Friday, February 16, 2018

Review of Autarkia's Asymmetrical Layout

Autarkia evolved as she was built.  This is a process that many would be reluctant to take.  After all, a boat, even one such as Autarkia, is a large committed investment.  Yet, when we began to build her, the boat we had envisioned was very different from how she eventually turned out.

Original Concept

We had planned full standing headroom throughout.  We thought we needed that much space!  It did bother me though, that our roof/deck height would be a good five feet above the waterline along the sides, as well as being sloped.  It always sat in the back of my mind that this might not be such a good idea considering that we are getting older.

And the moment we took it upon ourselves to have a complete rethink was when the hull was turned over, and brought home to our driveway.

The Hull Was Huge!

I am very grateful to Lorri that she was able to consider something different, knowing that she would be giving up on the cabin space and full headroom that she thought was so important at the time.  But we saw that we had a huge blob of putty in our hands that we could shape into anything we wanted.  And I for one, immediately wanted wide side decks.  We talked about it, and even laid lumber down to walk on on and further envision the advantages.  Among them of course would be the safety of level walkways at around dock height - something that would prove to be a wonderful feature of the boat.

But what would we do with the reduced square footage of cabin?  Well, this was where I began to draw and play with layouts, and overall look.  And it became very apparent that the boat simply would not look right if we kept full headroom throughout.  Much discussion, some of it lively, resulted in a realization that standing headroom was quite necessary where one would stand and move about in the galley, but not quite so important where one would either sit or lay down.  Of course, raised trunks with standing headroom for the galley and reduced headroom in the rest of the boat is nothing new.  Lorri was wary, but she agreed.

The next issue though, was how would we lay her out?  Most sailboats are fairly symmetrical, with a companionway centered on the cockpit, headroom gained by the camber of the roof, and accommodations and furniture laid out to either side.  It seemed though, with the size of this boat, that we did not have to stick to such convention.  One of the things we saw and realized, that we would be limited in the kind of berth or berths we would have with a central corridor.  True, the boat was wide enough for a double berth on either side - double as boat standards go anyway.  But double berths were not what we wanted.  We wanted a very large sleeping platform that we could use a a lounging area as well.  It would have to be all on one side.  Given that neither of us would compromise on this, it became very apparent that the boat's 'corridor' would be off center.  That cleared up where the forward and aft companionways would go.  I might add here that this was possible because Autarkia would not heel more than a couple of degrees.  A more conventional sailboat that does heel is symmetrical  because it must function on both tacks.

Now the bulkheads were placed with the original design in mind.  And in the original design the middle cabin was going to have a settee and dinette, with the forward cabin having a queen sized berth athwartships, requiring us to get in and out of bed from the foot.  Also, we thought that it might be some sort of luxury to have a companionway in said stateroom out to the fore deck.  I am so glad that we did not do this, and were I a proper boat designer I would not even have considered such a thing in the first place!

Anyway, it just started to make sense then, that this forward cabin could be utility space (and we now call it the utility room for lack of a nautical term).  It houses the composting toilet, a workbench and vice, and is a general storage area for the sort of stuff that needs to be handy, yet makes a boat look cluttered and messy.

The center cabin would now become our 'stateroom' and we were able to build a sleeping platform 85" long by 76" wide extending under the side deck.  We can orient ourselves any way we want to sleep, and I must say with the custom foam mattress, egg crate foamy, and the bedding and pillows we have, it is the most comfortable bed we have ever slept in.

But what about the dinette and settee we were going to have in this center cabin?  How could we squish all on that in the aft cabin along with the galley?  Well, we brought in some chairs and mocked up various configurations and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each, and I thank Lorri once again for this - why build any permanent furniture at all?  This area could be very functional with chairs and small tables we could move around or stow away.  An absolute eureka moment!

And this is what we have.

Our time out on the water has been limited, so I have to reserve judgement for the efficacy of Autarkia's layout while cruising.  Suffice to say that in that regard while out on the water the side decks are great, the large fore deck is great, and the clear path inside from aft companionway to the forward companionway is great.  It certainly has worked well on the Fraser.

Otherwise, in the year or so we've had her finished out and while at the dock in Mission, we can find no issues with our accommodations inside.  It all works wonderfully.  Storage is more than ample, comfort is high, amenities are sufficient, and she has turned out to be a very cosy boat indeed!


  1. Having lived for years in a small travel trailer, I came to really dislike permanently fixed, built in furnishings, as well as wiring and plumbing that aren't easily accessible. I think you made a brilliant decision to keep most of your interior space open and flexible. I also like the overhead storage area you've created in the stateroom.

    And unless one is rich with someone else doing all the repairs, I should think having a dedicated workbench would greatly improve the quality of shipboard life.