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Boat upholstery takes a beating as in no other especially here in the Pacific Northwest. We get baking sun that dries out vinyl which then cracks; we get rain in torrents that soaks into stitching and rots it; we get dry rot that makes the wood seat frames weaker; and we get winter freezing temperatures that make damp foam padding in to dust. Frankly, even though we boat owners do try to beat the elements, weather is an enemy which does win out. Colours fade and while some products promise they’ll ‘restore like new’, there comes a time when even they won’t work and the only course is to replace.

The answer, of course, is don’t let it happen in the first place: cover your boat at all times and keep it stored in a heated area and, the ultimate, don’t use your boat ever. However, we do use our boats and such extreme methods sort of miss the point we do. Boy, do we ever. We go out in weather that makes some others sit around and drink cocoa to keep warm. We’re out there when it’s dazzling bright and hotter than the hinges of Hades. That’s what makes our boat upholstery take a beating.

At Brigantine Marine Group’s canvas and upholstery division what we’ve learned about upholstery replacement and repair is it’s an investment not only in present use but in resale. I said this about canvas and it’s true about upholstery: if that’s cracked and faded, the rest of the boat looks less value. Point: if you’re selling your boat get the upholstery refinished – the amount spent on this is invariably less than the increase value of the boat for resale. It’s the boat equivalent of improving the kitchen and bathrooms when selling a house.

Our upholstery crew at Brigantine Marine can – it’s your choice – make up replacement seating with cheaper materials but in doing so, you’re undercutting yourself. Longer lasting UV protected vinyl does cost a fraction more but that fraction makes a considerable difference. The material takes a stitch better (we use marine grade thread that won’t rot) and if your seats have tufted buttons then cheaper materials frankly don’t make it since they’ll be the first to go. Trust me on that.

Our head seamstress, Valerie, has more than 20 years experience in boat upholstery and, in all truth, she’s the person you should talk with. She doesn’t pull punches when asked what’s best for your boat. Valerie was instrumental in Brigantine Marine Group choosing material and suppliers that met her standards and she set the bar high.

About cost. As always it depends on what you want done, how much you want done and what materials you choose. I realize that’s not a definitive answer but there’s many variables starting with if we have to replace stuff down the bare bones or not. However, that said, most replacement is of the covering with few having to go into extensive work.

About timing. During the summer when it’s peak boating time we get swamped. We have to say some larger jobs we can’t take on until we have time and that we can’t take in even simpler work. So the best time is off-season time. That’s now and through the winter months when your boat’s out of the water. What that means in reality is you can trailer you boat over to us and, because you’re not rushed, neither are we.

To sum this up. The weakest link in a boat’s appearance is the upholstery. With that faded and cracked you boat isn’t what you want it to be and, if you’re selling, same to the prospective buyer. Even if you’re not selling, wonky upholstery where someone sitting gets a wet rear end because the stitching has allowed water into the foam padding isn’t what you want.

As always, if you have questions, call me or Rob Bruch our CEO or Marie our parts manager at 604-530-2497 for more skinny on what we can do. However, if you’re in the areas of our store at 216th and Fraser in Langley, ask to talk with Valerie about what’s right for your boat. Lordy, that woman doesn’t accept ‘adequate’.

Michael Read, president, Brigantine Marine Group.
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