Messing about in boats since 1975.  Online Since 1997.

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Motor Vessel and Motor-Sailer

Layout Considerations

A few thoughts on placing the saloon and galley on deck vs. placing them below....


As examples, the Moxie 43, Quinn 49, Renegade 50, Gulliver 46, Greatheart 36, Greatheart 48, and Greatheart 60 were all designed with the concept that they either already are motor sailors or could easily become motor sailors.

Why a motor sailor...?

The sails in the case of each of these vessels are primarily for get-home motive power, for sail-assist when the wind favors, and for the sheer fun of sailing. The sails allow a simpler mechanical regime by eliminating the presence of a wing engine, and a fail-safe mode of propulsion. In some of the above designs a generator is still specified, in others not. If there is a generator then get home power can be arranged via hydraulics, run by the gen. In that case, sail power may get somewhat less emphasis.

If it is desired to have some sail assist or to use sails for get-home power, then it is necessary to limit the size of the house structures for the sake of reducing windage and weights and to have a lower VCG, thus the galley and saloon are usually located below.


With the above mentioned designs, the amount of light and the feeling of lightness below are very much a result of the color scheme below and the area of the openings. With these designs (see the deck plan of Renegade) there are a generous number of and size of deck hatches and deadlights in the deck, and there are several quite large port lights in the hull / bulwark sides. Compared, say, with a sail boat or power boat having ports in a cabin trunk, the above types have no bulwark or other stuff in the way of the view.

We ordinarily specify medium or light toned woods below such as cherry, fir or pine, mainly in order to preserve the sense of lightness. Combined with white or other light tones painted on flat surfaces of the overhead and on bulkheads above wainscot level, the interior is kept very light.


With regard to the sense of space below keep in mind that all of the above mentioned designs have a flush fore deck. The reasons for having a flush fore deck are many. Since it is not encumbered by a trunk cabin / exterior walkway, it allows a much larger space below than would otherwise be possible.

The raised fore deck combined with good lighting and a light color scheme are all aimed at eliminating the 'cave like' closed-in feeling that one can sometimes get from being below on a sail boat.

To get a feel for the amount of space that the flush fore deck affords, it is possibly most conveniently accomplished by having two adults stand side by side with arms stretched out, touching fingertips. That spans right around 12 feet tip to tip, the same as the available space inside the cabin of the 48' Greatheart and the 50' Renegade. The Greatheart 54 is just slightly wider.

For the Greatheart 60 in aluminum, insert one adult standing sideways in between touching your fingertips to that person's shoulders. That spans right around 14 feet, the available width inside the Greatheart 60.

For the Greatheart 60 in steel, remove the middle adult and insert one four year old kid on a chair with arms stretched out so there are three of you in a row with fingertips tip to tip to tip. That's right around 16 feet, which is a bit less than the available space inside the steel Greatheart 60.

In each case, the outer fingertips would almost be touching the portlights on each side of the ship... but not quite.

That's a lot of space, and it certainly beats what's possible with a trunk cabin...!!


The raised forward deck on the above designs provides much greater freeboard throughout a larger part of the boat's length than a trunk cabin can possibly provide. That contributes greatly to stability and reserve buoyancy without increasing the CG or the windage.


In each of the above vessels, in order to get the best sense of the available athwartships space if the saloon / galley were located on deck, each of the outboard persons can simply lower their outer arms. Then their two outer shoulders will be up against the inner cabin sides.

This makes quite a difference in terms of the available space outboard of the galley counter and outboard of the seating. You can probably see this most clearly by comparing the Greatheart 60 Layout vs the Vagabond Layout.

If sails are not a feature, then a layout such as given to the Coaster 40 or the Vagabond 50, or just about any other layout having the galley and saloon on deck will work rather well. Still though it is an advantage to keep the windage and weights down.


Even though I'm not at all claustrophobic I still have an aversion to cave-like living spaces. Since boats are by nature small-ish as compared to houses, it is one of our primary goals to make the interior of a boat as un-crowded and as livable as possible, whether the galley and saloon are up, or down...

Possibly the above notes will help to visualize a few of the differences between cabin types and the relative advantages of each.