Monday, June 20, 2016

Mobile, AL

Oof, it's hot here. I haven't been getting a lot of sewing done because we've been at a dock with no power outlets. That means we have to run the generator for air conditioning, and we try not to do that 24/7. The generator is great for charging the batteries, which only takes about 2 hours per day to do. Any additional time running just to make cool air means a hot, noisy engine room and shorter intervals between oil changes and other maintenance. So if it's breezy and comfortable out on deck, that's where we hang out, not in the stuffy below-decks quilt room.

It's taking me a while to get used to this new schedule. I'm used to wandering downstairs when the muse strikes, and sewing for a few minutes or a few hours. Now I need to sew when the a/c is on, and it isn't always when I'm in the mood! But I did manage to get all my scraps sorted and put away, so the whole room is feeling more streamlined and clutter-free.

While we were in Pensacola and had a good delivery address at the marina, I ordered some marine fabric from Sailrite.com. Half of the pillow covers up on the flybridge are getting faded, so I ordered more of the higher quality Sunbrella upholstery fabric to re-do those. In addition, I got three yards of black Phifertex to make exterior window covers.

Phifertex and Textilene are two brands of similar materials. They are vinyl-coated polyester and are commonly used in the mesh seating on "sling" style patio furniture. Think strong, thick, durable, and plasticky. The weave is fine enough to provide good shade while being open enough to see through in bright light. Our boat came with a set of covers custom made to fit most, but not all, of the windows and that snap into place.

If you look at the boat photo at the top of the blog, you'll see the front three windows have covers. You'll also see that there are three windows in the back under a fairly deep overhang. The sun only hits those in the early morning and late afternoon and we have good interior blinds to cover them. But now that we're in such hot weather we decided we really needed exterior covers for them. 

These back windows are identical on both side of the boat, so I figured I could make a single cover that could be moved from one side to the other as needed. When we're at anchor, the direction of the wind and the current determines which way the boat faces, so on any given day the morning sun could come in any window.  

Even though the outer two panes are trapezoidal, I didn't try to match those angles and sewed up a large rectangle to completely cover all three panes. Once the cover is in place, you can't see the panes anyway. And there's no way to see both sides of the boat at once to compare window shapes. 


Here is the finished cover, snapped in place on the port side. The other window that needed a cover is the one on the left side of the photo, which is above the galley sink. With no shading overhang, that one really takes the full brunt of the sun so I wonder why it never had a cover to begin with.

The big cover is made from a single piece of Phifertex, 108" long by 40" tall, with 1.25" hems on all four edges. That's a really, really, really big piece of really, really unwieldy fabric. I cut it to size in the quilt room by unrolling a bit, then cutting, then rolling the cut piece, then unrolling some more to cut. The stuff doesn't fold well, doesn't take a crease, and is impossible to mark with pen or pencil. I started wrestling with it while the a/c was off, but that lasted about 5 minutes before I cried uncle. Once the room cooled down, the material got even stiffer and harder to work with, but my attitude improved. Getting all that stiff, recalcitrant fabric through the sewing machine was not for the faint of heart, either. Fortunately, it sews pretty easily with a heavy duty needle and UV resistant thread. The Little Kenmore That Could just chug-chug-chugged through all the seams, even up to six thicknesses at once. The biggest issue during the sewing, besides just wrangling the giant piece into position, was that the very thick UV thread tended to jam to bobbin. 

The material comes 54" wide off the bolt, so I cut up the remaining skinny strip and pieced the galley window cover.


This photo shows the lapped seams I used to join the pieces. Phifertex doesn't ravel, so this was really just to get the sections to lie flat. There's no way to iron this stuff so I'm glad these were fairly short (34") chunks. I had a spool of white, UV resistant polyester thread. I like the contrast with the black covers.


Here's a corner that shows the nice stainless steel snaps we used. I had to buy a snap installation tool from Sailrite since stainless snaps are really tough and need a special hardened tool. Sean installed the snaps, punching holes through the corners of the covers for the female part, and drilling holes into the boat to screw in the male part. I assisted by holding the vacuum cleaner under the drill to catch metal shavings, and handing him tools as he balanced precariously on the boat railing to drill the upper holes. I swear that man has prehensile toes, the way he gripped that railing. Fear of falling in the Mobile River will motivate a man's toes, it seems.


Here's the galley cover snapped in place. The camera flash reveals the curved shape of the window frame underneath. Without the flash, the covers look opaque and provide a lot of privacy during the day. At night, the lights inside the boat are easy to see, so we use our interior blinds for privacy.

All in all, this was a satisfying project. This afternoon we moved to an anchorage, and the covers really helped keep the boat cooler. These two covers would have cost at least $300 to have made. I paid about $60 in materials plus the $30 tool and they looks just like the professionally sewn ones that came with the boat. But I'm glad to have marine sewing behind me for a while. To celebrate, I cut up some quilting cotton for the next Project Linus quilt (spoiler alert: race car theme!) and it felt like gossamer butterfly wings and unicorn farts compared to the Phifertex.

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