Mariadz had the same cockpit cushions for seventeen years and if we are honest they were a little “tired” and not as comfortable as they could be. We knew before we left on our big trip we would need to sort these out and Maria has also been keen to remove any semblance of the old, dated dark blue from the boat so she would be changing the colour at the same time.
Having reviewed a number of other people’s designs and after four years of our own use, we had a fair idea of what we wanted. A friend, James, has been doing canvas and cushion work around Ipswich and offered to help us. It was never going to be a simple job! Hopefully he doesn’t have too many regrets.
Looking at other centre cockpits, a number of people have seat cushions with a back that goes around the combing of the cockpit. This does look good but we felt although great as a seating area, it restricted us when using the cockpit as an entrance. It would be difficult to lift out the seat if it was covered by a back. This would mean that the cushions get stood on by outside dirty shoes. So we decided to mix it up.
The design exercise was quite complex since we knew how the area was likely to be used. Just looking at the access areas for the cockpit made that clear. We have two side entrances and also access at the aft end of the cockpit. During the winter, most people come in via the aft entrance. We were keen to make sure that people didn’t stand on the seating, irrespective of the entrance and so a number of folding sections were incorporated so that these could be lifted to provide a step and to stop the cushions being spoilt. These folds were two at the aft area of the cockpit and one on each side. James incorporated a nice way of fixing these with Velcro underneath the seat and a flap which meant that the join was very strong and invisible when the seat was setup – much better than two cushions butted up to each other with Velcro on the edges. This works for all four entrances into the cockpit.
When we are sailing, our normal position is under the spray hood. When I say “our”, I do mean Maria, Bonnie, Clyde and myself, since the cats like to be on deck when we sail. This area has full backs to make it comfortable but these were a real headache to get right with the curve of the cockpit and the shape of the back that cushions need to rest against. All other areas have a selection of loose cushions, in a couple of contrasting colours, that can be used for the backs. This gives flexibility and also means that when Maria sits behind the wheel steering with her feet, she is surrounded by comfy cushions.
So the design is finalised but colour is also important with cushions since a dark colour absorbs too much heat meaning you can’t sit on them comfortably and too light a colour attracts a lot of dirt and always looks mucky. Hopefully we have struck a nice balance with a shade of tan that matches the colour themes on the boat but hopefully won’t be too hot. If we ever get some decent weather in the UK, we will know for sure. Our final aesthetic feature was to have all of the cushions piped in a different colour to provide detailing and a contrast. This worked really well. These two colours reversed gave us our contrast cushions.