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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
Salt accumulates over time. Regular cleaning will help keep windows clean, clear, and salt free.
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.
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.
Here is a look that never goes out of style:
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.
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.
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.
Remove hard grime from the surface with a soft brush. Wear gloves — this can be dirty work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bleach and ammonia will degrade and discolor your cover. Don’t use cleaners with harsh chemicals.
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.