How to Make Lee Cloths

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A lee cloth is a great piece of equipment to keep on board your boat. During long passages or rough seas it’s often best to sleep in the center of your boat in the main cabin (or Salon). However, with the heeling of a monohull, you want to make sure that you’re snug and secure in your berth, even when you end up on the high side. This is where a lee cloth becomes your best friend. A lee cloth is a piece of fabric that acts like a safety net to keep a sailor in his or her bunk. We’re going to take a closer look at lee cloth designs and show you how to make one.

Making a lee cloth is a simple sew project, but it does require some critical thinking when it comes to attaching it to your boat. This is going to be slightly different for everyone depending on the set up of your boat and which berth your lee cloth is for. In the video, you will see that we created a webbing strap for each upper corner of our lee cloth and attached it to the woodwork in our Islander37 sailboat. Another common attachment method is to use line to secure the lee cloth to strap eyes or handrails above the berth.

For the fabric choice on this lee cloth, we chose to use a Phifertex Mesh fabric to allow airflow. In a tight bunk, it can be nice to use a fabric that breathes well for more comfortable sleeping, but really you can use any strong fabric like Cotton Duck, soft trampoline mesh, Sunbrella or polyester bag mesh.

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As an optional addition to your lee cloth you could add storage pockets to the outside to hold small electronics, glasses or other small necessities. We’ll outline a couple different pocket methods for you in the video.

In this video you will learn how to pattern, make pockets, add binding, make straps, and install your lee cloth.

Materials List:

You can find all the materials needed to make your own lee cloth at Sailrite.com.

Want to see other lee cloth designs? Brittany Meyer, the blogger behind Windtraveler, made a couple lee cloths using her Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine for their part-time crew and for her and her daughters’ bunks. Check them out!

Have you made a lee cloth before? Do you have any tips on attachment methods or design? Share them in our comments!

6 comments
  1. Marie Foley said:

    Looking for instruction for v-berth custom fitted sheets

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Marie,

      Unfortunately, we don’t have instructions for fitted v-berth sheets, but it’s definitely on our project list! If you wanted to call in, we might be able to give you some pointers over the phone.

  2. Co Webb said:

    Lee cloths are essential for blue water sailing, but this design is far too lightweight. The idea is to keep the sleeping 250 lb deck ape in the windward bunk from coming out of his (or her) berth and flying across the cabin while the boat is heeling 45 degrees and slamming through massive seas. Lee cloths that are too weak can result in injured crew just when you have really bad conditions to deal with.

    Having only two light strap running out at an angle close to horizontal to secure the upper edge is a recipe for disaster. t

    • Co Webb said:

      also, a light spring hook to a simple spur grommet is way too weak.

      • Nikki said:

        That’s a fair point. We do add extra grommets in the video for more attachment points. If you’re concerned that it wouldn’t be sturdy enough for your crew you absolutely can add more attachment points across the top or down the sides. Attachment is really relative depending on your boat set up and your crew.

  3. Co Webb said:

    Try 3 welded SS rings attached to the cloths with loops of 1″ webbing sewn 4-6″ back into the fabric like a jib clew. Use some really solid spring clips like http://www.sailrite.com/Fixed-Eye-Snap-Hook-Stainless-Steel-3-4. Run some line through decent eyes that are bolted through something solid with a taut line hitch so you can adjust. Put the anchors for the top edge somewhere where the pull will be a right angles to the long axis of the body in the berth. I like using the bulkhead behind the berth so you can pull the lee cloth up snug against yourself — that way you don’t get bounced around as much.

    Keep in mind that in truly rough seas the loading will be dynamic and larger than you expect.

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