When Kyle and I built SOLVI, a 20′ open sail-and-oar boat to take down the Mississippi River, we had plans for an elaborate boom tent, but, as many boat projects seem to go, we ran low on time and money and we had to scale back. I spent hours looking online for an affordable product that would work as a boom tent. When I came across the ENO HouseFly rain tarp, I decided it was worth a try. It exceeded our expectations and was so versatile that we took the custom-made boom tent off our to-do list.
The HouseFly is made of 30-denier silicone-impregnated nylon with a completely waterproof polyurethane coating—we took shelter under the tarp in many torrential downpours during our three-month voyage and we didn’t experience any drips. It is 10′8″ x 8′10″ inches when opened, but packs down into a 5.5″ x 11″ stuff sack that’s easy to store in our boat’s lockers. Designed as a rain fly for hammocks, it has a feature a simple tarp does not: overlapping doors on both ends. They provide both privacy and complete coverage from the elements, and in warm weather they can be rolled up and secured with the attached straps and buckles to let cooling breezes flow through. All the corners and the tops have lines attached with LineLoc brand fasteners for fast and secure tensioning, allowing us to quickly set up the tarp in a variety of situations.
The Housefly is meant to be stretched between two trees, but we set it over the boat with one line from the mast to the peak at one end of the fly, and another line from the other peak over a crutch at the stern and tied off to a rudder gudgeon. We connect the lines at the corners of each end of the tarp together and pass those loops over the ends of the boat and pull them under the boat. With the walls wrapped over and outside of the gunwales, stretched taut, all of the rainwater that hits the tarp runs off outside of the boat. On cooler nights or during rain storms, we close the “doors” on both sides and enjoy all-around protection from the elements. The tarp can keep wind and rain out, but mosquitoes eventually make their way in, not in swarms, but in numbers enough to be annoying. When we spend the night at anchor in the mosquito-filled mangroves, we attach a mosquito net inside with clothes pins.
We spent a majority of our Mississippi River trip camping on shore, and even though we had a tent, we used our HouseFly almost every day. We often stopped for the day while the sun was still shining bright, so we set up the HouseFly as a sun shade. Using sticks found on the beach or SOLVI’s mast, we would prop the tarp up and then use small sticks to stake it down, providing a spacious shaded area for our chairs and cooking setup. Toward the end of our journey we spent a lot of nights sleeping ashore with just the tarp over us. A couple times we just cowboy-camped on the sand and draped it over our sleeping bag for warmth and protection from dew.
The HouseFly is readily adaptable to many open boats without making any modifications to the tarp. It is durable, versatile, and a great ready-made boom tent for SOLVI. After three months of constant use and another six months of moderate use, the rain tarp has shown no signs of wear and is still one of our most valued pieces of gear for small boat trips.
Danielle Kreusch grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and spent a lot of time hiking and camping in the mountains. After moving to Florida to finish her BA in Psychology and Child Development, Danielle met Kyle Hawkins, who took her sailing on their third date. For the last few years they’ve been living aboard their 35’ Ben Bow cutter and cruise with it whenever possible. Their Mississippi River trip was their first small-boat excursion, and they have both fallen in love with the idea of continuing to travel in small boats.
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