Monday, October 21, 2013

The New Canvas on s/v Honey Ryder

This posting has been a long time coming.  Sorry for the delay.  It was written in stages as we traveled along.  Warning - Tons of pics.  But if you are a regular reader of this blog you already know that can and does happen frequently.  FYI - Strataglass Vinyl = glass  


Ta Da!
Double zippers are the key

I haven’t written previously about this because it was quite a complicated project and we have still been testing it out and getting used to it.  Additionally I really didn’t have any good pics that show the features and benefits (previous life in sales still slips through occasionally) until we got away from the dock.
Starboard side door - screen in, glass rolled up

Starboard side door, screen out, glass snapped back
Another view of the glass snapped back

Now that we are underway and using the new canvas, we LOVE it!  Currently I am writing this from the cockpit while we are anchored in Walburg Creek and it is blowing!  Winds 15-20 with gusts to 25.  But I am completely comfortable.  We have all the glass panels down in place except one.  That panel the screen is letting in just enough breeze to keep some air moving within the enclosure.  We used our enclosure while motoring up to St Catherine’s sound.  We had some rain move in that day and our enclosure, especially the dodger and port side curtains keeps us dry and again comfortable.  We didn’t have all the panels down because we didn’t want asphyxiate ourselves –* yes we are being careful about that.
Screens in, glass rolled up

It was a rather long road to get to “We Love it” and I will tell you about it so perhaps others can learn from us. 
Glass up for the breeze

Screens in protecting us from bugs

However first I want to make something very clear.  This is our experience with ONE vendor on one project.   I We simply REFUSE to paint an entire industry or subset of an industry with a the same broad brush.  None of us would want others to do that to us in our given professions so we refuse to allow ourselves to do that.  We have worked with some really terrific people in the marine industry.  Mr Lester Forbes ranks at the top of our list of peeps we just plain like and respect.  Our diver in Brunswick Lee Porterfield is awesome.  He is by far the hardest working guy in the marina. Lee is a full time teacher and then spends every single weekend (full days), summers and many evenings diving on other peoples boats.  Once when he was trying to get out of town for the weekend, he took the time to free dive on our prop so we could go pump out the next day and then he came back later once he returned to town to do the entire bottom.  Heck of a guy.  I have talked many times about how wonderful BLM  Dock Mistress Sherry is.  Our diver in Charleston Harbor Marine was good too. Chuck town is where we met diesel mechanic Aaron Vickers – Oil’s in a Day’s Work.  Aaron quietly and quickly worked his magic to find our issue and then spent another hour (no charge) giving us hints and tips that only a long time diesel mechanic would know.  *Tom used one of his tips yesterday when changing the fuel filter and it worked like a charm!  There are many more….our broker Sonny White, our surveyor Captain Rick Corley, Towboat US Captain Woody, etc….We approach each new interaction with a positive attitude and strong dose of respect for what each of these professionals does.  This has definitely made a difference for us.  We take a genuine interest and in return they have taken the time to teach us additional valuable tools we have put to good used.   We have really enjoyed all the wonderful people we have met and worked with.
Dodger with the sun cover on - excuse the stuff - liveaboards

Our new canvas – We knew we needed new dodger and bimini and therefore planned and budgeted for it.   As long as we were doing a replacement, we decided an enclosure would be a wise investment.  We heard from so many cruisers how it extends their cruising, allowing them to do more and in comfort.  It is essentially like adding a room onto the boat and who doesn’t want a little more livable space on their boat!    The old dodger height was such that it was exactly at my line of sight when I was at the helm, so we raised it a touch and I can now see perfectly through the front windshield.  Tom can still see over.  I insisted on making our dodger a California dodger even though the framing isn’t supportive of that style.  A California dodger is structured so all the side panels can come out, leaving just the top on.  I wanted this style only for purpose of ongoing maintenance.  Having each panel separate will allow me to mend any panel much easier in the future.
Front window zipped up - the one exception to our U shaped window ban

Our old connector piece – the canvas connecting the dodger and bimini was solid canvas.  Our new one has a window.  This is awesome.  It lets in tons of light.  A skylight if you will.  On rainy days the cockpit still has some light, where previously it was pretty dark on cloudy days.  At night, we can see the stars through it.  It also has a solid cover that snaps in place for protection when the sun is beating down. 
View through the front window

We changed the binimi as well.  Previously it had its own frame that was on the edge of the cockpit coming.  We removed that frame and built the new frame off the arch and cockpit rail.  This opened up (widened) our cockpit living area by a good 20%.  The aluminum frame for the old solar panels was replaced with a stainless steel frame.  We found aluminum just isn't strong enough.  We had our aluminum frame on our C30 bend back in Kansas due to wind.  Can you imagine what ocean conditions would do to an aluminum frame!  
Screen with glass rolled up

There are many, many styles of enclosures.  Most options are for either screen enclosure or glass.  If you want both then you have to zip one out and then zip back in the other panel.  This leaves storing the unused panels.  Storage of the screen panels isn’t that bad but the glass must be stored flat or CAREFULLY rolled with nothing crushing them.  You try finding a safe place (NO CRUSHING) for glass panels – 7 of them -in a liveaboard boat where every little nook and cranny is being used.  Fat chance!  Some people opt for panels that stay in place with both screen and glass where a big U shaped zipper allows you to open up and roll up the glass.  We are not big fans of this design.  We don’t care for the look and more importantly zippers don’t like U curves.  *Zippers and I have a love/hate relationship due to zipper canvas failure – plus I struggle with them in my sewing.  We really wanted both screens and glass. 
View through port side door - north wind was blocked by the glass

Caliber 40 s/v Brilliant Star to the rescue.  Caliber Chris figured out a brilliant design for their lovely boat that is both screen and glass.  Double zippers.  It is truly an elegant design.  I took tons of pics and then took our canvas guy over there.  “Can we do this on our boat?”  “Sure.”  Well yes and no was the real answer.
Back door - access to dinghy and swim platform

Even though our canvas guy said yes, he got distracted, forgot or whatever and as he started to deliver parts of our new canvas – VERY, VERY slowly over weeks and weeks and weeks – the bimini didn’t have the double zippers.  “No, problem.  We will add them in.”  And they did.  However they put both zippers on top of one and other using the same seam line.  Not good when working with big zippers under extreme conditions.  The zippers should have been offset by 1/4 .  Then we discovered a few missing.  These were added, well most.  The back edge of the dodger only has single zippers and should have double.  By the time we finally got our completed canvas (so to speak ) it was LONG overdue.  Well over a month overdue.  We were not happy.  This delayed our departure out of Brunswick GA and drastically changed our cruising plans.  Additionally, because it was SO overdue, we rushed through thoroughly checking it out.  We just wanted them off the boat.  It was NOT a happy working relationship at this point!  I figured I would have to fix the issues as they popped up and tweak it as we lived with it (normal).   
Back door, screens down, glass rolled up

Things to fix/enhance

1.      Both sides of the dodger leak into the cockpit where the hand hold attaches.  The canvas guy tried to fix it at the end but the solution is halfass and only works in perfect conditions at the dock and only if it’s lined up exactly.  My interim fix since leaving the dock was to cut off the backstay wraps off the old bimini and wrap those around there.  It worked for the most part as we traveled up to Morehead City NC.  I have discussed this with a couple of different people (Caliber Chris – designer of the brilliant double zipper enclosure and a canvas guy here in Morehead City) and I believe I have a couple of different solution options that will work.

2.      Backstay wraps leak slightly.  I don’t know if they aren’t tight enough or really leak.  I am going to try tying them tighter and see if that does it but I also have an additional solution that should work to stop the leak in the event tying them tighter doesn't. 

3.      Connector piece leaks slightly at connector to bimini point.  The finished bimini edge should have been a little bit longer or had Velcro to keep it in place.  It doesn't lay as flat as it should.  I think I am going to sew a small extension on the bimini to lengthen it and then add Velcro to keep it all down securely. 
4.  Back edge of the dodger does not have double zippers.  Thanks again to Caliber Chris ( for another brilliant idea), I have a fix for this.  However, it hasn't been a huge issue to date  
5.  The double zippers sewn on top of each other is working so far.  If it becomes a problem I should be able to use the same fix for the missing double zippers on the dodger.
6.  Make a screen for front -middle panel in the dodger.
Canvas box is where our two outboards are attached to the rail
Things we did wrong

1.       We did not get enough references- specifically sailboat enclosure references.

a.   Red flag – Canvas guy mentioned that while he lives on a boat, he has never really experienced canvas at sea – in the conditions.  This means he doesn’t really know where and how water can get in.
b.  Because I am supposed to have a B when I have an A

2.     We should have taken the boat to Fernandina where the canvas maker was.  They said it wouldn’t be an issue but we had 3 no-show days and many, many, many delays or “I am now coming day after next instead of today.”

3.     We should have been more firm on when we needed the canvas to be complete.  Additionally we should have made it clear up front that any delays past a set date would mean reduction in payment.  *I don’t know if this would have worked but…

4.      We should have questioned more as they were working.  This was our first project of this type.  We assumed too much that they knew what they were doing and it would work out in the end.
New stainless steel solar panel mounts replacing the aluminum

Things we did right.

1.       Getting new canvas.

2.       Investing in design changes of dodger and bimini to suit our cruising.

3.       Enclosure – Soooo nice

4.       Enclosure with glass and screens.  This is such a brilliant design.  Thank you again to Caliber Chris.
Summary - Now that it is over, we are very glad we made the investment in our new canvas.  We love the design.  The changes are working out well.  The cockpit enclosure is awesome.  First, keeping the bugs to a minimum.  Second, keeping the elements (wind and rain) out.     



  1. Wow, the canvas looks and sounds great, despite the minor issues. It's a very complicated thing to build, especially when the canvas person is not right there at your boat nearly daily to re-check, re-measure, etc. It's actually very impressive how much he/they got right. I am sure you are the envy of most of the cruisers out there who don't have anything nearly so nice!

  2. I can't remember if you have a CO detector aboard or not. With the enclosure as tight as it is, there can be a bit of exhaust pick up in the cockpit when motoring with wind astern and abeam from discharge side, If you don't have one you might want to get a portable one.