Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Perfect Live-Aboard

 As we head into our first decade on the water, we've been talking about the limitations and advantages of some of the vessels we've inhabited.  More to the point, if we build another boat like we built the original Floating Empire, what would it be?  What elements would we include or carefully dis-include?  This is of course a highly individual list, but here are a few of the things we agreed that we definately want to address on any new boat.

First of all, Choke Points.  One of the reasons for moving aboard our current Carver dock queen was the major series of choke points that made living aboard Constellation, our beloved Pearson 30, a pain in the tuckas through the winter and pandemic.  Specifically, the boat had a great drop down table, perfect for us to sit across from one another and write or work on projects, but unfortunately, in order to go to the head, one of us had to get up, completely, clear off whatever they were doing, and fold away half of the table.  During a winter of few choices of just places to BE, it got to be a bit much.  When we moved aboard the Carver we went "Wow, there's a lot of room in here.  No more dancing around each other."


Anyone standing at the sink in the galley completely blocks going in and out of the boat in the Carver, and the dining table, though  wonderfully huge, is in the way of anyone getting in or out of the V-berth.  Did we spot these things immediately?  Nope.  

So when designing a new vessel, bear in mind that with anyone using any counter space or when tables are deployed, you're going to need an additional eighteen inches or so just to get buy without knocking someone over.

Second,  Storage.  Surprisingly, sailboats tend to have a LOT of storage.  Really.  Some of them have a stunning amount of storage.  The problem is, it's all behind something else, in the bilge, under cabinets, behind hatches.  None of the spaces are in any way rectangular, tending to be disused space matching the curve of the boat.  As a result, yeah, you can store a lot of stuff, but it's going to be buried, often in damp bilge spaces, fraught with condensation and mildew, and plan on moving five things to get to the one thing you want, which is now wringing wet for reasons that supasseth understanding.   In a new live-aboard, we would be shooting for orderly, rectangular spaces, with more shallow surface area so that you can actually SEE what's inside them.

Third, Light.  Man you would think the sailboat companies were being charged by the lumen.  Intially, our older boats featured dim, rather lame interior 12V light, which we replaced immediately with uber-bright LED fixtures.  Therein we discovered a problem:  just because the light is bright it doesn't mean it's in the right place to. . .well. . .actually illuminate anything.  In Constellation I installed an over galley counter light that you could tan by, and it was wonderful for cooking, but left the rest of the boat in shadow.  The problem is rarely encountered in houses, mostly because movable lighting fixtures--I think they call them "lamps"--are apparently pretty common.  Of course those would just fall over in most vessels, and where would you plug them in?  The solution in planning is to assign a lighting fixture for each and every seat and work space, and then add a dome light for general lighting.

And, next up, the DREADED SNAKE FARM.  This has been a constant issue on every vessel on which we've lived.  On our current boat, we have five small appliances, two computer power supplies, two cell phone power supplies, two usb power supplies for headsets, a power supply for a kindle reader. . . .you get the idea.  Add to all that the rather limited set of outlets with which boats tend to be provided and everything looks like the floor of Medusa's hairdresser.  I did help the matter somewhat by replacing outlets with 110V plus USB outlets, which cut down on the bulky power supplies all over the damn place, but it wasn't a solution.

The solution is, of course, to figure out where things are likely to live and then over-outlet those positions so you can have the fewest and shortest lines possible.  Plan on it still not being enough.  Install a few more 12V and USB outlets just in case.

And, finally, the cat.  Understand that your beloved ship's cat will want to be in the ABSOLUTE FREAKING MIDDLE of everything so they can keep tabs on stuff.  It sounds adorable, but Magellan is twenty five freaking pounds of fur covered ballast bag who will not hesitate to touch you inappropriately if preturbed.  

The solution is, of course, to create wonderful spaces for you furry crew member.  Alcoves, padded shelves, and spaces by the portholes are a wonderful idea.  You can use them for storage as no self respecting cat will want anything to do with them. least we enjoy planning.

Don and Gail Elwell

and first Cat Magellan

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