The bunks on Blue Mistress are narrow. Being a relatively small boat this is natural. The problem is, I am used to wider beds at home and tend to turn over expansively. In the boat, that would mean landing on the cabin sole.
Of course I’ve trained myself to turn carefully and that works fine when the boat is at anchor on smooth water. But water is not smooth for long – and what happens when we are at sea in a swell, the wind blowing, the boat heeling?
The usual and customary solution is to fix a ‘lee cloth’ to the side of the bunk. This a stretch of material the same length as the bunk which is raised once you are in it and turns the bunk into a cot – an excellent system, widely used.
There was one fitted when I bought the boat. The problem I had was how to stow it without it getting in the way. The base of the bunk beds, which have a more constant use as seats, contain lockers. To avoid an unwelcome bulge under the cushions, the lee cloth was laid flat over the lockers, which meant, whenever I wanted to get into a locker, lifting the cushions, pulling back the lee cloth and then replacing it carefully – not helpful when in a hurry. Alternatively, not stowing it but leaving it hanging down the outside of the seat meant it got in the way. So I removed the lee cloth.
I have tried placing the seat cushions on the cabin sole and sleeping there. It was comfortable but became complicated when getting up and moving around. I could sleep in the quarter berths – except they are full of gear.
The current solution, which I have tried only once – last Wednesday night, is to use seat belts – (bunk belts?).
There are two to each bunk. They are bolted through the cross members in the bunk frames and stow neatly beneath the cushions without hindering access to the lockers. The clasp is a heavy duty version of the type of clasp found on backpacks etc. – press the sides in to open it. It is an easy clasp to release but doesn’t seem likely to open unaided. I don’t know what the ‘half-life’ for long-term use at sea is – I doubt if I will ever find out.
I only used the one strap on Wednesday. It was loosely fastened at chest level. (The second one is at thigh level). Loosely fastening it gave me plenty of room to turn over, but I could feel it restraining me if I moved too far. There was an uneven chop on the water and quite a lot of movement as the boat followed the tide and the light wind blew at an angle to it. I slept very well, waking occasionally to check the anchor – this was an exercise in ground tackle as well as sleep. Even though the wind was light and the forecast was for it to continue, I was on a lee shore.
What are the questions?
Does it prevent me sitting up? No, it is loosely fastened, I found I could slide back out of it and sit up easily – (anyway, it was no problem to unclasp it).
In a real sea would I end up with bruised ribs? Possibly, but the sleeping bag cushions it. It’s comfortable against my back.
If the boat lurches heavily or even turns over, am I likely to be left awkwardly hanging in mid-air? Maybe, but the clasps can be opened under pressure?
Am I so heavy that in an extreme situation my weight tears the bolts out and I shoot across the cabin? (Now we are getting into the what-if world of the health and safety men). Possibly, but the slight delay in tearing the bolts out will mean I land over the other side slightly after everything else in the cabin instead of first with it all landing on top of me.
Can I use the straps for anything else. Yes, they are perfect for strapping bags etc onto the bunks and keeping them off the cabin floor.
I am not suggesting anyone else should do this. It seems to suit this situation. I will update in the Autumn when I have used the system some more.