Canvas and boats go together like peanut butter and jelly. Your Bimini top is canvas. Your cockpit curtains are canvas. Your steering station cover is canvas. You just can’t get away from it. And at some point you will be replacing or repairing one or more of these. We talked with canvas pro Jim Reichel of Sailor’s Choice in Amityville, New York, to get the skinny. Here are a few points you should look for when making your purchasing decision.
Sunbrella: This solution-dyed acrylic holds color best, resists shrinking and stretching, and cleans with relative ease, but it is not 100-percent waterproof. It’s highly resistant to ultraviolet (UV) light but less abrasion-resistant than other choices. It comes in a veritable rainbow of colors.
Stamoid: This vinyl-coated polyester is waterproof, resists abrasion where the fabric bears on the frame better than others, and is easy to clean. It is highly resistant to UV light, though not as colorfast as other choices. It’s available in a wide range of colors.
SeaMark: This vinyl-coated acrylic is 100-percent waterproof, provides excellent abrasion resistance, and is easy to keep clean. But it weighs 50 percent more than other types of marine canvas. Color choices abound.
All fabric colors are not the same. Steer away from red, orange, burgundy and yellow. These colors are most susceptible to UV fading. Sexy red can become sissy pink.
2. Bimini Hardware
If this is a new Bimini top installation, or even if you’re replacing an old one, ⅞-inch-diameter stainless-steel tubing is preferred. Stainless steel is more durable than aluminum, and, more importantly, the ⅞-inch tubing has a thicker wall than the standard 1-inch aluminum, which makes it inherently stiffer and stronger.
3. Bits and Pieces
Snaps, toggles and other canvas fasteners are mostly made from nickel-plated brass. Zippers for marine applications are almost universally plastic, but they do have a UV life and can become chalky and tough to zip in just a few seasons.
4. Piping or Trim
Some boaters select white vinyl piping and trim. A better choice would be to use matching fabric. It looks better and will last longer since the vinyl can become chalky and brittle from UV exposure.
It’s not really glass. Most clear enclosures for Bimini tops are made from clear vinyl, but not all vinyl is created equal. Ask for a clear, pressed vinyl with an anti-scratch coating, such as Strataglass. You’ll appreciate the optical clarity, especially at night or in poor weather.
Best Time to Purchase
There’s a time to plant and a time to reap and a time to purchase a new Bimini or enclosure. Most canvas guys are crazy busy in the spring and fall. So for the best price, assuming you can wait, place your order in the summer when the sewing machines are quiet, and the canvas workers are resting.
If you don’t want an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all enclosure, go to your nearest canvas shop, especially since one size doesn’t always fit all. It might cost a tad more, but the final product is custom fit to your boat.
Quick Tip: Want a cheap, effective lubricant for snaps and zippers? “Draw on” protection using a wax crayon or candle.