Pedestal-Mount Cockpit Tables: Edson Rules; Snap-It Is a Best Buy
We evaluated nearly a dozen cockpit tables and found that quality is available at a steep price, but reasonable, less expensiveand less attractivealternatives do exist.
Time was when yachtsmen and their ladies—if the boat was splendid—tripped below, after aperitifs on deck, to dine at a polished table, sometimes even gimbaled.
Big, modern boats—especially charter boats—sometimes have a long, narrow, fore-and-aft folding table in the middle of the cockpit…the kind of table about which the veteran sailor/author team named Dashew argue. Steve likes a small fold-down pedestal table; Linda likes a big long table for entertaining ("…a waste of space, money and weight," wrote Steve).
Unless it's raining, we owners of wee, tiller-steered boats still eat in the cockpit, off our knees—ignominiously and precariously—usually from bowls rather than plates.
Cockpit tables mounted on pedestal guards are of fairly recent origin. And the fold-down tables had to wait for the invention of the pedestal guard.
Two New England friends, Hank Keene, of Edson Marine, and Henry Hinckley, the re nowned boatbuilder in Southwest Harbor, ME, discovered almost simultaneously the need for something handy to grab when thrown off balance in the cockpit of a boat equipped with pedestal-wheel steering. (Grabbing the wheel or the helmsman was common, but not a good idea; both were usually otherwise engaged.)
The first pedestal guard, made by Keene, was installed on a Hinckley. That was in the 1960s. (No one PS contacted during our research was quite sure of the exact year.)
It didn't take long for Hank Keene to figure out that a very handy table could be affixed to the sturdy pedestal guard, for use primarily when moored, anchored, or at a dock.
The first such folding table, measuring only 8-1/2" x 20", was installed—you guessed it—on a Hinckley—and made its maiden appearance in the 1973 Edson catalog. It cost a whopping $55 and came as "a planed board supplied unfinished so you have the option as to its final size, shape and finish."
Soon after, pedestal-mounted tables became a hit. They grew in size, too. Edson made one that measured 20" x 32" (an athwartship version was 20" x 30"). They used various methods of attachment and support. Supporting legs fitted in sockets were used, but heavy diagonal braces made of wire proved best. And it wasn't long before Edson introduced bigger drop-leaf tables.
For over a decade, Practical Sailor has kept itself busy with topics other than cockpit tables, so it's now high time for a thorough investigation. To check it all out, we gathered up for comparison a dozen or so cockpit tables. Not included are various small trays and drink holders, which come in many varieties. Also not included were rail-mount tables and shelves, but Magma makes a typical one. Though not pictured in this article, that product is listed on the accompanying chart, just for a quick, rough comparison.
The tables, listed alphabetically on the chart on pages 8 and 9, are from Edson, Garelick, Lewmar, Magma, Marinco/AFI, SnapIt, and Teak-Flex. There are other table makers—like Tracy International and Todd (both of which make pedestals) and Nemo (which makes Hideaway tables), and Arneson (which makes side-mount tables). PS also attempted to obtain a table or two from Cruising Concepts, run by husband-and-wife team Sheila and Mike Powell in Orca, WA, who apparently make and sell expensive pedestal-guard tables. After several telephone conversations, PS accepted the Powells' statement that they were "too busy." Perhaps next winter?
To try these tables straight out of the box, each was affixed, if possible, to a standard Edson pedestal steering platform. (There are other pedestal steerers—like Goiot from France and the extensive Lewmar-owned Whitlock systems from England—but most table makers have adaptors to fit any of the pedestal guards used.)
Tables that did not fit on the Edson guard were assembled and disassembled (to determine the degree of difficulty) and closely examined. The customary photos were taken. More importantly, because of the extreme importance of the support system, photos were also taken of the underside of some tables. Some are very sturdy, but for pity's sake, don't let anyone—drunk or sober—sit on any of them.
Most of the specifications and comments appear on the chart, but here (alphabetically, again) is a brief discourse on the products we reviewed from each company.
Edson makes three kinds of tables. Jumping out in any evaluation are the solid teak ones with non-magnetic, stainless-steel hardware or powder-coated aluminum that have no legs to get in the way. They also have stainless fasteners that are bunged, and, if appropriate, quick release pins for easy removal.
The simplest is No. 849, a small table with two powder-coated aluminum hook-like clamps that slip down over the pedestal guard and rest on the pedestal/guard plate. Both the teak and white poly versions have fiddles and are the easiest of all the tables we tested to mount and demount. The slip-ons are made (in both fore-and-aft and athwartship versions, teak or white poly) only for 1" pedestal guards. (It is the third one down on the chart.) Simple it may be, but cheap it ain't. The teak version lists for $345; the white poly version is $272.
In the middle of Edson's range—No. 761—is what the company calls a "luncheon table," meaning that it's small and unobtrusive. It is the first one listed on the chart on the following page. It's also the least expensive, perhaps because the first-rate engineering and tooling for the support was covered by its big brother (see below). At $295 ($207 in white poly), the luncheon table is the most economical among Edson's offerings. This table can be easily and neatly enlarged by using Edson's "Traybles," which hook on the table with two aluminum powder-coated brackets. The Traybles can be used to serve food that is prepared below and passed up the companionway, a clever duality. List price for a Trayble is $198. Extra brackets to mount the tray in the galley are $36. Brackets to stow a Trayble on a bulkhead or in a locker go for $44.
Finally, little need be said about Edson's full-sized folding teak table—No. 737. The second one down on the chart, it has a mounting and support system that competitors should simply copy, and make no bones about it. Just four stainless-steel split collars comprise the mounting, each of which is attached to the guard with two Allen screws. That the collars fit so well suggests they were broached to provide close tolerances. The top two collars position themselves on top of the pedestal/guard joining plate and level the table, and the bottom two collars are easy to fit. The collars serve two purposes. Holes in the collars accept the table's long mounting pin (which is simply withdrawn to demount and stow the table). The lower two accept the table's diagonal supporting rod. It all makes for an extraordinary but lightweight system; the most rigid and convenient of all.
Garelick developed the first lightweight, double-hook boarding ladder in the 1970s and has steadily expanded its line of marine products since then. If recollection serves, the next to be added were boat hooks, both telescoping and fixed-length models, with Acme-thread hook, brush and mop heads. That said, we should note that most Garelick gear is engineered for use aboard powerboats.
For cockpit tables, the company offers probably the most extensive line of bases, tubes, brackets and tops—almost all in modern materials like polypropylene; anodized, high-tensile aluminum, and King StarBoard®, which is heavier but cheaper than teak. It even has "gas rise" and electrically adjusted tables, as well as side-mount, wall-mount, deck-mount, and flush-mount hardware.
Garelick is represented in this review by three tables. The first is a bracket-mount table whose top is stowable; an unattractive and obtrusive bracket would remain in place, which limits its utility aboard a sailboat with limited cockpit space.
The other two—one round, one rectangular—are good, stowable tables with base mountings that require a very substantial cockpit floor that will accommodate a stout backing plate. Both the aluminum bracket and the snap-in plastic bracket, are of good design and quality. The aluminum base is a substantial casting with a finely machined top and socket. The optional black plastic base attaches with offset dog levers.
However, to stow these tables when under way, you wind up with a tabletop and a fat aluminum tube to put somewhere.
As with most Garelick products, the tables are modestly priced, and that may be why Garelick doesn't include the No. 10 screws or bolts needed to mount the hardware. A company spokesman told us that because installations vary, users should chase down the fasteners in the lengths and type needed.
Because Lewmar markets a bunch of pedestal models (with names such as Enguard, Integra, Reliant/Athena, etc.), the big British company makes many different tables. These come in three basic styles—a 14" x 24" single-leaf model made of solid teak, a solid-teak double-leaf model that opens out to 26" x 27", and a double-leaf model made of veneered teak. The latter—the veneered teak model—seems not very desirable because veneer must be carefully maintained. Veneer should be varnished (or painted). Nick or break the varnish skin and the veneer sucks up discoloring moisture like a teenager with a milk-shake. This is one of the reasons why Lewmar sells a table bag made expressly to store its folded teak tables.
For those looking to avoid the care and tending of teak (it's hard to keep up the varnish, oiling turns blotchy and, left raw, attracts stains like a two-year-old with a chocolate ice cream cone), Lewmar, like most of the other manufacturers, also offers its tables in a white poly version.
Besides some beautiful British wood-working, the Lewmar tables have a number of nice touches. The table leveling adjustment screw in the bottom of the support is thoughtful and the tables come with plastic bushings to keep the stainless mounting hinges isolated from the aluminum pedestal.
Lewmar's support system, shown inset in the photo below, is next to Edson's in ruggedness, but it's far more difficult to install. And there's a worrisome note: The big aluminum casting which holds the Lewmar tables must be mounted with stainless steel self-tapping screws in holes drilled in the pedestal itself. Practical Sailor has had a few unhappy experiences with fasteners in thin aluminum walls. With dissimilar metals, its difficult to prevent corrosion.
Magma, a Lakewood, CA, company, is best known for its grills and grilling accessories. Owners Jim and Jerry Mashburn, who—like so many others in the marine business—were sailors who went looking for a better way to do something, started the company in 1976.
The Mashburn brothers were inveterate barbequers who grew weary of seeing grills rust out on their boats. They made the first stainless steel cookers. And besides grills, they also make fish and bait-cutting boards, woks, and other cookware.
Magma's little tables are really not in the same league as the others in this report. However, a pair of these mounted might do nicely for lunch on a small boat.
When it comes to cockpit tables, Edson and Marinco/AFI go head-to-head. Both offer tables in teak or poly and several configurations, but Marinco/AFI enjoys the distinction of having its line of tables chosen by West Marine for both its stores and catalog.
A big double-leaf teak table from Edson lists for $595. A big double-leaf teak table from Marinco/AFI discounts for $319. That's a huge difference. In the white polymer versions, the difference is not quite so remarkable: Edson lists at $516; West Marine sells Marinco/AFI for $390.
Perhaps it's the teak that accounts for these differences. Teak is a very expensive wood and it's difficult to work. Edson uses solid teak; Marinco/AFI uses glued up strips, which are much less expensive. However, the glue used on strip-built woodwork tends to age and can result in cracks, which become unsightly and lead to additional maintenance. And Edson uses solid teak trim on any exposed end grain—that's expensive woodworking—whereas Marinco/AFI often leaves the end grain exposed. To prevent moisture from migrating, cut ends should be sealed—with paint or varnish, because few sealers seal for long.
However, the principal distinction between Edson and Marinco/AFI is the mounting hardware. The Marinco/AFI parts used to attach the table to the pedestal guard are not nearly as well engineered, in our opinion. In addition, the Marinco/AFI tables use a vertical wooden leg for support, which ends up in the way and, because the leg is in the way, the hinge and its fasteners are far more likely to get bent and fail.
By far, the most innovative tables are SnapIt Marine's models M0011 (17-1/2" x 24") and M0012 (14-1/2" x 22"). Made entirely of 1/2" white polymer secured with stainless-steel screws, these tables comes in versions that fit 7/8", 1", 1-1/8", and 1-1/4" pedestal guards, all on the customary 9-1/2" center, but other sizes are also available. These SnapIt tables are clever designs that snap onto the pedestal guard and should last for years.
And SnapIt tables require no supporting leg. Instead, two long beams fold down to provide somewhat of a cantilevered arrangement, as shown in the photo on page 11.
The installation takes a bit of doing (with a No. 2 Phillips-head screwdriver and three hands). You won't be removing the SnapIt table for stowage. In fact, being polymer, it does not need to be stowed or covered when not in use. If left exposed, the sun probably will work its will, but that will take a long time.
SnapIt is a 1990s Texas success story involving Mike Catchings and Dave Rogers. They have almost three dozen products including drink holders, instrument pads, cell phone racks, winch handle holders, and a fine 15" x 4" x 3-1/2" binnacle box, with drain holes. Despite the complexity of the tables, most SnapIt products are based on the two-finger, snap-on, lock-down attachment system.
The "woodiest" of all cockpit tables are those made by TeakFlex, a small company run by Ken Clift in Pawcatuck, CT. It appears that he can do anything with wood, especially the rare hardwoods like teak (he uses only Thailand-grown teak), mahogany, cherry, and chestnut burl, etc.
Clift makes hand rails, bowsprits, cleats, step boxes, grates, seats, motor mounts and boxes…even the occasional garden gate.
His pedestal-mount tables include unique hingeless leaf tables that have sliding leaves that stow and mount in tracks. Because Clift's tables are only 12-3/4" wide, they're ideal for narrow cockpits. The smallest one comes stock for $350 and includes an all-teak mounting system. The downside is that because of the tight fits, the table must be protected against water. (If you prefer the protection of varnish, Clift offers a full page of instructions on what to do to maintain the clearances needed.)
Equally unique is Clift’s standard leaf table (16" x 24" folded; 24" x 32" open) to which can be added, via clever fasteners and supports, a 12" x 32" extension that brings the table area to 32"x 36", which makes it the largest available stock table.
Because he does a great deal of custom work, Clift appears to be a good source to go to for any non-stock teak work.
The chart (see sidebar) contains a lot of answers about cockpit tables. Among the questions you might ask:
1. Do you want the table to be permanently in place (suggesting that it'll be used frequently), or stowed away to protect its finish or hardware?
2. Do you prefer a small table, for use by two (or for buffets) or a larger table for eating full meals?
3. Is sanding, finishing, and varnishing your cup of tea? Are you good at it?
4. Or do you want a carefree table that can stand up to the elements for years?
5. Is beauty and "setting a fine table" important to you?
There are many options available, but here are Practical Sailor's general assessments. Garelick's tables are inexpensive assemblies of aluminum and poly, but their sharp corners and edges are intimidating. And, they're not at all pretty, either.
Lewmar tables are top-ranked for their gorgeous woodwork, but the support system requires drilling holes in the pedestal itself, so it's not as good as, nor as easily installed, as Edson's.
Marinco/AFI makes good teak products at very reasonable prices (despite leaving exposed a lot of end grain). However, again, the support system, which depends on two clamp-on poly blocks and a vertical wood leg that easily can be bent and damaged, is not the equal of Edson's.
Ken Clift, at TeakFlex, is the man you need for any seemingly impossible custom table design or installation. He's a genuine "wood guy," and you can't hardly find those anymore.
The top tables, in Practical Sailor's view, are made by Edson. That includes the clever slip-on, the luncheon table with a couple of Traybles, or the big-leaf version. They are expensive, definitely, but worth every penny.
And, if you don't mind a bunch of white plastic hanging on your pedestal guard, for a Best Buy and a very nice, carefree table that can remain in place nearly forever, the SnapIt table, for $175, has a lot going for it.
Also With This Article
"Value Guide: Pedestal-Mount Cockpit Tables"
• Cruising Concepts, 800/899-3996, www.cruisingconcepts.com
• Edson, 508/995-9711, www.edsonintl.com
• Garelick, 651/459-9795, www.garelick.com
• Lewmar, 203/458-6200, www.lewmar.com
• Magma, 800/866-2462, www.magmaproducts.com
• Marinco/AFI, 707/266-9600, www.marinco2.com
• SnapIt, 903/965-9181, www.snapitmarine.com
• Teak-Flex, 860/599-8005, www.teakflex.com