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Author Topic:   Boat Covers in Florida
Hank posted 07-17-2001 12:33 PM ET (US)   Profile for Hank   Send Email to Hank  
I'd like to get a handle on the experience of you Florida boaters with boat cover materials in the hot and humid Florida weather.

There seem to be 3 primary textile materials used for boat covers.

1. Polyester-cotton blend. Sometimes called Marine Duck. My personal experience with this has been that it deteriorates after three or four years in the hot Florida sun and high humididty. However it is very strong although very heavy. It is least expensive of the three materials. It seems to be very breathable.

2. 100% Polyester. This comes to market as Sundura, Sharkskin or other brand names. My personal experience is with Sundura. My boat cover of this material tore after a few months in the sun and rain. It is extremely light in weight, very tightly woven and doesn't seem to breath as well as the cotton.

3. 100% Acrylic. This is called Sunbrella and is the most expensive of the three types. I believe this is what you get when you buy a Mills cover. (so I was told when I called them). I have no experience with Sunbrella boat covers.

What is the personal experience of you Florida Whaler guys with these materials ?
How long do they last ? What is the mode of failure ?

yankee posted 07-17-2001 12:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for yankee  Send Email to yankee     
I purchased a boat from Panama City with a 16 year old Sunbrella cover. The material had started to lose its water resistance but was generally in good shape, since I want a cover to keep dirt and UV light off the boat it didn't matter. What usually goes bad is the stitching. The lesser quality shops will use the Sunbrella but save $2 on the thread by using cotton or something that degrades in the sun. I have seen a lot of $500 covers that will have the seams tear out in 4 years. There is a company called "Sail Rite" in Indiana that sells canvas supplies to the do-it-yourself group along with a lot of good advice on canvas.
where2 posted 07-17-2001 01:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Lemme see, the Sundura cover I had prior to the current Sunbrella cover lasted approximately 4 years. In that time, it eas exposed to the South Florida sun every day, all day (never partially shaded). It cost around $200 for my 15' Sport (from memory there). It was not a bad cover, it kept the boat free of debris, but if water puddled on the cover, it would leak through. I ended up building a PVC framework to make the cover tent to keep the water runnning off. The cover eventually started to tear at the points where it rested against the PVC T's. Incidentally, I don't think it helped the life of the cover when I bleached it during year 2 to try to get rid of the mildew looking black specks. After that, I didn't bleach it again...
Sunbrella custom cover cost me just about double what the sundura cover cost. It was cut using the sundura as a template, and is an even better fit than the sundura was out of the box. I'm still using the PVC framework, and will admit that more water comes in through the sunbrella than did through the sundura. BUT, I mainly use the cover to keep the UV off my varnish.
My father is on his 3rd or 4th year with the custom Sunbrella cover on his 20' Edgewater at the same south florida location. His problem so far was not with the sunbrella, but with zippers and stiching failures. Sunbrella will generally outlast the stiching.
WHERE2 in Palm Beach
Bigshot posted 07-17-2001 01:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
Easy to get the stitching redone. Sunbrella is great but it is somewhat pourous and that is why you can see light through it. It does not rot and does not tear. Have a sunbrella T-top on my Hydra sport since new in 94. Looks great. In 94 a seagull pecked a hole in the top and to this day is still just a little tear, it never grew. In FL everything gets beat up from sun. Pay now or pay later but I would go quality.
Hank posted 07-17-2001 10:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hank  Send Email to Hank     
Thanks to all for your response. It looks like Sunbrella is the way to go. It seems I shall have to pay close attention to the thread used in stitching the cover. Of course Sunbrella is the most expensive by far.

I guess a Westland or Mills Sunbrella would be the safest way to go. However they are between $500 and $650.


lhg posted 07-17-2001 11:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
hank - the advice you have gotten is good. Get the Mills boat cover for your Whaler, and you will never look back. They are the best made, and the BW folks knew what they were doing when they selected Mills as their canvas vendor 40 years ago!

My Mills Mooring Cover is now 12 years old, and outdoors 365 days a year, including 5 months in FL. I have only had about $100 maintenance expense on it, re-doing some stitching. They do need to be silicon spray waterproofed as needed, if they start to leak. I use Starbrite's brand, purchased in gallon sizes, then poured into a spray bottle.

I have to see another brand mooring cover as well made, or that will last as long. Mine is still good for another 5 years.

lhg posted 07-17-2001 11:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
There is a picture of a Mills Mooring cover on Cetacea page 11.

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