Making A New Dodger


How to make a dodger following Sailrite's easy instructionsReplacing the dodger on Chancelot has been high up on the list since we bought the boat a year (!) ago. The plastic was brown and drying out, and the canvas was so misshapen it only attached to the deck in two or three places. While we survived the winter aboard, the dodger, sadly thankfully, did not. The cold air took its toll and the nasty brown plastic cracked and fell apart. We finally just chucked the whole thing in the dumpster.

I started by reading through Sailrite’s How to Make A Dodger instruction booklet to remind myself of all the steps. Making a dodger isn’t exactly the easiest canvas work you can do, but this was going to be my third dodger, so I knew what I was getting myself in to. We started by adjusting the frame. We didn’t like the shape or height of the current set up. We wanted the frame to be slightly taller so we could get in and out easier, and the back edge to not come so far over the companion way. We also added support arms so that the frame was freestanding without the canvas on it. We got these really great feet for the frame that have spring loaded pegs to keep everything secure. So much better than the screws!

Next up was making a pattern for the new set up.

With the pattern made, I headed to the lounge to cut the fabric (Sunbrella Marine Fabric in Captain Navy). It is just too difficult to roll out fabric in the salon and make sure the fabric lays straight while you draw out each piece. I was excited to finally use my new hot knife! The hot knife seals in the edges of the fabric so they don’t frey. However, the edge become quite sharp so be careful! The hot knife also smokes quite a bit. I was afraid I’d set off the fire alarm and ruin the wedding going on upstairs. I kept letting the knife cool down between cuts, just in case. For the windows I went with Strataglass. That stuff is a beast to cut! My hands hurt so much after each pass.

Homemade dodger using Sailrite's Dodger instructions
Even though the dodger is taller, the big windows make it take up less space visually
A new dodger can make a big difference to your sailing vessel
The glass is so clear it doesn’t even look like anything is there! The little nooks on either side of the companion way are a nice area to hide from the wind or passing shower. I’m going to add cockpit organizers to the support poles for loose sunglasses, binoculars, and water bottles.

With all the pieces cut, it was time to start sewing. I generally followed Sailrite’s guide, but made a few adjustments. First, I didn’t install the windows until the very end. I find it so easy to scratch them that I didn’t want to risk it. Second, we decided to use awning tracks to attach it to the deck over snaps or posts. Zippers are attached to the awning bolt rope so that the dodger easily zips in place. This helps ensure an even pull the entire length of the dodger as opposed to in set points where snaps or posts are installed. Third, I added a naugahyde reinforcement to both the top aft edge and the edge along the bottom for reinforcement.

Follow Sailrite's Dodger instructions to make your own dodger
The little tabs will have snaps on them to pull the side panels down taught. The cut out lets the spinnaker line through to the cockpit winch. Still debating if I want to add another snap to the forward bottom corner of the side curtain so it’s nice and taught looking as well.
The center panel easily rolls up to let the wind through to the cockpit on warm days

It came together relatively quickly after all the prep work was done. I still have to make the cover for the windows, but the overall dodger is complete. It is truly amazing what being able to see out your windows can make! I forgot what it was like. Its so nice to sail with the new dodger too. I no longer have to stand on my tippy toes to see over the dodger, I can just look through it. Up next, a new bimini! The dodger is definitely one of the more complicated canvas work projects so that should be a piece of cake. Now that everyone has seen my handy work I’ve gotten so many work requests that I’ve had to turn down. Everyone has been telling me how much they’ve paid just to get their canvas work repaired, not even replaced. Man I could make a killing up here! If only I didn’t have a day job…

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  1. Fantastic job Kelley! Fortunately, our canvas is in really good shape so I don’t need to tackle a project of this magnitude just yet. It really seems daunting to do it yourself, but the cost savings are definitely worth it.

  2. This is great! Ours isn’t too bad, but our Bimini sags, etc and we want to switch from blue to tan canvas…
    I’m thinking of just reusing the new strata glass and using the current dodger as a pattern. My hang up? Zippers. 😬

    • Don’t use as a pattern! It’s really not difficult to pattern one out new and you’re sure to get the right fit. Sailrite has a great video tutorial.