When I first viewed my boat-to-be, I was impressed with the amount of light in the cabin. For a monohull, and especially an old one, it seemed airy and bright and was one of the things that made me fall in love with her. Although I scrutinized the details of the inside of the cabinets, lazarettes, bilge, and oven, the curtains escaped my attention since I considered them a frivolous, easy change that could be ignored in the short term.
Once I moved aboard, I saw the situation more clearly. The curtains were thread-bare and stained like something found on a mummy. Above the galley a section of fabric was held together with masking tape. The tracks were brown plastic strips held onto the walls with rusted screws. The curtains only slid on their tracks with the utmost effort and it quickly became irritating to open them each morning and close them at night. There was no real privacy onboard through the thin, gauzy barrier, and something needed to change.
I researched a few different options for tracks for the windows, but they all looked similar to what I had, and I hated the look when the curtains were open. I ruled out the one-way vinyl window film because I felt that I still wouldn’t feel I had my privacy, didn’t want to lose any of the sunlight during the day, and I didn’t want my neighbors to think I was pimping out with mirrored windows.
Eventually, I settled on the idea of blinds. I searched online for days comparing options and prices and decided that the cordless cellular blinds were the way I wanted to go. Options include light filtering vs. blackout blinds, single or double cell, top down/bottom up, and cordless with a half dozen or more color options. Even If I didn’t live with a cat whose favorite game is to bat around a rope, I felt cordless was more desirable, and due to the size of the head rail system, I stayed with single cell (outside mount – inside mount is for homes with deep window wells). I chose a light filtering blind in a cream color that matched my headliner. I found the Super Value Cordless Single Cellular shades from Blindster.com were on sale and a good deal. With 5 blinds of varying customs sizes from 46″ x 14″ to 28″ x 14″, my total, with shipping was $228. That was about $50 for the bigger windows and $40 for the smaller window. I also purchased stainless steel screws for another $20 because the included screws weren’t for the marine environment.
While I waited for my order, I started the process of the removal of the current system. The tiny screws holding the existing plastic track in place were rusted flat heads. After an hour or so of unsuccessful attempts with my smallest screwdriver to unscrew them, I resorted to using a small cat’s paw tool which I have had since my old house restoration days, with a queasy feeling in my stomach. It seemed barbaric in the situation, and I occasionally had to use a hammer with the claw to get the old rusted screw out. The wood around the rusted screws was stained, and so was the wall under the tracks. I lightly sanded the thin mahogany veneer where the tracks were, cleaned the area, applied Orange Oil and hoped for the best. I filled in the holes with color matched wood filler, but the perceptive eye will always pick out the discoloration of the old track. To do more was going to be a major project, and I was one month in to ownership and not willing to strip/sand/bleach the walls just yet.
Once the blinds arrived, I ran into another dilemma. As with an old house, level and straight aren’t always the same thing. Do you hang them level with the window or the boat? I am a symmetry person, so this was a big deal for me, and an inconsistent headliner put in before my purchase made it harder. I settled with using a standard measurement above the top of the windows despite what the ceiling was doing. The head rail was larger than I had envisioned and I had a moment of panic because of the ‘no refund on special order’ policy. As I tentively tried to hang the first, and largest of the shades, I realized that the distance between the top of the window frame and ceiling were perilously close, and in some cases, just not going to happen. The headliner braces weren’t put in by a person with a tendency for detail, symmetry, or consistency. I found a few open, pre-drilled holes, usually near the hull, with nothing in them, just sagging into the field of my new shades, and finished screwing them in to gain just enough room for the head rail. If nothing else, I had improved the ceiling.
I have installed blinds, including top-down/bottom-up blinds before, and I can only say that people on land with relatively vertical walls have an easy job. After a few hours of contortions and cursing, the brackets were in place and the blinds snapped in. This was the pivotal moment. The blinds came down nicely, and all seem to fit the ordered dimensions. A quick trek around the outside of the boat with the lights off showed that they proved complete privacy. From the inside, the looked modern, with clean modern, with clean lines, but also blended in well with the headline color. But the best view was to have them opened wide in the morning, where almost all of the available window space let light in, reflecting off the light colored headliner, and making a grey Seattle day a little more cheerful.
The best part was that I could do it in 2-3 seconds instead of the time it took to try and drag the curtain slugs through their tracks.
The next hurdle was to devise a way to attach the bottoms so that they wouldn’t swing on the sloping walls, but were easy to undo each day to let the light in. The provided holders were of a more permanent variety meant for blinds installed on doors. This took several days and even more consultations with friends for brainstorming. The eventual solution, although not glamorous, was to run a cord through the bottom rail ( the hold for the bottom mount was already there), with a loop on each end attached to tiny cup hooks placed in an old track hole whenever possible. The result is an easy way to attach and unattach the bottom of the blinds. I prefer them up when sailing/motoring so that if I need to run below I have the advantage of an mostly unobstructed view outside, and so I don’t have to fasten them to keep them from swinging. I have friends that used the same basic blinds, but used magnets on the bottom rail of the blinds and a magnetic strip to keep them anchored down. From what they’ve said – they feel it was a great improvement over the old blinds and they used the same company.
Although I can still see the ghost of the old tracks, the blinds look streamlined and tidy. They provide complete privacy at night, and during the day allow 95% of the available window space to let sunlight come in, an invaluable commodity in Seattle during the winter.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Please welcome new contributor Dana who lives aboard her Challenger 32, s/v NoName - yes, that's right! Her boat has not yet been named, and she has blogged about that great dilemma as well. But for her first appearance here, Dana deals with replacement of the old curtains that came with her boat: