And the winner to the best type of boat enclosure goes to...don't have a boat enclosure! I say that from a detailing perspective, but I realize how nice a boat enclosure can be, especially living here in Seattle where it's wet for what feels like 13 months out of the year. Boat enclosures provide shade in sunny climates and rain-protection in wet climates. They give you a break from the wind and allow you to have more livable space on your boat. In a way, they're a necessary evil. I say that because they get dirty quickly and are a pain to clean (or keep clean).
The two main materials that boat enclosures are made of these days are canvas and Stamoid. For those unfamiliar with Stamoid, it's a vinyl-coated woven polyester material that's supposed to be superior to canvas. We say "supposed to be" because in our line of work, we've seen a lot of Stamoid covers that didn't hold up to their promises.
Pros and Cons of Stamoid
Stamoid vinyl is advertised as waterproof, resistant to mildew and UV damage. It maintains it's flexibility with extreme temperature changes and doesn't shrink. It's coated with a "Nanotop" barrier that helps to prevent dirt from "sticking" to it, making it easy to clean and keep clean. That all sounds good to me, you say. What cons could there possibly be?
How many people actually clean AND treat their enclosure on a regular basis? And by "regular basis", I mean a few times a month, and by "clean and treat", I mean actually washing it down and using the special Imar cleaner that the manufacturer recommends and then treating the Stamoid by applying a cream conditioner to it? The reality is that very few people take the time to clean and condition every inch of their Stamoid enclosure material on a regular basis or ever because they either don't have the time, don't have the ability, can't reach every inch of it once it's installed or simply don't bother.
I completely understand because it can be a lot of work and keeping those Stamoid enclosures clean is part of my job as a detailer. We see brand new enclosures turn brown or grey with water streaks and dirt quickly if they don't get cleaned often from day one. Even when a boat owner has a detailing company washing their boat every other week, those enclosures still get dirty fast and each time, the dirt and streaks are harder to remove.
Also consider the cost. A custom-made Stamoid enclosure is not cheap! If you're going to pay your boat detailer to clean and polish them a couple times a month in order to keep them looking as good as possible, that will cost you a few hundred dollars each time because it takes a few hours to properly clean and polish them.
Even then, they will still age. Sun, wind, rain, heat, cold and humidity will affect them no matter what the brochure says. We often see where the thread comes out or disintegrates over time and where seams comes undone. So even if you've hired someone to clean and treat your enclosure every few weeks, you'll also need to repair the seams at some point.
Pros and Cons of Canvas
Canvas as an enclosure material can be just as annoying to work with, but it's a bit more forgiving when it comes to cleaning it. Dirt and mildew love canvas enclosures because they can work their way into the fabric and retire there. If washed on a regular basis though, even if it's with the same bucket of water and soap you're washing the rest of your boat with, any loose dirt and new mildew should come right out. If it's been there for a longer period of time and isn't coming out with just soap and water or the resident blue heron at your marina always chooses your canvas enclosure to rest on, then you'll need to use a scrub brush with some stronger products to get the dirt and stains out.
However, over time, canvas will shrink from the sun making it harder to work with. Stretching it to reach a snap could cause it to tear and once mildew has been on it for a while, it can be almost impossible to get out. Pressure washing canvas can sometimes be too rough for it and using harsh chemicals on a regular basis to clean it can cause the canvas to degrade over time.
The Verdict: Stamoid looks great, but unless you plan on cleaning and treating it often (and can reach all of it once installed), you may want to consider a different material. We're not slamming it at all, we're simply pointing out the fact that you need to stay on top of cleaning and treating it in order to maintain its great qualities as an enclosure material.
We say this about a lot of boat detailing products. Many of them work great IF you actually use them on a regular basis AND use them properly. A Stamoid cover will look great on your boat and last a long time, but you have to be willing to care for it regularly and properly.
Canvas is a bit more forgiving until it's not. What I mean by this is that you can let it go a bit longer without cleaning it, but if you let it go too long (especially if green mildew is building up), then it can get to a point where you can no longer get the mildew stains out because they're in the fibers. As far as pricing, canvas seems to be just as expensive as Stamoid these days, so I'm not sure how much savings there is with a canvas enclosure.
If I had to choose, I'd choose not having an enclosure. But if I really had to choose, I'd go for a canvas enclosure with elastic loop attachments. Since canvas will shrink, choose connectors that will accommodate tighter canvas, such as elastic loops or suction cups. That's right - suction cups! We saw this on a boat recently and it's a brilliant idea for canvas as long as the area you want it to attach to is a smooth window or gel coat. It's a great idea for canvas covers too.
Q: The colored stripe on my boat is really faded. What’s the best way to bring back the deep color and gloss?
A: Colored stripes that run along the topside or on the hull or waterline often fade quickly and need to be polished on a regular basis if you want them to retain their deeper color and gloss. The first thing you need to do is determine if that colored stripe is a vinyl sticker or if it’s a painted stripe. Depending on which it is will determine how you care for it.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. If your colored stripe is a vinyl sticker, there’s not too much you can do to it if it’s fading or peeling outside of removing it and replacing it. If it’s new or still in good condition, using a soft wax (with no compound in it) or spray wax to protect it will keep the color from fading over time. The darker the color, the more often you should apply wax or spray wax to it.
If your colored stripe is painted, it’s going to take more effort to bring back the color and gloss if it’s looking faded. The paint in the colored stripe can easily run if you use a buffer on it, so the first thing you want to do is apply a wide strip of painters tape on both sides of the stripe. This will prevent the paint from running into the lighter gel coat surrounding it.
The next step is to get your hands on a variable speed buffer or a dual action polisher. Do not bother trying to use an orbital polisher or doing it by hand as the results will be splotchy and not last very long because neither of those methods are able to cut through the oxidation that’s causing the fading.
With a faded colored stripe, you’ll want to do a two-step process. This means first applying and buffing with compound to cut through the oxidation and bring back the gloss and then following up with polish to protect the stripe from further oxidation. You don’t want to use wax on painted areas; instead use a non-wax polish. Cleaner wax typically isn’t strong enough to remove the oxidation in a colored stripe and although it might bring back the color at first, it won’t last very long, so skip the cleaner wax for this project. You can use a polish with compound in it as the second step, but you’ll want to use a true rubbing compound as your first step.
Before you begin, gather the items you’ll need:
Apply the compound by hand and then buff it out using the wool compounding pad. You may need to do this a few times to cut through the oxidation. This is the step that brings back the gloss, so if you’re not seeing gloss, keep buffing.
However, keep in mind that if the painted stripe is on an older boat or was painted a long time ago, the paint may not be that thick anymore and if you buff too long or hard, you may hit primer. So take your time go and go slow.
Once the colored stripe is looking glossier, it’s then time to protect it with polish. Apply it by hand and then use the polishing pad to buff it off. When finished, wipe it all down with a microfiber rag. Remove the tape when you’re done.
Now that your colored stripe is glossy and protected again, you’ll need to keep it that way if you don’t want it to fade soon after. Use the polish at least once a month. This is something you can easily do by hand and it shouldn’t take too long.
Q: We have a ski boat with a red hull that’s slowly turning pink. I’ve applied wax to it several times, both by hand and with an orbital buffer, and it looks great for a few hours and then looks faded again. What am I doing wrong?
A: Boats with colored hulls must be waxed on a regular basis, about every 6 months and if it’s a black hull, you’ll want to apply wax about every 2 months. But that’s only after you have cut through the oxidation and the only way to do that properly is by using rubbing compound with a variable speed buffer. The rubbing compound has grit or clay in it that will help cut through the oxidation, but only when it’s applied at a high speed and applied evenly. An orbital buffer doesn’t spin fast enough or offer even pressure and you won’t be able to press hard enough with even pressure if you apply it by hand. Using an orbital buffer or your hand to apply rubbing compound will give you splotchy results.
If you haven’t used a buffer before, you’ll want to start with a DeWalt 849x. This buffer has a slow start so you can ease it onto the gel coat and then kick up the speed as you go. Use a compounding pad to apply the compound and buff it in with.