Choosing the Right Boat Cover
A quality boat cover protects the boat's exterior finish by preventing gelcoat oxidation, cracked and discolored woodwork, and corroded brightwork.
Boat covers also protect the interior from rain, hail or snow, thereby reducing the likelihood of mold and mildew, and of water making its way down to the bilge. They also provide protection against critters looking for a place to nest, as well as cover from potential theft.
When it comes to deciding which boat cover to buy, the choices are endless. Here's a guide to help you choose the best cover for your boat.
Trailer Cover or Storage Cover?
One of the most important things to consider is how you intend to use the boat cover. Will it be used for a boat that'll be stowed on a trailer? A cover fitted to a trailered boat should be tight-fitting to reduce billowing at highway speeds, which can rip the cover apart.
Boat covers used for trailering should be made of strong, tear-resistant material, preferably with reinforced seams and other areas that are prone to wear. They need plenty of sturdy tie-down straps to securely cover your boat when it's being trailered. Any boat cover you choose should be durable and fit your boat well. However, if you won't be trailering your boat, the cover doesn't need to be as robust or snug.
The boat cover you choose protects your vessel from the elements, so think about what the climate is like in the area you store it. If the boat spends time in a hot, humid environment, get a boat cover made from breathable fabric to prevent mold and mildew.
However, if your boat spends winters covered in snow, you'll need a cover strong enough to support the weight of the snow without collapsing. It should also be as waterproof as possible, which may come at the expense of breathability.
Bespoke, Custom or Universal Boat Cover?
Deciding between an off-the-peg universal boat cover or some type of custom boat cover will likely depend on your budget.
Bespoke Boat Covers
These covers are made by a custom canvas shop and can be very expensive, but they provide the best protection for your boat. They’re tailor-made to your boat’s exact needs in terms of materials, colors, positioning of tie-downs and so on. While bespoke covers are the most durable, consider whether their longevity is worth the hefty price tag.
Custom Boat Covers
These covers are manufactured for specific boat makes and models. Custom covers cost about half the price of bespoke covers. They’re sized to your exact model of boat, making them easy to install and remove, and their tight fit makes them ideal for trailering and storage. Custom covers also offer better protection against critter intrusion during prolonged storage.
There are plenty of custom covers to choose from, but it may be harder to find one for older boats, or models that were only manufactured in limited numbers. Because they're custom made for specific makes and models, any additions or options that didn't come standard with your boat might interfere with a custom cover. Always double-check the measurements of your boat and the cover before committing to a purchase.
Universal Boat Covers
These covers are generic, one-size-fits-all by boat type covers. Universal boat covers are the cheapest kind, but they usually get the job done, so if budget is your primary concern, this type of cover might be your best option.
However, because universal covers don't fit as securely as bespoke or custom covers, they're not suitable for trailering. They need to be carefully installed if used for winter storage to prevent snow and water pooling, as well as for the additional weight possibly tearing the cover. Universal covers also offer the least protection against invasive critters.
Boat Cover Fabric Selection
The type of fabric a boat cover is made from is perhaps the most important factor to consider. Obviously the better quality the fabric, the longer it'll last. The fabric must prevent water from getting into the boat, but be breathable enough to allow any moisture trapped within to be released.
Waterproof fabrics are the best at repelling water, while water-resistant fabrics are not as effective and may need to have new water-resistant coatings applied to them every couple of years. However, waterproof fabrics are not breathable like water-resistant fabrics. So if your boat cover is intended for winter storage in a cold climate with lots of rain and snow, a waterproof cover would be the best option. If the purpose is for protection in hot, humid climates, then a breathable boat cover is a better choice.
Mold and Mildew Resistance
Boat covers obviously get wet, so you'll want yours to be as resistant to mold and mildew as possible. Synthetic fabrics are a lot more mold- and mildew- resistant than natural fabrics like cotton.
UV and Fade Resistance
Resistance to fading and UV rays, as well as ease of cleaning, will increase the life of your boat cover and keep it looking good.
Strength and Durability
Boat covers come off and get put back on frequently, so the fabric should be resistant to damage while still being light enough for ease of handling. A stronger fabric will resist wear-and-tear better over time, but the tradeoff between a durable heavyweight fabric vs. a less robust fabric is the difficulty of handling it.
Boat covers are typically made from the following fabrics:
- Acrylic: Breathable, and mold-, UV- and fade-resistant. Very good at repelling water, but may need to be re-waterproofed once in a while to remain effective.
- Solution-dyed polyester: More water-resistant than acrylic fabrics, but less resistant to mold, UV and fading. Popular fabric for boat covers and Bimini tops.
- Vinyl coated polyester: Extremely water-resistant, robust, and easy to clean. Less breathable than other fabrics, and fades over time. One of the most popular and inexpensive boat cover fabrics.
- Blended poly-cotton: Least expensive, but more prone to mold and mildew, and not as durable as synthetic fabrics.
If you're considering a poly-cotton boat cover, choose one that has the highest polyester and lowest cotton content.
What Color Boat Cover?
Color choices for boat covers are pretty limitless nowadays. Choose a color that compliments your boat, but keep in mind that darker colors absorb more heat and should be avoided in hotter climates. Also, darker colors fade faster and might look tatty after a couple of years.
Lighter colors, on the other hand, deflect more heat away from your boat, and won't appear to fade as much. The tradeoff is that dirt and stains are more visible on a lighter color, so a pure white boat cover may not seem like such a good idea after a few months.
Before you order a new boat cover, there are a few more things to consider. For one, the thread used to stitch the fabric needs to be of a quality and standard that makes it as durable as the fabric itself. If the thread isn't tough enough, the cover will come unstitched and fall apart.
Make sure the thread used in the boat cover is UV resistant, and has a high tensile strength.
- PTFE thread is considered the best on the market, but is also the most expensive
- Polyester and poly-dacron threads are strong, less expensive alternatives
A decent boat cover should also have reinforced corners and chafe points to ensure the cover remains durable at its weakest points, and won't rip or tear when stretched over your boat. Reinforced seams also prevent the various fabric panels that make up your boat cover from coming apart.
The cover should have plenty of tie-down straps to keep it snug over your boat, especially if you intend on trailering it with the cover on. An elasticated bow strap makes installing the cover much easier, and helps in the overall tight fit of the boat cover.
The straps should be sturdy enough to hold the cover in place and keep it there even in high winds or with heavy snow weighing down on it.
Lastly, a solid warranty is a good thing to consider, as it demonstrates that the boat cover's manufacturer is confident enough in its product to back it with a warranty. Lack of a warranty may be an indication that the boat coveris of poor quality, and could be considered a red flag.