Marine Fabrics

Boat Tops and Coverings to Protect Your Marine Assets

There are several reasons to use a shade structure for your watercraft, in this article we explain why, how to choose the right fabric and structure.

Boat Tops and CoveringsBoating season is just around the corner and it’s time to get ready. You’ve kept your watercraft clean, covered, and in great condition over the winter. But now it’s time to go out and enjoy that investment. But before you do, remember, the sun can damage your boat’s furniture and surface. That’s why it’s important to remember that having a Bimini top or other shade structure for your boat can help.

Why Use A Shade Structure for My Boat?

Why you might be asking? There are several reasons you want to use a shade structure for your watercraft, here are just a few:

  • Ultraviolet rays can degrade, crack or peel your boat’s upholstery.
  • Water can seep into your furniture/upholstery and cause mildew or mold to grow.
  • Repairs can be costly.
  • Shade structures can also protect your loved ones and friends from UV rays. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation has endorsed several types of fabrics used in the marine industry because these fabrics block UV rays.
  • Your boat is a lifestyle investment and you can extend its life and use by protecting and cleaning it regularly.

So when it comes to protecting your boat, where should you start? If you have upholstery that has been treated to be UV ray resistant and antimicrobial that’s a step in the right direction. But remember, over time your upholstery can still be damaged by not just the sun, but the constant onslaught of water, use, and other mishaps. So you should consider not only using chemically treated upholstery fabrics, but also installing boat tops or shade structures.

According to a Specialty Fabrics Review article, there are three categories for shade structures: fixed, collapsible, and temporary. The type you want to use for your boat will depend on how you use your boat and your tastes. If you want something permanent, then a fixed option is best and a T-top shade structure might be a choice for you. Or if you want to keep the structure on your boat but not always have it up, you can get a collapsible product. Or, if you just need something temporary, you can use something simple that requires no hardware installation on your boat.

So what are your options when it comes to shade structures for your boat? Here is a quick list:

Bimini Tops

One of the most common shade structures we hear about is the Bimini top which is an open-front canvas top for the cockpit of a boat. This structure can be collapsed when not in use and provides shade or shelter from the rain.


Similar to a bimini top, but instead of offering full coverage, a t-top (shaped like the letter "t") has open sides which allow for flexibility with storage and things like fishing rods. Some people consider them to be a bit more stylish, but they don't provide the same level of shade protection given their open sides.


Another shade structure that you can use is a dodger. Dodgers, also known as a spray hood, are also used to protect the sailboat cockpit from the elements. Dodgers differ from Bimini tops in that they protect the front and the sides and covers part of the cockpit and the entrance into the interior of a sailboat.

Enclosure Panels and Curtains

As the name says, these are typically more permanent enclosures, which provide significantly more protection, especially in colder weather, but lack the flexibility provided by all-cloth options like the above. Choosing quality is important, because these will require a bigger investment, but should last longer. Using a high quality pressed polished vinyl material like Strataglass for the windows will provide the durability and clarity that is demanded in the marine environment.

Choosing the Right Fabrics

Now that you know why it’s important to use a shade structure for your watercraft and what options you have, you can start looking at the types of fabric you can use. Remember, you have a variety of options including acrylic, vinyl-polyester composites, canvas, and more.

If you’re considering using a shade structure for your boat then let Herculite Inc. help you. Herculite manufactures a line of marine fabrics for a variety of uses including shade structures and upholstery for your boat. Herculite’s marine fabrics are made from strong, flexible polyester fibers with a vinyl coating that makes them waterproof and resistant to wear and tear. Also, Herculite’s Rain Kleen® coating ensures that a Bimini top, dodger, or other type of enclosure stays true to its original color and safe from the harsh effects of sun and spray.

Herculite’s Weblon Regatta® marine fabric is a worry-free solution that overcomes the challenges all-weather boat fabrics face. Weblon Regatta boat fabric is resistant to:

  • Water
  • Oil
  • Harmful UV rays
  • Chemicals
  • Stains
  • Abrasion
  • Mildew


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