November / December 2019

Elegant Accommodations in 60 Square Feet

Living large in small boats

Good materials and clever uses of space can make a small-craft interior inviting. For PATTY B, which the author built to Sam Devlin’s Song Wren design, ceiling and trim pieces are sapele, the cabin sole is Douglas-fir and sapele, the house sides are okoume-faced marine plywood, and the tabletop is bird’s-eye maple.

If you presented this program for a habitat to three different architects, they’d say: laughable, preposterous, impossible:

A weekend cabin with sitting and sleeping space for three; a kitchenette, toilet, and ample storage space for food, clothing, books, and tools; all within 60 sq ft. Because an environmentally critical Sitka spruce is spreading over the cabin’s site, the headroom inside is limited to 51". And this isn’t to be just basic shelter like a camping tent. We want comfort and beauty, an enticing place to spend time.

Impossible? Some of us who build or renovate pocket yachts carry exactly this dream into the project, and maybe, just maybe, we pull it off. I didn’t manage great comfort and beauty in the first pocket cruiser sailboat I built 10 years back, but its successor, a 21' 3" Sam Devlin–designed Song Wren, offered a second chance. Its cabin would be larger, not afflicted with a daggerboard trunk, and I had the benefit of having lived with and learned from my earlier efforts.

As soon as the Song Wren’s hull was right-side up and its berth flats roughed out, I invited my wife, Patty, to sit in the shell with me and talk through all the functions we wanted. This might seem like an odd conversation to have regarding a saloon space that’s roughly 6' by 6'—how many choices can there be?—but planning was critical precisely because the envelope is so small and the furniture can’t be moved. Mistakes may mean permanent discomforts.

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