Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fabrication of New Boat Covers in La Paz

The canvas boat covers on Citla are the same as when we purchased the boat. They weren't new then and have been professionally restitched
twice since we've had the boat and undergone hand repair on a few occassions, as well. This is the year we decided we needed to do some major replacement. The plan is to replace the dodger, bimini, the shade piece between these two elements, and the mainsail cover. We're also hoping to fabricate two hatch covers, and sunscreens for the sides of the cockpit. The latter contributes to the comfort at anchor in the unrelenting sun.

During our frequent stays in La Paz, we've become familiar with many of the canvas services here and have had the opportunity to observe the professionals work and see their finished products. There are several good canvas fabricators in town and we decided to go with Danny Gonzalez at Pacific Threads, who is both a sailmaker and canvas fabricator. The process began by contacting Danny and making arrangements for him to visit the boat and see what we wanted. He came by one morning, while working on the catamaran Sun Babies and gave us an estimate for the work.

Our previous experience with buying Sunbrella fabric in La Paz found that selection and availability of colors was limited. To insure that we were able to get the color we wanted, we ordered directly from Sailrite, purchasing Sunbrella, Tenara Lifetime thread (Gore-Tex), a roll of Strataglass 40 gauge vinyl window material, and all the stainless steel snaps and nylon zippers the project would require. We transported all of this to the boat on our trip down with the new rudder. One of the things we learned during our initial meeting with Danny was that now Sunbrella is widely available in Mexico in all colors and widths. While we haven't done a price comparison, we suspect material costs would likely be similar had we purchased the fabric here.

I'd like to pass along a couple of pieces of information shared with us by the professionals which we found useful and may be of interest for others considering replacing their canvas. Durability of the Sunbrella is a function of fabric color. Apparently, due to the dying process, the darker colors are more resilient and wear better than the lighter colors. Also, experienced fabricators will never use the old covers to serve as patterns for construction of new canvas, but will insist on taking measurements directly from the boat. If someone suggests they can construct new covers using the old as a pattern, it's probably a good idea to look for another, more experienced professional to do your job.

Danny began the process by taking measurements of the mainsail cover, followed by removing all the canvas from the stainless steel frames and setting the visual symmetry of the framework. We indicated to Danny we weren't in a huge hurry and he could take his time. At the three month mark, we're finally winding the work down. We now have all new cockpit canvas, side shades for the cockpit, hatch covers and a new mainsail cover. We also had hand rails attached to the sides of the dodger, fabricated by Sergio Galindo (he did much of the welding on the stainless steel bean sculpture in Chicago). While we didn't manage to get much sailing time in during the canvas work, we did take several weeks off to celebrate our grandson's first birthday in San Francisco and to pay our yearly homage to the IRS. There were a few glitches along the way, but Danny remained patient and in good humor; always the professional and perfectionist when it comes to his projects.

One further benefit we received came when Danny found out we had been contemplating fabricating a new custom mattress for our forepeak. He took us to Macias Upholstery out at the end of General Manuel Marquez de Leon. Sr. Macias has been in business for the past forty years and manages a busy upholstery warehouse on the outskirts of La Paz. He has a full stock of foam quality and firmness to choose from and routinely does custom boat work. We selected our foam choice for the underment along with the sunbrella cover fabric with the promise of bringing 2" of memory foam on our return from San Diego to finish the project. We ended up with a perfectly fitted, well constructed custom mattress at a fraction of the cost it would have been in the U.S. We're sleeping on it and are very pleased with the finished project.


Mid-Life Cruising! said...

We just placed our new bimini order with a local seamstress. We also learned that darker Sunbrella lasts longer, as well as darker thread and zippers. All the little details that matter ....

Your boat looks great!

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