My parents used this rhyme to tuck me up in bed each night, then I used it with my own children.

PortlightPortlight drawingIt is particularly relevant on a small boat, especially one that you sleep on, because there's nothing more annoying than a mosquito buzzing around in a dark cabin, and the moment you switch a light on in the hope of squashing it, it vanishes into some small cranny—until you switch the light off again. It's also not really ideal to spray a small cabin with insect repellent either, because you might be the one who gets repelled. The answer is to have bug screens covering all opening apertures, particularly portlights and hatches, which you might want open all night for ventilation.

hatch screenMost portlight manufacturers make mesh screens that fit their portholes, and on Britannia we also have custom-made hatch screens that clip in place under the hatches. We also have one which fits  completely around the main companionway doors, but it makes it awkward to get in and out, so we don't use that very often.

Torn screenPortlight screens need to be outside of the hinged window glass, within the frame of the port, so that when the window is opened inwards, they remain in place. As a consequence, they are subject to rain, sea spray, and UV sunlight even when the port is closed, and the thin mesh screens slowly deteriorate. Nearly all of the 12-opening port screens on Britannia had arrived at this deterioration stage, with some actually torn and needing replacing. My portlights were made by Beckson, of Connecticut, with the newer type over-center cams, to lock the port.

The fine mesh screen is glued on one side of an oval frame that fits into a groove in the gasket, forming the seal between the port body and the hinged window. Beckson sells replacement screens for $33.00 each, but with 13 to restore I decided to look into repairing them myself.

Portlight equipmentI bought an 8’ foot x 4’ foot roll of fine mesh bug screen (used for repairing swimming pool enclosures), from my local hardware store, along with some contact glue and a 1/4” inch art brush

To be able to remove the screen frame it was first necessary to pull the sealing gasket completely out of its groove in the body of the port. Everything needed cleaning in soapy water anyway. While I repaired the screens, my wife cleaned the hinged windows, and we soon had ports looking like new.

NOTE: It might be better to undertake this project on a day when no rain is forecast, because once the sealing gasket is removed from the body, the window is no longer waterproof, even if locked.

Removing the old meshUsing an Exacto craft knife, (with a new very sharp blade), it was a simple matter to trim the old mesh out from the frame, Then I brushed a thin bead of contact glue all around the rim of the frame. and placed it glue-side down on top of my mesh, and pressed them firmly together. NOTE: It would be a good idea to first place a sheet of grease-proof paper under the mesh, so the excess glue does not stick to the kitchen table, which is where you will be doing this delicate work, right? If some glue does get on the kitchen table it can easily be removed using Xylene solvent remover, and you can also clean the brush with it.

Trimming the meshAfter a few minutes I cut loosely around the outside of the frame with scissors, and placed it to one side and moved on to the next screen. Replacing all 12 screens in this way took me just one hour. I then left them all overnight, so the glue could thoroughly dry. It was then a simple matter to trim the outside mesh flush with the frame and I had nice new screens for all my ports.

A squirt of washing-up liquid helped to ease the new screens into the grooves in the caskets and press the gaskets back into the groove in the portlight. I could tell if the gasket was back in place properly, because the window closed like before.

screenWe now know that no bugs can come in through the open ports, and if we also fit the hatch screens, and keep the cabin door shut, it is a fair bet the cabin will be completely free of any nasty flying bugs. Ahh! Sweet dreams.

The screens cost $32.90 each from Beckson, plus shipping and tax; that would be a total of about $450 for 12 ports. My screen material cost only $10. A quart tin of contact glue cost $7, and the art brush $2. Total $19. Savings $432. A no-brainer as far as I was concerned

If you want to buy any of the products on this page, send me a quick e-mail
and I will contact the manufacturers to see if I can get you a good deal.


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