24Oct2001 BOAT COVERS - Richard Cannon

Unfortunately if you have a dinghy with wood decks covers need regular replacement. I have had my SigneT for 30 years so it has had a number of covers. Most have been black Polytarp. These are cheap but the plastic is hard and gets harder with age, they typically last for 5 to 6 years.

While at Hawkers I made a cover from translucent plastic reinforced with a large nylon mesh; the material was widely used around the factory and could be purchased very cheaply through the Company. Unfortunately it was poor at resisting UV and it didn't last as long as Polytarp.

Eleven years ago when my cover needed replacing again I considered alternatives. Canvas didn't appeal to me. I wasn't too keen on the detail and fit of some of the higher quality plastic covers I had seen. The construction of the Polytarp seemed very simple with just eyelets used to hold the aft corners to shape. I decided to make a cover of higher quality reinforced plastic using the Polytarp method of construction.

I bought the material by mail order after receiving samples. But when it arrived there was a glued seam down the middle; I wasn't too keen on this and decided it needed sewing as well. I had a light weight domestic sewing machine and managed to sew down the middle of the 4.5m x 2.5m plastic sheet.

Having found that I could I could sew the material I decided to do a proper job and make it with sewed seams. A major aspect of the task was measuring up to get a good fit even though I had the Ploly tarp cover as a pattern. It was also quite a long task sewing it up. The end result was an excellent cover that I was very pleased with. The cost was slightly higher than that for a Polytarp cover.

I found the side of the cover facing the river was deteriating so a few years ago I berthed the boat the other way round to even out the effects of sun and wind. After 11 years the cover split along the boom so it was time for a replacement.

As I had been so satisfied with the last cover I decided to go for a home made cover again. This time I bought the materials from a local camping shop at Walton; CIT Camping (Costurn Industrial Textiles) at Hersham, so I could see what I was getting. They had similar material to the previous cover in a 1.5m and 2m widths. The cover needed 2.3m wide material at its widest and it was much easier to add a narrow strip over a short length at each side than do a seam down the middle.

I hadn't kept a detailed record of the dimensions so I had the long task measuring up again. I was able to get every thing I needed such as turn buckles and eyelets from CIT. Sewing uses a lot of thread and buying domestic heavy duty thread in 30m reels is expensive. CIT do industrial sewing and I asked them for an end of bobbin; they sold me one for 2 and said it would last me a life time; It had a very short life as I ran out just at the end of the task! They also lent me an industrial eyeleting tool, free of charge, that made a far superior job than is normally possible.

The end result is another excellent cover, that I hope lasts as long as my last one, at a cost of 70; although it was a lot of work. I don't know if it was worth going to the effort of a sewing and heming the material and simple eyeleted construction like the Polytarp covers may do nearly as well and with no hems 2m may be OK without extending the width.

This time I have recorded all the dimensions on a drawing package I have on the computer so another SigneT cover should be much quicker to make, especially if the Polytarp type of construction is used. If anyone wants a print of it let me know.

If anyone has other experiences of covers or other boating items, what to go for or what to avoid, could you consider an article for the newsletter.