March 10, 2016

Seeking comfort in the cabin

I SAW A PHOTOGRAPH of the interior of a 27-foot Albin Vega the other day and it looked bleak and featureless. I was disappointed, because, for various reasons, I’ve always admired that little design. This one, however, looked more like the inside of a railway carriage than a proper little yacht. In short, it just didn’t look snug and comfortable.

It’s hard to say what makes a small boat cabin comfortable. I guess there must be a compromise between too much and too little in the way of furniture, fixtures, and fittings. There should be a feeling of space but also of snugness. It should be cheery and cozy, homelike and friendly. As you go below, you ought to feel that you’re being welcomed and cosseted, not just tolerated. It’s a lot to ask for.

The famous naval architect L. Francis Herreshoff had strong feelings about this, and one surprising conclusion he came to was that comfort was related to salt.

“If a cabin is entirely free of salt — that is, has had no salt water or particularly spray in it — it will be a dry and comfortable place on damp and foggy nights,” he declared. “It will also be much easier to clean and keep free of mildew.

“One of the best ways to keep the salt out is to stop swimming parties from the boat. You may not like this, but if you are to really enjoy cruising you must do it. After I start a cruise I never go in swimming unless on a large yacht that has a freshwater showerbath.

“If you can keep your cabin and body free of salt you will be much cooler in hot weather and your clothes and bedding stay dry.”

Well, there you are. That’s what the master advises. I’m not sure it’s practical advice for small boats without showers (unless your sailing is restricted to freshwater lakes) but then, I’m not L. Francis Herreshoff, either.

Today’s Thought
Spilt salt is never all gathered.
— John Ray, English Proverbs

“How was the movie?”
“Didn’t see it. There was a notice that said 'Under 14 not admitted.'”
“But you’re 35.”
“Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t find 13 others to go in with me.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Alden Smith said...

L. Francis Herreshoffs book 'The Compleat Cruiser' has much very good advice, although some of his attitudes are a bit dated 50 years on - but I would agree with him regarding keeping the salt water out, if you possibly can.