Boat Canvas & Hatches & Ports

Observations & Options

Boat Canvas: The secret sauce in reducing fatigue, boat canvas, is expensive when purchased custom and often ill-fitting or unavailable “off-the-rack.” It’s not all that hard to make one’s own with a little investment in tools and materials. For all our boats prior to this one, we let the cost of boat canvas drive us into bad decisions. We waited decades too long to have a bimini and a dodger. Other canvas wasn’t even thought of. With this boat we specified a dodger and a bimini but could have done a better job of the specifying with more thought. When we decided to cruise the AICW in ’08-’09, we were strongly encouraged to add a cockpit enclosure (thank you, Harry and Barbara Ann). Then we priced one. We decided to buy the tools* and materials and make one. Fortunately, I had been well-trained on a sewing machine as a youngster, had been trained and worked as a draftsman, and had done quite a bit of sheet metal fab when working my way through school.

  • Changes to the Dodger — we now have full external covers for the sun-vulnerable windows. We now have Phifertex™ (heavy plasticized fabric screen) sunshades for the side and wing windows.
  • The Enclosure is a full surround with clear windows inside and Phifertex screens outside. The Phifertex panels have spray cloths incorporated at the bottom. We can have both materials rolled down or just the Phifertex. All panels roll up to lie in slings attached to the margins of the bimini. The boat can be easily sailed with the enclosure rolled down.
  • Awnings We now have khaki Sunbrella™ awnings that can run the full length of the boat. Plus the forward awnings can be set as a windscoop for the cockpit by attaching their trailing edge to the open dodger center window. (The aft awnings can also be used to cover the solar panels to shut them down). It was only when we fabricated the extensions we discovered the horribly expensive sections done by the local canvas shop had not been done in the color we specified.
  • Hatch Covers were mentioned above.
  • Other. In addition to the winch covers we also paid an exhorbitant amount for and the (don’t know what it cost) pedestal cover, I have made a few incidental items to protect things from sun.

It is about time to use Aerospace 303 High Tech Fabric Guard to restore waterproofness to the Dodger and Bimini.

*The tool key to all this is the Sailrite zig-zag sewing machine. This plus specialized tools for snap and twist fastener installation are the “special” stuff. Everything else is just a heavier version of what I had in my bosun’s bag already (but it takes a bigger bag).

Hatches and Covers: We are favored with two large hatches and five small ones. Happily they don’t leak. But like all things clear plastic, they are sun-vulnerable, and like all things boat, they are expensive to repair (and almost impossible to replace). So, I sewed covers for each that are kept on in the sunniest days of the year. The hatches can be opened and closed with them in place. The sides are blue and the tops are khaki. This helps with dirt showing around the lower margins and with reducing heat build up on top. All of the covers together cost less than replacing the plastic in one small hatch. I should have done it sooner. However, we tend to leave them off during bird migrations. The starlings and crows have an affinity for them.

Opening Ports and Privacy: We are also favored with ten opening ports which really can take the edge of a hot day, but the also let damaging sun in during the day and prying eyes at night. As is often the case, we prototyped some port covers and are now happy living with the prototypes (though they will need replacing next year). They are pieces of “foam core” art board cut to the dimensions of the port frame and notched to engage the port latch handles. They weigh next to nothing, don’t collect dust and cost almost as much as they weighed.


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