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Fun for all the Family

When we started designing our boat, one of the earliest decisions we had to make was: who was going to be on the boat? Was this just for the two of us, or would we entertain friends (most of whom come in couples) or would we play host to the family (who come with kids). We instantly decided to include the family. That meant designing for up to six on board, with two double beds and two single beds. Furthermore, we've hired boats where there is space to sleep but nowhere to put your stuff. Everyone who stays overnight anywhere comes with stuff, even if it's just an overnight bag, but boating in England also calls for wet weather gear, clothes for hot and cold weather,and some of our guests will bring makeup, hair straighteners... We therefore decided that guests must have somewhere to put stuff.

Some other decisions were made early on.

1. Roma and I would have a 5ft cross bed. We're not going to rough it at our age!

2. If we had two children visiting, they would sleep in bunks.

3. Some guests spend ages in the shower. While this is going on, we should still be able to get to the bow for mooring etc. without walking along the gunwale. Therefore we had to have a corridor bathroom...

4. ...and two toilets

5. We really like to see out while eating, so a raised dinettes was a "must".

6. For safety reasons we didn't like trad sterns, so a semi-cruiser stern was chosen.

7. The helmsman must have a continuous supply of coffee and/or beer, so a reverse layout.

Easy to make these decisions, hard to make them work in practice.

I tried doing layout drawings, but they failed to convey the spaces available. It was all too easy to see a gap on the page and think it was a cavernous when in fact it was too tight to walk through. We also needed something that was easy to rearrange so I built a space model of the boat. At 1:20 scale, I made beds, cupboards and a dinette in very crude form, but good enough to see what would work. We used toy people to make sure we kept a sense of scale.

The sides of the boat were narrowboat interior width and the stern was fixed but the bow could be moved back and forth so we could experiment with different boat lengths. At one point we had everything located and plenty of space, but the bow was 129cm in front of the stern. In old money, 85ft! A strip of insulating tape was placed at the 70ft point and we started again.

Despite great efforts, we could not get everything we wanted into a 57ft "go anywhere" length. The extra 5ft to 62ft allows us to go most places on the network but also made things look just about feasible. Two refinements settled it.

The Guest Bedroom

The guest room had to accommodate two kids on bunks, or a couple on a double bed (in either case with their stuff). When we don't have guests on board, Roma wanted a workbench to do her crafting on. After some space juggling we came up with a fiendishly cunning plan. As you might expect, it was modelled, so here are two bunk beds:

Here the matresses have been joined together to form a cross bed:

and here is "Roma" working at her bench:

The cunning part was to make a wardrobe that opens into the corridor, so that it is still accessible when set up with a double bed. We'll only know if this design really works when it gets built!

The Ortomarine Dinette

Until quite late in the day, we planned a conventional dinette, and were struggling with the very limited saloon space. Then Caroline at Ortomarine showed us their dinette with separate single dinettes on both sides of the corridor. When not in use, the dinette contracts and frees up space. The design allows for two to six people to sit at table, converts to two single beds or a double bed, four chairs all facing the same way (so we can set up a cinema for six) or a chaise longue. See for photos if you don't believe me.

With these two design innovations in place, plans became settled. The model had improved over the months and, with more certainty over the layout, the bulkheads were glued in place and some parts were painted. It's main use now is to show future guests that they will have a double bed, a cupboard for their stuff and their own toilet.

As you can see above, Roma hasn't got out of bed yet, a teenager is sitting on the loo, a toddler is watching Paw Patrol and I'm steering. With that configuration you just know it's raining today!

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