Companionway & Hatch Screens

  • October 12, 2012 1:45 AM
    Message # 1101654
    I wanted to have good ventilation while on the hook in the tropics, so good screens are a must. While I find many uses for Velcro, I don't think it makes an ideal solution for screen attachment. I find that it eventually comes loose and even while it holds, it makes the chore of attaching and removing somewhat ineffectiove for practical use.

    I wanted something that was easy to use, quick to remove, provide good ventilation flow, made an effective barrier against pesky insects, but wasn't cumbersome to store.  I decided to make some wooden screen frames that could be stored in place.

    For the companionway, I decided to split them into three sections that could be stacked when not in use and left in place, allowing easy ingress and egress, in a manor that did not require removal.  The companionway on my boat already had on the side trim, and I assume this is standard. The first attempt of the design used two sections, which worked well, but I remade them in three sections to provide easier passage while stack in place and gave the originals to a good friend for his W32.

    The Design and Construction

    Making the Frames - I started by making a framework of cedar. Ideally, I'd have used teak. But, since this was somewhat of a prototype, I decided to on cedar, which was lightweight, easy to work, and reasonably resistant to the weather. This was constructed as a single frame with two center dividers of a width twice that of the ends. For maximum strength, all joints were made with a bisquit jointer and reinforced with Gorilla Glue. If you don't have a bisquit jointer, you can use dowels, lap joints, or some other suitable jointing method. (The notches in the bottom of the photo are to accommodate the trim around the drop-boards, to make a flush fit and secure against mosquito intrusion.) The framework was constructed as a single piece to be separate later, thereby assuring a perfect connection from one section to the next. That's the reason for the extra width of the center dividers.

    While the frame was still in once piece, I ran it down my table saw to make a groove the width of the blade kerf and just deep enough to bury the splining for the screen. At this point, the grooves were only cut on the long edge of the frame.  For simplicity, select splining that matches the kerf of your saw blade, allowing for the thickness of the screen material of choice. You could alse use a router to do this, or a circular saw and guide.

    Splitting the Frames - Next, I split the frame into three sections on the table saw. You could also use a circular saw with a guide, if you don't have access to a table saw. Once split, I repeated the step of cutting splining grooves along the cross members.

    Adding the Screen - With a splining tool, the screening was now inserted into the spline grooves. You can use whatever screening you wish. I initially used black fiberglass Phifer screen. But now that I know the design works well, I may later replace it with bronze or SS screening.

    Screen in Use - The following photo shows the screens in place, simply laying in the pre-existing track. It also shows another screen that slides into the companionway in lieu of the drop-boards. The combination provide extremely good ventilation, while effectively barring the mosquitos.

    Screen in Storage - This photo was taken from the companionway steps, looking straight up and shows the doorway screen removed, the top screens stacked, and the "hinged doors" closed. This shot gives a better perspective of how little room the screens take up when stacked. They only fill 1/3 the opening, which allows one to easily climb up and down the ladder, never needing to remove them completely. As such, the top screens can be stored here somewhat permanently while cruising.

    Forward Hatches - To finish off the ventilation, I made similar screens for my two hatches. Mine were replace with Bomars sometime before I acquired the boat, so I made frames that would fit into the existing Bomar frames/clips. These are also permanently stored in place. When I need to raise or lower the hatch, I simply twist the latches and they easily lower to gain access to the hatch lid. If you find this photo confusing, it's taken from the inside looking out and somewhat forward, and with the hatch propped open.

    Once I had the materials on hand, it took me about a day to complete all of the frames and screening. No fiddling with Velcro... all of them are removable for access quite literally in one second. 

    Jack Webb

    Last modified: October 12, 2012 7:41 AM | Anonymous member
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