Protect your investment by choosing the best boat cover possible.
Choosing the best boat cover for your needs isn’t always easy because there are a number of variables to consider, but since you’ve found the perfect boat, you certainly will want to protect your investment. We’ll say right up front that we think Westland’s are the best boat covers around, and we hope you’ll choose one. After all, we’re in the business of selling boat covers. But we’re boaters, too, and more than anything else we want to make sure you end up satisfied with your purchase and happy with your boating experience. Enough small talk — let’s get down to the brass tacks of what makes one boat cover better than another.
Boat Cover Materials
The first detail to check out with any boat cover is what it’s made of. Polyester is considered an excellent choice, thanks to its abrasion, UV, and water resistance; good breathability; long useable lifespan; and reasonable cost. You’ll notice that most boat covers (including our Sharkskin line) are made of polyester. The only material generally considered to be superior is acrylic, which is what Sunbrella, another material we use, is made of. Acrylic material is known for its breathability and fade resistance. But — no surprise here — it’s also one of the most expensive.
As you shop around you’ll also see cotton-poly blends and nylon covers on the market. But these can’t be expected to last long because they have poor UV resistance and are extremely lightweight. The best boat covers will not be made of these materials, and some manufacturers will try to cover up the true nature of their covers by giving the material a fancy name dreamed up by their marketing department. You should be a bit skeptical when it isn’t stated clearly up-front whether the cover is made from polyester, acrylic, nylon, or a blend. And when you see a shipping weight of 3.5 pounds for a cover intended to fit a 19-foot boat, well, that’s a pretty big clue.
Another telltale detail that will help you determine quality again relates to the fabric’s weight. Google “cheap boat cover” and you’ll find plenty of options, even some made of polyester, that cost significantly less than a Westland. But look at the specifications, and you’ll see these are made with “3.0-ounce” or “4.0-ounce” cloth. That means the material they’re using weighs three or four ounces per square yard (as opposed to the 6.5-, 7.5-, and 9.25-ounce material we use). You may also notice that many of these covers come with one-year warranties, as opposed to the five-, seven-, and 10-year warranties that come with our boat covers. The bottom line? When it comes to ruggedness and longevity, all other factors being equal the higher that ounce figure is, the better off you are. And while it’s true that lighter covers may be easier to handle and stow, you won’t enjoy that advantage for very long — because a lightweight cover simply won’t last very long.
Another detail to look for can be exposed with the buzzwords “solution dyed” versus “pigment coated.” Solution dyed fibers are dyed before being woven into cloth. This means the color goes all the way through the material, and it will be more resistant to fading and UV degradation. Pigment coated is good, but solution dyed is superior.
Lighter color boat covers often last longer than darker colored ones, since the the lighter colors reflect the sun which increases their UV resistance.
Some polyesters are also coated, to enhance their UV, water, and abrasion resistance. All Westland polyester is coated. Acrylic, urethane, and occasionally vinyl are used as the coatings. These are usually a step up from un-treated polyester, but sometimes, they can cut down on a cover’s ability to breathe.
How Boat Covers are Made
The second item of importance you need to examine is how the cover is put together. And this is an area in which Westland enjoys a distinct advantage. Westland has over 40 years of experience manufacturing boat covers. Do you think our covers are hand-sewn in North America, or are glued together in China? Hint: our covers aren’t mass-produced in China, that’s for darn sure!
Hand-sewn makes for the best boat covers, but there are other construction details to look for too, if you want the very best. Hems and seams will last longer if they’re double-stitched and/or reinforced. Wear points like areas where the cover goes over a windshield frame should also be reinforced. Draw cords should be rope, not elastic, which may cinch down tighter for a season or two but inevitably loses elasticity and strength with time. And loops or rings used for tying down the cover should be strong webbing that’s securely stitched. Look out for covers with grommet attachment points, as these are merely holes punched into the material that may be reinforced, but commonly lead to ripping and tearing. Metal grommets will also cause damage to the exterior of the boat.
Breathability in Boat Covers
The ability to breathe is probably one of the most under-rated characteristics of a boat cover. If your cover doesn’t breathe properly you’ll have mildew and mold problems throughout your boat. Moisture will build up on a daily basis as the interior of the cover “sweats,” and this can damage everything from your boat’s electronics and wiring to the powerplant. Choosing a cover that can breathe is a big deal. But it’s also a big conundrum, because generally speaking the better breathability a cover has, the less water-resistant it is.
The solution? Good water resistance combined with proper ventilation. Consider shrink-wrap as an example. This stuff can seal up a boat tight, and it’s probably the ultimate at water resistance. But it’s also the ultimate for trapping moisture in (not to mention the fact that you only get to put it on and take it off once, which is why we don’t mind talking about it — for boaters looking for long-term protection, shrink wrap can’t compare to the real thing). So, what does any reputable shrink wrap installer do after wrapping a boat? They puncture that plastic sheathing and install vents.
The best boat covers are going to have ventilation built in, period. We don’t want to sound like we’re bragging, but we sew-in two vents into all of our covers, which is something few competitors take the time and effort to do. If you decide to buy a different cover and it doesn’t breathe well or have any vents, please people, take the time to install them yourself. They may not look as neat as factory-sewn vents and it may take some extra effort, but if your cover traps moisture in your boat it could end up doing more harm than good.
Naturally, how well a boat cover fits is also a big deal. Whether you’re buying from Westland or a competitor, the best-case scenario is getting a cover that’s custom-fitted for the specific model boat you own. This is another area in which we have a leg up, because our sister company Great Lakes Boat Top currently produces the canvas for over 20 major boat-builders, including the likes of Sea Ray, Grady-White, and Boston Whaler. They have the custom-patterns for over 60 different manufacturers and models, and we can match them exactly with our Exact Fit® line.
If you can’t get or choose not to get a cover custom-fitted for your specific model boat, the next best thing is to get a cover designed for your size and type of boat (in our case, that’s the “Select Fit” line). Center consoles, cuddy cabins, inflatables, pontoon boats, and other varieties of boats obviously have very different shapes. And while it’s tougher to get an exact match when a cover isn’t designed for a specific model, going by the type and size of the boat is the next best thing — and still allows for a snug, secure fit. Also remember, that secure fit is an absolute necessity if you plan to trailer your boat with the cover on. Loose, flapping covers take a beating and won’t last long at 60 mph. Nor will the lighter, weaker covers you’ll find at bargain-basement prices, so be sure your cover is rated for towing before you hit the road.
Speaking of hitting the road, we’re about done here. We’ve covered the main points you need to know in order to choose the best boat cover, and we hope it’s been a help. But if you have any unanswered questions feel free to click on the Contact Us button under the Support tab. Like we said at the start, we love boating ourselves, and first and foremost we want you to have a great experience. If there’s any way we can help you with that, we will!