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Gen in the Original
~ Gen in the Original ~
Berth Mattress
Cushion the Blow
Most sailboats 40' and under have as the master cabin, a V-berth located up in the bow of the boat. It's just like it sounds; a pie shaped space usually built high up along the hull so as to be slightly wider than a coffin. Typically, one climbs into the triangular tube feet first, then scooches down until their toes are tucked into the bow.The forward most point or front of the boat. Needless to say that it's intimately awkward when there are two adults filling the space.

We love the spaciousness of our HC33Ts Pullman berth, so one of our first investments was in making it luxuriously comfortable. We set the stage with Froli springs to keep dry and flexibly lifted off the hard wood base. But the old mattress was too questionable for our repose, so we decided to spring on a custom fitted, latex foam mattress. We had it designed with a hinge across the middle so we could just fold it over for easier access to the lockers below the bed. Latex was the best, longest lasting, mold and insect resistant foam available, and the whole thing was VERY EXPENSIVE! But we felt a good night's sleep was invaluable.

Diana by the Berth
~ Diana by the Berth ~

Sadly, after a few years of flipping and folding, the fabric at the hinge stretched and our butts ended up sagging down into the crevice. The latex also got torn and crumbly, and we eventually had to admit that the situation needed to be addressed – again. But we couldn't decide whether to foot the bill for another custom mattress – knowing now that it wouldn't last long enough to justify the cost, or to go cheap. My sailor friend Emily convinced us to go cheap.

"I'll give you a link to the place we used. They'll send you a big hunk of 6" thick foam for $200. It's easy to cut with an electric knife. You can cover it with a nice memory foam topper and if it lasts 3 years you're still ahead!" she coaxed.

Big Things Come in Small Packages

The foam arrived in a surprisingly compact box, shrink-wrapped into a tight cube. I set it up on the berth, figuring I'd cut the plastic and let it unfold over the original mattress, then trace out the shape for a custom fit. I slowly began to realize, as it rapidly began to expand, this was a really bad plan. I had sprung a beast!

We had about four feet between the top of the existing mattress and the bottom of the coachroof, and it was soon stuffed with thick, rubbery foam. There was no room for laying it flat! And even less room between where it was and where I needed it to be – out of the boat!

Don got pretty heated with me as we struggled to get the tenacious wad to the companionway, and he was fuming while he pulled from the outside and I pushed from the inside. At one point, he stopped helping and I thought "Great! I'm stuck down below with a great big tampon in the way!" Then I heard him launch the dinghy from her davits.

"What are you doing?" I implored, trying to douse a rising sense of claustrophobia.

"One of the cockpit cushions went in the water and it's floating away! I'm going to go retrieve it!" he growled back.

Liquid Neptune
~ Liquid Neptune ~

"How did a cushion go in the water?" I wondered aloud, noting the foam had gotten wedged up against the binnacleA waist-high stand mounted on the deck of a ship in front of the wheel, to hold the compass and other navigational instruments. and hadn't penetrated as far as our seating.

"My foot!" Don bellowed. "I kicked it in!"

I was in no position to harass him further, so waited silently and patiently. After further struggle, some decent sized gouges, and a few tears, we finely got the slab out on the dock. It took a lot of lash-batting, hair-twirling, and hip-swaying to get him to help me pull the old mattress out too, but he obliged nonetheless.

So there I was, covering the entire expanse of the dock, electric knife in hand sawing away at $200 worth of Polyurethane. Then a shadow falls over me and I look up, aghast!

Here comes a diver, dripping wet and covered with all manner of sea worms and green slime freshly scraped from the bottom of someone's hull. With tanks in tow, he wants to pass and I have blocked his way!

I had to fold both my mattresses over and lay on top of them until my newly soaked work surface dried in the sun. These are the less glamorous moments of yachting life that no one ever knows about!

Much later (when we could laugh about it), I regaled Emily with my mattress tale.

"Yeah, I should have warned you" she confessed. "I did the exact same thing! Only in our V-Berth!"

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