Sailing my Paradox and country living

Improving the boat mattress


When I first acquired Faith, my Paradox micro cruiser, I used a Thermarest self inflating camping mattress to sleep on . I added extra padding by having a closed cell foam camping mat under it.  This was fairly tolerable to sleep on though not  super comfortable.  At first, I would roll up the Thermarest and the foam mat during the day-time and stick both items in the forward compartment while sailing. Later I experimented by leaving the closed cell mat in place on the cabin sole during the day.   I found it nicer to kneel on than hard plywood and it served as padding to sit on when sailing closed down. But it eventually became foul and smelly and stained  by spilt food and no amount of scrubbing would make much improvement.

Worse,  the Thermarest let me down…. It developed a slow air leak along the seam where the two layers of plastic are welded together in the factory.  So before morning it lost all its pressure and forced me to get up,  to get the circulation going again and relieve my bruised frame. Having poor sleep is  a quick way of ruining a nice cruise.

I had a few attempts to repair the leaking Thermarest with various sticky  ungruants , but none worked for long and eventually I gave up. I considered buying a new Thermarest but they’re seriously expensive and I had been put off by the  sudden failure.

I thought it best to make a foam rubber mattress myself. Foam won’t get a sudden puncture but will fail gracefully and slowly due to natural degradation and wear – just like me – and  I could make it to exactly fit the space.

I bought  a piece of tough fabric reinforced and waterproof vinyl in a pleasant red brown colour which I hand sewed with my ‘Speedy Stitcher’ into an envelope to hold the new foam. For the innards I glued 2 closed cell foam camping mats together and then added 2 thin layers of ‘memory foam’. So four laminations of different types of foam , the camping mats making a firm base and the 2 layers of memory foam to give a soft top. Total thickness of foam was about 2 and a half inches.

This gave reasonable comfort for the 2014 and 2015 cruising seasons. I generally leave the mattress in position on the cabin sole and just lift it up onto its edge when I want to get access to the underfloor lockers. It’s nice to sit or kneel on and the vinyl surface is very easy to wipe clean of spilt butter or harbour mud.

But us humans are always seeking improvements to our comfort. Old bones and being a side sleeper means I sometimes wake up feeling a little sore where my hip bone and shoulder have felt the firmness  of the fully compressed memory foam.

So decided to add a bit more padding. This time polyurethane mattress foam bought at great expense as the memory foam isn’t as great as it’s cracked up to be, IMHO.

I tried to source some mattress foam free from our local rubbish dump. There was a discarded foam mattress within easy reach on top of the skip when i went there to have a look. But the attendant stopped me from taking it and told me that everything in the landfill skip becomes  council property but sometimes they rescue a few items for selling to the public……..right…..  .miserable sod.    So I offered to buy it, but he wouldn’t sell it to me as it was without a label to say it was the fire resistant stuff and therefore not allowed to sell it………….

So, not to be beaten I bought a cheap single mattress which Lidl had on offer.. I  used a large kitchen knife to cut the new foam to the size to fit in my vinyl cover and started my experiments. with a six inch thick layer, used without the closed cell stuff under.

I can tell you that 6 inches of mattress foam isn’t as comfortable as I thought it would be. Really nice to lie on,  but, if there was any boat motion, I reckon that I’d roll off onto the hard floor at the side.  When sitting or kneeling on it,  I sink in so far that it becomes really hard to slide around and it made me feel like I was on a bouncy trampoline. Not good, as the mattress has to be all purpose.-  sleeping, sitting, kneeling and make a somewhere I can put down a plate of food without it all sliding off, this would be no good.

Next, after more use of the kitchen knife,  I used a piece 3 inches thick polyurethane foam added to the hard closed foam  mats and one thin layer of the memory foam and tried that   Great success. Just the right Goldilocks combination of hard and soft. I’m content now that the sleeping mattress is as comfortable as it can be., I think.

resized_boat mattress 010

luxury for me

resized_boat mattress 006

The cover pulled back to show all the layers. 2 firm camping mats glued together, then 1 inch of memory foam, then 3 inches of polyurethane  foam.

resized_boat mattress 008

The cover back in place ready to lace up


2 thoughts on “Improving the boat mattress

  1. Miserable sod? !!

    The landfill operators pay the local authority for the right to operate the site.
    In return, everything that is dumped belongs to them, and they can sell it on: that’s how they make a living.*
    Your freebie from the skip comes straight out of their pocket!

    As traders, whatever they sell must have a clear description: these days mattresses must (I think) be fire resistant.

    * You might recall, a year or two ago on Antiques Roadshow, an operator turned up with a jewel box containing jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds: dumped, she said, in one of their skips.

    The recycling centre at Milton sells on my grass clippings and garden refuse to Amey Cespa who turn it into high grade compost which they then sell on to farmers. The excess is placed in a heap for people like me to collect, free, for our gardens.

    As my Dad said “Where there’s muck there’s brass”.


    • The place is more of a local transfer station run by the local authority, where the public can put their rubbish into big skips, which are later taken on a ttruck to the distant land fill site. The blokes who work there are employed by the local authority.

      if you class these guys as secondhand traders, then, they have an unfair advantage over a normal junkshop, since they get their stock for free, are paid a salary from our local taxes, and get their premises rent free too.

      I can see a good case for enforcing fire regs for new mattresses and furniture where the manufactures can vouch for compliance, but regulating secondhand sales is impractical where stuff that actually complies has lost its labelling. As a general principle, all new goods have to comply with the latest safety and environmental regs, and old things are allowed to be in continued use although they don’t comply, for as long as someone wishes to use them.. (See 100 year old traction engines, Grandad’s Austin Twelve and Seagull outboard for examples)


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