Tiger Talk BY JOHN TIGER JTIGERJR@HOTMAIL.COM Cover Up: Boat Cover Buying in an Online World I n-season or in storage, your boat should absolutely be covered when you’re not using it, to protect it from the elements. In any weather, the cover protects the boat’s finish, interior, and instruments from weather degradation, and helps keep critters out as well. In summer, the cover also helps keep water out, so if your boat’s kept in the water, you don’t find it on the lake bottom after every rainstorm. Online Or Local? If you’re in need, how should you shop? These days, it’s standard practice to search online first, whether you plan to buy online or local. But that brings up the question — where can you get a better boat cover, locally or online? Owners of popular late model brand-name boats like Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Chaparral, Malibu, Glastron, Wellcraft, Larson, and many others have a great advantage as many online retailers sell custom fitted covers for these hulls at greatly discounted prices. In fact, many share the same “search engine” mechanism so that while the home pages of many of these websites look different, the search function is the same. Simply go online, type “boat covers” into your search engine, and you’ll instantly see dozens of sites to choose from. Type in your year/make/ model, and chances are good there’s a cover for your rig for less than half of what it would cost to get a high-quality cover made at a local custom canvas shop. Even popular bass and walleye fishing boats, as well as tournament ski hulls, are usually “covered”. These custom covers, by and large, fit pretty well because they’re designed for that particular boat. It’s pure supply and demand; the more popular the boat, the more likely the cover will fit properly. For those with lesser-known brands and older models, buying a cover from an online/catalog vendor gets a lot tougher, and very chancy. Most vendors have what they generously term “semi-custom” covers available, listed under generic headings like “ski boat”, “bass boat” and “runabout”. This means they “sort of” fit. Here’s where a local custom shop will be a much better choice; you’ll pay more, but get a much better cover. They’ll even designate each “best use”, such as inside storage (like a dust cover) or outside, trailering, mooring, etc. Buy the cover that best suits your intended use. If your boat stays outside year-round, then spend the bucks to buy a higher-grade cover; it’ll last longer and protect your investment better. If you have a “garage queen” that sees the light of day only when you use it then goes back into hibernation, a lesser-quality cover to keep the dust off will do just fine. Generally, well-known fabrics like Sunbrella will last longest, wear less, and protect the boat better. What’s It Made Of? Check material qualities before you buy. Most online resellers have material quality charts to show you which covers repel water best, last longer, are good for travel, and resist UV-ray deterioration. For a cockpit or other specialty covers, like box covers, seat covers or dash/equipment covers, you’ll have to work with a local shop. For specialty boats like this pontoon and wakeboard boat, a custom cover shop is the likely place to go. This pontoon cover sold for just under $1000, custom-fitted by a local canvas shop. 16 GREATLAKESSCUTTLEBUTT.COM March & April 2017 Custom top shops like M & J in Hampton, Virginia make covers the old fash-ioned way, by hand.