Moving Aboard – Part Four
When summer arrived, I started to get a lot more done on the boat, and jobs of necessity gave way to jobs of comfort. Up to this point, I’d had minimal furniture on board. I had an old ikea chair and, a folding bed, and a small wooden bookshelf that had come with the boat. When I first started renovating the boat, I’d needed all the space that I could get for working. Having furniture would just take up too much room, but now that most of the big jobs were out of the way I could afford to start getting more comfortable in my surroundings. I’d drawn up several plans trying to decide what furniture I wanted, but I couldn’t really visualize the space on paper. In the end, I made a rough 3D computer model and started moving furniture in and out until I was happy. I spent so much time on planning the interior because I wanted to make the most of the limited space, and I didn’t want to waste any opportunities if I could avoid it.
Most people who know me in person will know that I’m a rampant bibliophile and a mean speed reader. Since I average several novels in a week it made sense for me to keep most of my literature on a digital reader. Still, I knew that I would need a bookshelf to keep my papers and boxes of trinkets in order. I would also want a desk so that I could work on my laptop. I wanted these things to be in the bedroom, and as the room was only 8 foot long they would have to go on the front bulkhead, near the end of the bed. This actually worked out pretty well, since I needed already needed to build a step to cover the water pump and pipes that led from the tank on the front deck. I used some of the cheap 16mm MDF and 2×2 timber recovered from the old bed to construct a desk on the port side of the cabin, and a step that covered the water pump. I re-cut the rickety old freestanding bookshelf that came with the boat and fitted on the opposite side to the desk. I had to struggle a little bit routing the electrical cabling that ran from the ceiling to the water pump, but the job didn’t take long to complete.
The biggest problem I had with fitting out the bedroom came when I actually tried to connect the computer to the electrical socket. I was using a 12v laptop adapter to power the computer, but every few minutes the screen would flicker and the charge light would go off. I eventually traced the problem to the original wiring that I used to connect the power socket. The wiring was too thin to handle the current needed by the laptop, and so the power supply kept cutting out. The solution to the problem was simple, but not particularly easy – I had to re-run a higher capacity cable along the whole length of the boat, across the bulkhead, and down into the fuse box. I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of doing this, but it was necessary and I trudged through the job with the determination of someone who isn’t willing to be separated from his only source of audio-visual entertainment. I used 6mm2 copper cable, which I calculated would give me an acceptable power drop of less than 5% over the length that I needed. In a superb example of comic timing, the laptop screen broke just after I completed the job and I was forced to replace it before I could use the laptop.
The next task was some permanent seating. If the boat had been longer, I would probably have gone with a sofa-bed and an armchair for convenience. With a 45 foot boat, I really couldn’t afford to waste that much space. I needed the seats to double up as storage, but I also wanted to fit a second double bed for guests to use. The only practical way to do this was to build a dinette near the kitchen at the rear of the boat. With two 4 foot long padded seats, and a large table that could be disassembled and stowed away when not in use. The MDF sheeting was pressed back into service, and after checking the design of the seats and the table in the 3D model, I cut and built them over a period of about a week. The seats were hollow and could be used for storage, and were covered with carpet to reduce the chances of condensation forming on them. The carpet also served to cover up a multitude of construction techniques that I wouldn’t dare refer to as carpentry. When the table was laid down across the seats, the cushions could be turned 90 degrees, to make a comfortable mattress. When the table wasn’t needed, it could be stored out of the way in a cupboard next to the bedroom. The cushions for the boat were made from a roll of vinyl-leather that I found in a charity shop, and were originally stuffed with a combination of foam strips and a continental quilt. This didn’t work particularly well because the foam gradually worked its way to the sides of the cushion and left you sitting on nothing but vinyl. Replacing the foam with solid, closed-cell upholstery foam made an almost miraculous difference. The seat cushions looked crisp, and were incredibly comfortable to sit on. The biggest problem with them was that once you sat down, you weren’t inclined to stand up again and carry on working! As a final touch, I had a few old conference bags laying around at home, and with a little adjustment and some foam stuffing, they made excellent scatter cushions that really did help to personalize the boat. Later on, I decided that a collapsible table would be very handy, and I made one using some old dowel and scraps of wood that were laying around the workshop. The project only took about an hour, but the resulting table was sturdier than any of the collapsible tables I’d seen in the shops. At some point, I might replace the table top with natural wood rather than MDF – but that’s a job for another day.
Since I was moving aboard, it made absolute sense to reuse my own furniture whenever I could, Most of the things I owned were too large to fit on the boat, but I did have some small sets of drawers from Ikea. I modified one so that it was wide enough to fit into the kitchen as a stand for the microwave.
I only had a few scraps of MDF left when I modified it, but with some iron on edging trim and sticky backed vinyl, the joins aren’t really noticeable. The narrow space at the side of the drawers is perfect for keeping food trays, and the high side protects people sitting in the dinette from any steam from the microwave vents. I used two more of these sets of drawers in the cupboard next to the bedroom. I used the cupboard to store tools and cleaning equipment during the restoration, but now that most of the work is done I use it as a built in wardrobe for long coats and dress clothes.
The foam cushions on the dinette were so comfortable that I decided to use it for my mattress in the bedroom. I was still mindful of the limited space available to me for storing bulky things like bedding and shoes, but I didn’t want to have a permanent double bed cluttering up the little space that I had in the bedroom. I compromised by making a single bed on wheels, with storage bins underneath it and two 5 inch thick mattresses. Using a second frame fixed to the wall, I built it so that you could pull the single bed away from the wall and extend it into a double bed. That way, the bed could be pushed back against the wall and used as a very comfortable sofa when I had guests, a single bed with a double thickness mattress, or a double bed. I have to say that it’s quite possibly the most comfortable bed that I’ve ever slept in, and when it’s configured as a sofa it’s very difficult to make it to the end of a movie without falling asleep. I store most of my clothes in the storage bins beneath the bed, which is much more convenient than reaching into the suprisingly deep built in wardrobe.