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Enclosures Exposed


A good enclosure is one that you don't even realize is there.

A little more than a year ago, I attended a rendezvous put on by a well-known express-boat builder. It was a great weekend, and it was obvious from the well-cared-for vessels and the enthusiasm of the event’s 40 or so attendees that the cruisers loved and used their boats.

So it was no surprise that one of the weekend’s most interesting activities—and by far the best attended—was a conference during which the builder’s reps discussed what was new and noteworthy and owners talked candidly about what they’d like to see more (and less) of in future boats. One owner suggested more counter space in the galley; another, wider side decks. But when one owner suggested “less canvas!” a half dozen other owners actually stood up and cheered. “That means less sun,” a rep countered. “So we’ll go outside! We just don’t want the hassle anymore,” the owner pleaded.

While I’ll be the first to admit that removing and rezipping canvas can be a royal pain in the you-know-what, let’s be real: Enclosures are a necessary evil. They protect you, your helm, and your precious electronics from wind, spray, and rain and, when properly sealed, can help you control the temperature on your bridge. In fact, enclosures can be the determining factor in whether you’ll spend a day out on the water or tied up at the dock. Fortunately, with a little maintenance and research, your dealings with canvas can be anything but evil.

Enclosures can be made from a variety of materials—mainly acrylic, vinyl, and co-polyesters—and each has its pros and cons. Vinyl, also known as isinglass, used to be the most common one. It’s available either clear or coated and in 20- to 40-millimeter thicknesses; generally speaking, the thicker vinyl wears better, holds it shape, and is more durable than thinner vinyl.

Clear vinyl expands and contracts with changes in temperature and pressure; over time that can mean loose or saggy spots on a warm day or a tight-fitting enclosure on a cold day. Moreover, vinyl can yellow over time, particularly in harsh environments.

A coated vinyl like Strataglass is a better alternative and a good choice whether you’re replacing an old enclosure or designing a new one for your boat. Its protective coating makes it more scratch- and UV-resistant than traditional vinyl and contains plasticizers that help it maintain its shape and flexibility.

This article originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.