At a recent boat show, my wife and I saw a particularly nice hatch shade on a new boat. The shade had an intergal screen and shade which allowed quick deployment of either, so that you did not have to mess with removing the screen to open or close the hatch. We always wished our boat had one, and we decided that if possible, or next boat would include this item.
When I ran across these shade mechanisms a few months ago, we had no problem in deciding to install one on our boat. Our last boat had a round hatch screen that had an elastic band that fit into a groove, and snaps that held it into place - and it was just about the hardest thing to install. We often remark that the reason we had air conditioning put into that boat is to keep from having to install the hatch screen.
The manufacturer of the hatch shade is OceanAir Marine Limited, and distributed in the US by Maritime Trading (www.maritimetrading.net). They have several lines of hatch shades; and the one I chose was the Surface Sky Screen - which is perfect for retrofitting existing installations. Other hatch screens, such as their flush-mount series may be more suited to new installations.
OceanAir hatch screens are custom made for specific hatches, and if you have a Taylor, Bowmar, or Lewmar hatch - chances are that one of their hatch screens are made for your hatch.
My boat has a Bowmar N1039 hatch, and the matching OceanAir hatch is a model SFSS-1039. I was able to confirm both the model number for my hatch from Bowmar and the matching hatch from OceanAir's customer service. This provided the confidence that the OceanAir hatch screen would properly fit my hatch. The hatch screen is in the mid-two hundred dollar range, so it is nice to know that when spending this amount of money, the result will be worth the expense.
The hatch screen can be ordered with an optional liner. The purpose of the liner is to provide a transition from the hatch screen to the hatch. Should you not order the liner, you may have to trim your existing hatch cover to fit.
The basic configuration of the hatch screen is that there are two cassettes built into the hatch screen frame. One cassette houses the shade, and the other casette houses the screen. Other parts include the stretchers, liner, and bag of small parts.
Assembly begins by removing the old hatch screen frame. This is the frame that holds the screen in place, not the hatch. At no time should you ever need to remove the hatch itself. Be careful here, especially if you did not buy the liner since this is made of flimsy plastic and can easily be broken - especially if there were any sealant used in the original installation.
After removal of the hatch screen frame, if you purchased the optional liner, you may wish to clean up the hatch frame a bit by running a chisel or utility knife around the frame to make sure there are no obstructions or left over sealant. This is especially important in the hatch corners. If you did not purchase a new liner, follow the instructions that came with the hatch for modifying the liner for the hatch screen.
Once the new hatch screen frame is assembled, snap in the liner, then simply install the liner and hatch screen frame into the hatch. You will likely want an assistant to help you here.
A word of caution. The hatch frame can bind awfully easy, so you may have to experiment with different degrees of tightening the attaching screws, and/or the use of the alternate mounting screw locations provided on the hatch screen frame. Getting the hatch just right without the shade or screen binding is tricky, and the most difficult part of the job. I was a bit disappointed in how hard this was to do, and a set of different length shims would have helped a lot.
Once the hatch is installed, the screen and shade are rolled into their respective cartridges, so that you can access the hatch handles to open or close the hatch.
The hatch shade and screen simply pull out of their respective side and attach to the opposing side via a magnetic strip that runs the length of the opening. If there is any misalighment at all, the screen or shade will bind. But once you get everything aligned correctly, the operation should be quite smooth.
The hatch screen is a very nice touch to the boat's hatch. I no longer have to fiddle with the hatch screen to open the hatch, and I also have a nice method of blocking out the sun when desired. This project is sure to add to the asthetic value of your boat.