When the boat’s cabin gets uncomfortably warm beneath the tropical sun, rigging a large deck awning is like parking in the shade all day—the temperature belowdecks can drop 10 degrees or more. Add a little breeze through the hatches or a couple of 12 volt fans, and it gets downright comfortable, even in mid-summer near the equator.
Discuss awning designs with your canvas shop to determine which makes sense for your boat. Typically, a full deck awning will set a foot or two above the main boom, stretching aft from the mast and overlapping the spray dodger or bimini top. Be sure the fabric, grommets and fittings are sturdy enough to withstand gale-force wind gusts that occasionally arrive suddenly with squalls. Also, specify that you want it entirely sewn with UV-resistant thread.
Now consider how the awning can be made to catch rain and funnel it to the water tanks. Aboard Silverheels I use a nearly rectangular deck awning as long as the main boom, with sleeves sewn in athwartships to retain PVC battens forward, midway and aft. These spread the Sunbrella fabric across the boat. In fair weather the main halyard peaks the awning’s fore and aft spine, giving the entire awning a slight convex camber. For catching rainwater, I switch the halyard to the midpoint of a line secured to each end of the middle batten and secure a short line to hold down that batten’s midpoint to a coachhouse fitting. Tensioning the halyard then pulls up on the middle batten’s ends, bowing it so that the awning becomes concave like a big, shallow bowl. At the low points port and starboard are barbed mushroom-head through-hull fittings of plastic or Marelon, mounted through reinforced fabric patches. Hoses attach to these beneath the awning carry the rain directly to the water tank deck fills.
When I’m hanging out in a tropical harbor, I tend to keep the awning in the reverse, rain-catching mode, i.e., with the halyard bowing the middle batten from the ends and the downhaul in its center. It reduces the headroom on the coachhouse to the level of the top of the furled mainsail, but it’s all ready to replenish the water tanks every time a kindly rain squall passes through. In this manner I have lived for months on end with all the freshwater I want, without ever having to fetch it from shore.
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