What’s the deal with boat covers?
I don’t know about you, but I seem to go through them a lot faster than I expect. Sure, I know they need to be tented tight as can be so the rain and snow runs off without collecting. I also realize colors can fade on boats that are stored outside, and that better fabric should bring better results but, really, is there that much difference between one boat cover and another?
“You’d be surprised at the range of quality,” says Carie Bores, Director of Sales/Customer Service at Westland Industries (www.westlandcovers.com) and Great Lakes Boat Top (http://greatlakesboattop.com.) Westland manufactures replacement boat covers for the retail market while Great Lakes Boat Top supplies boat builders with covers for original sales and sells to the retail market as well.
“There’s a lot more to it than you might expect,” explains Bores. “Let’s start with the type of materials you can select. Plain polyester like you’ll find in a lot of imported boat covers that you would purchase off the shelf, for example, is fine for indoor storage and cooler climates. It’s comparatively inexpensive and water-proof but not very breathable, sun resistant or color fast. Still, it should serve the purpose in areas were dampness and constant sunshine aren’t a problem. Use it outdoors in the Deep South, however, and you might end up with mold on your vessel and a cover that fades or breaks down quickly. That’s why some brands only offer a 1-year warranty. If you choose the basic polyester route, you’ll need to install some type of vented support pole or venting system to let the moisture escape and reduce mold and mildew.”
Sunbrella® brand outdoor fabric, by comparison, says Bores, is a much better overall cover material. It has superior color fastness, water resistance and breathability, which is why most boating manufacturers pair it with new releases. With this fabric, the fibers are dyed in a color solution before being woven instead of having the color printed on after the fabric base cloth is made. “It’s the king of all boat cover materials,” states Bores. “For southern states, especially, it’s really the best choice.”
In between there are other grades of polyester. Westland offers two they’ve created themselves – a vat-died higher-grade poly called Sharkskin Plus™ with a 5-year warranty, and a solution-dyed Sharkskin Supreme™ with a 7-year warranty. The Sunbrella® fabric comes with a 10-year warranty. Each step up offers superior color fastness, sun resistance and a little more weight. The Sunbrella® material is also breathable. All Westland Industries boat covers come with two vents sewn into the fabric to help fight mold and mildew.
Because Westland and Great Lakes Boat Top own the rights to any cover they’ve designed for boat manufacturers since 1993, they can make replacement covers for many models. “If it’s on file here, we can reproduce it,” says Bores. “These will have logos on the front, cleat cut-outs, strapless, webbing ratchets and whatever the original manufacturer had us include.”
For models that don’t have an exact manufacturer’s match, Westland makes “Exact Fit™” covers. These are fitted to specific make and model but they don’t come with logos, cut-outs, etc. If Westland does not have an exact fit they have their “Select Fit” boat covers that are based on the specific style of your boat.
“The way we set ourselves apart from cheaper imports with these general covers,” states Bores, “is that our designs are based on the style of boat. So, if you have a Whaler with side rails or one without, we’ll have a cover fit to match either option. All we need is length and beam measurements and we’ve got it covered. To ensure a better fit, these covers come in 1-foot increments.”
Does the thickness of the boat cover material make a difference in overall performance? I would have thought the thicker the better but Bores notes that thinner material can be easier to work with on larger boats because it’s not as heavy. “It’s a point to consider if you don’t have a crew to lend a hand,” she says.
Once you figure out which boat cover is best for your vessel, it’s still vital to get the fit positioned just right. You’ll want to make sure the cover isn’t pulling, and that any sharp edges or corners are buffered with a little soft padding. If water puddles in places after it rains purchase additional support poles and get those installed to make sure the cover is tented enough that the water rolls off completely. If it doesn’t, any fabric will eventually tear from the stress.
“It’s also important to check straps or tie-downs every so often when trailering,” reminds Bores. “If the straps loosen up, the plastic clips may start beating the side of the boat – and your cover could balloon on the Interstate.”
Nobody wants that. To be on the safe side, remove the cover if traveling 100 miles or more.