Weather Cloths – A Joint Effort

The Captain requested weather cloths for the fly bridge. So far we are using the fly bridge to store the dinghy and host the solar panels.  Maybe we could reduce the look of the “backyard” with some weather cloths. (I’ve seen various names for these, such as lee cloths, spray cloths, dodgers, rail covers, rail skirts, trunks, spray curtains, etc. Some terms might be more fitting when these are made for an aft cockpit sailboat. I’ll be calling them weather cloths.) This turned into a joint project as the Captain fashioned the attachment scheme to the stantions, while I constructed the fabric pieces and designed the lacing for the top. We are happy with the outcome, especially when viewed from far away! As usual there are a few things that aren’t perfect, but that’s for me to know. Here’s my take on this project.

Basically, to make DIY weather cloths you are designing and making very large rectangles with some angles to deal with. Do you want acrylic fabric like Sunbrella or mesh style Phifertex? Consider if you will go around any corners? Have any openings? How much space do you want at the top and bottom.  We left about 2″ at the bottom to allow for water drainage.  I chose grommets for lacing at the top and a bottom casing hem for securing the bottom to the stantions. More on that. You could also finish by sewing on facings. Ideally, have more than two layers for strength for the grommets. I spent approximately 10 hours on construction and fitting. The Captain spent 5 hours designing and installing the attachment system.  The cost was under $350 for fabric, grommets and hardware.

I’d suggest deciding on your attachment process first. There are several options. You might have a toe rail on a sailboat to attach to or you might add eye bolts to the base for lacing the bottom.  We decided to attach a 1″ aluminum rod through a bottom hem casing. The rod is screwed into a clamp that goes around the stantions. We saw a similar design on another Krogen, although they screwed the aluminum rod into the stantion. A big requirement for us was no new holes in the boat. You could also attach with bungee cord, wire, zip ties or as a Sailrite video suggests snaps on the cloth edge that goes over the top rail. That’s an elegant solution but we decided against it because we tie off lines to secure the boom/dinghy hoist on the rail when the dinghy is down.

Attached base rail to stantions with this clamp.








The construction of the cloths themselves is not technically hard but requires managing a large amount of fabric.  I rolled it every few feet as I was sewing. 


Keep rollin’

I measured, marked, cut and ironed both cloths for about three hours on the dock at Ladys Island Marina in Beaufort, SC. I used double hems at the top and four times fold for hem at bottom so that when we slide the aluminum rod in it would be less likely to rip.


Aluminum rod, clamps, screws

Zip ties/tie wraps, dyke cutters

Sunbrella, thread and sewing supplies (markers, seam ripper, hot knife, iron)

Stainless steel grommets

Line 250 feet

Measure height at several points. This is especially important if there is an angle to deal with.  Measure length at top and at base. It would be a good idea to pattern this if you are trying to get the fit very tight. We decided we’d be ok since we were leaving wiggle room at the top, bottom and sides.

Mark fabric with details such as “top forward port side” so the inside is clearly marked. Mark your hem turn lines for ease of ironing or finger pressing in the hems.

Sew side seams.

Sew doubled hem at the top to withstand grommets.

Add grommets every 8″ or so.

Test fit using large clamps or tie wraps

Sew doubled casing for hem. Wanted it sturdy to hold the aluminum rod and screws.

Fit on with tie wraps. I marked and added a very large dart on the starboard aft corner.


I watched a few videos but ended up with my own lacing design. If it doesn’t hold up, we can try the others. Measure about twice the length of the area you are lacing. I started in the middle and halved the line. With the middle of the line I inserted a loop from the inside to the outside, pulled it over the top rail and took one end through the loop (hold the extra line in small loops to manage the extra line). Leave the other half of the line aside for now. Take the line you pulled though the loop to the next grommet and put a loop from the inside to the outside through the grommet, bring it around the top rail and pull the end of the line through the loop. Now take the end of the line around the loop. Repeat till the end.  Bringing the line around the loop will keep it from pulling towards the next grommet and tighten it. You can go around the standing stanchion to tighten or just go behind it. Watch that the loop is straight and you don’t get a twist in it as you go. It’s a pain to find a twist later and redo it believe me. Try to stay tight as possible as you go and watch that there aren’t any puckers on the cloth that need adjustment. At the end I added three half hitches.  This gives you a double line through the grommet and a clean look on the outside as the line between the grommets is on the inside.


Sailrite has a video with a different attachment design using a cover that comes over the rail and snaps on, which was very nice but we wanted a more traditional nautical look and to be able to still attach lines to the rail.

Blogs and marine canvas samples:


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