Sleepless Staterooms

Some yacht berths seem more like origami than places to rest.

Stateroom Opinion
Chris Caswell takes issue with awkwardly-designed staterooms..

What is it that some yacht designers and builders don’t understand about berths — or, as landlubbers call them, beds? Not long ago, a friend showed me his new 50-something footer. I ooohed and aaahed through the yacht — until we got to the master stateroom. There, I laughed out loud. “You’ve got to be kidding,” I said. The builder had created a berth that angled out from one corner diagonally. Aside from thinking it was a silly layout on a boat this size, I was amused by the shape of the bed.“How many sides does this bed have?” I asked my friend. “Hey, look how big it is,” he hedged.

The berth had no fewer than eight sides, although a couple of them were curved, so I don’t know how they should be counted. The yacht’s brochure claimed it was a king-size berth, but I measured it, and it was a full 8 inches short of the 80-inch length required for either king or queen berths.

Making it worse was the fact that no standard sheet or blanket could come close to fitting this weirdly shaped berth. It’s no wonder a small industry has sprung up to supply yacht owners (at measurable expense) with custom-fitted bedding. If you don’t mind sheets and blankets that come loose in the middle of the night, stop reading here. I prefer fitted sheets.

As a kid, I washed boats at a local marina, and I remember a 1953 Chris-Craft that had a wonderful stateroom for the owners. This, of course, was in the era when Ozzie and Harriet slept in separate berths, and this boat had two singles set so far apart that it should have been called a Chaste-Craft. But the berths were square, and fitted bedding could be bought at Woolworth’s.

The berth had no fewer than eight sides, although a couple of them were curved, so I don't know how they should be counted.

Something designers and builders forget is that a person is taller (see: longer) when lying down because your feet droop. And you probably want a pillow. So unless you want your face stuffed against the headboard and your feet in the breeze, you need at least the 80-inch length of a king. I’ve seen Euro yachts with singles in the guest cabins, but the berths slide together easily. And they remain square for sheets and blankets.

It’s hard to get away with anything but a V-berth where a boat tapers at the bow, but I make an exception in that stateroom. You and your companion might tangle your feet at the narrow end, but that’s nice in a companionable sort of way. And anyone with a sewing machine can make fitted sheets for a V-berth.

As you shop for a yacht, try not to laugh loudly at the multiside berths. To prevent future guffaws, I have two suggestions: First, before you buy, be sure you and your companion stretch out on the berth at the same time.

And builders and designers, let’s return to simpler berth shapes. Then we can all get some sleep.