Sailcovers, dodgers & Sailboat biminis


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Sailboat Covers & Enclosures

A bimini for your sail boat is the perfect protection against the elements; wind, rain, sun or mosquitoes. Be comfortable in your yacht at anytime, anywhere. We proudly offer high quality Bimini’s that are specifically designed for your boat using fabrics such as Stamoid and Sunbrella that are not only durable but also waterproof, flexible, mildew resistant and available in many colors!

Frames fabricated by our Trademark, Patented H2ube or the option of the stainless steel tubing.

Hallett Canvas & Sails, Inc. has 26 years experience manufacturing various designs of dodger’s suitable for each individual customer and their boats. Hallett dodgers are carefully built ensuring structural integrity as well as years of performance. Dodgers will add the comfort, protection and style to your boat. Custom design your own dodger or see our dodger design page for some potential options that fit you and your sailboat.

Dodger Order Form

Get out of the sun for the afternoon. This cover protects the cockpit from light rain and sun without the use of bows. Awnings can also help ventilate your boat in an array of weather conditions allowing hatches and companionways to be open and covered from rain or sun. Awnings work well with dodger and bimini’s. It is easy to use, just zip the front to the dodger and insert an awning pole in the back and your done! All awnings are made using the finest outdoor fabrics such as Sunbrella and Stamoid and more.

Sail Covers

All sails should be protected from U.V. rays which, rapidly breakdown any sail cloth, taking years off the life of the sail.

  • Standard Sail Cover We provide a front zipper, vinyl protection for winches or cleats and twist snaps for easy on and off. Options of Lazy Jack cut outs if it applies to your boat.
  • Hallett Zip-Top Sail Cover Hallett Zip Top Sail covers are integrated to a lazy jack system to allow the mainsail to drop into the cover, then zip the top up and you’re done. It’s that easy! The cover is independent of the sail which allows for easy installation and taking off at the end of the season.
  • Horse Blanket The loose luff, flaked mainsail on boom Sunbrella sail cover that simply is laid and fastened.
  • Interior Luxury Foam including EZ Dry, Quality fabrics and construction will make your boat worth living on for years to come.

Winter Covers

We can build covers for any custom projects. We will work around special rigging or unique designs to bring it all together for the perfectly finished look. Many times the up front cost of a winter cover is substantially high, however if you keep your boat for more than three to five years the cost becomes much lower than shrink wrapping. Also the quality and functionality of the cover is much greater than the standard blue and green polyethylene tarps. A quality winter cover is important in preserving your upholstery from rain, snow, and harmful UV rays. Now using more and more, the H2ube frame for sturdy, easy use, easy to clean covers. Sail boat enclosures. Our custom fit sail boat enclosures allow boaters to use the outdoor space in all weather and get full use of boat. This in turn can also lengthen the boating season all together allowing you to launch earlier in the spring and to stay warm on a beautiful late fall evening sail. Enclosures are designed to provide maximum visibility built with Strata Glass, Makrolon Polycarbonate or Crystal Clear glass while using Sunbrella or Stamoid for the panels.

Custom Covers

Hallett can design and fabricate any in-house custom upholstery or canvas work that you may need. Some of these projects include, winch covers, helm covers, mooring covers, fender covers, boom tents, wheel covers, hatch covers and much more. You tell us what you would like and we will go the extra mile to meet your needs.


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Hallett Canvas produces the very best cruising sails, racing sails, sailboat canvas, powerboat canvas, commercial canvas and sail rigging products in Maine.

hardtop dodgers and biminis

Tartarooga hard dodgers means unlimited possibilities. everything's custom made.

Tartarooga Dodger Yellow

Hardtop Dodgers

If you're looking for a dodger that provides aesthetics, strength and functionality, think TARTAROOGA!

Saga 43 Tartarooga Dodger/bimini

Hard Dodger with Hard Bimini Combos

Looking for a combo that provides a reliable place out of the elements? Go to TARTAROOGA!

Off to Far Away Shores

Many of our ocean sailing clients have successfully completed long-distance passages and circumnavigations. they report back that our installations hold up under the most extreme conditions. their dodgers and biminis were all the comfort they could wish for at sea., hardtop dodgers, biminis and enclosures.

Are you looking for a dodger/bimini combo? Choose a wheelhouse, or maybe even a full enclosure under one long top.

Study our Image Gallery, then contact TARTAROOGA!

Long Tartarooga top on Gulfstar 44 sailing vessel

read client's opinions

Amigos,we just pulled into Mazatlan yesterday. We made the fastest passage ever across the Sea of Cortez, 34 hours! Must be the dodger! We wouldn’t change a thing.                                                                              Jack, Leanne y el chullo perrito

Two boat owners came over last weekend and checked out the new dodger. Both seemed to love it. If you have any customers with double enders  send’em my way!

Rob and Teresa Sikade, Seattle

Jacques, I have thought of you on many occasions since I got my dodger. I thought to write and tell you how much I appreciate the work you did. I notice it every day. And every time I notice it I think of who I should thank.

Larry Nelson, S/V Panta Rhei


What Is A Hard Dodger? (And How To Build One)

What Is A Hard Dodger? (And How To Build One) | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Jacob Collier

August 30, 2022

‍ When sailing on your boat, you might come across undesirable wet conditions. Since you are on the water, you will likely be wet unless you have a hard dodger.

Staying dry while sailing is a tough task to accomplish, but it is possible. How would a hard dodger help and how do you build one?

Hard dodgers are enclosed structures protecting you and the cockpit from the elements. With this added protection, you are keeping yourself comfortable, electronics safe, and companionways dry. Building one is much cheaper than purchasing, but will also cost you time and patience.

Building a hard dodger should not be a task that is rushed, as you need to allow time for things to mold and take shape. If you are interested in building a hard dodger, you will see the importance and why it is essential for everyday sailing.

According to boaters university, sailing with a hard top dodger significantly improved the experience. No matter your sailing experience, having a hard top dodger makes the process efficient and more enjoyable.

Table of contents

‍ Basics of a Hard Dodger

There are two different types of dodgers, with one being soft and the other hard. Soft dodgers are typically made up of canvas or vinyl, but these are temporary or used on an as needed basis.

Hard dodgers are meant to be permanent and cost more money up front. The enclosed shell surrounding the cockpit, along with the laminated glass windows, protects your boat and offers a clear view for many years.

Benefits of a Hard Dodger

These dodgers offer the best combination of safety, comfort, and reliability. When sailing, you want to have the best of all three worlds and you want to protect your investment.

Protection Against All Conditions

Hard dodgers offer protection to the cockpit and companionways during inclement weather, high wind, or rough waves. Being protected by a hard dodger will be more comfortable during those situations, especially since you can hide under the hardcover.

Since you are underneath a hard dodger, you will be protected from the sun's rays as they will bounce off the top. As for soft dodgers, these will deteriorate over time with the harsh sun beating down on it, so you will be replacing these every so often if you do not remove them after each use.

Perfect View

Since the cockpit is enclosed and typically used laminated glass, you will have unobstructed views when sailing. In most soft dodgers, your view will be blocked by patches of canvas.

For hard dodgers that use laminated glass, these surfaces are easy to clean. If any mold or mildew attempts to form, it can easily be removed within a few seconds and you are back to clear views.


The structure of a hard dodger will offer many benefits for years to come. For example, the structure will serve its primary purpose to protect from weather or rough waves, but it also includes secure handholds to safely step down into the cockpit or when exiting.

In addition, it also provides temporary shelter when riding out tough waves or storms. Getting caught out in a situation when you do not have any dodger is bad enough, but a hard dodger can make rough situations more tolerable.

How Much Does a Hard Dodger Cost?

There are not a lot of hard dodger kits for sale online. Instead, you would need to contact a company that builds them specifically for your boat or do one yourself.

Some websites offer kits for soft dodgers that require a special sewing machine . However, you can see how much money you need to spend just for fancy fabric that you will likely need to replace over time.

When it comes to hard dodgers, doing it yourself will save you tons of money over the long haul. Depending on the size of your boat and the materials that you use, you will be spending anywhere between $2,000 and up.

The reason there is not a price cap is because you can essentially add anything to a hard dodger and use about any materials necessary to get the job done. For a rough estimate, expect to spend around $10,000 on average to have good quality for the long term.

To put this in perspective, you might not want a hard dodger if your boat is relatively cheaper. If you have a $100,000 sailboat, or simply want to improve the value of your current one, it might make sense to protect your investment with a hard dodger.

How to Build a Hard Dodger

To begin the process, it would be best to have a cardboard prototype with measurements of your hard dodger that you want to make. If you have an old dodger handy or something of relevance to the size you need, that is a great start.

Having measurements and something to go by is great, especially since you do not want to obstruct your view of the helm. You also want to allow room for movement in the cockpit and navigating in or out of it.

Making the Shell

Use cardboard or something you can easily bend and cut to help make your mold. You will also need tape and something easily bendable with the use of a heat gun like pvc water pipe for mounting points.

Once you have made the shell, simply apply it to your boat and view from all angles. This way you can see how the rough draft will apply in real time and to get a better picture of things to come.

Cut Plywood

Once you are happy with the shape of your mold, it is time to apply that to the shape of plywood. You can use heavy duty marine grade ⅜ inch plywood or regular construction grade.

If you use marine grade, it will stand up to water better if it ever gets wet. However, it is harder to bend and regular construction grade could work just as well.

Once you have made the cut to your plywood, you should test the fit to make sure it works. Simply make adjustments as needed.

Make Bending Frame

Now is the time to make a bending frame for the plywood core. You could use two 2x12 wooden planks with cross pieces that screw on. The planks should be spaced out roughly a third of the width of the dodger, or your fore-aft distance.

It is important to note that you need a leveler and measuring tape to properly check the cuts. Anything that is off just the slightest could result in a warped or bent dodger when the final product is bolted down.

Cut along the profile of the dodger’s bend into two sections of plywood. You will need to screw in the contour pieces to the planks.

You will also need to cut roughly a dozen or so blocks, but do not need all of them, to help stabilize the dodger core. These could be something like 3x3x1, which you will use to evenly distribute along the contour.

Make a mark that will be easy to see when identifying your center line. This will be useful when bolting everything down when applying the core to the frame.

Now you can apply the core to your frame to see if everything fits. When aligning the center of the core to the contour, make sure you can apply enough pressure to allow it to conform.

Once everything is in line, you can screw the core to the frame. Using your center line from earlier, you can easily see the midline of the core and the midline of the frame.

Apply Dodger to Boat

Once you have built the dodger frame, you can now test it out on your boat. Carefully move the completed frame over to your boat and align accordingly.

Bolt down the dodger to the boat with the aligned holes. After bolting down the dodger, make sure you have everything in line before you attempt to do anything else.

You have two options to consider at this point for the next step. You can either remove the dodger from the boat to finish the process in another location or leave it and do all the work from the boat. Keep in mind that leaving it on the boat will require you to work entirely from the boat for the next several days or longer.

Once you have completed installing your dodger and any additional panels that you see fit, you can move onto the clean up process that will add longevity to the dodger. If there are any small gaps, this is not a big deal assuming it does not interfere with the integrity of your structure.

If you have small holes or gaps, this can be filled later with epoxy or wood filler. Keep in mind that you want something that is going to be easy to sand. You are going to want a smooth surface later to apply a coat of sealant and paint.

In addition, look for areas along edges to apply fiberglass tape, epoxy, and edge reinforcements. This will make the finishing process easier and give it a cleaner look while also stabilizing the frame.

Additional Features

Before you begin adding glass and sealant to your hard dodger, this is a great time to add any additional features such as speakers, opening hatches, solar panels, or anything you desire. Now that you have the frame in place to your liking, it is easier to add these features than after it is completed.

You do not have to have everything a perfectly snug fit. This will all be covered later in the clean up process, so do not stress over small gaps.

If you see an opportunity to make holes bigger for electronics or other features, now is the time to do so. You will have plenty of opportunity to fill everything with paint and epoxy later.

Adding Fiberglass

With the dodger perfectly in place, now is the time to add fiberglass. You should install temporary support systems to avoid any shape distortions wherever you are going to place the fiberglass. This is as simple as using tape, cloth, and your favorite epoxy.

Once you have installed the fiberglass, you need to make sure every corner or gap is filled. Simply continue to use epoxy in places where it is needed and remember that you can sand any excess later.

Sanding, Painting, and Applying Dodger

One of the most rewarding steps is to clean up the dodger. All of the love labor you have poured into this project now gets the flavor to suit your taste.

Finish sanding down the dodger and clean up any areas to provide a smooth surface. You also need to make sure there are not any unlevel spots, so using a fair compound to fill in these areas will need time to cure and sand later.

After you have sanded to perfection, you can paint the dodger to any color of your liking. For simplicity, most people stick to white.

The paint will need to be either an oil-based rust-proof paint or a single-component polyurethane. Whichever one you choose, you need to continue using that specific application or it will not stick properly over time. If you do not like that particular application, you would need to sand it all off and start again.

The easiest to use is an oil-based paint that is marine grade, or at least stands tough in water. This paint also works well when you want to apply a thing coat to give your dodger a fresh look over time.

If you have intentions of standing on top of your dodger, it would be wise to add some form of non-skid. This could be crushed walnut shells or sand over several coats of paint. Without non-skid, your dodger top will be like ice if you plan to step on it.

Once everything is painted, you can add the dodger to your boat if you had chosen to work at another location. Whether you are bolting it down now or previously in the process, make sure your bolts are heavy duty and rated for rough conditions.

Related Articles

Born into a family of sailing enthusiasts, words like “ballast” and “jibing” were often a part of dinner conversations. These days Jacob sails a Hallberg-Rassy 44, having covered almost 6000 NM. While he’s made several voyages, his favorite one is the trip from California to Hawaii as it was his first fully independent voyage.

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The Canvas Works, Sausalito, San Francisco Logo

Hardtop Dodgers – The Next Big Thing in Sailing

Hardtop Dodgers – The Next Big Thing in Sailing

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?

dodger 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

dodger sailboat

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

dodger sailboat

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

dodger sailboat

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

dodger sailboat

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?

dodger sailboat

  • 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

dodger sailboat

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?

dodger sailboat

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?

dodger sailboat

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

Should you have questions, we welcome the opportunity to hear from you. Give us a call so we can walk you through your next dodger project 413.331.6527 or Inquire Online .

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  • Call 415.331.6527
  • Email [email protected]
  • Location The Canvas Works 41c Liberty Ship Way Sausalito, CA 94965

dodger sailboat

Dodgers, Biminis & Enclosures

Dodgers, Biminis & Enclosures

dodger sailboat

“We are very pleased with the bimini and full enclosure panels you installed on our Jeanneau 35 last summer. The fit is remarkably precise, and the quality of materials and workmanship are both very high. Many thanks for making the treks to Collingwood to measure the boat and install the canvas!” – John, Jeanneau 35

Dodgers (Sailboat & Powerboat)

dodger sailboat

Our Natty Dodgers are built to stand the test of time.

You might call it expertise or experience, but at Genco we simply think of it as being dedicated to our craft. Our robust Natty Dodgers are built to last, by master craftsman. On premises.

We’ve seen styles come and go since we first opened our business in 1965, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the attention to detail we use in creating our superior sailboat and powerboat dodgers We still use the same rugged, colourfast Sunbrella for all of our dodgers along with stainless steel arches, top of the line stainless fittings and YKK zippers. You simply won’t find a higher quality dodger anywhere.

dodger sailboat

Our Natty design is the product of years of experience, 45+ years to be precise! In over four decades, we’ve covered literally thousands of sailboats and powerboats in our premium quality canvas products. And while we don’t want to take the air out of our competition’s sails, we can honestly say there isn’t a lot that Genco doesn’t know about canvas for your boat.

dodger sailboat

We offer an extensive list of patterns and templates for a wide variety of boats and we’re always on the lookout to expand the options available to our customers and continually come up with new designs for new boat models. No matter what kind of boat you have, whether it’s a classic you’ve cherished for years or it’s the latest boat on the market, Genco has you covered. Request a quote today or stop by one of our locations to discuss how we can help you. We look forward to working with you and meeting your boating needs.

The Natty Dodger System

dodger sailboat

Biminis & Enclosures (Sailboat & Powerboat)

dodger sailboat

Our Biminis and Enclosures share the same long history as our Dodgers. Since 1965, thousands of uncompromising boaters have made Genco a premiere choice for biminis and enclosures. We’ve learned and refined the best ways to protect boaters from the elements.

dodger sailboat

Although we have seen styles and designs come and go over the years, at Genco we still use the same Sunbrella for all of our boat covers. Why? Because we don’t believe in changing something that has proven it can withstand the test of time. Each of our high quality covers is produced from rugged, coloufast Sunbrella and features stainless steel framework, fittings and fasteners with YKK zippers. The result is a high quality product that will provide you with years of comfort and protection. Whether you’re sailing the high seas or taking a pleasure cruise, our biminis and enclosures will stay right on course with you.

dodger sailboat

Whether your boat has been part of the family for years or you have recently acquired one of the latest designs, at Genco we have your bimini and enclosure needs covered. We offer an extensive list of patterns and templates for a wide variety of boats. Each year we expand that catalog as we develop new designs based on new boat models. No matter what type of boat you may have, it’s safe to say we can cover your needs.

Send us a message to receive your quote today!


Sailor-friendly sailboat dodger designs

dodger sailboat

I have been a sailor longer than I have been a marine fabricator. In fact, being a sailor is how I got into this business. I often hear from fellow fabricators that the client is not always right, but when it comes to dodger design, it is important to listen to the client’s desires. 

A dodger is an important feature of a sailboat that can greatly enhance the sailing experience. It is an essential component in providing protection from the elements for the companionway and cockpit area. When done correctly, it will complement the overall look of the boat and function well. When done poorly, it can be an eyesore and a nuisance. According to the sailors I spoke with, here are the most important features of a dodger:

  • It provides protection from the weather.
  • It offers a good line of sight.
  • It enables easy companionway access. 
  • It provides airflow. 
  • It does not interfere with sailing.

This article will help you understand how to achieve a great dodger design that your clients will love.

dodger sailboat

Dodger styles

There are two basic dodger types: a traditional dodger and a California dodger. 

A traditional dodger is fabricated all in one piece that is seamed across the front bow of the frame. It will typically have a front center roll-up window and a more rounded frame. I use a custom 18-inch radius bender to achieve this look. 

A California dodger will have a fabric top with anywhere from two to five removable panels. It will feature a flatter frame and will typically provide better all-around visibility. It very much resembles a small bimini with an enclosure. California dodgers are increasing in popularity; however, traditional dodgers are still commonly found on classic boats.

dodger sailboat

Determine the right style

Determining the right dodger style for your clients depends on a variety of factors. Asking the following questions can help you assess the pros and cons of both dodger styles and guide your clients to the right decision.

How do the clients use their boat? For example, clients who use the boat for both cruising and racing may want to fold down and/or remove the dodger during races. A traditional dodger can be designed to fold down, although folding clear vinyl repeatedly will damage it well before the end of its life. In this scenario, a California dodger with removable panels might be a better option. 

dodger sailboat

What type of climate are they sailing in? If your client sails in an area with significant temperature changes, having the ability to remove some or all of the panels to increase airflow provides maximum flexibility unlike a traditional dodger with only a single center panel to roll up. 

What is most aesthetically pleasing to both the client and the boat? Classic boats, which typically have a narrower beam, look better with a traditional dodger. Newer boats with wider beams look better with a California dodger, which has a flatter frame. 

How wide is the cabin top? Can your client easily see around the sides? If not, a traditional dodger may impede visibility too much, and a California-style dodger might be the better option. 

Will they be storing the dodger during the off-season? If so, a one-piece traditional dodger might be a lot for some to wrestle on and off the boat. California-style dodgers not only offer easier handling but also store flat. 

dodger sailboat

Design for functionality 

Clearance, clearance, clearance. This cannot be stressed enough. Your clearance design can create a great sailing experience or an unpleasant one. Two very important aspects of sailing are the winches and traveler line.  

Winches are often mounted on the combing in the cockpit or on the cabin top and often have an 8-to-10-inch removable handle. It is very important to ensure a 360-degree rotational clearance for the handle. A second consideration is the clearance between a winch and/or cleats mounted on the combing and dodger wings for entering and exiting the cockpit area. Although not always possible, try to design with ample distance between them to avoid a tripping hazard. In both scenarios, a scalloped wing may be the way to go to provide clearance while still maintaining a good design. 

The traveler line will run from forward of the dodger windshield into the cockpit on each side and, in some cases (not all), may require an upward lift motion of several inches. When it does, clearance can be provided by aligning with the vertical zipper connection of two panels or by creating a vertical slit directly into the clear vinyl. A cleaner installation is running the line through a fairlead on the cabin top and through the dodger windshield using a small circular entry point, such as a large grommet. This avoids the need for a large slit in the windshield.

dodger sailboat

Height considerations

The last thing you want is for your clients to be hitting their heads every time they get in and out of the companionway or having the dodger frame land at exactly eye level. Most often, I find clients want to see through the dodger rather than over the dodger, which allows them to sail with a connector for additional shade. With taller clients, it can be a challenge to balance this without making the dodger appear boxy or more like a tugboat than a sailboat.

To counter this, consider these design moves:  

Maximize the forward and aft length of the dodger top. The longer this length, the shorter the dodger will appear. It is good practice to extend the aft edge of the dodger a few inches past the aft opening of the companionway, particularly for boats without a connector. It will help prevent rainwater from dripping directly on top of or into the companionway.  

dodger sailboat

Increase the amount of crown. In most cases, for aesthetic reasons, I look to match the crown of the frame with the “crown” of the cabin top. To accommodate a taller dodger, adding more crown allows maximum height in the center while decreasing the height moving toward the sides, which also makes it appear slightly shorter. 

Avoid a boxy or straight up-and-down look. This can be done by increasing the rake of the front windshield and/or decreasing the shoulder width of the frame from the mounting point. When decreasing the shoulder width, be careful to still allow proper clearance for any cabin top winches and handles. You will also need to ensure the dodger will both fit under the boom and have proper clearance for the mainsheet, which often runs close to parallel with the windshield, possibly extending over the top of the dodger. It is very important to have your client set the boom in “sailing position.” Many clients will raise the boom height when in port. 

dodger sailboat

My last piece of advice is to be creative! A dodger is an excellent project for letting your creativity shine. A dodger should look like it was an original part of the boat design and not an add-on. Features like scalloped wings, rounded window corners mimicking the shape of the port windows and details created with stitching and fabrics are all great ways to set your dodger apart from others.  

Keri Ames is the owner, fabricator and instructor at Yachtsman’s Canvas and Marine Canvas Training. She has trained extensively with Mark and Deb Hood of Hood Marine Canvas Consulting in Rhode Island and Dave Elliot of David’s Custom Trimmers, Brisbane, Australia. She has received multiple MFA Excellence Awards for her dodgers.

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dodger sailboat

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