More Adventures in Interior Refitting: Aft Cabin Redo

It’s time to address that aft cabin aboard Galapagos. We don’t have a date for moving aboard yet, but I am loathe to wait until the last minute to do any kind of remodeling of the interior. Now’s the time. The goal: create a sleeping area that is appropriate for a couple, without giving up too much in terms of standing and walking room, and without breaking the bank. Here’s our current setup.

The current situation.

When we bought Galapagos, it was with the realization that high on our list of comforts we wanted was a big berth in the aft cabin. We had been spoiled by some of the boats we’d looked at. Many of them had a queen sized bed in the master cabin, some even bigger. After our time on Moonrise, our Cal34, we knew we wanted three things: to be able to get out of bed without climbing over each other, a way to sleep comfortably together at anchor, and a comfortable mattress that was as good as the one we sleep on at home, not necessarily in that order.

Thus, I was pretty disappointed in the aft cabin in our boat. It wasn’t enough to turn me off to the boat, but I knew we’d have to do something about that cabin sooner, rather than later.  The disappointing thing is that the aft cabin, while very roomy by boat standards, has a split berth. Originally the boat had two single berths, one on each side. I guess this 1975 boat must have been designed before the days of cruising couples who actually wanted to sleep together.

Looking closely, you can see where this side was extended. The cabinetry was done to match.

Previous owners had extended one side into the boat definition of a double bed to try to solve that problem, but, well, no thanks.  Really that’s not enough room for either of us to be comfortable. We each need our space for actual sleeping.  And there is that whole thing about all the trips to the head we both make. They only seem to get more numerous as we get older. We both need our sleep. So we have ended up sleeping apart. We can handle that in the short term, but we would at least like to have an option that isn’t the v-berth. Ok, I’m a spoiled brat and am tired of having to crawl out of a berth in the night several times without kicking Mike in the head, or any more tender place. I’ll own that.


See this photo from the Hylas Yacht’s site? I want this. Ha hahaha! My wallet says no.

This week Mike removed the mattresses and we went down today armed with cardboard, tape, and tape measures, to create a new space. Here is a list of our goals for this space:

1. Be able to sleep side by side when we want to.
2. Maintain our current layout enough that we can continue to sleep apart when we’re just dog tired. That’s actually a bonus.
3. Be able to access the steering mechanism in the middle compartment, and also the stowage compartments on the starboard side by creating a mechanism to tilt the mattress pieces up individually. This requires that they be on a stiff underlayment made of plywood or some other, hopefully lighter weight yet sturdy, material. If that material were to allow air flow, that would be ideal.  Our measurements and trial runs have confirmed that we can use a mattress up to 8″ high and still have plenty of access room when it’s tilted up.
4. Do as little cabinetry work as possible because…lack of skills to make it look good.
5. Leave enough room for the head door, and to easily walk through from one side of the cabin to the other. We’d like to be able to stand and get dressed in there.
6. Continue to be able to access the drawers on each side.

I started by making a template of the existing layout, then began adding to that, keeping in mind that the finished product measurements will be larger where the mattress butts against the hull due to the curvature of that surface. This gives us a few more inches of room on each side and on a boat, a few inches can be the difference between workable and terrible.

We’ve come up with two possibilities:

Solution number 1. Distance from the aft wall to the edge of that middle section is 48″.

Solution number one leaves the starboard berth as is, extends the port berth out about 6 inches, and brings that middle section out  just to the corner of the drawers on each side. The corner of the port berth (hint: we are facing aft in the photo) has been clipped to make it visually more pleasing and protect our thighs from a sharp corner. This is the easiest solution. The distance from the aft of the cabin to the forward part of that middle section is 4 feet, ample room to lay side by side athwartship.

Our other option is this:

Using the cockpit cushions allowed us to play a little more with the space.

It’s difficult to photograph this entire cabin at once. In this instance, the starboard berth is enlarged at an angle from the forward corner, and the port berth is brought straight across, intersecting it at a right angle. That little triangular piece of cardboard that shows in the above photo would be gone. There would be plenty of room to lay side by side in a fore/aft position, rather than athwartship in this scenario, but it would take a little more carpentry work, and the door would not open all the way. It would open enough, but not competely.   Here is a pitiful sketch, not to scale or anything else, but you can get the general idea.

Dotted lines represent what we have now. Note there is a shelf in the middle section that already keeps you from walking or standing there.

And here is a photo of the original drawing of the layout so you can get a better idea of what we are dealing with. Note in the drawing that the little white triangle between the berths is actually a cushion insert, like in a V berth. The solid rectangle connecting the two sides is a seat that is below the level of the berth: 

That’s as far as we’ve gotten at this point. We are playing with how deep to make the mattress. We tend toward having memory foam or latex, or possibly the gel foam that is supposed to be a bit cooler than memory foam. All of that is heavy. Mike wants to be sure that the weight is not an impediment to getting under the berth. I want it to be easy enough for me to do it without his help. Wooden chocks could help hold the mattress and underlayment up and take some of the load so we could tie it off securely. I’m imagining having to get at the steering mechanism out on the open sea and not wanting the thing to come crashing down.

Finally, I want to keep resale value in mind because it’s always a good idea to do that. Of course we plan to have this boat for years, but I wouldn’t want a wonky aft cabin to get in the way of a sale if it came to that.

If you have ideas and thoughts, throw them out here. Any idea what we could use for an underlayment, besides heavy plywood, that would allow us to lift up pieces of the mattress to access the underneath compartments? (Yes, the mattress will be hinged in places, but that’s a different post.)  I’d love to think there is something like a fiberglass grid that would allow airflow under the mattress. Surely someone has invented that already.


Update: August 3, 2016  Want to read the entire Aft Cabin Remodel series to see how long it can take us to make a project happen? Here’s the next entry.


Bidden or unbidden, God is present. This hangs in our aft cabin, as it hung in my office for about 20 years. Nothing to do with the remodel. I just like it.


21 thoughts on “More Adventures in Interior Refitting: Aft Cabin Redo

  1. Will be interested to see what the final design is that you go with. Definitely important to be able to access the steering. To get to our quadrant, we have to lift the mattresses off and cram them out of the way. Fortunately, our mattress is split in the middle so we can lift just one side off. We love our aft cabin – one of the big pluses of our boat. Having a comfortable place to sleep is so important. But, the downside is that one of us does have to climb over the other for those midnight runs to the head 🙁

    • Yeah, that’s just a no go for us at this point. Either of these plans would allow the person on the inside room to go around the sleeping other. Still, what I would give for one of those walk-around queen beds. I know it’s not particularly ‘boaty’, or ‘sailory’ to say so, but I don’t care. I go to sleep designing the perfect aft cabin.

  2. Investigate the Froli system (German boat box spring)… you might be able to use a thinner / lighter foam with some spring from the Frolu. Also, great ventilation.

    • Hmmm, that’s a thought. I know people love the Froli system, but had not considered it may make it easier to use lighter, thinner foam. I’ll give that a look. Thanks!

  3. It’s a shame Boeing Surplus is gone now. Some of their resin/aluminum hex cell rigid panels might be great. At one point we had quite the sturdy little bookcase made of that stuff. If we still had it, I’d offer it up, but sadly it left us along the way somewhere.

    • Sure, would love to meet you and see your boat. Knock on our hull sometime, too. We are usually down there on the weekends, one day or the other, and sometimes during the week when I’m working from the boat. Looking forward to spending more time at the marina and getting to know folks better.

  4. Melissa,

    The custom inner-spring mattress in our aft cabin is ‘hinged’ in the middle [longways] so one side folds on top of the other. [Our non-standard shaped ~Queen size mattress runs amidships along the centerline- not athwartship- and the ‘hinge runs along the centerline of the vessel.]

    This design also makes it easy for us to incorporate a lee cloth attached along the hinge to divide the berth into two pilot berths when desirable in a seaway.

    Essentially, it is 2 mirror image mattresses sharing a common mattress top [if that helps make sense of it…]

    I mention this concept in case having your mattress hinge [wherever it needs to fold- it doesn’t have to be symmetrical…] would allow easier access to necessary compartments, below.

    BTW- You cannot tell there is a ‘hinge’ when laying on the mattress…

    In case this provides further food for thought.



    • Thanks, Bill. I will be doing a separate post on the mattress situation but we will definitely be hinging a few parts together. I’d love to see a photo of your setup.

      • Hi Melissa,

        I realize now I missed your mention of hinges in your original post. I apologize for using your time sharing an idea you already had…

        RE: Photos of our hinging innerspring mattress: we aren’t on the boat right now, so I will comb through the photos in our archive to see if we have any that show it.

        Otherwise, it will likely be April/May before we are back to the boat and can shoot some for you…

        Best wishes with your project.



  5. PPS: …and if you don’t go with the Froli system, you may want to look at Hypervent. I’ve been using it successfully for 30+ years on 5 different vessels… the trick is to also run it up the mattress ends and sides where they are against the hull or a bulkhead to maximize ventilation.

    We picked up a 50 ft roll [1 meter wide…] of it at a discount at the boat show in Seattle last year… We only have about 10 ft left…

    Cheers [once again…]


      • RE: Sliding on the Hypervent, if the mattress abuts the hull, bulkhead, etc. on 2 or 3 sides, and you run the Hypervent up those sides the thickness of the mattress (so it is flush with the top of the mattress) it won’t move at all. We have done this in our camper as well…

        Otherwise if the mattress isn’t already blocked-in, I can see the problem…

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