Reader recommendations on what has worked well (and not-so-well) for them with their canvas. Add your thoughts and get ideas from others!

Biminis, Dodgers and Enclosures

More recommendations sought! This time it’s for biminis, dodgers, spray curtains and cockpit enclosures.

What do you love about yours? Anything you hate? What would you do differently if you could start fresh? Any interesting ideas you’ve seen on other boats?

This request was prompted by an email from Carla, who is soon to be heading to the Bahamas.

They’re having new canvas made and she’d like to add spray curtains. She’s looking for ideas and suggestions for the project. Two ideas that she has seen have been to embroider the boat’s name on the spray curtains and to put netting pockets on the inside for storage.

She’s also wondering about the best ways to attach it. She says “I am thinking about a zipper for the top attachment to the rail and then lashing the sides and the toe -rail, so if I do get a boarding sea the water could easily drain.”

Do you have spray curtains? Can you give Carla some ideas? Chime in too with any ideas in general for biminis, dodgers and enclosures!

I’ll go first:

When we had to have a new dodger made while we were in the Sea of Cortez (very hot in the summer), our canvasmaker suggested making the entire windshield zip-in, zip-out (instead of just being able to roll up the center section) so that more breeze could come through the cockpit in the summer. He made straps that went from the forward bar down to the deck with a twist fastener to hold the dodger when the windshield was out. Worked beautifully – unfortunately we only used it once before we sold the boat! And I don’t have a photo.

My cookbook co-author Jan wrote a great piece about things to think about when redesigning canvas and another one with photos of many of the details of theirs.l

Please add your thoughts below – things you love, hate, or would consider!

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  • Rich Kallerud
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    Of course our vessel is a catamaran, but my suggestion is still to think long term with support for cruising equipment. A dodger/bimini’s main function is to keep the weather out, but most cruising boats use them for a platform for solar panels, dinghy davits, GPS/AIS antenna, our superstructure even includes a wind generator. We have sides not shown in this photo which create an enclosure when weather requires.

  • Renee M Klapper
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    I live on a cat too. I made my own enclosure and sunshades. Everything you see I made.

  • Jessica Heinicke
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    Our boat came with a canvas dodger from the factory. We had a matching Bimini made with a piece that zips the two together. Then I made what we call windbreakers (spray curtains?) that attach to the dodger and the zip in piece.
    Some considerations we’ve noted:
    1) If it’s within your budget, consider a hard dodger. Our canvas one is great but does develop minor leaks in a deluge.
    2) Consider whether you will want sun in the cockpit. We like removing our zip in piece in Southern California but don’t think we will once we reach Baja.
    3) Solar – we mounted light, flexible Solbian panels velcroed directly to the canvas. It is low profile and works great but we did have to add extra stainless supports under the canvas to boost the panels up and prevent rain from pooling.
    4) Attaching points-the wind breakers should go from one stainless bar to another. I made mine too short to reach the Bimini frame so they weigh down the zip in piece and sag a little at the aft end.
    5) Take care of your canvas. Sunbrella recommends cleaning it and re-waterproofing by spraying 303 on every five years. We just did this to our 8 year old canvas and it’s good as new!
    6) Choose a color based on your cruising grounds. Our navy blue canvas looks great but the cockpit heats up like a solar oven when there’s no breeze.
    Good luck!

  • Michelle Rene
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply


  • Vix Kennedy
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    Bruce Kennedy

  • Patty D Tate
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    I found that a ‘tweed’ type fabric lasts longer than a solid. Also dark thread and dark zippers seem to have more uv resistance.

  • Annie G.
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    For those of us not blessed with warm weather cruising year round, cold foggy mornings can be a big problem for enclosures. You cannot roll up cold window panels, they grow stiff and will crack in a heartbeat. We learned the hard way. You can’t see clearly through them in condensation, light fog or mist. The next enclosure will definitely have some additional attachment points and straps that will allow the cold windows to be easily opened and secured up to the Bimini top without rolling. Later in the morning, as the panels warm up and clear, you can safely lower them or roll them up.

  • Lisa Gravitte
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    We chose tan. Lovely BUT requires mold cleaning more often in Virginia. Still love it anyway

  • Shannon Christiansen Freiberg
    Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    We just upgraded to a hardtop on our Belize 43 catamaran. The factory canvas bimini was too wet in big rains. We are in the process of making clears for the sides that can be changed to screens in hotter climates. It will support solar panels and lighting in the cockpit. We love it!

    • Shannon Christiansen Freiberg
      Posted at 13 December 2015 Reply

    • Lauri
      Posted at 15 December 2015 Reply

      That looks great! Love the stylish curve of the supporting framework. But best of all is the dryer cockpit in the tropics. Looking forward to more pics as the project grows.
      sv Ashika

    • LouAnne
      Posted at 16 February 2016 Reply

      That looks wonderful. We are looking for a Belize 43 and the only hesitation is the standard canvas bimini. How much should we budget in order to add the hardtop?


      • Carolyn Shearlock
        Posted at 17 February 2016 Reply

        That depends a lot on your location — services that like vary considerably in price.

  • Lauri
    Posted at 15 December 2015 Reply

    I have a monohull and make my own as well as others canvas. For tropical sailing I encourage zip out windows for maximum breeze. I also have zip out mesh for buggy areas and privacy. It’s always been pretty easy to stabilize a dodger without the windows, just add a bar here and/or there. Darker colors last longer and give better shade, I’m currently changing out all our beige for dark blue. Don’t be afraid of lighter weight marine type polyesters (like surlast) for shade covers. They resist water much better and fold up in 1/4 of the storage space. I’ve had one Surlast cover for 8 years and restiched it once and it looks almost new.

  • Tom Geren
    Posted at 17 December 2015 Reply

    DIYers should consider the expensive Tenera GoreTex thread, as the poly thread wears out before the fabric.

  • MMarty B
    Posted at 03 May 2016 Reply

    Pockets, pockets, pockets. Also, twist fasteners anywhere that will be strained. Snaps are OK were the canvas just needs locating.

  • Patty Makowski
    Posted at 03 May 2016 Reply

    We had a problem with the side curtains with windows that rolled up. Because we enter/exit through them the vinyl glass always looked scratched and eventually cracked or tore. After replacing it last time my husband cut a small piece of wood (not even 1″x1″ and threaded it between the bimini top and the stainless frame. He measured where the side curtain would reach if we pulled it up INTO the cockpit and screwed snap bases to the wood. Then he fixed the wood in place with zip ties and cut the ends off neatly. Now in the morning when we open up we just unzip the sides, pull them straight up like a flap into the cockpit and snap them onto the wood. They’re up above our heads, out of the way, and no more scratching, folding, rolling that wears them out. I’m really pleased! The only thing I’ll change is to paint the wood lath Pacific Blue so it “disappears” against the Sunbrella.

  • Rick Coraccio
    Posted at 26 November 2016 Reply

    In my case, the Sunbrella fabric was good. But the clear vinyl was cracked and ugly. I bought new vinyl from Defender Marine and sewed it onto the Sunbrella right over the old vinyl, then simply cut out the old vinyl with scissors. I used a regular sewing machine with a heavy duty piercing needle and UV thread.

  • Rock Smith
    Posted at 26 April 2017 Reply

    Whatever you do, consider designs that keep movement from cockpit open and unrestricted as much as can be achieved.

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