Offshore sailing can occasionally present some forbidding conditions, but having the boatís interior stay orderly and intact in the worst of weather can really help you to endure these times. When securing below for offshore sailing, the ultimate goal should be to prepare for the unthinkableóa roll through 360 degrees. If youíre ready in advance, youíll reap the benefits everyday knowing that you can sail through almost any condition while your crew and gear below deck stay safely tucked away.
To achieve this kind of security, start by taking a photograph of your boatís interior, turn it upside down and shake vigorously. Consider what would stay put and what would crash to the floor? While recently preparing Serengeti for close to 2,000 miles of offshore passage making, we found we had a number of areas that were going to fail this test dismally. If we wanted to move about, eat, sleep and navigate in comfort during rough conditions, and avoid being hit by flying objects, we knew that we had some work to do. In this article, weíre going to offer our own solutions to the challenge of securing your boat below decks. Most of these solutions are universally applicable, simple to accomplish, and wonít break the bank. We began by looking at our storage areas.
Floorboards Like many cruisers, we've put the storage area beneath our floorboards to great use. We store extra-heavy items like spare anchors and chain there along with spare engine oil. A few of the nice cool spots under our floorboards have even been converted into a wine cellar. To have any of these items spring from their captivity would spell disaster. A flying floorboard or levitating anchor could seriously injure a crewmember, and wreak havoc with your interior.
The quick and easy fix is to install screws to hold down your loose floorboards. We wrestled with the idea of putting screws in our beautiful teak and holly sole for quite a while before we finally broke down. We soon realized that we were agonizing over nothing. A small countersunk screw carefully positioned and professionally aligned becomes virtually unnoticeable on your cabin sole. To make a countersink hole, you only need a countersink bit and a drill. Countersink bits are inexpensive and easy to use, but make sure you experiment first and mark the bit so that you obtain a consistent depth to all your holes. For most cabin soles, a No. 8 flat or oval head screw should suffice. How much weight you plan to secure, and exactly what youíre able to fasten into dictate the length of your screw. Drill your holes perpendicular to the surface, and space them consistently along your floorboards for a professional-looking job.
Flush-mounted fasteners and ring pulls with spring catches are another option for securing your floorboards. Itís been our experience that that over time, these types of catches work poorly as floorboard fasteners. Dirt, sand, and salt all seem to work their way into the innards of the catch and cause them to stick and malfunction. This type of fastener is also quite difficult for the average person to align correctly and install.
Lockers The lockers under the settee cushions and berths on most boats offer a large amount of storage space, and itís here that many of us store heavy items such as canned goods, tools, etc. These lockers often have loose lids that lift right off. Sometimes they are hinged, but usually there is no way to secure them.
There are a couple of ways to address these areas to ensure containment of all items. One option is to install barrel bolts or turn buttons. The number you need depends on the bulk and weight of the items stored below. If you have a hinged lid, you may get by with adding just one opposite the hinges. If youíre storing heavy items and have no hinges on the lid, you might want to install four or even more locking devices to distribute the weight of the contents. Make sure that your bolts are either stainless or bronze so theyíll last for years to come.
|"If you have a hinged lid, you may get by with adding just one barrel bolt opposite the hinges."|
Another solution for securing the lockers under settees is to fashion a seat-belt-type strap out of nylon webbing to hold down both the settee cushions, the lids, and the heavy contents below. One or two straps can effectively secure three adjacent cushions and lids. A buckle is placed in the middle of the strap so you can deploy or stow the strap in a jiffy. When not in use, your seat belt stores neatly under your cushions.
Drawers If youíre fortunate enough to have many nice drawers onboard, youíre also cursed in that theyíre always trying to open themselves at the least opportune time. Most boat drawers are designed so that you have to lift up and pull forward to open the drawer. This ensures that with normal boat movement, the drawer stays closed. With a little more lively boat motion though, this type of drawer will easily open on its own. This happened to us on Serengeti several times before we installed a better locking system for rougher weather.
We felt we had two options for securing our drawers. A barrel bolt-type latch could have been added to the face of the drawer, but we didnít like the look of the cheaper barrel bolts, and didnít want to spend the extra money for the much nicer and higher priced ones. Instead, we chose to lock our drawers from the side of the drawer body by drilling a hole in the side cabinetry and installing a brass screw insert and thumbscrew. When you tighten the thumbscrew, it engages the side of the drawer and holds it firmly in place. To open the drawer, you simply back off the thumbscrew a couple of turns and the drawer is free again. And, we found some beautiful cedar knobs in Bermuda that we plan to cover the heads of the thumbscrews with to give them a nicer look and a softer profile in case you are tossed into them.
Cabinets Cabinet door catches often incorporate a ball and socket or a friction-type of catch similar to what you might have on your kitchen cabinets at home. These types of catches canít be relied on to hold firm in a rolling sea when the contents inside are screaming to be released. A positive mechanical catch is best for all cabinet doors. Door buttons, barrel bolts, or elbow catches will all work best here.
On Serengeti, we fashioned our own simple and inexpensive button-type door catch from a piece of teak with a screw in the middle. We rounded the edges with sandpaper, and slapped on a couple of coats of varnish. To secure each catch, we used a No. 8 wood screw and ensured we had plenty of thread screwed into our cabinet frame. Between the wooden button and the cabinet frame, we added a super thin disc of plastic which functions as a tiny spacer to prevent the wood from being scratched as the button is turned.Open Areas
We have a number of stowage areas that are open to the top so that we can access the itemóour teak binocular holder, the canisters in the galley, and bookshelves in our forward and aft cabin, for example. These areas hold their contents secure in normal conditions. In the case of a knockdown, however, all these items could go flying.
To secure these items, we ended up making straps out of webbing that hold them in place. Each two-piece strap is attached to the boat at either end via a simple screw and washer. The middle connection is made with a plastic buckle like the one youíd find on a life jacket or knapsack. The buckle allows us to easily access the items, while holding them firmly when underway.
Sometimes fragile items like oil lamps with glass globes need special attention. The combination of the oil being spillable and the glass globes being fragile excluded us from putting them in the normal storage spaces. We looked for all sorts of protective cylinders before stumbling upon the answer one day in of all places, a grocery store. A Tupperware container designed for storing bread on a kitchen counter fit our needs perfectly! We turned it with the opening end up and using fender washers and screws attached it to an out of the way bulkhead. We use the special L-shaped plastic insert designed to slide a loaf of bread in & out to gently raise and lower our lamps. We added a piece of foam cut to fit the top of the container, with a circle in the middle to contain the glass globe. With the lid snapped on, the lamps are now as secure as can be, and extremely easy to access for nightly use.
|"It's important that heavy items like batteries and fuel tanks remain well secured while underway."|
Miscellaneous Items Itís important to ensure that miscellaneous heavy items remain secure while underway. Batteries, fuel tanks, water tanks, and even your diesel engine all need to be checked to guarantee that they will stay put during a roll through 360 degrees.
In the galley, check your stove. Some stove manufacturers like Force-10 use a mount that allows you to roll-proof your stove by bending a piece of metal in the bracket up after placing the stove on its gimbals. It only takes 30 seconds to do, but is very often forgotten during installation of the stove.
Many heavy refrigerator lids are designed to simply lift off. These, of course, need to be securely attached by some means. We installed brass hinges on the back of our lid, and fitted a sliding bolt to hold the lid firmly down in front.
Lee Cloths Until youíve experienced certain conditions in offshore sailing, you may not fully realize the need for lee cloths. Itís common to think you can just sleep on the lee side all the time, and be just fine. That is simply not the case.
In many conditions, your boat will have a rolling motion and your body will be constantly moving from side to side. If you try to sleep in your normal bunk without additional support, your body will be involuntarily fighting the rolling motion the whole time and deep sleep will never come. The addition of a lee cloth to your settee will provide the necessary support that will hold you in place and allow you to relax your whole body, thus getting the important sleep needed on your off watch. Most sailors prefer to sleep towards the center of their boat for the most comfortable motion.Nav Station
The work done at your nav station is often crucial to your safety at sea. Itís important to be able to sit comfortably and plot your course, etc, in all conditions. This canít be accomplished if you have to physically hold on with both hands. By adding a seat belt to this area, you can strap yourself in and apply yourself fully to the task of navigating.
For our seat belt addition, we used two-inch webbing along with an easy to fasten and unfasten buckle. The fixed ends of the seat belt were attached to a bulkhead via a long flat stainless eye-strap. These attachment points should be down low by your hips so that when the strap is pulled tight, it holds you securely in place. Specify a buckle that will allow easy adjustment in length so that different sized crew can all use this area.
Galley When your boat has a lively motion, the cook will usually have their hands full just trying to put together a meal. To be able to function safely in this area, a galley should be fitted with a safety bar across the stove and a strap to hold you in place. The safety bar serves two purposes. When on one tack, it will hold you away from the stove, and when on the other tack, it can act as the anchor point for your safety strap to hold you in the galley. To add one on Serengeti, we bought some 7/8th-inch stainless steel tubing, cut it to length and attached it permanently to the counters on either side of the stove via 90-degree rail fittings.
|"The length of the strap is determined by how far away from the stove you want to be positioned."|
To fashion our safety strap, we took a piece of two-inch webbing and sewed a loop into one end. The loop provides a method to easily attach the strap to the bar by passing the webbing around the bar and through the loop. At the other end of the strap is a large brass clip sewn permanently in place. The length of the strap is determined by how far away from the stove you want to be positioned. We wrap the strap around our hips, then under the safety bar, and then fasten the clip to the strap itself to hold it fast.
Securing below decks for offshore sailing entails many little details. A very thorough examination of your boat before you head out, followed by employing some of the above techniques to keep things in place, will add tremendously to your offshore safety and enhance your passages. When conditions deteriorate, youíll feel confident knowing your gear will stay stored and that you and your crew can rest comfortably and safely perform all tasks.
Homemade Lee Cloths
It took us about three and a half hours from start to finish to make our lee cloth for Serengeti, but itís a rewarding process. In determining the exact length of a lee cloth, keep in mind that only your shoulders, hips, and knees must be supported. Having the area by your head open will definitely be more comfortable, and whether or not you continue your lee cloth down to include your feet is optional.
The type of cloth you use can be virtually anything, as long as it has the strength to hold the weight of the heaviest person who will be using the finished lee cloth. In warmer climes, you might want to consider using a mesh material that will allow more air to circulate for cooler sleeping.
1 yard cloth (if cloth is 60 inches wide and youíre making a lee cloth less than five feet in length) thread
2 three-quarter-inch grommets
14 feet of quarter-inch line
8 to10 cloth-to-surface snap fasteners (*Another method of attaching the lee cloths to your settee is by sewing awning rope along the bottom edge of your cloth and installing Flex-A-Rail the length on your settee. This would take the place of the snaps, be easily removable and provide even more security than snaps.)
grommet installation tool
tool snap installation tool
Cut out your cloth to length and width, allowing extra for appropriate hems at each edge. Sew finish hems each two-foot end. Sew a one-inch hem along the bottom edge. Doubling the material here will provide more strength for your snaps. Sew a one-and-a-half-inch hem at top edge, placing your quarter-inch line inside the hem before folding and sewing. Install female side of the snaps every 8 to 10 inches along bottom edge of lee cloth. Install a three-quarters-of-an-inch grommet at each top corner.
Your lee cloth is now complete and ready to install. Remove the bottom cushions from your settee. Using a screwdriver, install the male side of the snaps to a strong point on the outside edge of the settee. Position snaps so that when weight is in lee cloth, the force is keeping the snap closed, and is not in the direction that would force the snap open. Start at the end where your head will be and line up the lee cloth making sure to leave enough space for your head to be open to the boat. Install the first male snap, then attach the corresponding female side of the snap on the lee cloth. Pulling the cloth tight, line up the next male snap and repeat the process until all snaps are installed.
Next, youíll need to install two sturdy hooks to the outboard side of your settee that will secure each end of the lee cloth while you sleep. Each boatís attachment point will be slightly different here and youíll need to analyze what works best on your boat. If possible, achieve an approximate 45-degree angle of attachment for the line to the hook, in a position outboard and above your body.
With the lee cloth snapped in place, wrap the line from the foot end around the hook, and then back through the grommet in the cloth. Pull tight and make it fast. Lie down in place, take the line from the head end of the cloth, and repeat the process of tying the lee cloth closed. With your new, removable lee cloth finished, youíll be able to sleep in even the roughest of seas. For even more comfort, add a couple of extra pillows along your body to really wedge yourself in place.