Choosing a Blue Water Yacht – Interiors


Over the last few weeks, Grabau International has taken you through a variety of subjects which encompass choosing the right yacht for blue water adventures. This guide is not written to dictate what to choose, or to supply a comprehensive encyclopedia of every option and variable, but simply a basic explanation of the main options and some guidance on what to look out for. Finding a yacht will always be a battle of your head over your heart, so the purpose of this guide is to give your head some questions to ask in the hope that an amicable compromise can be made with your heart. Part 8 of this guide looks at interior features.

Interior Features

Sailing yachts are designed and built primarily to sail, so it might be expected that the hull shape and sailing characteristics are THE most important aspects in the design. This is certainly true for many, but what goes on below decks is every bit as crucial. A comfortable and practical interior configuration is vital to allow for safe operation at sea. Common daily tasks taken for granted on land such as cooking, using the heads and of course sleeping can become far more difficult and dangerous in the rolling swell of the Atlantic. If a crew cannot eat, drink, sleep and use the toilet, they cannot survive, so a blue water yacht must work below decks before it can work above. It should also be considered that even the most committed of blue water adventurers will concede that a vast majority of time spent aboard is with the yacht at anchor or in a marina, so the interior layout and features must afford the crew with enough comfort to make their time aboard enjoyable, as sailing is after all a sport, pastime and way of life linked closely to leisure and relaxation.

Italia Yachts 13.98 interior overview

Cabin layout

Very much tied to the subject of cockpit layout which has been mentioned in part 7 of this guide. There are a multitude of options available here with more options available as the yacht size increases. Once again, there is no right or wrong in terms of layout, but it is important to bear in mind that whilst it is important to have a good supply of usable sea berths (as a general rule, the centre of the yacht is the area of least movement in a rolling ocean, so having sea berths (even if they are simply saloon settees with lee-cloths) in this area is extremely useful); most of the time spent aboard the yacht tends to be either at point A or point B. A layout which provides comfortable ‘living’ is arguably the most important factor unless the yacht is bought exclusively to be used continuously at sea.

IY 15.98

Italia Yachts 15.98 saloon

Owner’s Cabin aft or Forward.

One of the main purposes of a centre cockpit yacht is create a large and separated owner’s stateroom aboard the yacht. Access is usually made via a walkthrough from the saloon (often siting the galley in this space). The shape of the stern allows for a fairly square dimension to the cabin space which in turn allows for a good-sized bed often with outboard seating, vanity tables and hanging lockers. Some aft cockpit yachts such as the Italia Yachts 15.98 can now offer the same aft cabin arrangement thanks to their larger overall size and associated freeboard. Older designs such as some of the German Frers Swans offer similar arrangements through building in a bridge-deck aft of the companionway which allows for increased headroom in the aft cabin area. In general however, most aft cockpit yachts will have their owner’s cabin the bow with a heads either forward of that (which generally means an offset double berth to allow access forward) or aft to one side.

Aft cabin Saturn 48CC

Aft Owner’s Stateroom as found on a Saturn Yachts 48CC


Forward Owner’s Stateroom as found on an Italia Yachts 15.98

Centreline double berths

These are great in a marina or on a gentle anchorage, and with the simple addition of lee-cloths or lee-boards can help to turn this berth into 2 useful sea berths when at sea.

Raised saloons

Covered to a certain extent in part 7 of this guide, raising the saloon and/or the chart table area allows for good all-round vision when below decks. This is especially useful on extended passages where inclement weather may be encountered as it can allow for watches to be taken safely below deck. Raising the saloon may allow for the saloon area to become more usable when under way. A good example of this is the Saturn Yachts 72.

Saturn 72 main saloon

Raised saloon configuration as found on a Saturn Yachts 72


A common feature on larger raised saloon yachts, a dinette can usually be found on the lower level, perhaps adjacent to a forward galley. This allows the saloon to be more relaxed, as there is dedicated dining area elsewhere in the yacht.

Dry area / Wet area

Unfortunately there are occasions when those on watch might get wet, either through salt spray or through rain. The ability to move below decks and remove wet clothing without entering the dry areas of the yacht (such as sleeping cabins and main saloon seating) is quite important, especially in the more humid tropical latitudes. This is not always practical or possible on some smaller yachts, but it is worth keeping in mind when setting the yacht up for blue water passage-making.

Day heads

Answering the call of nature is a fact of life and ease and speed upon which an on-watch crew member can reach a heads is particularly important. In an ideal world every yacht would have a heads compartment immediately adjacent to the companionway, so a crew member can access the heads without interrupting the off-watch crew and without having to remove to their wet weather gear. Whether the yacht will benefit from this arrangement will entirely depend upon the cabin layout (much more likely with an aft cockpit yacht) and size.

IY 13.98 The Secondary Bathroom

A sensible day heads position as found on an Italia Yachts 13.98


Day Heads as found on an Italia Yachts 10.98

Wet lockers

In the quest for living space, dedicated wet lockers (with drains) do seem to have fallen by the wayside in modern production yachts. Most yachtsman simply hang their wet weather kit in a day heads, but if this is also being used as the day heads (which it will if it close to the companionway), using the space  for both purposes can become slightly challenging (going to the loo beneath 8 sets of drying wet weather gear is always going to be a bit ‘hit or miss’).

Sea berths

Absolutely 110% essential. When you are crossing an ocean, you need to ensure that there are enough safe and secure sea berths to accommodate all those who are not on watch. This does not necessarily mean 1 berth for each crew member, but it does mean snug sea berths which a crew member will not fall out of on either tack or when the yacht launches off the crest of a wave. Sea berths can be added to most production yachts, usually through simple lee-cloths, lee-boards, or through the addition of Pullman berths or pipecots. Many hardy blue water passage-makers have been known to take to the saloon floor surrounded by cushions and blankets to wedge themselves in when the going gets tough, bringing themselves closer to the central axis of the yacht. This is quite smart as the middle of the yacht will move the least in a sea way.

Chart table

A part of the yacht frequently overlooked by production manufacturers hunting for maximum living space. With electric chart plotter navigation and laptop computers, there is an element of logic here, but for any yacht preparing to cross an ocean, a very simple set of questions should be asked. Do you have space to plot a course on a paper chart? Can you monitor your position on a chart quickly and without interrupting crew who may be off watch? Can you readily access the VHF and DSC? Can you place yourself securely whilst carrying out any of these functions whilst in a rolling or crashing ocean? A chart table large enough to take a folded Admiralty chart with a dedicated chart seat is of course ideal, but this may cause compromises elsewhere with which you may be less happy to live with.

Interiors onboard Saturn 48

Chart table arrangement as found on a Saturn Yachts 48CC

IY 10.98 Interior General View_272

Forward facing chart table as found on an Italia Yachts 10.98

Galley position

Unfortunately, we are yet to find a Michelin-starred restaurant mid-Atlantic, and on the basis that an army marches on its stomach, the production of food will become the hub of any yacht during an ocean passage. Nothing lifts spirits mid-watch like freshly baked bread or brownies, and no 3am watch can function without a fresh cup of coffee or tea. A good working galley that can be operated in any sea condition is therefore vital to prevent mutiny or worse. Aspects to look carefully at are the ability to pass food and drinks from the galley to the cockpit, and how the nominated head chef can work safely and securely around the space. Galleys will normally either be ‘L’ , ‘U’ shaped or linear, running along the opposite side to the saloon, or in the walkthrough to the aft cabin (in the case of a centre cockpit yacht).

Italia 15.98 saloon version 2

U-shaped galley as found on an Italia Yachts 15.98

Interiors onboard Saturn 48CC

Linear ‘walkthrough’ galley as found on a Saturn Yachts 48CC

Crew Accommodation

A feature often found on yachts over 50ft is the creation of crew accommodation in the extreme bow are of the yacht. Forgoing a large bow locker and inserting a couple of bunks and perhaps an additional head offers a great deal of versatility to the layout as the area can still be used as a locker. If there is a door access through the main accommodation, consideration should be given as to whether this is a watertight fitting.


Layout plan showing crew accommodation forward on an Italia Yachts 15.98

Watertight bulkheads

Many manufacturers will engineer watertight ‘collision’ bulkheads in to their designs. These are usually found ahead of the forward cabin and behind the aft cabin, although some manfacturers will add a further watertight bulkhead in the main bulkhead position close to the mast. In these instances, a watertight door (opening out forward) will be fitted.

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