Tips and trends in travel and mooring covers.
Every boat owner wants to be on the water as much as possible. Even on shore, however, protection from the elements is crucial. Good mooring and travel covers protect the finish, upholstery and interior/exterior environments of boats. A custom cover ensures a good fit, proper ventilation and maximum protection.
Charlie Kees, owner of Mister Sew-N-Sew Custom Boat Canvas, Waterford, N.Y., equips his boat covers with fasteners he knows he can rely on. “I do not advise customers to use mooring covers as travel covers,” he says, “but [many customers] do. I put tabs on the sides of my covers just in case some of the snaps loosen when people are going 70 [miles per hour] on the highway. That way they can latch down the mooring cover and not have their cover fly off onto someone’s windshield.”
“Here in Florida, because of the storms, we like to have a tie-off option [for mooring covers],” says Marguerite Langey, co-owner and fabricator at Bambi’s Boatworks & Canvas in Merritt Island, Fla. “This provides added security from the wind.”
Langey has also used a unique suction device for some of her travel and mooring covers. “[The device] has a bungee attached to it that you lace through a grommet in the hem,” she says. “The suction cup then adheres to the side of the boat. The cups are about 4 inches in diameter and hold very well. For someone who has a boat on the lift, it’s a way to secure it while they put it on so it doesn’t blow off while they are securing it.”
Both Kees and Langey commonly use snaps and drawstrings to secure their covers. Kees has made mooring covers with tie-arounds that cinch around the boat to avoid drilling holes to attach hardware for snaps. “I’ll use a drawstring, especially when I’m working on a show boat or a boat with a really nice finish on the paint,” he says. “We also sometimes use straps that may go underneath the boat in order to tie the mooring cover to the trailer, under the hull, and to the other side of the boat.”
It’s all about fabric
Kathryn Maisto, MFC, owner of Fairwinds Canvas LLC in Racine, Wis., says Sunbrella® fabrics are the standard choice for their boat covers. “Ninety-five percent of the time, we make [our covers] out of Sunbrella,” she says.
Langey also relies heavily on Sunbrella fabrics. “Customers are looking for something that is going to keep sun, rain and weather off of their upholstery,” she says. “They want a cloth that will keep heat from building up under the cover, something that is going to breathe. We almost always use a light-colored Sunbrella fabric that reflects heat and provides the coverage qualities the customer wants.”
Sunbrella is also Kees’ choice for covers. “Whether it is for a bimini on a boat, a sun shade or a mooring cover, we use Sunbrella,” he says. “It keeps leaves, twigs and pollen out; it keeps the rain off and the squirrels out. It breathes. Even if a little rain does get under the cover, it will evaporate because Sunbrella breathes.”
Brad Schmeets, owner of Fine Line Canvas & Upholstery in Colorado Springs, Colo., uses his share of Sunbrella, but he also relies on Top Gun® acrylic-coated polyester, manufactured by Marlen Textiles, and K Tex fabric, manufactured by Keyston Bros. “In the past, many fabricators were using webbing and polywebbing for reinforcement on covers,” he says. “I’ve found the webbing breaks down, however, and I wanted something of higher quality. I now use Top Gun fabric and K Tex for my 2-inch reinforcements because they just last longer. You can’t tear it. It won’t rub through. It makes a good quality cover and it doesn’t stretch a lot, so the cover stays where it’s supposed to. Vinyl will stretch, and so does webbing.”
Schmeets reinforces all areas that experience friction, including areas where a cover will contact seat backs and windshields.
New technology has made its way into the sewing room. Langey has worked with solar-powered vents that are sewn directly into the fabric of mooring covers. “Somebody came to me recently with some vents that are solar-powered that can be installed into the cover,” she says. “It has a solar panel on top. It’s some sort of plastic and has a gasket that goes on the underside of the canvas; it’s like a little hood. It’s about 5 or 6 inches in diameter, and has a little fan built into it. The solar panel is in the top of the hood of the device itself.”
Maisto has worked with solar vents, but has found that the price point can be challenging. “The vents are good,” she says, “but the problem we find is that when you add nicer accessories, it bumps the price up. When you get higher prices, we find people go to a production instead of a custom cover.”
A technology more integral to cover manufacturing is the development of UV-resistant threads. SolarFix®, from Quality Thread & Notions Co., and W.L. Gore and Associates Inc.’s Gore® Tenara® are made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) instead of the more traditional nylon. Extremely resistant to harmful UV rays and chemical exposure, featuring mildew resistance and easy cleaning, these threads offer great utility for boat cover projects. Langey also uses SolarFix for other marine applications, including cushions.
“These threads won’t rot,” says Langey, “so the customer isn’t going to have to pay for a re-stitch of their cover. With old nylon threads, they break down after three or four years. You can also bleach them, and they are very user friendly. They don’t ‘work’ the sewing machine as much.”
Maisto says her shop has always used Gore Tenara thread for covers. “We don’t want our stuff coming back for repairs, so we use the best products we can find,” she says. “[The thread] is more expensive, but we think it is a must.”
It’s the small things that often make the biggest difference. With travel and mooring covers, a focus on detail can help make your custom covers outshine production versions.
Kees makes sure his tie-down attachments meet his quality standards. “When grommets are sewn into the seam,” he says, “I want to make sure I use the right hardware. I use nonferrous metals like stainless steel or brass for my grommets. I don’t want anything to rust. Rust will transfer to your material and leave a telltale rust mark on your cover.”
Schmeets makes sure his custom covers have a custom fit. “We make them fit tight,” he says, “because if you travel with a loose cover, it will blow up like a balloon on the road.” He also includes customized poles with his covers to keep tension consistent throughout the boat.
From choosing more durable thread to selecting longer-lasting reinforcement material, it’s quality and customization that attracts—and keeps—customers.
Jake Kulju is a freelance writer from Shafer, Minn.