The salon table is an important piece of furniture in a sailboat, and they come in many different styles to meet the varied needs of different sailors and liveaboards.
In their simplest form, tables are a horizontal surface which provides space to support objects. In a boat, horizontal surfaces are in short supply, so the salon table becomes the main table for everything that goes on in the boat. Since this table is so important, bigger may seem better! Sailboat interiors have limited space, the larger the table the less residual space you will have for the remainder of the interior accommodations. Since interior space is limited, the struggle between size and usability has been churning on.
Small tables can provide space for one person to eat a small meal, and take up almost no space. This leaves the rest of the interior unobstructed! This may seem great until you have someone visit for dinner and you have to take turns on who gets to use the table.
Mid-sized tables offer more space for eating and working and only take up a bit more space. They offer enough space for two people to eat on the same table at the same time, or space for a small chart book.
Large tables offer space for many people to sit at and eat at the same time and space for projects, all on the same table. These tables are also large enough to set out full size charts. This may seem great, but these tables also take up a lot of space!
Since we all want the biggest table possible, we first need to evaluate what will fit in the boat. If you have a narrow boat, maybe a midsized table is all that will fit. If you have more beam and length in your salon, then a larger table might still fit. The big question with tables is: "What do you do with them when you are not using the table?"
Space is a premium on a boat, and if you have a lot of space, why would you want to occupy all of that space with a table? Island Packet offers a large table that folds up on the wall in the salon. When you need the table, you can lower it down; when you are finished with the table, you can fold it up onto the bulkhead to open up the very spacious salon!
These tables offer plenty of space when they are lowered for projects and entertaining. When the tables are stowed and out of the way, the salon is opened up and the full beam of the boat is available for whatever you want!
The downside to these tables is they need to be completely cleared to be put away. If you have a long standing project, it can't live on the table when you go to stow the table.
The other downside with these tables is they will always maintain themselves parallel to the floor. This means that as the boat heels over, the table will lean with it and everything sitting on the table will slide towards the low side. Table fiddle blocks will help keep plates from sliding off the side, but you will still have to deal with everything settling on one side of the table.
A fixed mounted table can be gimbaled, allowing it to swing with the boats motion to keep the table top flat and level with the water. This is very useful on long tacks when you want a flat surface to eat on. Our table has a bolt that locks it in place (making it not gimbaled) which we keep installed while in port.
The alternative to a stowable table is a fixed table. Fixed tables will permanently occupy a section of the salon and can not be removed to free up space in the salon. This is a sacrifice, as the salon is a highly used area on the boat.
The advantage that a fixed table has over a folding table is the fixed table can hold a lot of storage! The entire table base can be serve as a large storage area. On Wisdom, we keep all our bed linens and games in the table.
When deciding which table you want to have, you need to evaluate how you will be using the space in the salon. If you do a lot of projects, a fixed table is very handy. If you do yoga, a folding table is very handy.
If you already have a table in your boat, you know that you can learn to live with whatever type of table you have. Maddie has expressed interest in removing the fixed table and replacing it with a folding table on the bulkhead. After showing her how much storage we would loose and how little space we would gain, we quickly discovered that she could do her yoga in the area between the galley and the salon (a much easier alternative).