Topic: Modify berth & change watertank

Hi all,

I am new to this forum. I have bought last October my long wished Contessa 26, a well kept beauty from 1972.

This year I will get to know her better, and I want to change/improve and modify a few things. Mostly I know what to do, but there are two things I would like to get some input from others.

1. I would like to modify at least one berth. The berths are cramped, and I am a 'wide'sleeper. Result, I am not yet really looking forward to sleep on board, which is a real pity. The berths are based on some kind of a hammock principle (I am not a native English speaker, so I am not sure what is the proper word):  canvas bottoms of the berth with a cushion on it. Although that sleeps well, it is still quite cramped. This is also the case in the V berth, the two beds are separated and not one bed. (there is also a spare between the head spaces. I would really like to get some interior photo's (including berths) to get some inspiration of what and how to do it.

2. The watertank (port bow under V berth) was not really used by the previous owner. The pipes leading to and from are brownish, and the air outlet in particular is very dirty and stinks when you touch it. I am not really sure how to proceed. The watertank is closed with wood, and the screws are hard to open, so before I start there I would like some more information about what is under there and what to do. One thought would be, replace all pipes, open it and put a flexible watertank in it, but there might be other options. I have thought of cleaning it with vinegar (prefer no chemicals) and then see what happens, but still, rather not get sick from water.

Really happy to hear your thoughts, and thanks in advance!


Re: Modify berth & change watertank

Congratulations on your new boat and welcome to the forum.

Search the forums and ask your questions.  This website is a tremendous resource.

Check the route of the hoses.  On my 1976 Contessa the tank under the V-Berth is the holding tank -- sewage!  Sewage hoses regularly permeate with smell -- replace them and your boat will smell sweeter.

Look in the Gallery for photos.  There are zillions there.

From your description it may be that your berths have been converted to pipe berths which can conveniently fold out of the way.

For the V-berth there is a wooden insert which connects the two singles to make a relatively wide double berth.  Remember, this is a Contessa -- spacious it is not!



Re: Modify berth & change watertank

Many thanks, Christopher!
In regard to the watertank, it is the watertank, not the holdingtank (previous owner took out the underwater toilet and installed a port-a-potty). And the boat does not smell bad, it is just that when I followed the pipes (in particular the air outlet) with my hand, my fingers smelled quite bad after that (and the idea of having water from where that air came from... well it simply does not appeal to me anymore).
Thanks for the tip about the wooden insert. I make up from your words that is something that might be available somewhere (or a blueprint, so I can make it myself). I do have pipe berths, and these are handy indeed. It is more, well I need to sleep with my legs up and arms wide. For the rest, I don't mind the smaller space, it is a Contessa (need I say more). I sail mainly solo or with non-sailors on board, I love that I can handle her perfectly on my own.
Thanks, and I love to hear input of others as well!

Re: Modify berth & change watertank

Hi Femke,

You sound like you may not be from North America;  Are you talking about the Jeremy Rogers Contessa or the JJ Taylor?
My JJ Taylor Contessa has a forward V-berth that is the same size as a queen bed across the shoulders, so for a single person, it should be quite roomy.  Where yours is split between a port and starboard berth, we have a removable plank with cushion that we can put in that space to make one space.

I have heard of some others that have built a similar platform in the center of the boat... essentially turning the walking space in the main cabin into a uniform platform bed... to me, this doesn't make sense unless you are long-distance cruising.

From a comfort perspective, the v-berth is fine in well-protected anchorages or at dock, but if the waves get up, then you're riding a pony.  Ugh.  My preference is the tighter (but longer) space in the main saloon.  "Wide sleeper" doesn't generally coincide with Contessa terminology!  Good luck.

As for the water-tank... Mine, too, is stored under the v-berth.  This is inconveniently placed both for maintenance and for carrying weight.  Ugh.  When full, it keeps weight in the bow for now good reason.  We leave ours dry unless we really need it for voyaging.  Ours has an inspection hatch in the top... but little good it does me as I can't reach in far enough to do much.  Random long instruments and acrobatics let me reach in and try to clean as much as we can.  At the end of the day, I bleached the hell out of it, replaced the hoses and called it "good enough" for washing hands and dishes but not for drinking.  I *could* cut out the tank... but I still don't want weight up there while I'm sailing.  My view is that you're better off with some big jugs of potable water.

I have heard of bladders that *could* go into the space, but you reduce quite a bit of tankage.  You see, the water tanks actually span the entire bow.  You can't reach them, or see them, but it is definitely a cavity filled with water. up there.  When you put the bladder in, you would only fill the cavity on the starboard side and no the rest... off-balance, weight in the bow. ugh.


Re: Modify berth & change watertank

Hi Jordan,
Thanks for your response. I have a Rogers version, indeed.
I have seen photo's somewhere on the internet of a Contessa in which a large bed was made, but the photo's aren't that clear (and I cannot find them anymore now).
The thing with the berths in the cabin: these are not just narrow, which I could live with, but my legs are closed in till above the knees, I cannot really move them up, even a bit. (The first owner bought the boat casco and created his own interior design, the woodwork is very pretty, but the comfort result is quite spartan smile)

I am sure I will come up with a good solution in the end, it would be nice to get some ideas from others since I guess there must be more like me that have modified berths smile

Thanks also for your input about the watertank!

Re: Modify berth & change watertank

FWIW, when you put your feet down into the v-berth, it's not much better... you still bang your knees on the cabin top.
The Contessa is not a boat with lots of cabin room... as they say, "It was built for safe sailing, not for safe sex."  Being in a tight seaberth is a good thing I suppose.