Making lee cloths …& playpens

Making lee cloths …& playpens

August 19, 2014

I recently spent an evening making lee cloths for our boat. There’s something very satisfying about actually making something for your boat rather than adding to the ever growing list of ‘things to buy’. A stronger needle on the sewing machine (I used one suitable for jeans) and a small eyelet kit was all I needed extra to the fabric.

For those of you not sure – lee cloths stop you falling out of your bunk when the boat is moving around. They are suspended pieces of fabric (in this case a robust light canvas) that you attach from under the cushions where you are sleeping, to either the hand rails above or to secured, dedicated eyes in the cabin woodwork. Lee cloths act as a sort of wall to the side of your bunk.

After measuring against the bunk and allowing for space at the either end I cut the sturdy canvas to size. I then hemmed 3 edges to ensure no fraying. The final top edge hem was made wider to incorporate the eyelets. I have to say that the eyelet kit (bought from a local sewing shop) was really easy to use and only took a couple of minutes to do all of the eyes required. (I now want to put eyelets in everything as it’s a really satisfying thing to do!)

Each boat is of course slightly different – as there needs to be storage access under the bunk seat being used, we needed to ensure that the cloth was secured in the correct place at the back of the seat.

Making lee cloths, sailing with kids, clothing & kit at

Where to attach the lee cloths

To actually attach the lee cloth I decided to use a baton to secure the fabric to the base. I pre-drilled holes in the length of oak baton and used a bradawl to push through the fabric into the base wood.

Making lee cloths, sailing with kids, clothing & kit at

Use a bradawl and pre drilled holes

We’ve used brass, rust resistant, round headed screws to fix the baton and cloth to the seat.

Making lee cloths, sailing with kids, clothing & kit at

Screw round headed screws through cloth to base

With the cloth secured, I attached the pre-cut rope to the eyelets and stowed away under the cushions until needed.

Making lee cloths, sailing with kids, clothing & kit at

Fold neatly, ready for use

Making lee cloths, sailing with kids, clothing & kit at

Neatly stored under seat cushions

Lee cloths are a real must for overnight passages, especially if you want to keep an eye on things in a main cabin when you’re not on watch.

Making lee cloths, sailing with kids, clothing & kit at

When needed, attach to hand rail above

You can of course use patterned fabric or bright colours to add to the fun – just make sure that the fabric doesn’t have too much give in it, otherwise it will simply not be up to the job.

Lee cloths form a rather comforting secure space and protect the occupant from falling out of the bunk or seat when at sea. For small (and big!) children the sensation of feeling safe and cosy is reassuring. They also ensure that you don’t fall all over the place if healed up when you are trying to rest. For children, it means that teddy and other assorted stuffed animals / toy cars / games will also stay put!

You might also like to think about using a lee cloth to create a kiddies’ den. Securing the lee cloth (and you will need one that fully fits the width of the seat or bunk) can provide an additional space that can be a great play pen for little ones – especially when moored up. You still need to keep an eye on your little ones naturally, but slightly older children will love having their own little nest.

So lee cloths can be both an essential piece of cruising kit and a useful addition to playtime on board. They are relatively easy to make, or you can buy them if you don’t feel you’re up to the sewing.

You might also like to take a look at how other people do it –

A fab step by step guide from Windtraveler

Some good Baby on Board advice from We Live on a Boat

And a great range of ideas from It’s a Necessity






We offer functional and fashionable clothing for outdoor adventurers 2-10 years throughout all seasons, and specialise in providing reliable, high quality waterproofs. Nipper Skipper supplies Forest Schools, Kindergarten and Nurseries and we are happy to discuss bulk requirements (please email).
We also offer practical sailing kit and technical safety gear, for children aged 0-10 years who enjoy messing about in boats or sailing.

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