Sunday, March 3, 2013

Port Inserts: A Little Privacy, Please!

One of the great things about the Andromeda/Christina design is that the number of fixed ports in the hull provides extra light down below. On the flip side, with the boat's freeboard, the ports are exactly at eye level when you approach via dinghy, and provide a great vantage point for peering eyes from a dockside approach as well.

This became quite obvious to us last summer when some neighbors stopped by in their rib to chat and check on our progress. Mid conversation, one visitor exclaimed, "Oh, I can see your new salon table from here!" We smiled politely at the time, but knew that we needed to remedy the situation ASAP.

Neither of us really cares for curtains -- while effective they're just not the look for us. We wanted something that would prevent people from looking in, but still provide the light, airy look that we're striving for below deck. We wanted something that would blend in with, rather than detract from the white hull when view from outside, and that wouldn't draw your eye from the inside the boat either.

The solution: port inserts made of white Phifertex mesh, edged with 1" Heather Beige Sunbrella binding for a finished look and to prevent the mesh from scratching our mahogany port trim.

I love working with Phifertex -- it's durable, easy to sew, easy to clean, blocks UV rays and peering eyes but still allows some light penetration where you want it and doesn't obstruct your view when looking out the ports from inside the boat. Regular Phifertex blocks ~70% of UV rays, while the tighter weave Phifertex Plus blocks 90-95%. Both will provide excellent privacy while still allowing light into your ports (or hatch covers, cockpit enclosures, etc.). Textiline has similar characteristics and I'm sure would work just as well, though I've personally never worked with that material.

Now that we knew the look we were going for, time to make the pattern. I used scrap newspaper to trace the inner dimension of our ports (most were the same size, though 2 were slightly larger). I wanted a snug fit in each port and the newspaper was too flimsy to help me really visualize how the insert would fit, so I traced the pattern onto an old manila file folder to give me a new pattern that would sit firmly in the ports.

Once I was happy with my pattern, and knowing that we didn't want the Sunbrella edge to show from outside, we determined that we would need to add a small amount to the width of the pattern to adjust the fit once the binding was sewn in place.

Pattern with width adjustments

Checking for fit in one of the ports

Using the pattern and necessary notes, I cut out the Phifertex inserts, set up my 1" binder attachment on the sewing machine, and set out to work.

If you do a lot of canvas work, having a swing arm binder attachment really makes the projects and hems go quickly.

Swing arm binder attachment
The initial investment can be expensive, but it really saves time in the long run. I originally bought a 3/4" swing arm binder attachment, which I used on the 4-way wind scoop, but it can be a little small for many applications. The 1" binding does a better job for most applications. The stationary attachments are much cheaper, but the swing arm is nice because you can simply move it out of the way when you don't need it. Also, if you invest in one swing arm, you can buy the stationary versions (cheaply on eBay) in other sizes and attach them interchangeably with your swing arm. This will give you the flexibility to use various binding widths without breaking the bank.

The Sunbrella binding really firmed up the edges, and our new privacy inserts fit snugly in each port without snaps or any other fasteners.

Finished insert

Plenty of privacy now!

One note: at night, with the cabin lights on, you can see through the inserts into the boat, and your view out is obscured. Adding a cutout sheet of opaque plastic is a quick, cheap fix. Bill used similar plastic sheets in the opening ports when living aboard the Yorktown at a marina, and it helped prevent walker-bys from looking in as well.

All in all, this was a quick, easy way to increase our privacy. Unlike curtains, they didn't require any hardware installation, no holes drilled in the port trim or hull, and can be easily removed, stored and cleaned as needed. Whether at port or heeled over, they stay firmly in spot and this was a simple fix; wish they were all this easy!

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