Stew Cues: Bed-making need not be a nightmare

Oct 12, 2019 by Alene Keenan

Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan

It’s been said that you spend a third of your life sleeping. If that’s the case, then stews must spend at least that much time making beds. 

Making standard size beds can be a breeze with the right sheets, but most boats have custom-shaped and custom-sized beds that are nearly impossible to access to change the bedding. Stews have been known to balance a mattress on their heads while they crawl into the bed frame to tuck the sheets in securely. Or they must take the mattress out of the frame, put the sheets on, and slide the mattress back in like an envelope. Not so much fun on a Pullman bunk bed that is taller than you are.

When buying sheets – whether cotton or linen, sateen or flat-weave, 200- or 600-thread count, single-ply or double-ply – mattress size, shape and style must also be considered. Standard-size sheets are widely available, but custom-fitted sheets are easiest to work with. If they fit properly, they will save time and the bed will look and function better.

Flat sheet dimensions include length and width only. For fitted sheets, consider the length, width and pocket depth, which corresponds to the measure of the height of the mattress. Mattress heights range from 7 to 24 inches or more.  

Twin and XL twin sheets differ only in length. Flat sheets are 72 x 102 inches for twin, and 72 x 114 inches for extra-long twin. Fitted sheets are 39 x 76 x 14 inches, and XL twin fitted sheets are 39 x 80 x 14 inches. That’s only a few inches difference in length,  but trying to stretch a too-small sheet can make or break your cabin routine.

Full/double and queen are often sold as interchangeable, but there are differences. A fitted full sheet is 54 x 76 x 15, while a fitted queen is 60 x 80 x 15 inches. That’s 5 or 6 inches of difference in both width and length, and the pocket depth can vary as well. A too-large flat sheet means all that extra fabric gets tucked under the mattress. A too-small sheet means that it won’t have the proper drop length on each side of the mattress.

A king and a California king have slight differences as well.  The flat sheets are interchangeable. However, the fitted king is 73 x 80 x 15 while the fitted California king is 73 x 85 x 15. That’s five inches difference in width. Good luck with that.

This may seem insignificant, but when you have been wrestling with a mattress, trying to get the sheets on for 20 minutes, it helps to know what is causing the problem. The corners will slip off if the fitted pocket depth is too shallow, or the sheet won’t be held taut and will billow out if the pocket is too big. I heard a guest comment that sleeping in a bed with a fitted sheet that is too big is like sleeping inside a parachute. 

As Daniel J. Boorstin said, “As you make your bed, so you must lie in it.” Freshly laundered, high-quality sheets may be the last word in luxury, but bed linens that are made to order to fit custom-designed furniture on board are a godsend and help you rest easily. 

Good night, sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Alene Keenan is former lead instructor of interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale. She shares more than 20 years experience as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht,” available at Comments are welcome below.


About Alene Keenan

Alene Keenan is a veteran chief stew, interior training instructor/consultant, and author of The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht.

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