Adventures in Cheap Boat Tricks

This weekend was filled with doing all kinds of little things that make the boat  more livable and more like a boat that sails rather than a boat that sits at the dock; preparing to leave Astoria this week. Mike got the battens back in the main sail. We tried out the new sturdy stool I bought to keep by the mast for when we need a boost up. Mike checked the batteries and secured them stoutly. We got out the jack lines. We created our ‘safety kit’ area. We earned our Coast Guard Safety Inspection sticker and mounted it proudly on the mast. We bled the steering system one last time to be sure the fluid was correct.

All these things are good and necessary. But on our outing last week it occurred to us that we have been at the dock so long we’ve forgotten that if you want to go sailing you really want to do a little thing called DECLUTTERING the boat. Otherwise all kinds of interesting noises may come from the cabin as the wind fills the sails and the boat begins to dig her shoulder into the sea.  And all kinds of interesting opportunities for cleaning may be yours when you get back to the dock. In our excitement that we might actually get to sail this boat, we kind of forgot that everything needs to be stowed securely, not sitting out on the countertops. Enough said.

So this was the weekend for stowing and for completing a few of the little cheap boat tricks I’ve been up to.

Mike’s workshop was the worst offender in terms of being completely unprepared for sailing.

Ugh. What a mess.

Due to all the myriads of projects going on all the time, it is usually completely cluttered with bits and pieces of things, tools, cans of viscous liquids, and all the other assortments of items that, in general, make up the man cave.  Since buying the boat we have been too busy doing things like revamping the engine room to give much attention to going through and organizing all the stuff previous owners had left behind in the workshop. I had spent hours sorting and organizing screws and bolts and their ilk, but then got distracted when faced with that cabinet and whatever was lurking in the toolbox. We got to work clearing it all out, sorted things and Mike took a ton of stuff up to the car to toss later.

With the bench cleared off, I could finally remove the ugly and worn out work surface. This stuff was pretty old, and I have no idea what it was made of. But it came off in one piece.

The first cheap trick was replacing this with a softer vinyl surface that will dampen sound, be easy to clean, and also cheap to replace. At Hancock Fabric I bought some soft backed heavy vinyl for 5$ a yard in a shade of pale blue that matches the rest of the interior. Why should Mike’s man cave be the only ugly place on the boat? I bought enough to make a covering for the teak table in the salon so that we could use it as an extra work surface without damaging the wood. I cut a piece to fit Mike’s bench, using double sided carpet tape to seal the deal. I love that stuff because it keeps things in place but it isn’t permanent. The kind we have has the consistency of flat rubber cement. You can re-position and remove it without trouble. I used the scraps from this piece of vinyl to line the shelf in the cabinet. More sound deadening.

My second cheap decorating trick is happening in the aft head. Readers with good memories will recall that I recently had to strip off the old wallpaper in this cabin because I couldn’t stand it anymore, knowing there were old mold stains hiding back there.

Here’s a reminder of what we had to work with.

Like every boat owner I know, I get weary of having to pay ‘marine’ prices for stuff like paint. I see no reason why I should have to use marine paint for this surface. After scrubbing with bleach water and sanding the walls lightly,  I used a Zinsser product I had at home to prime the walls and seal them to prevent stains from showing. Then I went to Lowes and for 3$ was able to buy a 7.5 ounce sample of paint in the color of my choice. On boats, the surfaces are small so having to buy an entire quart or gallon of paint just doesn’t make sense. I love that Lowe’s offers this sample service.  I chose a color called ‘Sweet Mimosa’ and got started on that room today. Here’s what we have so far.

Yum! The color of sunshine, blue skies, and warm breezes.

I’m feeling so much better about this room that I’m going to add some additional colors to this wall to make the color richer, less flat. At 3$ for about a cup of paint, I can go crazy layering colors until I get the effect I want. This cabin is totally coming together with the colors in the aft cabin. I get excited about things like that. Really, I’m so easy to please.

So our third cheap trick is one I’m really happy with. Eventually we hope to find a way to remodel our aft cabin giving us a queen berth where we can both sleep as one. Until then, however, we’re enjoying it the way it is. Except that the mattress I was sleeping on had to go. It was old, worn out, and had mildew stains on the edge. I wanted a new mattress but good quality foam is very expensive, and then you have to cover it, adding time and labor to the process. There had to be a better way.

I measured the footprint of the berth and compared it to standard mattress sizes. I found that the ‘double’ I was sleeping on was actually only slightly wider than a standard twin XL mattress. (Why this berth would ever be considered a ‘double’ is beyond me.)  In terms of length, because the space isn’t square, it was shorter in only one area. Armed with this knowledge I turned to the source for all things that you want delivered in two days: Amazon. They may be the evil empire, but I was about to turn their evil to good.

I found a twin XL mattress that would come in a vacuum packed roll for $139.00.  It got excellent reviews, and a lot of them. Many people were using these in their RV’s. Add to cart. Then I knew I would want a memory foam topper because I am spoiled by our comfortable memory foam bed at home. I found one for $61.99. Add to cart. One click ordering. They make it so easy. Two days later…

Excitement in a tall box!

At the boat, Mike removed the mattress that had seen better days. I unrolled the vacuum packed mattress and it expanded quickly. The workmanship and materials are high quality, and it is made in the USA! Who knew? It fit like this:

You can see that one corner needs to be trimmed.  OOH, and there’s that fabric. See how it matches the aft head now? Scroll back up to that photo of the aft head… I’ll wait. Shiver!

With my trusty sewing scissors, I opened up the cover to reveal the foam inside. There were two layers of thick egg-crate-type foam, and a covering of batting and fabric.

Opening up the corner, preserving the covering and the welting.

Opening up the corner, preserving the covering and the welting. The trimming has begun.

Using a razor blade, I trimmed the foam back a bit at a time, fitting the mattress into place several times to be sure I didn’t trim off too much and got the right angle. I wanted a snug fit. When the foam was trimmed, I pulled the cover around the edge tightly and pinned it in place, flipped the mattress over, and sewed the cover in place along the bottom, using strong thread and a heavy needle.

Bottom of mattress with cover pulled tight around the edge and pinned.

A metal thimble is a must for this kind of sewing.

I then flipped it over again, trimmed the batting on the top to fit, and whip stitched the top to the side to prepare for the welting.

Whipping the top batting into place.

Finally I covered the seam with the welting and sewed that into place.

Start to finish took about 2 hours.

And now, it fits:

A perfect fit.

I am very pleased with the results. If you have priced custom marine mattresses, you’ll know that about 200$ doesn’t buy you much. This bed is quite firm, and I am happy to have bought the memory foam topper. In addition, because this is basically a twin mattress with the corned cut off, I will be able to use regular bedding. Because this mattress is mostly rectangular in a trapezoidal space, there is a gap between the mattress and the side of the boat at the head and on the side. My plan is to have colorful pillows that match the fabric I’m using in this space. It will make a lovely, comfortable area for lounging and sleeping. The best part is that this was dead easy. I won’t hesitate to do this kind of thing in the other cabins as needed.

My other project, the cushions in the salon, is coming right along. This is making a huge impact in that cabin and as a whole, we are feeling more and more like this is ‘our’ boat. Mike made the comment that when he came down into the salon, it felt like a different boat. I liken it to something finally coming alive.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that the gods are all pleased with us and that we will actually complete part one of this Little Cunning Plan by bringing Galapagos home next week.



18 thoughts on “Adventures in Cheap Boat Tricks

  1. Brilliant! I love a good mattress hack! I wouldn’t be happy on our boat without my custom trimmed memory foam topper.

    • We are too! In spite of the tax bite we will take, we really want this boat up here. And we are so ready for a vacation!

  2. You two and Galapagos are (and will forever be!) a phantastic…unbeatable trio The Plan is welll and goodly underway!!!

  3. Looks great! You will need to look under the mattress often… The boys are in the aft cabin and during the cooler months we had a ‘big’ problem with condensation. It was running down the back of the wood panels and onto the fiberglass platform that the mattress was resting on. It happened in both cabins. This winter was difficult because of the condensation. At one time the bilge pump went off because of all the condensation. The boats aren’t designed for a cold climate, no insulation.

    • Condensation: the bane to my existence. I will be insulting one cabin at a time. Meanwhile, we at least have that aeration stuff that allow airflow under the mattresses. I have a couple of different products I will be trying when I can get to it. Also am working on a solution to being able to lift the mattresses with ease to get to the storage underneath. At least you are in the warm climate now! No condensation worries in the Carribean!

    • Congratulations on your beautiful new boat! Can’t wait to see what you do inside and to read about your adventures traveling the canals of Europe! What a dream!

  4. A great way to save some time and your scissors re-shaping foam mattresses is with an electric knife, like the kind some folks use on turkey at Thanksgiving. Only make sure that it is only used for foam cutting! They run about $12-15 at various department stores like Target or Wal-mart.

    • That is a great idea, Candice! Glad to know you are reading along. I’m sure I’ll have to replace some foam in the salons eventually and I’ll keep that trick in mind.

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