Sailboat project | Saloon Rebuild and Upholstery

Sailboat project | Saloon Rebuild and Upholstery

Last time I wrote about our boat plumbing project. Our freshwater system was now ready and working, and the next phase was to rebuild the saloon that had been pulled apart. The old cushions were also ready for the dumpster (one was good enough for Anouk the marina dog’s bed in the cockpit) – we would buy new ones and upholster them ourselves. The settees would be rebuilt with only minor changes to the measurements. The starboard settee would slide out to make a wider sea berth, and the port settee would be a little deeper than before. The new water tanks had found their place under the settees, and we could add some storage on both sides as well.

We tried to be careful while dismantling the old settees, so we could reuse as much of the material as possible. It turned out to be difficult, because in order to get the tanks out we had to saw the wood into small pieces. We also found that much of the plywood that appeared fine on the surface had moisture damage on the backside. In the end the only pieces worth holding on to were the edge strips made of solid teak.

Our lovely English dock neighbours knew a wood shop on the outskirts of Messolonghi, and offered us a ride there on their motor home. We found everything we needed in the well stocked place – a sheet of okoume plywood for the front panels, birch plywood for the seats and partition walls, and a large mahogany plank cut for the frames.

It’s extremely slow and cumbersome to build inside a boat. There are no straight angles, all the surfaces are sloping or curved, and the working positions very awkward – no wonder it’s often called boat yoga! Every piece of wood had to be measured separately, cardboard models built of the more difficult ones, and still most of them had to be adjusted a little here and there before they fit. We had an onshore plywood cutting workshop under a large catamaran, and smaller pieces were chopped on our own aft deck. Fortunately we have plenty of power tools, all from the time of renovating our old farm house, so we could easily saw, plane, mill and drill. Later on there was a lot of sanding and varnishing. Our boat was a mess, inside and outside, with tools and materials piling up everywhere.

Sewing station at the boatyard. Under the table, keeping me company, marina cat Meow-Meow.

At the same time, of course, we still lived in the boat. Every morning, before starting the work, we would move all our stuff on the bed, and every evening we would pile it back on the half finished settees, so we could sleep. It was exhausting to live in the middle of it, we wanted to finish as soon as possible. We only took the barbecue Sundays off – but the project, plumbing included, still lasted for almost three months!

Finally, the settees were ready for some new cushions. We bought ordinary foam mattresses and cut them into shapes. For the covers, we chose Sunbrella upholstery fabric that my Mum sent to us from Finland – along with liquorice and Fazer’s chocolate. It’s a lovely fabric, sturdy and easy to sew. It’s water and dirt repellent, a nice feature on an old boat that’s not entirely waterproof. When it rains we often spot minor leaks, and in cold weather the deck hatches drip with condensation. The fabric still has a very comfortable, cosy feel to it. Dark shades are more practical for messy people like us – we would never even dream of white sofas, even though we’ve seen them in some boats! The turquoise fabric of the seat cushions is called Figari Stripes, and the backrests were covered with light blue Solid. The blue shades make the saloon appear a lot cooler despite the dominant warm teak.

For the cushion project we bought a Singer Heavy Duty sewing machine, and it did the job with no trouble. I believe we’ll get plenty of joy out of Singer, so many new ideas are already brewing!

Finally ready! There’s even a new rug of the right shade.

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