Cockpit Cushion Toppers: A Cheap and Easy Boat Trick

Regular readers will recall that we recently had new mattresses made for our aft cabin. Part of that remodel was the purchase of some rather expensive latex foam toppers for the berths. These came at a cost of $570 for the space. That’s not an insignificant cost, even though it was completely worth every single penny. As every boat owner knows, boat beds do not come in regular sizes like your earthbound beds. Therefore, in order to get what you need, you frequently have to cut to fit. And you know what that means.  That’s right. That means extra material. Extra EXPENSIVE material!

That nice 3″ latex foam. We still love it.

When we picked up our new mattresses we were blessed to receive all of the extra pieces of latex foam, neatly stuffed down into large plastic bags. I was going to toss them, but being the cheap and easy boat trick queen, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t like to throw away perfectly good materials that I might put to use. So I kept them and waited for an idea to pop into my head. And it did.


Let’s build some rectangles!

Galapagos has a great cockpit. We love it. But one of the things that I’ve wanted to improve is the napability of the two longest sides. They are long enough to lie down on (one of the absolute requirements for us in a boat, being the famous sleepers that we are), but the hard Bottomsider-style cushions that came with the boat are dead uncomfortable. I decided to see if I had enough latex foam to make cushion toppers for them.

After measuring the sides, I lay the foam pieces out on some plastic up in our workshop/storage space at the marina. Supplied with Elmer’s spray glue and a healthy love of puzzles, I began piecing the foam together to make the long, thin rectangles required. I glued the seams as firmly as possible and then let them sit for a day to cure. Although I had the garage door open for all the gluing, I cannot swear that I didn’t lose a few brain cells to that spray. Do make sure you have good ventilation with that stuff. I trimmed the uneven ends with large scissors, making several cuts from the top down. Sure, I have an electric knife, the tool of choice for this job. It’s at  home. Not at the marina. Scissors worked just fine. We’re not building the Parthenon here. p1100501

As I did with the new cushions in the v-berth and aft cabin, I decided I wanted to protect these with that PUL fabric I used to keep water from soaking into the foam. This also makes coverings easy to take off and put back on.  Once again, I used the handy 40% off coupon Hobby Lobby has each week.

My only concern here is that there really are a lot of glued seams on these. It is possible that the glue will not hold up in the heat of Mexico and beyond. If that happens, though, I will still have all the other materials all set up to pop the latex out and replace it with foam all in one piece. The PUL fabric has a lot of stretch to it so it can be pulled tightly around the latex. It supports the seams in the foam as well as making the whole thing waterproof. The extra support makes it less likely that we’ll experience a total fail just from moving the cushions around.

Neatly covered in waterproof fabric.

Neatly covered in waterproof fabric, ready for canvas.

To ‘upholster’ these, I wanted outdoor canvas that was water and UV resistant. Since it’s fall, this is a good time to look for summer fabric in the clearance section of Joanne Fabrics. I made a beeline for the clearance bin and found some perfect yellow canvas for $3.50/yard. Done! I actually bought extra of this because I liked it and it was such an excellent price. Retail on this canvas is $29.99/yard. As if I would ever pay that much.

The sewing was straight forward; not exactly my favorite kind of sewing but at least with this project my machine doesn’t protest. I cut two rectangles, some sides, then sewed them together.

Cheerful and comfortable!

Cheerful and comfortable!

These are just the ticket in the cockpit for sitting or laying around at anchor. While underway they can be stored along the sides in the v-berth, or even in the aft cabin, just tucked under the shelf, which will hold them in place. They are a cheap and cheerful addition to the comforts of home on board Galapagos.

Cost Breakdown:

Latex foam – 0 because it was leftover from another project, destined to be thrown out

PUL fabric – 4 yards, 40% off – $31.20

Yellow Canvas – 4 yards at $3.50/yd – $14.00

Yellow thread – $3.00

Total cost: $48.20 plus tax. Win!

Stored in the v berth with Patrick.

Stored in the v berth with Patrick.


6 thoughts on “Cockpit Cushion Toppers: A Cheap and Easy Boat Trick

  1. What a beautiful, and inexpensive solution to your cockpit. I sooooo wanted Bottomsiders, but they are not making cushions anymore, and I am very bummed. 🙁

    I am cataloging all of your supplies so that when we get the leakproof hard dodger and bimini made, I can make some acceptable accessories.

    • We do love our hard dodger. It makes the cockpit liveable even when it’s raining. I highly recommend that site. Really good stuff, and really good prices and service. I think bottom sider type cushions are over rated, frankly. I know they are waterproof and all, but my middle aged bones need something with a little more give to them. I suppose they are better than nothing since they are weatherproof.

  2. Clever! And I love the yellow. I don’t think some people (that would be me and David) appreciate how important it is to bring colour into the boat. I can hardly wait to do it all over again! In my mind, I see a lot of white and gray with pops of colour . . . anything but navy blue and hunter green!

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