The Canvas Works crew are professional marine fabricators as well as sailors with significant time on the water. Sailing experience allows us to understand how best to construct a quality dodger and how it will perform in demanding conditions.
What is a Dodger You Might Ask?
If you are a baseball fan, you might stumble upon this post. Unfortunately, you will not learn anything about the baseball team, but don’t be afraid to stick around and learn about the other type of dodger, the sailboat dodger and more specifically, the high performance hardtop dodger.
A Traditional Canvas Dodger vs A Bimini Top – Need Some Clarity?
A traditional dodger, also known as a spray hood, is an enclosed structure that protects you and the cockpit from waves, wind and weather. Ideal for both day sailors and offshore cruisers, dodgers feature frame-supported canvas on the top, sides and front. It covers the forward section of the cockpit and the companion way of the sailboat.
A bimini top is an open-front canvas top stretched over a metal frame, or bows for the cockpit or deck of a powerboat or sailboat. Most bimini tops can be collapsed or retracted when not in use and returned to their full extension if shade or shelter is needed. Unlike sailboat dodgers, biminis are found on all different types of sports boats, performance powerboats, pontoon boats and sailboats. Biminis provide shade and protect the helmsman from UV rays but they do not provide full protection from the elements.
A bimini can have 2, 3 or 4 bows as the supporting structure. This structure can provide the framework for a boat enclosure on any type of boat. In this blog, we will explore the high performance hardtop dodgers, an excellent alternative to the traditional canvas dodger.
Introducing the Hardtop Dodger
If you are considering a new dodger, look no further. Here, we will explore the main differences between the soft canvas dodger and the hardtop dodger to help you make the best decision for your boat and lifestyle. Both options have their benefits:
Benefits of the Hardtop Dodger
Hardtop dodgers are a perfect choice for functionality, longevity, and overall coverage. Our hardtop’s are designed, engineered, and built for low maintenance, a high strength to weight ratio while maintaining a nice ascetic.
Below are some reasons why you may want to consider a hardtop dodger over a soft, canvas dodger.
The Structure of a Hardtop Dodger
Hardtop Dodger: Our frames and supporting structure are fabricated in 1.25” OD 316 stainless steel tubing. The larger diameter is robust and can withstand higher loads.
Canvas Dodger: Typical construction is with 1” OD tubing. This is a fine size to support the canvas top.
The Surface of a Hardtop Dodger
Hardtop Dodger: The actual hardtop is fabricated with a ¾” foam or balsa core, x-mat fiberglass, epoxy resin and high quality gel coat. It is a 3 inch cambered 90” x 54” x 1” top with a rain lip. Because of these features, The hardtop is very strong, robust and provides a durable surface allowing you to mount solar panels, lighting, sound systems, hand rails and ancillary hardware.
Canvas Dodger: Typically made from durable marine Sunbrella or PVC coated fabric. Canvas dodgers, even when stretched perfectly across their structure, can not accept as much weight as a hardtop.
Side panels and enclosing your Dodger
Both the hardtop and softtop dodgers use canvas constructed side panels. The Hardtop panels tend to be a bit bigger based on the overall size of Hardtops. Panels can be fabricated in either Sunbrella acrylic canvas or PVC Canvas such as Stamoid or Herculite. Window materials vary from polycarbonate, acrylics to clear vinyls. Brands, coatings and thickness vary and can affect both longevity and budget.
Maintenance on a Hardtop Dodger
Hardtop Dodger: The fiberglass hardtop can be easily wiped clean, eliminating possible mold, algae and organic growth. Cleaning the hard top is as straightforward as cleaning the balance of the fiberglass on your boat.
Canvas Dodger: The canvas top is made from fabric, it is susceptible to algae and organic growth and sun damage over it’s life. They must be regularly cleaned in order to minimize degradation of the fabric from the elements.. Often the process of dismantling a dodger to clean the fabric can be a challenging task.
The Abrasion on a Hardtop Dodger
Hardtop Dodger: Because the hardtop surface is precisely molded and rigid, there is no need for a chafe pad to protect from the mainsail canvas rubbing on the top.
Canvas Dodger: Depending on the position of your boom, canvas dodgers often need reinforcement along the top edges to prevent wear and tear where the boom may hit the dodger.
Mounted Handrails on a Hardtop Dodger
Hardtop Dodger: Like the structure itself, the handrails are fabricated in the same strong 1.25” OD stainless steel and can be mounted securely on top, bottom, side and/or aft. This provides extra safety when sailing in rough waters
Canvas Dodger: While handrails do provide additional support and structure for a canvas dodger, side handles limit the collapsibility of the dodger, can be less sturdy, and are difficult to install or reinstall after maintenance or repairs.
Can My Sailboat Accommodate a Hardtop Dodger?
The Canvas Works has built a mold that accommodates sailboats ranging from 38′- 46′. A top that is 90 inches wide by 54 inches fore and aft. For larger or smaller hardtops, custom tops can be fabricated keeping the following criteria in mind:
- Size and type of sailboat
- Width of cockpit and combing
- Depth or coverage of cockpit
- Height profile desired by helmsman
- Overall design and ascetic features
The Canvas Works Hardtop Dodger
Now that you know a little more about the differences between the traditional dodger and a hardtop dodger, you can make an informed decision about which type of dodger is best for you. Whether you find a fabricator in your area or you go with The Canvas Works’ hardtop, here is some additional information to inform your decision. Our fabrication team has the capability to create your dodger from start to finish on site, or we can fabricate just the hardtop to be shipped to you for installation.
How is the Canvas Works Hardtop Dodger Enclosed?
Given our experience and the design of the hardtop, there are installation options. We help guide you on the height and angle of your structure based on your sailing style and personal preferences.
Stanchions and Support Structure: 1-1/4” 316 stainless steel stanchions and supports provide the foundation of the structure. Two sets of handrails on the outer edge of the dodger are mounted opposing one another. The lower set becomes the strut and stanchion attachment point, while the upper rail is a grab handrail.
Windows and Window Frames: Fitted 40 mil Makrolon polycarbonate is semi-rigid, incredibly optically clear and has an industry leading warranty. Covers for the windows are included with each dodger. Serge Ferrari Stamoid Top or Sunbrella Marine fabric window frames add an attractive, finished look and years of service to any dodger panels.
Hardware: Keder welt and track for forward windows which creates even tension along the leading edge of the windows and provides excellent spray and weather resistance. All hardware is top quality hardware, including snaps, lift-a-dot or twist lock fasteners as required by the installation. Whenever possible it is preferable to use a PVC track, welt and zipper attachment system in-lieu of fasteners.
What is the take away from this blog?
While the initial cost of a hardtop dodger is more than a canvas soft top dodger, the difference will be better long term investment for the long life of the hardtop. The Canvas Works designed and engineered our hardtop to serve a variety of boats. With the installation of The Canvas Works hardtop, you will have all of the following to look forward to.
- A dependable structure for peace of mind when cruising
- A strong, robust and durable surface to mount solar panels or hardware
- A low maintenance support structure to withstand harsh weather conditions
- A smooth, cleanable surface that won’t tear, mold or stretch
- A sleek rigid enclosure that provides ultimate protection from the elements