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Old 29-11-2014, 00:13   #1
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Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

I'm doing some research on best cabin design for a live aboard cruiser that I hope will be home for many years. At berth or in flat water I understand that where the main bed is located will make little difference. However in a situation where you can't anchor in total flat water or even when crossing long legs does it make a big difference forward or aft. My initial thought would be Aft should be a bit calmer and quieter but I need some experienced opinion to go on with . If you could give a quick reason in your response it would be much appreciated. If not just an F or A is a help cheers

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Old 29-11-2014, 01:23   #2
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

Aft is quieter from wave slap at anchor but noisier underway if motoring from prop cavitations and exhaust.

Motion underway has less G-force aft than fwd.

Obviously more beam is carried further aft than in general aft is more popular

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Old 29-11-2014, 01:48   #3
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

Your initial thought is correct. Only sleep for'ard on passage if you don't mind the constant slam of waves beside you head and being constantly lifted off your berth and then dropped.
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Old 29-11-2014, 02:06   #4
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

At anchor I prefer to sleep aft... at sea I sleep in the middle.... only steerage passengers sleep up the front....

Mine is a centre cockpit ( bit of a misnomer really... its more of a 2/3rds aft cockpit ) and has a roomy aft cabin.... its still not a nice place to try and sleep in a seaway.

whatever you choose make sure you have a couple of good seaberths in the middle. Mine are the saloon settees when the sun is up. At night in port they can convert into 3/4 berths... at sea skinny is good with leecloths.
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Old 29-11-2014, 03:15   #5
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

Another nice thing about the master cabin being aft at sea, aside from what's already mentioned, is that it's easier to sleep with "one ear open" in order to ascertain that the crew on a larger vessel, has things well in hand. To pass up "suggestions" to them via an open porthole or cracked hatch. Or to know when to get up there & straighten things out prior to them really hitting the fan.

Also, while at anchor it's quieter to sleep aft, although this has it's pro's & cons. Some like to bunk forward in order to hear their ground tackle, & to better feel the boat's motion (to ascertain if one's dragging). Although me, if the anchor's hookup is that questionable, I'll be cat napping in the salon or cockpit.
Plus I too am not a fan of the pitching which takes place at anchor in the V-berth in heavy weather.

One other perk is that on a lot of boats, biminis are common, as are cockpit awnings. So if the master stateroom is aft, & the above canvas is up (which is most of the time in warm places & seasons), then aft bunks are always in the shade.
It's not nearly so common to rig up awnings over the forward half of the boat, & in fact, one unusually hot Summer, I was visiting home, & had to both tell & show my Dad of the concept, & he'd been a sailor for 25yrs at the time.
And given the biminis/awnings, you can keep a lot more hatches open, or cracked than you can in a V-berth. Such as when it's raining, but still stupid hot.

That, & if done right, you get the perk of ventilation blowing through the whole boat, & all of the way over you. Not just what cools your head coming through the fore hatch (unless you have a chute scoop).

Plus, traditionally, the forepeak was/is used for storage of all kinds of gear. Dedicated racks & shelves are built into the vessel for lines, fenders, sails, outboards, etc... & in a "truly" seaworthy vessel, a workbench with dedicated vise.
It keeps the wet & smelly gear out of the living spaces, plus allows for a chain locker a good ways back from the bow. If you look at pics of a lot of the classic aluminum racers from the 80's, you'll see what I'm referring to. There are a few on Just do an advanced search with the key categories being; aluminum, & racer (as in sailboat).

Or if you take the time to look, go on to YouTube, & look up Skip Novak's "Pelagic" (actually there are 2 now). It's a metal expeditioning vessel designed for high latitudes, & thus a far greater deal of self sufficiency than is common.

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Old 29-11-2014, 05:48   #6
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

Thank you people that vindicates the way I was thinking with some great insights as well cheers
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Old 29-11-2014, 06:01   #7
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

my formosa has masters cabin essentially midships. is a perfect location.
underway i sleep in main saloon, at anchor is leep in my stateroom. perfect.
is a pulman berth and very comfortable
when i sail sola, i sleep on the transom sofa, which is behind the wheel at the helm station with all instruments and a 360 view of horizon in full view at a glance.
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Old 29-11-2014, 06:55   #8
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

Aft for anchoring... you need to get air moving through it though. Main salon for underway.
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Old 29-11-2014, 09:00   #9
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

I have center cockpit and the main 'owners cabin ' is aft for all the good reasons already shared... plus an important one not mentioned. Air.

Depending on how far South you venture and how much time you will be doing 24 hr passages... the aft cabin allows you have your hatch cracked open a bit for welcome fresh air, while the Vee-birth hatches must be always locked down underway.

But at anchor, fwd has air advantage as the hatch/ lid tends to scoop down the welcome breeze. As an engineer, still one of the great mysteries of the universe is 'Why air IN doesn't equal air OUT' through a boat!' You can stand near the fwd hatch and feel the great breeze coming into the boat and with no other escape and standing by the open aft hatch... no apparent breeze... and stuffy aft cabin!

Anyway another consideration is placement of the bunks. Centerline queens are great for marina life but near worthless making passages, unless it's so big you can lay port-stb so you don't get thrown out of bed.

Vee- berths offer 'leeboard' sleeping security on a passage way, but while I can sleep through almost anything... I can't sleep though going weightless/ falling off a wave. It's not the bang at the bottom... it's coming off the top in a free-fall that triggers an instant wide-eyed 'save yourself' panic jerk awakening.

True passage making sailboats usually. have Pullman-style bunks/ setees on both port and std sides mid-ship and/or. aft to allow you the comfort of having a 'downhill' bulkhead to rest securely against. Such boats/ bunks also have provisions for installing a lea-board or cloth on the other side of the bunk... just in case. Few sailors pick their boat based on what may be few and far between long passages, but those that did... really appreciate that they did. My boat has other port & stb setees and a generous aft Pullman to stb that is our marina bed and a smaller Pullman to port for passages or independent day reading/ naps.

Just back to 'air' again. You'll find having the ability to have air moving below is very important on a boat, especially in Sumner. All our bunks are fitted with a small/ quiet 12v fan for the bunk and an adjustable bulkhead/ or gooseneck reading LED light for each person.

I believe in comforts of life on-board, so we have two flat TVs aboard... one in saloon and one in our aft cabin. Of course they have their entertainment value, but its a great way to get a quick early read on local wx . I also have connected its 'computer' input option to the output option of my (Garmin) GPS so that with a click on the TV remote I can easily check anchor drag and/or make sure we are still on course if making a passage. Surprisingly many boaters don't seem to know that with the conversion to DTV in the US these off the shelf TVs costing only $150ish and a mast top marine TV antenna (Shakesphere 2030) can provide 30-60 program options almost anywhere along the ICW as an example . Several of those new program streams are 24/7 local- regional wx with regional radar running real time.

So back to where you sleep... think about where the TV goes and if both of you can see it !

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Old 29-11-2014, 09:03   #10
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

Richard Dana named it "Two Years Before the Mast" for a reason.
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Old 29-11-2014, 09:32   #11
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

I would say that the berth location is just one of many features you should consider when buying a boat. Forward may have you listening to the waves but you quickly get used to that. It's part of the boating life. You can get better air flow through the hatch in a forward berth than anywhere else if you're counting on natural air flow vs air conditioning. Aft would be quieter at anchor but stuffy unless you have a fan or AC.

I wouldn't pass on a boat that I otherwise loved because of the berth location.
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Old 29-11-2014, 10:06   #12
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post
At anchor I prefer to sleep aft... at sea I sleep in the middle.... only steerage passengers sleep up the front....

Stay away from the ends of the boat when sleeping on passage, especially the pointy end

We have seven berths in cabins, and never sleep in the salon in port, but on passage everyone fights over the salon settee. Which doesn't even need a leecloth, because you can sleep in different orientations.
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Old 29-11-2014, 10:54   #13
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

I prefer aft as I like to open the hatches under way.

Also, aft cabins tend to be roomier and have more light.

I would only have my deck crew in the forward cabin and then only if I really took a grudge.

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Old 29-11-2014, 11:20   #14
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

We change where we sleep to suit the situation. Forward is nice, if off the wind. Not nice on the wing, so then, the settee, or the aft cabin. Our main berth is forward, and is quite comfortable at anchor.
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Old 29-11-2014, 12:40   #15
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Re: Forward or Aft for Main Cabin

Terra Nova's sleeping arrangements reflect typical small boat compromises and my own sensibilities, because I built them that way.

Just aft of the mast, the salon is arranged around port and starboard 7'-long settee's which convert to sea berths by hinging up the seat backs, exposing the rest of the cushion to provide shoulder room. A diesel heater and a simple table with drop-down leaves separate the settee's.

Separated from the salon, on the portside, by the head/shower, are P&S berths, staggered in a V, with bin-style storage beneath. Separating the starboard berth from the salon is a hanging locker with bin-style storage beneath. Over/between these berths is a huge deck hatch. In port, the forward berths are the best ventilated and most private.

Aft, under the cockpit, is a cramped double berth that can be arranged as a 1/4-berth, the forward end of which converts to a pilot seat that is adjacent to the com center.

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