Stew Cues: Finding perfect towels no easy task

Apr 16, 2020 by Alene Keenan

Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan

One of the biggest challenges of consulting on an interior refit and helping the owners choose from different towel collections is being able to explain the different values and price points of manufacturers’ products. I mean, come on, towels are towels, right?

Not really. New towels for a yacht can cost a lot of money. Knowing what value differences to consider when buying new towels, and how to discuss that with clients, is key. 

A definite advantage of working with a professional outfitter for towels and other soft goods is the opportunity to draw upon their years of experience.

According to Cris Clifford of Aqualuxe Outfitting, the first thing to consider is what is already on board. Obviously, the owners are used to this brand and product, and they can communicate what they like and don’t like about it. If they are happy with this product, the easiest way would be to replace what they already have or choose from another collection by the same manufacturer. If they want something different, it will take a little exploration. 

Certain flagship brands have a heritage of quality and prestige, but some brands offer more value than others in terms of cost, durability and availability. Availability and lead time on an order are a major concern, especially if decisions are left till the last minute. High-end toweling takes longer and costs more to produce.

The most popular brands have several collections and color options, so it is important to know how much product is in stock when placing an order. White on white is the simplest, but many yachts chose different colors of bedding and towels for each cabin. 

Clifford stresses that allowing enough lead time for delivery before the yacht heads off into the sunset again is important. Boats generally order many pieces, and not all colors and designs will be in stock. Personalized color, banding and embroidery options take longer.

Color coordinating by room has distinct advantages. Although it seems like it would be easier to have all white or all one color, that can make it harder to rotate, sort and store linens properly. To protect the investment of expensive linens, proper rotation ensures that they wear evenly. With different colors for each cabin, the inventory gets rotated properly and is returned directly to the proper room after laundering. 

Speaking of laundering, top quality towels need top quality care. Over-drying towels causes real damage. If you go to take towels out of the dryer and they are too hot to touch, they are toasted – the cotton fibers are actually burned.

One thing that is helpful in preserving longevity is to use the permanent press setting on washers and dryers. On a washing machine, this cycle washes clothes in warm water and rinses them in cool. The agitation and spin cycles are gentler. On a dryer, this cycle uses medium heat, and some have a cool cycle at the end that allows fibers to relax.

Beautiful colors may fade after washing, and certainly after being exposed to sunlight. Beach towels that sit out on deck in the sun are going to discolor no matter what. Beautiful colors, high durability, and top quality brands are going to be priced high. The value in this is evident over time. Some boats, however, will go with brands that have less quality value but satisfy the design preferences of the owner. 

The best towels are a balance between softness and absorbency. If they are too absorbent, they stay wet longer and are prone to mustiness. If they are thin and unsubstantial, they will not absorb water. Many synthetic blends are soft, but don’t absorb much water. Perfect towels feel fluffy, wick moisture away and dry quickly.

For proper care of fine towels, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Quality varies greatly. Know your product and where it comes from. According to Matouk’s website (, the type of cotton is important for all linens and towels. Longer staple cotton fibers always produce a superior product. Turkish, Egyptian, and Supima cotton are all high-quality cottons for toweling. They each have their own distinctions, but Supima is grown in the United States. Fabrics and towels made of Supima cotton are stronger and cost more than other cottons. 

We tend to take them for granted, but according to, towels have been around since the days of the Ottoman Empire in 17th century Turkey. Used in various ceremonies, they reflected the power and status one held in society. They only became widely available in the 19th century and have evolved continuously over time. Functional and utilitarian though they may be, they can be a truly exceptional indulgence for an otherwise ordinary daily routine. 

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 on this column 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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