Boat Hatch Bug Screens

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Mosquitos can be a big problem on a boat. Noseeums are even worse. These biting insects can take a picture perfect night and quickly turn it into your own personal hell. On Chance we tend to leave our hatches and windows open so that we can get as much airflow through the cabin as possible. We even have a wind scoop that we hang above our forward hatch so that we can amplify the amount of wind coming through our interior. This system keeps us cool and comfortable below, many times without the use of fans. This also means that we are many times tortured with mosquitos and noseeums. I’m usually OK as Jason is my best bug repellent, but they tend to eat him alive. Having screens on our open windows and hatches is key to our comfort. There are many different ways to make a boat hatch bug screen, and what works for one boat may not work for another.

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{The sunbrella is actually “linen” but hard to tell with the lighting when I took this shot. You can see how much the light shines through the gaps.} 

Our ceilings have a slight curve to them eliminating any rigid solution as an option for us. For our hatches I have simply edged a screen with Sunbrella from scraps I had left over from another project. I then used my fancy new Pres-N-Snap tool (which I LOVE) to add snaps so that the screen snaps to our ceiling. There are a few tiny gaps between the snaps and the ceiling, but the bugs tend to be dumb enough not to even notice that. The screen material we chose was a tightly woven screen fabric that is easy to put through the sewing machine. It came with our boat so we kind of just used what we had. The weave is so tight that it even keeps the noseeums out. The downside is the weave is so tight that it blocks some of the wind.

boat_screen-3

{Ignore the wavy screens. Storage of these bad boys has not been friendly to them. Imagine them when they were in all their glory and freshly varnished}

 For our companion way Jason originally designed and made these wooden drop boards that have aluminum screens in the middle when we were still in the yard. He used our original drop boards to template out the new boards. He created two pieces of trim that would sandwich the screen and then screwed them together. These turned out great, worked incredibly well and looked beautiful. The only problem was finding a way to store these when they weren’t in use.

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After spending some time on a friend’s immaculate Bristol I was admiring the screen he had for his companion way. It was simply made of canvas and rolled up when not in use. Genius! His was a bit more intricate, but I quickly set out to design one for our boat. The screen snaps onto our sliding hatch so it can roll up completely when not in use. When we want it down, I unsnap it and roll it down. The bottom zips to a piece that stays permanently installed to the wood just below. This way there are no gaps for sneaky bugs to get into and we don’t have to find space to store anything. I am also going to add another panel that will be made of clear vinyl so that if a rain storm sneaks up on us we can just quickly roll that down to keep water out of the inside of our boat. We’ve been using this screen for a couple of weeks now and we are so much happier with it.

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{Rolled up and out of the way}

The one thing that we cannot figure out how to add screens to is our windows. Originally the windows had screens that were attached to these pieces that you slid into the open window, and twisted the middle portion to tension them in. Great idea. The problem was that with age all the screens ripped and needed to be replaced. Simple enough, we will just put new screens in. No problem. However, we cannot get anything to stick to the metal so the screens stay on! We’ve tried both metal and fabric screen materials. We’ve also tried a variety of attachment methods: epoxy, gorilla glue, soldering them on, and even this Loctite metal epoxy/weld stuff. Nothing works! Please tell me that someone out there has a solution to this, I’m all ears. For now, when the bugs are really bad, we just keep the windows closed and use the hatches for bug free airflow.

How do you keep the bugs out of your boat?

9 COMMENTS

  1. We need a companionway screen too!!! Yours looks perfect, but I don’t sew so I’m out of luck. As for portlight screens, we actually just ordered all new portlights and they include insertable screens…otherwise, I’m not sure what we would do either. -Kim

  2. I love that companionway screen! We need to make one soon. I love that yours can be rolled, on our last boat we had a framed screen that fit into the hatch board frame…the screen was torn before the end of the first season. Does yours also snap to the sliding hatch at the top?

    • Hey Jackie – It does snap to our sliding hatch. The wood that lines the top is a bit taller than the actual fiberglass and I hid the snaps back there.

  3. Previous owner made screens using 3/4″ line and soft netting. The line is large and heavy enough to give the screens shape there is one for each hatch and companion way. They are easy to store and getting to be easy to deploy… took a bit of learning on the stern companionway.

  4. Hi Kelley, Just found your blog through WWS. We spent two years exploring Caribbean, East Coast US, and Gulf Coast. Our bug screen solution was recommended by another boater – not the prettiest solution but very inexpensive. You take the industrial (gray) velcro (spikey side) and adhere it to your aluminum portlight frame and then take bridal veil fabric and cut to size and just press it onto the velcro. It lasts about three months in UV sun exposure and then gets fragile and starts ripping but the cost of the fabric is so low that you just cut a new piece. In the sun, the velcro lasts about a year and then has to be replaced. Worked for us! No bugs!

  5. Hi Kelley,
    Have you found an answer to your opening port light screen problem? My husband was genius using silicone to adhere screen to the metal. He used waxed paper and closed the portlight on the screen. When the silicone set he then opened the Port , peeled off the wax paper and the screens have stayed on no problem.
    I hope this helps,
    Pam from S/V Miramar

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