Simple Coaming Seats (The Prototype)

This page was updated on July 22, 2007

Over the years, I frequently found that I was wishing for a more comfortable way to sit on top of the coamings at various times.   The varnished wood coamings look great, but their narrow tops are not suitable for comfortable seating, to put it mildly.

I found this desire to sit on the coamings to be strongest during some of those long, windless days of powering during cruises, when I'd often put one of those square throwable cushions on top of the coaming to allow me to sit there and steer with the tiller extension, offering a good view and a break from standing; however, this was far from ideal and ultimately uncomfortable.

At various times (usually in the cockpit over drinks), I found myself discussing this problem with Nathan Sanborn, and we batted about several ideas.  For whatever reason, nothing ever managed to come to fruition, partly because we struggled with how to best support the seat on the coaming, without placing undue stress on the coaming itself and while maintaining a wide-enough seat to make the effort worthwhile.

The solution was obvious enough, but it took years--and Nathan's happenstance observation on another boat during 2006--to arrive there:  A vertical leg on the outboard side of the seat, along with cleats to hold the seat on the coaming.  Sometimes, the answer is so obvious that it's hard to reach, and this was one of those cases.  The "duh" factor was high, but the right solution isn't necessarily always immediately forthcoming.  The seats in our spy photos were of basic design, and incorporated a folding leg, lanyard to secure the seat lest it fall overboard, and a cushion built into the top.

Still, I managed to postpone actually doing anything about these silly seats for another year, till, with a cruise pending and with some friendly prompting from Nathan, I decided to just build something.  Rather than worry about getting things perfect, I elected to build prototype-quality seats out of some scrap Meranti plywood that I had on hand.  the upcoming cruise would tell the tale as to the success of the seats, after which I could build something more finished while accommodating any design changes that might be deemed necessary. 

I started with the basics:  enough pieces cut out of the plywood to build two seats.  This included two tops, which ended up rather randomly (and also bound by the size of the scrap at hand) at 9-5/8" square; plus a leg piece for each seat, which I left overlong for trimming to exact size on board; plus four smaller cleats--two for each seat--that would fit over the coaming to secure the inboard end of the seat.

With the basic pieces cut, I cut radii on the four corners of the seat pieces, and then sanded all the pieces with 120 grit to ease the edges and so forth.  Then, I attached the cleats to the underside with bronze screws, allowing some overhang on the inboard side of the seat and using a scrap of 3/4" thick mahogany wrapped in a thickness of jersey cloth to space the two cleats properly; the cloth simulated what I planned to install inside the cleats to act as a protective barrier against the varnished coamings.

Then, I glued some of the cloth to the inside with spray adhesive.  I found it necessary to use the mahogany scrap (wrapped in plastic) to hold the cloth down flat inside the cleats while the glue cured.  Afterwards, I trimmed off the excess material.


To wrap up construction, I attached the legs to the undersides of the seats with some basic hinges that I had on hand.  Yes, these hinges are of the zinc-plated hardware store variety, but I had them on hand and these are simply prototypes, after all.  I did secure the hinges with bronze screws, though.


Later, I test-fit the seats on the boat, and cut the leg to an appropriate length.  These prototype seats worked well, but sorely needed a cushion.  With the basic design figured out, though, it ought to be easy to make a more finished and effective version.



Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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