Coastal Cruising, not Voyaging

Cruisability is a term coined by the Watkins Yachts marketing team (our yacht is a Watkins 27), and I think they were on to something.  Sailing publications often focus on long-distance cruising: the life-style, gear, boat prep, sail handling, stowage, systems, boat strength, safety.  It seems, though, that there is not as much discussion regarding how to make your boat “cruisable.”

It is completely possible to own a boat that is strong and ready for open water passages, but doesn’t really work as a temporary home.  I’m really talking about convenience.  Unlike an earlier post, when I discussed simple conveniences and simple systems, I’m now talking about such conveniences as food stowage, clothing stowage, drop boards stowage, keeping clutter minimized so that you can live in your very small space but access things you need without disrupting the entire boat interior.  It comes down to “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”

Making your boat work this way takes thought and experience.  It often takes being annoyed with the status quo enough to change and innovate.  Here are a few examples:

Serving Utensils

We have one drawer in our very small galley.  It holds everything.  Everything!  This is bad.  It is a reasonably wide but shallow drawer, and holds flatware, serving utensils, can opener(s), paring knives, utility knives, scissors, pump-out tokens, boat ignition keys, and stuff I’ve left off the list ’cause I can’t remember anymore.

Thin, wide drawer

Sometimes the drawer gets stuck shut (this is really bad).  Sometimes I can’t close it.  Sometimes my wife gets very frustrated with it (this is really, really bad).

Much of this stuff doesn’t belong in here

So what can we do?

  • Make utensil holder that allows for easy access and retrieval of galley tools and keeps them out of the drawer.  Mounted on the bulkhead in the galley makes the most sense for the holder.
  • Ditto paring and chopping knives and scissors.
  • Create specialized box to hold utility knives, pump-out tokens, ignition keys.
  • Jettison extra (bad) can openers and get a OXO brand can opener (they always work) and make a place for it in the utensil holder.

This makes galley life easier.

Drop Boards

Stack of drop boards

Where do you put these things?  They are varnished, so you don’t want to just throw them anywhere. When stacked, they are about 4 inches thick, 3 feet long and 10 inches high.  What to do with them?

  • Create canvas pockets that attach to the quarter berth inner bulkhead, or…
  • Create canvas straps or pockets that attach to the quarter berth overhead

Using vertical or overhead space creates a lot of stowage.

Any usable space in there?

Clothing Stowage

This is a big item, because if you leave your clothes in the ubiquitous sports bag we all carry, then it occupies flat, horizontal surfaces.  Inevitably, you have to move it to access a locker underneath, or something behind it.  It would be better to stow the clothes in their own place that didn’t need moving. Few sailboats the length of our Watkins 27 have a bureau for this.   What to do?

  • Install netting in vee berth to hold clothes
  • Convert that ill-used hanging locker to shelves (hanging clothes in a sailboat is a poor idea anyway)

Netting over the vee berth port side

Dysfunctional hanging locker. Shelves in this space would be better.

Dinghy Spars, Rudder, and Centerboard

Where do you stash these things?  The oars stay in the dinghy, but the sailing gear?  Not really.  I’ve suspended the spars in the vee berth up high on the starboard side against the hull, and they are out of the way there.

Dinghy spars hanging up high in the vee berth

But the rudder and centerboard are just in the way, standing on edge in the quarter-berth.  They block access to tankage beneath, and completely block the after-most stowage underneath the berth.  Again, vertical and overhead stowage seems best:

  • Strapped against the quarter berth overhead
  • Strapped against the hull vertically

In the way. All the time. Hanging from overhead, or strapped against bulkhead is a better use of space.

Things that Hit Your Head

If there is a risk of hitting your head on it, it should be changed.  My new hatch riser proved to be a head knocker.  Fortunately it was me bonking my head and not my wife.  I need another hardware solution for this.  Apparently, it should be a telescoping mechanism that closes inside itself and minimizes protrusion.  I’ll have to shop around for this.

Reading Lights

We currently use flashlights to read at night in the vee berth, and it just isn’t working.  I’ll have to look for another style light to install.

Our one inadequate reading lamp in the vee berth.

These are all little things that will make a big difference in cruisability and livability when on board.

  1. Jan Sopoci said:


    An excellent post!!! When I first got my boat (before it arrived here), I was making myself “nuts” trying to figure out just how I’d configure things. It FINALLY dawned on me, that the best thing to do, is just get it into the water, deal with it for a season, and figure out just what’s most important to me, and revise accordingly, during the off-season.

    Naturally, I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for useful ideas (such as you and others have provided) to deal with “issues” as I become aware of them.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jan. There is no substitute for living with arrangement and becoming annoyed with the way it doesn’t work for you! That’s a great motivator to make changes to your boat with knowledge of how you want to use it.

  2. As the wife in this post, I agree with all that has been said. I must also add that things have already gotten much better than when we first got the boat. Our sleeping accommodations have improved, and we have changed the plumbing so that showering doesn’t have to be done in cold water. We’ve installed a fresh drinking water system that I trust and I asked my husband not to store the bug killer or the varnish in the food cabinet, and he agreed.

    • Can’t imagine why she would object to bug killer in the food cabinet!

  3. Jan Sopoci said:

    “varnish in the food cabinet”

    Don’t you LIKE glazed doughnuts? ;-)

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