One of the most important factors in good seamanship and safety while at sea is to be well rested. This is impossible if the bunks in your boat are not comfortable, cozy, and safe for the person sleeping in them.
It is amazing to me when going aboard many boats that do not have one comfortable off watch sleeping bunk.
Let’s talk about how you can make any bunk a really good place to get the necessary sleep to keep you an active, careful, attentive, and alert sea man, or sea woman. Allow me to make some suggestions on what to have in the way of a really safe and comfortable off watch sleeping bunk!
The best place really, for a sleeping bunk, is as close to midship as possible where there is the least motion while at sea. I know this is not always possible, but an at sea sleeping bunk will be very uncomfortable if up in the bow or way aft as that is where motion is most felt when at sea.
Another consideration is to have the off watch bunk rather near the companionway hatch. This is really for safety reasons, in case, just in case, the on watch crew needs help on deck and quickly!!! Being near the hatch allows the off watch to be handy for a yell from the deck or cockpit with quick response once awake.
To insure you stay in your off watch bunk, lee cloths are a must! A lee cloth is very important, and the type of material and the placement of the lee cloth is just has just as much to do with the comfort and safety as does the position aboard the boat.
A good lee cloth should be made of non stretch material. It should be there to hold in a crew member whether on a the leeward or weather side of the boat. There is nothing worse than having a lee cloth that stretches out if your shoulders or rear end push the lee cloth into a big sag. Your body needs to be held in place so everything about you can relax and take advantage of your sleeping time.
Lee cloths should always be fastened to the bunk under the cushion and attached to the outboard side of the bunk. This allows the cushion to curve to the shape of your body, and act as a cradle to hold your body in place no matter what tack your boat is on or what the sea conditions are when you are off watch. If the lee cloth is attached to the inboard side of the bunk, it forms a right angle to your sleeping area that is uncomfortable and not cradling your body.
Lee cloths should be cloth, not wood, as the material lee cloths again cushion your body instead of having a hard surface holding you in place.
And lee cloths do not need to go all the way up to the overhead, as this restricts the fresh air needed for peaceful sleeping. They only need to go as high as your shoulders when sleeping on your side. This will give you visibility and fresh air.
By using rolling hitches on your lee cloths, you can attach the lines holding the lee cloths in place and quickly either tie them up, or easily release them when exiting the bunk. This eliminates the necessity of always having to thread the lee cloth lines through the eye where they are secured. The rolling hitch is always there and only needs to tightened or released as needed.
One last good idea for your lee cloths is to make them in a trapezoid configuration so they ever so slightly get smaller at the top where the lines are attached. If the eyes on the overhead are placed a little further apart from where the line will feel, this insures a very tight top to the lee cloth holding you into your bunk.
There is nothing that can give you a better off watch sleep than a comfortable and safe and easy to get into bunk. I hope these little ideas work for you as they have worked for me!