Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bow and Forward Cabin Sun Shade for PDQ 32

We just spent four blistering hot days on the Chesapeake, and so I spent a little more time optimizing the use of a sun shade for front half of the boat. The prior owners left us the good quality 10' x 12' nylon tarp they had used, and I made that my starting point.

  • Paint. From my last boat, which had a similar shade, I learned that cloth shades often let too much heat through. If they are light-colored cloth too much penetrates there is too much bottom-side reflection. If they are dark, they absorb heat and re-radiate it downward. I have painted awnings with white latex paint and had fair results. In this case, I did not let it dry long enough and some of the pain stuck to itself; let it dry for several weeks and this should not be a problem. Perhaps there is a better paint choice, but I am sold on the bi-color results. Additionally, paint reduces fabric stretch, which is a help.
  • Genoa sheets. By setting the shade over the sheets, you can get more height and a wide range of shapes. Experiment.
  • Setting it lower on the rear edge, just above the open hatches, directs more air below. Yes, you have to duck under it, but it seemed worth it.
  • Cabin shading. Even if you are at the dock with the AC running, the shade reduces the load and makes it possible for the AC to keep up. If I were going to use AC a lot or going to the tropics, I would make an extension to cover the cabin behind the mast. 
Improvements? Eventually I will re-cut the tarp just a bit. A slight V in the leading edge will improve the fit. A 12' x 5' extension to cover the rest of the cabin.would be useful, but I will keep it separate.

A prior post described carrying the AC unit on deck: Keeping Cruise-N-Carry AC Unit On-deck

Would a more permanent version that could be kept up during squalls make sense? I don't think so. Nothing  is going to withstand a 60-knot gust and still fit in a stuff sack. Ease of setting more important, and this minimalist shade takes only a minute with practice.

Simple side extensions for the dodger help too, but in this case to keep out the rain. I have no wish for a full enclosure, particularly in the summer, but the short sides let too much spray in during heavy down pours, soaking the cockpit. I made some simple wings that solve the problem and roll up into nothing when not used.

Just a bit of nylon tent material and some Velcro I had lying about - only one fitting was added, a small pad eye just below and forward of the winch. The top edge is secured to sail slugs.

I love sitting in the cockpit during a downpour after a hot day.


  1. Nice job Drew. We have been thinking of how to make a combination sunscreen / water catcher.

  2. Wouldn't the same thing work if you simply lowered the bow attachment to the deck and placed a bucket there? Laying a boat hook on it for weight might help.You might also attach the back corner to the shrouds.

    But I can't see getting one awning to do both, without minor re-setting; to block the sun you want the edges low and the center high. I agree dual purpose is a great idea.

    If you are trying to sew something neat with your new machine, why not get a cheap poly tarp first, make some duct tape adjustments, and then use that as your pattern? I would not use a poly tarp for real; it won't last, is too bulky to store, and is too stiff to pitch.

  3. We have a tarp from that we used when kayaking. The pouch it came in is attached in the middle and is designed to have a paddle inserted into it to prop up the middle. We have yet to play with it but I visualize being able to prop it up in the center for shade and also to have a small hole in the middle that when the center is lowered, rain water could be funneled through it and captured.

  4. Similar to this:

  5. Just came across this link Drew:

  6. We moved aboard our boat at the beginning of June and I've never been so stinking hot in my life!!! We started in the Chesapeake and just entered the Potomac yesterday.
    I found you at follow the boat.