There is no such thing as a lee net, you say? Then I guess you heard it from The Resourceful Sailor first. A lee net is an alternative to the more commonly referred-to lee cloth. They serve the same purpose: a removable barrier, aiding to keep a sleeper in a bunk when a boat is heeled over, rolling, or experiencing a rough sea. Sampaguita, a Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, has a quarter berth that would contain someone quite well, but it is difficult for a full-size adult to crawl into and out of. The preference is to use that for storage and sleep on the settee, where a lee cloth (or net, as it turns out) is necessary.
I gleaned my original criteria for a lee cloth from experiences aboard other boats. Strength and durability were key. As were easy hanging, storage, entry, and exit. An internet search of lee cloths will show many vendors and “how-to” videos. On a quick look, none were practical or similar in design to what I needed on Sampaguita. While they looked great, I questioned the robustness of the materials and construction of some. With others, the practicality of entry and exit, and storage. Purchasing or borrowing specialty tools was inconvenient. Hiring a canvas or sail shop to design and build one would dramatically escalate labor costs.
I can’t recall what inspired the idea of making a lee net instead, but once I had the vision, it checked all the boxes. It was an opportunity to expand my marlinspike skills, and required no special tools I did not already have; labor would be my own, and no one would know better than I how to make it fit into my boat and lifestyle.
I searched how to make a net on the internet and found plenty of videos. I chose one that resonated with me and applied it to my situation. I made a frame for the net from some 3/8-inch double-braid line. It would be easy to handle and plenty strong for the loads, static or shock. Having decided to build the net in place, I needed some creative marlinspike work to get it to hang right, but it could be adjusted and retied as needed.
Next, I used a hot knife to cut the pieces that would be the netting. These would be a series of lengths doubled over and cow-hitched to the top frame. Like a sailboat beating into the wind, these lines would zigzag to the bottom border, traveling at least twice the distance. The knots would take up even more line, with some also needed to tie off on the bottom. I figured about three times the height of the net, multiplied by two, per piece.
The pieces came from a 600-ft spool of 7/32-inch single-braid polyester line purchased from an online industrial store. This diameter was not too big and bulky, nor too small and stringy. The single-braid made it soft and inexpensive; the polyester, low stretch. It is not a high-strength line, but the loads would be spread throughout the net and transferred to the 3/8-inch line.
I cow-hitched several of these from the top frame at equally spaced intervals with equal hanging lengths and began a series of overhand knots between the lines, making diamond shapes of a consistent size. At the sides and the bottom, overhand knots encapsulated the frame.
Admittedly, with the first net I began, I had the lines too close and made the diamonds too small. It took longer, used more line, and became heavier than expected. I untied it and started again with more space for bigger diamonds. I considered this part of the exploration and learning process.
Once I had a rectangular net in the dimensions I wanted, I tied the lines to the bottom frame. There were already eye straps attached to the teak trim rail on the settee. I incorporated them into the bottom knots. These would anchor the lee net to the bunk. At the top, I used surplus straps and snaps I had onboard for easy hanging and fair pull directions on the ceiling handrails under load. These handrails were added in a companionway sliding-hatch redesign and would provide well-placed strong points to hang a lee net. I was conscious about the weight on the rails and fasteners, mitigating rattling, and the potential chafe of the wood.
The lee net would also serve as a cargo net over the settee, an upgrade from a different setup, with eye straps on the shelf-rail hull side of the berth. This orientation would contain sails, covers, and other whatnots that needed quick and secure stashing while daysailing.
A third use of the lee net did not become apparent until I had completed it. Hanging down and doubled up, it is a convenient pocket. It immediately became useful for stashing my new acrylic drop boards and the removable leg for the table.
The Resourceful Sailor hopes to inspire ideas and alternatives for sailors and their boats through creative problem-solving. Remember, keep your solutions prudent and safe, and have a blast.