Making your boat a home

Ruth Avery is an owner finished Southern Cross 31, so she has carried her owners’ quirks and preferences from the get-go.  I think this will be the case for nearly all boats whose owners live aboard and sail them for many years, over many thousands of miles.   As I circled the globe in Ruth Avery, and she was a new boat to me back then, I kept a running list in my head of modifications I would make the next time around.  As far as the interior went, the starboard side of the main cabin made no sense to me.

As shown in the photos below, for the starboard side forward in the main salon there was a large cabinet.  While this offered some desk space on top (a standing desk) and gobs of stowage, it was still rather awkward.   Plus there was nowhere to sit on the starboard side and use the salon/dinner table, so you had to either sit on the port side or eat standing up.  On the starboard side aft was a quarter berth, but it was too short to sleep in, so really just a wide seat. 

And so begins the demolition …

Now what I want here is a settee on the starboard side forward, with storage lockers behind that would also serve as a back rest when sitting on the settee.   Aft I want a chart desk with tool drawers underneath. So let’s get started.

I start with laying out the frame for the settee. 

Next I lay down the plywood base for the new bunk, and cut away the mid bulkhead for the lower back rest and the lockers. 

I cut out two large rectangles in the plywood base for access to the storage lockers below, and apply some paint and varnish.

Next I add two more partitions to create four decent sized lockers.

Now we come to the fun part, which is to add the frame for the locker doors and then–the icing on the cake–the locker doors themselves, with raised panels to match the rest of the interior.   I also add a Wilsonart (similar to Formica) laminate to the plywood top of the lockers, which matches the galley counter tops.

The easiest way (that I know of) to make raised panels is with a table saw.  You construct a jig to hold the panel vertical to the table, and then angle the saw blade around 45 degrees or so.


The rails and stiles which frame and encase the raised panels can be constructed with a table saw as well.  They are joined by tongue and groove, and there’s a groove cut on the inside of the frame to take the edges of the raised panel. 

When it’s all put together, complete with hinges and latches, painted and varnished, it looks pretty nice ….

I complete the settee with a sliding sheet of plywood with a mohogany fiddle/end piece at the outer edge.  This will keep the berth cushion from sliding off and onto the cabin sole.  Also, the plywood sheet can slide out about 6″ and the backrest cushion just beneath the lockers can be laid flat–together this will make the berth wide enough to sleep on. 

Now when I researched sliding bunks I saw diagrams with all sorts of rails and interlocking timbers.  This looked far too complicated, so I have to plywood sheet held by two grooves, both fore and aft.  This works, but, as I would find out, it is not ideal.  The problem is that the plywood sheet easily jams, hence the need for rails to make it slide straight out.  Oh well, live and learn. 

Also, of course, the plywood sheet needs to slide far enough so that the storage lockers can be accessed underneath. 

Now we turn our gaze aft, toward the chart desk …

After measuring things out (and after removing the quarter bunk), I build the front frame as well as the tool drawers.  The front of the drawers will have the same raised panel design as the lockers, in keeping with the overall interior style.  Just aft of the drawers will be a small cabinet, which will house my sextant.  I will fiberglass in a plywood bulkhead separating the drawers from the cabinet.  After installing the front frame and bulkhead, we can begin with the chart desk. But first let’s construct the front frame and tool drawers:

Then I cut out the non-hinged part of the chart table counter top. This will be covered with a Wilsonart laminate as before:

After apply some varnish and paint, we install the front face along with the non-hinged part of the chart desk.

Things are beginning to take shape here … but before completing the chart table top we must build the wide, shallow locker beneath which will be used for storing paper charts, log books, guide books, etc. 

So now we just have to add the hinged chart locker top and finish things off:

And so we have our standup chart desk with tool drawers and sextant locker beneath.

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