Latest News: Forums Cruising Boat Tent Modification


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  • #25801

    My old canvas boom tent only has an entrance at the stern that can be difficult to access especially when tied to a pontoon. It would be quite easy to fall in!

    I’m sorry I can’t seem to post pictures of my boat and tent but it is similar to the tent below which is available for hire by the association. I’m thinking of adding “side doors” the same as the hire tent. I generally arrange the rear seats across the front seats and pile all my clobber on them so was thinking of having the doors just forward of the rear buoyancy tank. Does anyone have any experience with these side doors and what do they think of them on a boom tent? Since I rarely cook in the boat I was thinking of semi-permanently securing the rear doors


    Dave Barker

    The arrangement that you describe is exactly what we have on our own tent. Previously we had a tent with side doors further forward, but I prefer the current position.

    I’m not quite sure what is meant by your last sentence…

    (Separately, please let me know if you still want to post photos, in this or any other thread. If you can see the ‘Add Media’ button when composing a reply you should be OK, but if not send an e-mail – details in ‘Contact’ section of menu).


    I’ve managed to download a couple of photos

    Dave thank you for your reply. My worry is that the zips will leak in the rain or is this unfounded? The green hire tent looks like it is fastened with Velcro but I’m assuming zips would be better. In practice do you tend to use just one zip rather than opening it up fully using the two? My last sentence is saying that I do not generally have to get rid of steam etc from cooking (I prefer the pub!). The doors I generally use and find awkward are over the transom so I was thinking of fastening them closed with maybe a vent

    So questions

    1)  Do you have any problems with leaking zips

    2)  Do you tend to use just one zip to enter/exit

    3)  Do you think I should fasten the stern doors

    I have always used bungees under the boat but am thinking of fitting a bridle under the gunwale as the bungees are a bit of a faff. I put them all on together and fasten them ready to the shrouds before I unpack the tent.

    I’d be really interested to hear of your experiences and thank you for your interest. Getting into the tent has always been awkward over the stern and I’d much prefer to unzip and stand up!



    Dave Barker

    I would go for Velcro every time. I know some people have good results with zips, but I’m more comfortable with the relative simplicity and adjustability of Velcro. There are however some very good zips out there, and perhaps a zip might be less noisy at night?

    When I first switched to the aft position for side doors there was a slight drip in heavy rain. I think this was because of the detailing of the way I made the doors. I have subsequently made a different tent incorporating an improved design, but it hasn’t been used in heavy rain, yet… The main difference is that I made both doors from one piece of fabric, extending over the boom down both sides of the tent, which allows the rain to be shed without interruption. (This uses quite a bit more fabric, partly because of the shape of the gunwhales relative to the boom). I also made the openings taller than before, almost full height, which improves ease of access when moored to high quaysides, for example. I ensured that the Velcro extends 100% of the way up the sides of the doors to meet the non-opening portion (sorry, this is hard to describe, but ensures no gap for water to blow through at the top of each side of the doors).

    In answer to Q2, using one zip (or Velcro) is very tempting but can make access tight. But that’s up to you.

    Q3 – I wouldn’t fasten the stern doors – when anchored (or moored in ideal circumstances) the boat will be head to wind, so it’s often nice to have the stern at least partly open, even in the night. Occasionally you may have to moor stern-to, and you’ll feel foolish if you’ve sewn up the door! Depending on whether you use an outboard (and how it’s mounted) you may need to accommodate this too.

    Definitely fit a permanent bridle – you’ll save hours! Half a dozen (perhaps more) slightly flattened lacing hooks positioned along each side of the boat under the rubbing strips will hold a ? 4mm line nicely out of the way. (Make sure these won’t cause damage to anyone moored next to you). Likewise a few around the edge of the foredeck coaming (or nearby) will hold the front of the tent down.

    In fine weather we tend to pitch the tent on arrival at our overnight stop (having first washed/wiped down the floorboards etc with fresh water if salty/muddy) but we then immediately fold/roll the back half of the tent forward over the boom. This gives us shelter from the wind, and a bit of privacy, if required, but gives us full headroom in the all important stern half of the boat, for cooking etc. We do the same thing in the morning, in fine weather.

    I hope that helps. We should have a few tents pitched during the Cruising Conference and will be discussing some aspects of their design and use.


    Hi Dave firstly thank you very much indeed for spending so much time answering my questions.

    I will certainly go for a bridle and have fitted D section rubber fenders (not easy to fit or cheap) so the stainless eyes can be well hidden. The fenders are great in a harbour or marina. Your idea to take one piece of canvas over the boom and have the fasteners as high up the walls as possible makes complete sense as does the need to seal the top of the slit. At the moment I am thinking of one slit each side situated just above the buoyancy tank so that any leaks will drain away but I take your point about limited access. Though it can’t be worse than over the back! I’ve never done it but have imagined slipping on the rear tank while struggling to climb on board and ending up in the water clutching the boom crutch looking up at a bent mast as I usually leave the topping lift on! In my haste to want a side entrance it hadn’t occurred to me that a rear door will sometimes be needed but it is obvious that I shouldn’t block it up and I’ve hardly ever closed it in the past as any rain normally only reaches the buoyancy tank

    I’m in Cumbria so the cruising conference is a long way to travel though I did attend some 15 years ago.

    Just one more question – how easy is it to do the Velcro up from inside the tent and do you have a flap over it?

    Your advice is very practical. Thank you


    Dave Barker

    Our tent has rectangular openings rather than slits, with the doors made from separate, slightly larger (actually significantly larger) pieces of fabric to give the desired overlap around the edges – the width of the Velcro (50mm) plus a hem, plus a bit extra!

    It’s a bit of an art to do up the Velcro. The first side of either door is easy, the second involves a bit of reaching through and round the edges and the bottom, but second nature after a while.

    It’s worth thinking carefully about the position of the side doors/slits so that you can enter and exit without having to shift a lot of stuff around. Our back tank has various items on it during the evening and overnight, so having the doors just forward of that makes sense for us. For example we leave a torch just inside the tent on the shore side, for instant access, also often at least some of the breakfast things ready for the morning. In practice it’s easy to shove the bedding down towards the thwart when we leave the tent (say to go to the pub) – easier than moving the dozen or more items off the back tank – which automatically makes it easy to get back in later.

    If you can make a slit door work for you I can see the advantages – let us know what you decide and how it performs.


    Dave – thank you again. I’ve spoken to a couple of boat cover manufacturers and they say they’d go for zips every time as they are more weatherproof. One guy has fitted loads to narrowboats and motorboats and reckons any leakage will run down the inside of the zip rather than drip though he like you recommends a cover strip. If I ever get round to it we’ll have to compare notes. Putting stuff on the rear tank doesn’t really bother me as I use it as a bivi rather than home from home though I also put the torch on it. I’ve never been able to use it as I’ve had to exit that way and will still be able to put stuff on the “closed” side. I’ve always been nervous of cooking there as I have a seagull on the back though a brew would be nice on board.

    Anyway one way or another thanks to you I can see a lot of scope for improvement hopefully without spending too much money and at 65 am getting a bit too old for the old limbo dance!

    Dave Barker

    I can see myself trying a zip next time!


    Dave – these people supply zips to order any length/colour/material/type you want. They are made by YKK which is a name suggested by a cover manufacturer.  Zips seem to be a whole new technology to learn so I’m not sure which particular one I’d choose!  I reckon I may go for Velcro bow and stern and zips at the side. Price seems to be around £10 per zip and a 2-3 week lead time which doesn’t sound outrageous. Hope this may be of interest


    Update on boat tent modifications. I went ahead and a friend put a full length zip into each side with Velcro covered flaps. My daughter and I spent 6 days in it cruising from Largs to Oban and the doors are absolutely brilliant. If a zip did fail you could use the Velcro on its own. Its incredibly easy to use the zips and getting in and out of the boat is simple. You can alter the width of the opening by taking a tie off the hull so in good weather you can open it right out or have a narrow opening if its raining. The flap can open to left or right. I find that double slits on each side are probably unnecessary.

    To fasten the boat to the hull I used 4mm Spectra loops (as Spectra is abrasion proof) as shown on the next pictures. The loops are pulled tight with the bungees inside the boat so that they do not hang loose to catch on anything when they are not being used. The last photo shows how they extend in use. The tent is held to these with 5mm bungee and tyga ties. When putting the tent up these are threaded with the bungee downwards before doing anything else. This takes minutes and they can’t fall out as the bungee is threaded downwards with the tyga ties upwards. The zips are the same as are used on boat covers and don’t leak even in heavy rain

    All in all I’m very pleased with the arrangements and its a vast improvement on the rear exit which I can’t see me ever using again and the long bungees which used to go under the tent

    Many thanks to Dave Barker with whom I chewed over various ideas before taking the plunge





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