When you’re on your boat, your dinghy is like your car; it’s how you get to shore or to neighboring boats for sundowners. As an important piece of your boating equipment, you’ll want to keep it in good working order. Inflatable dinghies, which feature rubber inflatable tubes, are a popular style. Protect the tubes from harmful UV rays and chafe with dinghy chaps, which are like a leave-on cover on the topside of the tubes. Every dinghy is slightly unique, so the best way to get a precise fit is to have them custom-made. We recently sewed up a set of dinghy chaps for Jim Grant’s dinghy for his Islander 37 sailboat. Watch our step-by-step video to learn how to pattern and sew your own custom dinghy chaps.
The key to getting well-fitted dinghy chaps is careful patterning. We used 12 gauge Plastipane clear vinyl as a pattern material for this project. The clear vinyl was a little sticky against the vinyl of the dinghy, so it stayed in place well while patterning. We also let a tiny bit of air out of the dinghy when we patterned, to ensure a snug finished fit when fully inflated.
We used Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric for the main body of our dinghy chaps, with Shelter-Rite vinyl for chafe protection patches. At the aft end of each tube we switched the material to Phifertex Mesh to help promote water drainage at the rear of the boat. This is an especially good idea for dinghies that plane at faster speeds.
The chaps are secured to the dinghy via a leech line drawstring around the outer edge of the cover that is cinched in place. On the inside of the dinghy, we attached the cover with snaps and YKK® SNAD fastener studs installed directly onto the side of the dinghy.
- Plastipane 12 Gauge Vinyl
- Sunbrella Marine Grade Fabric (we used Jockey Red)
- Phifertex Vinyl Mesh (we used Grey)
- Seamstick 3/8″ Basting Tape for Canvas
- Thread V-92 Polyester or Profilen Lifetime Thread
- Shelter-Rite Vinyl (we used Grey)
- #1 Nickel Spur Grommet
- 1/8” Dacron Leechline
- Stainless Steel Strap Eye
- Flat Head Screw 6 x 1/2″
- Micro Marine Ratchet with 1/8″ Rope 2 SS Hooks
- YKK® SNAD® Clear 25mm Adhesive Backed Flexible Base Stud
- Snap Fastener Buttons and Sockets
You can find all the materials needed to make custom chaps for your dinghy at Sailrite.com.
Have you made your own dinghy chaps before? Do you have any tips to share on the process? Leave us a comment and share your experiences.