How to Make a Boat Cover

People often assume that boats are expensive, but in fact, you can find a range of financing options that bring boat ownership in reach for just about anyone. Start by choosing a boat that’s an appropriate size for your needs, and use a boat payment calculator to figure out how much you can afford to spend.

Once you’ve bought your boat, you’ll want to protect it from harsh sun, wind, and hail, all of which can cause serious damage and curbing your family’s ability to enjoy their favorite activities.

To DIY or Not: That Is the Question

Ready-made boat covers cost anywhere from two to five hundred dollars, depending on the type of boat. In comparison, you’ll probably spend between fifty and one hundred fifty dollars for material and supplies, so if you’re fairly crafty, you can make a boat cover to protect your power boat and extend its usable lifespan. However, bear in mind that making a boat cover is somewhat time- and labor-intensive: if you don’t mind spending a few days on the project, the savings might be worth it. But if your time is limited or you’re just not that confident in your sewing skills, you might want to skip the DIY and look for a sale instead.

What You Need

Making your own boat cover isn’t very difficult, although it can be tricky to work with the volume of fabric you’ll need. The materials and equipment you’ll need include:

  • A heavy-duty sewing machine that’s capable of handling thick canvas. Sailmaking machines are available for around $700, but if you don’t want to own one, look for rental options in your area.
  • Durable, weather-resistant canvas. Check out Sunbrella, which offers UV inhibitors and polyester fibers specifically designed for marine use, or opt for an awning material.
  • Sharp scissors with good grips. You’ll need significant cutting power to handle your heavy-duty canvas cloth.
  • Long, heavy straight pins. T-pins or quilting pins are good options.
  • A felt tip pen for marking the locations of snaps, grommets, darts, etc.
  • A measuring tape and a ruler
  • Heavy-duty polyester thread. Upholstery thread is a good choice, but you can also find nylon monofilament options specifically for use in outdoor products.
  • Optional: grommets and grommet setting tools; heavy duty snap heads and an installation tool

The Method

To make a boat cover, you need to be methodical, detail-oriented, and patient. You’ll probably need to put the cover on your boat a few times, making adjustments here and there to make it fit snuggly. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect! It’s not a wedding dress or the focal point of your living room, so if you wind up with a crooked seam or a misplaced grommet, let it go.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Start by measuring your boat from side to side and from end to end. You’ll need to take several sets of measurements to account for the boat’s overall shape. Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to sew in pleats or folds to accommodate the outboard motor, windscreen, and other protuberances, so measure from the highest point (for example, the center of the windscreen) to the side. Add six to eight inches of overhang, and then double that number to get the maximum width of fabric you’ll need.  Also, some types of boats have snaps on the hull that you use to fasten the cover down. If your boat is one of them, you’ll need to measure and install appropriately sized snap heads in the right places along the edge of the finished cover.

Take Your Time With the Layout

Lay out your fabric in a large, open area – use your lawn, or move furniture out of the way if you prefer to work indoors. You’ll probably need two widths of fabric to cover the whole boat. Cut them at the appropriate length and spread them out evenly, with their edges aligned and their finished sides facing each other. Then fasten them together along one of the long edges using straight pins.

Pro Tip: If you have an old cover that you can use as a template, your work will be much easier. Use a seam ripper to take it apart. Then lay the pieces out on your fabric, making sure that one side mirrors the other. Then cut the pieces out.

Sew, Sew, Sew Your Boat

Sew a straight seam down the length of the fabric, leaving about one-quarter of an inch between the seam and the edge. Then reinforce your work by sewing a second seam alongside the innermost edge of the first one, leaving a quarter-inch between them.

Take your fabric out to your boat and drape it over the entire structure, keeping the seam centered and running straight down the length of the hull. Use straight pins to create pleats and folds, fitting the canvas over protrusions as snuggly and evenly as possible.

Trim the edges of the fabric to create a consistent amount of overhang all the way around. Measure as you go – it’s more accurate than trying to eyeball things. If necessary, mark the position of snaps.

Take the cover back inside and sew in any pleats, darts, or folds you pinned in. Fold the edge in and pin it in place to create a hem, then sew a double seam all the way around.

Fit the cover over the boat and make adjustments as needed. You may want to add wide, heavy-duty elastic in some areas, such as around the bow and along the stern, to keep the cover snug. Finally, install snap heads where appropriate, or attach grommets at regular intervals so that they line up along either side of the boat.

Cover It Up

Position your finished cover over your boat and fasten the snaps to hold it in place, or use the grommets and a sturdy nylon rope to tie the cover down so that it’s held firmly in place and your boat is completely protected.