Thanks to Don Davies who wrote this article for the "Good Old Boat" magazine and to the Good Old Boat for permitting us to include the article on the Grampian site.

Photos Gary Johnson







Affinity’s starboard side in the main saloon, at left, as she was originally built in 1973. The shelf is 6 inches wide. The spindle rail is unable to hold things in place when heeling to port in a strong wind. Don Davies and shipwright Bert MacKay, below, draw up plans for Affinity’s renovation.



By Don Davies

T STARTED INNOCENTLY ENOUGH LAST year. Bert MacKay, a sprightly Scot of indeterminable age, had found his way aboard Affinity for a wee dram of the Highland nectar. Sitting in the cockpit with glass poised, he glanced below and remarked, “Aye, Grampian 30s . . . great boats, but there’s too much wasted space. I can show you how to double the space with just a few hours’ work and less than a $100 in materials.”

Bert had been a shipwright in Scotland and worked at cabinetry and home renovations among other businesses in Canada, but I could see that his love was renovating boat interiors to make them more comfortable and practical. He pointed to the 6-inch-deep shelf along the starboard side and said we could extend it at least another 6 inches or more to create cupboards big enough for dishes, books, and even a bar.

Then he noted that the same wasted space existed behind the back of the settee, and pointed out that we could build lockers that could be easily reached by a hinged back on the settee.

My only objection was that I’d be narrowing my favourite sleeping berth: the starboard settee. But Bert had an answer for that as well. With a plywood support, he pointed out, the cushion could be pulled out about 12 inches into the aisle for use when sleeping and then slipped back into position as a settee cushion the rest of the time.

“An’ we’ll put sliding doors across the cupboards so that your books and stuff don’t come tumbling out every time the boat heels over a bit,” enthused Bert. “An’ we’ll make one of the cupboards a fancy bar, which you can keep stocked with more of this fine Scotch.”

A few hours work and less than a hundred bucks? Hey, I’ll drink to that!

Buying materials

Step One was to buy the materials. In all, it required a 4-x 8-foot sheet of ¾-inch plywood, two planks of 1-inch x 6-inch by 6-foot mahogany, a few lengths of ½-x ½-inch scrap wood for securing the shelves, some burgundy-coloured felt cloth, some caning bamboo material for the door inserts, two boxes of screws, some sandpaper, and some stain and varnish. This came to just a bit over our hundred-dollar budget, as it turned out, but not by much.
Step Two
was to take the starboard side down to bare fiberglass by removing the decorative railing, the settee back, and the ugly blue burlap that had been glued to the fiberglass at the factory more than 30 years ago. The 6-inch shelf was well attached; it


The starboard side with the spindle railing, settee back, and cushions removed, at left. The 6-inch rail is fiberglassed into the hull and will provide a foundation for the new cupboards. The cupboard’s upper shelf is screwed to the original 6-inch shelf. The bottom shelf, at right, is secured by ½-x ½-inch inserts at both ends and supported in the middle. The mahogany facings are in place. The insets in the bar hold bottles in place under sail.

had been glassed in, so we decided to use it as the foundation for our cupboards. As one might expect chain-plate fittings run through the area.

Step Three was measuring the wood pieces that would form the ply-wood shelves, the top and bottom mahogany facings of the cupboards, and  the sliding mahogany cupboard doors.

Because the sides of the boat and the running edge of the cabin were ir-regular shapes, I thought measuring would be a painstaking task. Our goal was to create cupboards that formed a straight line top and bottom so the sliding cupboard doors would ride along the grooved tracks smoothly.

Bert solved the measuring problem  by having me hold the upper mahogany board in place while he ran the scribe with a pencil attached down the length of the cabin under the windows.

In less than a minute, we had the line for our upper facing, which would follow the cabin liner on top and be straight on the bottom



Trickier measuring

Measuring the two 6-foot-long lateral shelving sections was a bit trickier because the shelves would follow the line of the hull and narrow as we got closer to the bow. I watched in amazement as Bert took four measurements at various places along the shelving line and then drew the line on the sheet of plywood. The four upright plywood boards that would divide the cupboard sections were measured to have a flush front and the back part following the slope of the hull. Measuring the cupboard doors was much easier. The entire length of the shelf would be 6 feet. That meant each of the two sliding doors would be 2 feet long by the height of the top shelf, which was 14 inches.


Step Four consisted of watching Bert use a table saw the way Picasso used a paintbrush. First he cut 2 feet off the end of the 4-x 8-foot plywood to give us enough for the two 6-foot shelves and the upright panels. Then he placed the 6-foot length on the table and guided it through the blade, following the curved line we’d drawn, to give us the two 6-foot shelves. Next


The finished project, with the two sliding doors enclosing the bar and the cupboard and the open bookshelf in the middle, at left. A great deal of easy access storage space has been gained behind the settee back, at right. The sleeping berth can be pulled out 12 inches when needed to more than compensate for giving up 6 inches to storage shelves and lockers.