5 Boat-Saving Lessons

to extend the life of your yacht

Table of Contents


Human beings have been sailing for millennia, yet the open expanses of our planet’s oceans and waterways are still among the most untamed places on Earth. The craft we use to explore these places are built to stand up to the elements — as long as we do the work of keeping them in shape.

Water damage is the single biggest issue for yachts. A small rip or tear in a canvas cover or enclosure can lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars in damage. Knowing how to care for your textiles — and what to do if you find a tear — can help keep your craft in perfect shape. Many of the simple fixes we will cover in this guide can extend the life of your yacht by decades.

We’ve assembled this guide to lend you insight into some basic lessons we’ve learned from years spent on the open water. Enjoy!

2How to patch a boat cover in less than 10 minutes

Adding a Patch

A well-secured patch can extend the life of your boat cover by years. In as little as 10 minutes you can stitch a patch that will stand up to wind and rain. Here’s how you get started:

1. Cut a Patch
If you have a hot knife, you can get a pretty tight edge that doesn’t need a hem. When using regular scissors, consider putting a half inch hem on your patch to make it look clean.
2. Hem the Patch
To secure the hem, use double-sided tape and fold the edge over. Double sided tape can also help fill the hole that your needle will create, making a more watertight seal. Add double sided tape to help put it in place.
3. Baste the Patch

Baste the patch to the canvas repair area. Be sure to lay the patch flat on the canvas w/ no wrinkles. It helps to align your patch to an edge or seam to enhance its visual effect.

How do you get all that fabric under the arm of the sewing machine? Feed it slowly over the arm. Might feel cumbersome, but it works.

4. Start Sewing

Work the patch around without having to pull it. Start the needle on the corner and bury the needle with the balance wheel by hand. Do a reverse to lock the sew in place then sew.

When you pivot, bury the needle by hand and rotate. Twist the fabric around beneath the arm of the sewing machine. Do this on each side. Do a reverse to lock the sew on each corner.

Trim the thread and you’re done.


Tips from the Pros

  • Use heavy nautical-grade UV-resistant thread for securing patches. Sewing thread for clothing and crafts will hold your patch temporarily to get you back to shore, but it won’t last in the elements.

  • If circumstances require you to sew a patch by hand, follow the same steps. When you get home, use a sewing machine to firm up your work.

  • Consider applying a sealer to the edges of your patch to make it watertight.

  • Use the same canvas for your patch as the rest of the cover. That way, you have both a consistent visual effect and the resilience of the fabric.
When do I call a pro?
  • When your tear is larger than a couple inches
  • When your tear is a result of structural wear
  • When your tear has significant loose unraveling along the edges
  • Your real issue is wear, not a tear
3How to remove saltwater stains from boat windows with household items

DIY Spot Solution

When washing away salt buildup, soap and water will usually do the trick. Fill a bucket with warm soapy water and run it over windows, scrubbing lightly with a sponge or cloth. Voila!

White vinegar is valuable for removing tough salt buildup on glass and vinyl windows alike. Spray undiluted vinegar on tough spots and let it sit for a few minutes, then rub with a sponge or cloth. Repeat if needed. Use vinegar and water (50/50 dilution) to regularly clean both glass and vinyl windows.


Salt on boat windows can weaken glass and degrade vinyl. In addition, it lowers your visibility and obscures your view of the open water. Thankfully, cleaning saltwater stains can be done easily with household items.

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Salt accumulates over time. Regular cleaning will help keep windows clean, clear, and salt free.

Commercial Solutions

If you can’t remove some salt spots from glass windows by DIY means, commercial lime removal product should do the trick. Spray some mineral buildup remover directly on the spot, then wipe with a damp cloth. Do not use this kind of product on vinyl windows or painted surfaces.

Removing tough salt spots from vinyl windows should be done with care. Products like Starbrite’s window polish and cleaner will often do the trick. Avoid scrubbing with stiff brushes or steel wool, as they can scratch the material.

When do I call a pro?
When windows have permanent salt staining that impacts visibility
4How to clean and protect your enclosure windows from aging
Vinyl window material is designed to stand up to the harshest conditions the sea offers. Boat owners will need to maintain their enclosure windows to ensure their long life. Here are the essential steps in good enclosure window maintenance:
Inspect your windows for rips, deep scratches, or holes first. If you find any, you may want to opt for professional repair or replacement.
Use a mild soap and water solution to wash windows, or Use a clear vinyl cleaner such as IMAR Protective Cleaner
Use fresh water to rinse off dirt, dust, and debris. NEVER use abrasive soaps or cleaners on vinyl products.

Remember, investing in a high quality clear vinyl like scratch resistant Strataglass will result in an enclosure that stays looking clear and scratch free longer.

Wipe enclosure windows down with a clean, soft cloth like a microfiber towel to dry them.
Apply a restoration formula such as IMAR Protective Polish to your windows. Always use recommended quality cleaners and protectants on clear vinyl windows or you may risk damaging the surface.
Using a foam applicator pad, polish enclosure windows. Once again, be sure you have the right polishing materials for vinyl windows.
When do I call a pro?
  • When windows no longer get clean enough to see clearly
  • When windows start to become brown and dingy
  • When vinyl windows start to become brittle and crack
5How to pick timeless styles that will look good for years to come
Buying based on a new trend will give your yacht a cutting edge aesthetic. However, if that trend is a momentary fad, that same top will make your boat look outdated.
Here is a look that never goes out of style:
Choosing the right material

The marine canvas you choose will impact the overall aesthetic of your yacht. High quality marine textiles look better out of the box — and stay looking great for years to come.

Herculite brand marine textiles are custom coated to protect them from UV rays. They are waterproof and mildew- and mold-resistant. Many textiles also include fade resistant coatings to keep them looking vibrant.

DIY or hire a pro?

A lot of industrious amateurs think that sewing a DIY custom enclosure or boat top themselves will be a snap. Turns out, that’s not the case at all.

Building custom boat tops is equal parts science and art. Fabricators who make them for a living have a unique understanding of how fabric will shrink and wear. They also have experience sewing seams and zippers that will last — and doing it quickly. Usually, professional shops also have exclusive access to the high quality marine-grade textiles you need.

6DO’s and DON’Ts: How to protect marine fabrics from damage and degradation
To keep your boat top and covers looking clean, choose a fabric with RainKleen surface treatment such as Herculite’s Weblon Regatta or Herculite Riviera. This special treatment repels dirt and mildew and makes it easier to clean.


DO: Buy an enclosure that’s made from the right material

Any good material will be UV, mold, and mildew resistant in addition to being waterproof. Marine enclosures are made from various specialty materials, including vinyl, acrylics, polyester, and coated canvas. Each material will have its own specialized maintenance recommendations. Ask the pros for detailed info on caring for your enclosure.

DO: Gently brush surface dirt and bird waste from the enclosure

Remove hard grime from the surface with a soft brush. Wear gloves — this can be dirty work.

DO: Dampen the seams on your enclosure with fresh water

Grime can accumulate along the seams on a boat top. Wetting them down with fresh water before you start cleaning helps to loosen up the dirt. Dirt along the seams can lead to decay and weaken these critical pressure points over time.

DO: Apply canvas cleaner to your cover

Apply a specialized canvas cleaner (or mild liquid soap and water) to your cover with a broad paintbrush. Then, use a soft bristle brush to scrub the cover all over — putting a special emphasis on the seams.

DO: Rinse and air-dry

Rinse your cover and let it air dry. When your enclosure is very dirty, you may need to repeat this process to get it clean.


DON’T: Power-wash your canvas enclosure

The powerful jet of a power washer can damage even the most rugged fabric. By damaging the threads, you can speed up unravelling, leading to rips and tears.

DON’T: Scrub with an abrasive tool like steel wool

Abrasive tools create undue wear and tear on outdoor textiles. Scrubbing with an abrasive tool can create weak spots that are more susceptible to ripping during high winds.

DON’T: Use harsh abrasives like bleach or ammonia

Bleach and ammonia will degrade and discolor your cover. Don’t use cleaners with harsh chemicals.

DON’T: Fold and store damp covers

Storing your cover when it’s still damp will lead to mold and mildew that will degrade the structural quality of the enclosure. Unlike a rip or tear, you may not notice the damage caused by mold until a strong gust rips your top wide open.


Small decisions you make everyday will impact the life of your yacht. From basic maintenance to cleaning and care, the responsibility of a captain is never done. Thankfully, it’s a labor of love.

Taking proper care of your windows, enclosures, tops, and covers will help ensure the long life of your hull. In a world where water, wind, salt, and sun are always looking to drydock your craft, you need all the help you can get.

Ready to set sail?

Take care of your boat fabrics with Herculite.
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