Screen Out the Bugs – Port Lights and Hatches

We had a bad case of the flies in July in the Bay.  It took several days to get them all.  But, we got them!  Now how to avoid those buggers in the future?  My sailing friends know that I’ve complained about flies before and haven’t had a good solution for our boat.  Our 1990 Morgan 44 didn’t come with screens on the plastic-frame portlights.  I envy my friends with the lovely stainless portlights with screens built in.  But, you can’t have it all. Boats are about compromise.

I looked at marine consignment shops for screens and found some, but none were right.  I thought of a couple of ideas for working with old screens and those ideas didn’t cut it. They had gaps or wouldn’t stay in place.

I decided to try the stiff plastic mesh canvas by Darice in the craft store that I think is the solution.  I saw someone else give it a try on round portlights.  20150710_132652It has some give, but not too much.  At $1.99 for a 12″x18″ sheet, it is inexpensive to work with.  I fit two screens per sheet, so six sheets for my 12 portlights.  I have screens that cost $1 a piece for just a bit of my time.  I’ve cut out the screen inserts based on the size of the portlight lens with my heavy-duty scissors. It took just a bit of trial and error to get the size right for the template.  (Be sure to have some old paper under the mesh when you mark the cut line to protect your table top.)  They don’t take up much space to store when the portlight is closed.  I may just leave them in the curtain tracks tucked behind the curtains.





Just line up the top and pop them in. If I have the inclination next time the sewing machine is out I may add a binding trim for decoration. Super easy project.

Ta Da! The screen in place.

If the no-seeums get through the mesh which granted is not super fine, I plan to spray the mesh with Shoo-Fly Screen and Surface Insect Spray recommended by Mark and Diana Doyle of On The Water Chart Guides. At least we’ll keep the big boys out!



Update:  This material worked in hatches up to about 13″ x 18″.  I cut the rectangle so that it would just “sit” in the hatch lip of the frame. These work 90% of the time. When there is a lot of wind through the hatches they can fall in.  I may recut them just a tad larger.   The plastic screen did not stay up in the 20″ x 20″ hatches.  I  “stitched” two pieces of the plastic screen using a plastic cord on each side of the overlapping panels.  Two dowels slide through the stitching.  It has some flexibility making it easy to put in. This is working pretty well. It creates an alternative to having the “tent” over the exterior of the hatch.










I also made a Phifertex screen with snaps on a small binding for the largest hatches.  See also Tammy’s guest blog here.

I haven’t tried it but you can get aluminum screen making kits at the big box stores.  Might work ok for hatches.

See the companionway cover screen here.

Resource blogs for hatch screens:

2 thoughts on “Screen Out the Bugs – Port Lights and Hatches

  1. I sewed screening material in a square 3/4″ larger than our 19+” hatch opening , trimmed edges with velcro and bonded the other half of the velcro to the fiberglass. Works like a charm! E6000 has held up to the humidity so far. Just let dry and cure for a good 24 hours before attaching the screen so the weight doesn’t pull it back off before drying.

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