. (otherwise water drops would fly upwards out of the crests).

What is happening is that, as you crest a wave, the upward heaving acceleration diminishes. Exactly 1G of acceleration acts on both you and Morgan’s Cloud’s centre of gravity, and you both begin to fall into the trough, which itself can trigger the sensation. However, Morgan Cloud’s stern still has some support, which also sets up a rotational force and the bow dips a little faster than your mind expects. This differential in velocity between you and the part of MC under you does not follow your intuition, and you feel weightless as you freefall briefly and your feet could actually come off of the sole (which is less likely to happen if you’re in an aft cockpit than if you’re amidships or below)

But this is not even the right question to be asking with regards to injury and the ability to hold oneself up. What matters to the strain in your biceps is the differential between your velocity (not acceleration) determined by 1G times the distance you’ve fallen, and that of MC’s deceleration characteristics when it runs into the bottom of the trough (at least in the very steep survival waves that we’re considering). Imagine a very fine bowed racer hitting the trough, the resistance to forward motion builds gradually as the bow enters the trough and builds up buoyancy. In the early part of the impact, the boat’s velocity is reduced to a little less than yours, and you reconnect with the boat with only slight force and then mostly share the same deceleration and re-acceleration pattern as the boat. In contrast, a blunt bowed boat will make full contact with the wave ahead immediately, and rapidly decelerate (?possibly even be accelerating back toward you) by the time you literally crash into it’s cabin sole, with all the potential for injured lower limbs and torn rotator cuffs.

Again, we can look to high-speed elevators, which do descend quickly enough to cause us injury. They all, however apply the ‘brakes’ gradually and so deliver us safely without even the need for the assistance of handholds. This is the same principle of the parabolic arc and landing slope of ski jumpers and why they can fall several stories without injury.

Again, I write this with respect, and hope only to point this out to you. This is a very complex topic, so I’m sure I’ve made some errors in the above statements and welcome you pointing them out to me.

Roland Stockham

When the new RCD sytem first came in I remember staying on a new 42ft boat (we rented it for the weekend as a hotel room not to go sailing) looking around like you do I noticed it had a plate fixed to the companionway giving basic safety stuff like what its rated use was, coast ocean etc. That raised my eyebrows and made me think “I would not be happy doing that in this boat” then I saw the load rating, ie how much stuff you you can put on board. My jaw dropped, The total loading allowed above light ship weight was less than my ground tackle alone and my boat was 10ft shorter! Load carrying matters and for extended ocean passage it is measured in tons not pounds! check how much that sporty light weigh flyer is designed to carry before you consider adapting it for cruising.