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Thread: Best material and design for boat awning?

  1. #1
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    Default Best material and design for boat awning?

    I'm going to help a friend build an awning for his sailboat, which is a 37' C&C. He's looking to make something like the one in the picture below but extended up past his dodger. I have no experience making anything like this but can't imagine it would be difficult. I'm looking input on structural considerations and material suggestions. Material cost is a factor.

    Boar Awning.jpg

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    Sunbrella is the industry standard. Don't bother with anything else. Buy a book on canvas working. (Check Sailmaker's Apprentice.) You'll probably need an industrial sewing machine, or at least one that is pretty heavy- duty to handle the material. You'll need grommets and a grommet setter or press for the grommets (unless you get traditional and sew them in.) It's not rocket science. It's a fun project, but you do need a machine that will handle sewing the doubled and tripled seams and the proper weight thread. You might also check out Sailrite, the DYI sail and canvas outfit. They have everything you'll ever need and then some. https://www.sailrite.com/

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    I once made an awning like that from a retired dacron genoa (Ramsey, 1962). Materials cost: $0.00.
    The genoa was fairly light, maybe 5 oz. and it was easily sewn on a good quality home sewing machine. I don’t remember that there was much hand stitching, just a few webbing loops.
    Getting the right stiffness in the battens took some experimentation. IIRC, we settled on Douglas fir, approx, 1” x 2”. Beam was about 9’.

    It held up ok for 10+ years.

    Were I to need another, I’d do the same thing.
    Last edited by JimConlin; 08-03-2019 at 04:02 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    If it's big, I'll usually opt for 7 oz. Odyssey polyester instead of Sunbrella (11 oz.). It has similar lifespan, guarantee and UV resistance and slightly better abrasion resistance but considerably less weight and bulk to store. Sunbrella has a bit nicer and softer hand, but that doesn't matter much for a sunshade/awning. I built one once to cover an entire Farrier F-24 trimaran, which was about 19' wide and the reduced bulk of the Odyssey really paid off. Odyssey is also somewhat less expensive than Sunbrella.

    With something like this you want to pay attention to the direction of the weave and plan carefully for it. There is going to be far more cloth stretch on a bias (diagonal) than there is when tension is applied square to the weave. This can work to your advantage at times, or be a real headache. A really good example of this was the original Moss Parawing shelter.

    Bill Moss was an innovative tent maker in the 1970s. He designed a tarp-like shelter that would pitch solidly, and the reasons were the slightly scalloped edges (straight ones would be loose and flap a bit, just like straight sail leeches will) and its pitched rigidity was mostly from the fact that the panels (and warp yarns) were oriented diagonally. This created a solid, non-stretch ridge down the peak when pitched, which is something that the more normal fore and aft panel layout won't do.

    Supposedly, when he tried to patent it they said "You can't patent a tarp!" He had to go to the patent office, pull out his handkerchief and teach them about bias stretch before they would grant him the patent. Notice the panel layout on the drawings at the bottom of the page. For any sort of large-ish tarp-like structure there may be good reason to think about incorporating some of this technology into your design.


  5. #5
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    I made one for my 50 footer when we lived aboard in Papua New Guinea. I used domestic shade cloth and PCV plumbing pipe. It was particularly good the way it allowed the wind through in the windy season. Normal fabric would have blown away.

    Sent from my CPH1851 using Tapatalk

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    the hammocking industry has taken Todd's n Bill Moss's concept a step further and begun making HEX shaped flies for their hammocks

    all edges are CANT CUT as are Bill Moss's

    the hollow edges sure work well in weather not fluttering to keep the hanger awake during a blow

    justa ponderment

    sw
    "we are the people, our parents warned us about" (jb)

    steve

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    Quote Originally Posted by swoody126 View Post
    the hammocking industry has taken Todd's n Bill Moss's concept a step further and begun making HEX shaped flies for their hammocks

    all edges are CANT CUT as are Bill Moss's

    the hollow edges sure work well in weather not fluttering to keep the hanger awake during a blow

    justa ponderment

    sw
    Not mine! Of course, mine is a double layer hammock with a sleeve to add a pad inside. Now, the rain fly? Oh, yeah, it’s hex shaped.
    This parawing thing? Genius. And “stolen”. Well, the seam layout. Genius...

    Peace,
    Robert

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    I agree with Bob concerning Sunbrella being the standard of the industry. While Awnings, dodgers and sail covers used to be made of white duck material to reflect the sun, there is now a current trend to make them of tan colored material which seems to look a bit better than white if cost is not a consideration. Tan often looks good against varnish or cream colored coach roofs. One argument in it's favor is that it does not show air born dirt or mildew as much as white does either. So in this day of increased air born fallout, tan might be a color to consider. But I must admit that I have used old sails for making awings in the past. So recycling sail cloth can be a noble thing to do!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 08-03-2019 at 02:16 PM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    How you make it I think it depends on where you are and how you use this "awning".

    I only put mine up at anchor and expect it to go up or down in less than five minutes. It's rip stop nylon with a few grommets using 3/4" pvc tubing as "bows". It stows under the side deck as a bendable 4 inch x 6 foot roll weighing maybe two pounds.
    When it is really hot I throw a few buckets of water on it and benefit from the evaporative cooling effect. After studying a Colonial era punch bowl with a linen cover, it seems the thinner the material the better this works.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    My awning is at the other end of the scale from Canoeyawl: Its up all the time unless weather is really windy, so maybe 95%. This is full on tropics, so brutal sun. Takes a while to rig (~15-20 mins) but after several iterations of design and construction it stays up and trouble free in anything less than 35k, and then I take it down as much to quiet the boat as anything. Few key things: "battens" (that one has 3) are windsurf masts, the fabric is Sunbrella reinforced at a bunch of spots, side curtains are usually on, can be taken down if wind is getting going. Rigged tight, halyard, end ties on battens tight, no movement. Its about 10'6" X 17', rolled its a manageable package, has a place to live below when sailing. I've pics somewhere if they would help.
    Brian

  11. #11
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    I have two awnings for my H28 (I am a sailmaker / canvas worker)
    One is my storage and all weather awning. This is out of sunbrella (light tan colour) which forms a peak with roll up sides. As I string it between the two masts I don’t have any battens in it but you would need to if you don’t have anything at the back to attach it too, such as stays or davits.



    With the sides down it makes the cockpit very private and weather proof. It’s made the boat so much cooler as it tunnels any wind into the cover past the cockpit which drastically reduces the temperature inside the boat.
    The sides roll up and it’s a nice shade from the sun and rain while underway.
    This awning is up all the time unless a cyclone (hurricane for Americans) is coming. It keeps the sun off the timber work and rain and dew off the deck.

    I also have a light weight sun shade which I made out of 1.5oz spinnaker fabric (was a heavy air kite which got blown out but that’s another story). It has 4 battens (18mm square hardwood).
    It is only a sunshade. It’s really quite cool underneath and the white fabric and it let’s through a nice amount of light.
    A trick with awning which have battens is to use the spring in the battens to tension the awning and use rope to tie the edges down not shock cord. This will stop it swinging around in the breeze.
    This awning packs up way smaller than the larger sunbrella cover (when rolled up it would only be 4-5 inch in diameter.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    Thanks for all the good tips. I should have mentioned that the awning will only be used when hanging on a mooring and deployed only a few times a year. Todd, thanks for the tip on the Odyssey cloth. I'm pretty sure this is all my friend will need. I found it at Rochford Supply for $8.40 a yard vs.$25.99 a yard for Sunbrella. I was wondering if anyone had some thoughts on battens. The awning might used during rain events. Any rule of thumb regarding batten spacing to limit pooling? Should battens be cambered? I haven't yet determined if this will be a tented or flat shape.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Best material and design for boat awning?

    On a slightly larger (12' x 12') awning I used (3) 1 x 3 fir battens in full length pockets. They bent enough to hold tight tension and shed water. When blowing hard I took the battens out and draped it over the main boom with tie downs to the base of lifeline supports...but left enough room to walk around edge of deck and go fwd. This held in major blows and could be left unattended when ashore. I used an old heavy dacron sail for material and it last about 4 yrs of full time live aboard...but NOTHING compares to Sunbrella for durability.

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