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Old 22-08-2017, 14:52   #1
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Suijin's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Bumping around the Caribbean
Boat: Valiant 40
Posts: 4,627
Designing a canopy. Need input!

So I've just started designing a canopy for my 40' cutter. I have a sewing machine and am going to crank this baby out when I have a window to make it before I head south. I've never actually owned one, have sailed/drank/dined on many with them, have inspected lots, but would love input from those with them and who have made them.

Some parameters/requirements:

- Primary purpose is shading the boat to keep it cooler.
- Will be two pieces, one aft of the mast and one for the foredeck.
- Would like to avoid poles or other annoying parts that need to be stowed other than the canvas, if possible. I have enough crap tied to my handrails as it is.
- Would love as much headroom as possible, but will likely be limited by no poles (vertical or horizontal).
- Will need a zipper to extend past the topping lift

What is good material to use? I'd go bankrupt making it out of Sunbrella I think. I'd like it to be light colored, white even, and it's generally more important to me that it is durable than water resistant.

At the aft end it will attach to the bimini frame. Midships it will tie to the shrouds. Will support or "tent" it in the middle with the main halyard.

Any ideas or suggestions would be most welcome.
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Old 22-08-2017, 18:06   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: aboard, cruising in Australia
Boat: Sayer 46' Solent rig sloop
Posts: 19,428
Re: Designing a canopy. Need input!

Hi, Suijin,

We made such an awning for our first Insatiable (36'), but attached it to the back stay, Jim made up a split fitting with sockets to go on the backstay; the sockets took pvc pipe that we used for spreaders. Ours had two lifting points, right above the boom (main halyard) and about 2/3 the way down the boom (boom topping lift). Ours was made from Sunbrella, and it will really hold up to the UV best.

However, recently, i have been using Weather Max 80, a polyester with UV blockers. It is guaranteed 5 years. If you're up to redoing it in 5 years, it weighs half what Sunbrella weighs, and is far more chafe resistant. Imo, the colors don't have the vibrancy, either. If you're going to attach the aft end of yours to the bimini, I'd suggest you sew a flap on it to take a zip or two. If you use a split zip, be sure you have a lashing to support the closed zip, and sew flaps over the zips, 'cause the teeth rot out before the fabric goes.

We reinforced the pvc pipe pockets by making them out of scraps of mainsail cloth, but you could use webbing. It had 3 spreaders, one just aft of the mast, one about amidships, and the split one aft. The width of the spreaders was just to the side of the boat. It is nice to be able to access the sides when it is up: I often hung towels on it for side shade at low sun angles.

Ours was Royal Blue, and it made good shade. You were saying you want a light color, I know the WM80 comes in white, also light and medium grey. We took it down by rolling it aft, and it could be stowed on deck, or dismantled and stowed below.

Most importanat of all: if you want it to last more than 4 years, sew it with ptfe thread (tenara or similar), or plan to restitch it. It really is worth the fuss of learning how to work with it.

Feel free to ask more, if you'd like.


PS. Ours had no forward portion, but you can use your spinnaker pole to support a tent-like canopy; however, attach it with bungees to the lifelines or toerail, so you can move forward in a hurry when at anchor.

One more note: such an awning will add a great deal of windage, most of them need to be struck at about 20 k of wind speed. A long time ago, Practical Sailor (I think) published an article, something like "The 45 Knot Awning," and it was an interesting design. I wouldn't want to leave one up in that much wind, too much to do to get ready to leave.
Who scorns the calm has forgotten the storm.
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