Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In The Shade with ShadeTree Awnings

He that will enjoy the brightness of sunshine, must quit the coolness of the shade. -Samuel Johnson

I'm not going to lie.  Our relationship with our ShadeTree awnings got off to a bit of a rocky start.  When we first received them we were...concerned.  They seemed huge.  We had ordered two awnings in total, one for the bow and one for the stern.  The boxes each measured 10x10x36 and the awnings inside weren't much smaller.  Already strapped for space, we were leery as to whether these were going to work out.

And it got worse (but it gets better - so don't stop here!).

First let me explain a few things:  it's important to note that the ShadeTree awnings are set up much like a tent, with collapsible tent poles and all.  They are "custom" made for your boat based on your measurements. Second, shade is absolutely necessary down here.  Having your boat covered can potentially lower the temperature in the cabin by eight to ten degrees, not to mention make your cockpit area bearable.  Life is much, much more comfortable ten degrees cooler down in the Southern Caribbean!

A few weeks ago, Scott and I made our first attempt at "operation awning".  We unfolded the one for the bow and got to work.  The directions were a little vague and left something to be desired.  We weren't sure which end of the awning to put forward and which to put aft.  The tent poles were different lengths and there was no way to tell what pole went where which led to us learning by trial and error.  It got frustrating to say the least.  It was also noon, unbelievably hot, and we hadn't had any lunch yet (have you ever been around a hungry pregnant lady?  Be afraid, be very afraid).  We threw our arms up and called it a day, bagging the awning back up while we cursed it.

I was devastated.

Then yesterday came and Scott and I knew we needed to do something about the temperature of our boat.  We could not take a hot cabin any longer.   The awnings were still sitting in the aft cabin and we thought that before we went giving up on them, we had to try again.  We un-bagged them both and this time we started with the 'main' awning (the one that covers the boom).  I don't know if it was a full moon the during our first attempt or what, but this time - it was a piece of cake.  A piece of cake, I tell you!  To set up both awnings took us a total of 45 minutes, which is just over 20 minutes an awning and nary a curse word was uttered.  We are so thrilled with the result - not only does the awning look sharp, but the cabin temperature is definitely cooler.  Put it this way, I'm not sweating typing this.  And typically, even typing on the boat makes me sweat.  No joke.

How do they measure up?  Here's my honest opinion.

  • Directions need some fine-tuning.  Marking which tent poles go in which pocket would help tremendously (some of the tent poles are different lengths).
  • They are not cheap.  We got a very good price on our awnings because of this blog, but even still they were an investment.  HOWEVER, I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for".  Scott and I tried a regular old tarp before (very cheap) and the sun and wind ate it right up within three weeks.  
  • The tent poles don't float, so you must be very careful working with them so they don't fall overboard.
  • The tent pole "pockets" don't seem as sturdy as the rest of the awning - we think these might be the weak spot, but don't know as ours haven't been time-tested.
  • While they are compact, they are not small and you must allocate space for them.
  • The awning is clearly made out of top of the line, very durable material that will not be eaten by the sun (didn't know the sun could 'eat'? Trust me, the sun eats everything down here!).
  • Once assembled the awnings are tall enough to walk under making it almost completely non-invasive.
  • They come with these great additional bungee clips so you can "tweak" your awning and shape it "just right".  They are very easy to use and also marine-grade (like everything else).
  • Once you get the hang of it, they are relatively easy and intuitive to set up.
  • They make a difference.  Our cabin feels at least 10 degrees cooler than it did before.  Plus, the shape of the awnings funnels air through them so there seems to be more breeze around the boat.
  • The staff at Shadetree are incredibly friendly and responsive.  Our awnings arrived just three weeks after we ordered them (they'd be quicker in the US).
  • We can leave our hatches open when it rains!  No more open, close, open, close every time a little rain shower blows through (though I'm sure we'd still have to close them for a torrential downpour).
Looking forward
Looking aft
 Overall - we are thrilled with our awnings and they make life much, much cooler.  For more information on Shadetree awnings, go here.

Brittany & Scott


Ernesto said...

Hey guys,

What about those pesky squalls? Do these awnings look like they can take a few minutes of 30- to 40-knot winds?

Windtraveler said...

@Ernesto, if there was a 30-40 knot squall coming through, I don't know many people who would leave their awnings up. Since we have been in the harbor in Grenada we have had only one very sudden (and unpredicted) squall of 50 knot winds and LOTS of people lost awnings. We would always take this down in the event that weather was on the way - and we would NEVER have this up underway!!

Anonymous said...

Have you looked at putting some sort of bobber on your poles? Maybe even something decorative, so that if/when they go overboard you can still get them. With my luck that would happen.


SailFarLiveFree said...

How difficult (or easy) is it to put the awnings up and down for sailing? I'm sure my kids would love turning our deck into a play fort with some ShadeTree awnings!

Anonymous said...

This is off topic, however I just read your kindle post. Big fan, have had one for a couple of years. Also a big fan of true passage stories. Go to Gutenburg and search for the author Sir Ernest Scott. His book on Matthew Flinders in incredible. This man was the real life Hornblower, fought in the Battle of the Nile, Came to NSW, with Bass circumnavigated Tasmania, mapped the coast from Sydney to Adelaide, circumnavigated Australia and gave us our name, Bass then left to go pirating and was never heard from again, shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef and built an open boat to return to Sydney and although half dead from exposure returned to rescue all of the wreck survivors, The book also talks about Sydney being centre for pirate activity. The Govenor even wrote a letter stating that England had to take action as in the previous week 9 seized boats had arrived in Sydney and the colony was awash with goods to the extent that business' were unable to compete. This was also seen as one of the reasons Spain joined France against England.

Hope you enjoy.


Jan and David said...

Kim - we've had our Shadetree awnings for about 10 years now. We are "commuter cruisers", so our Shadetree's go up every summer for a few months to protect the boat. They've been up through some vicious squalls in the Rio Dulce and Bocas Del Toro. We haven't lost one yet - the flexible tent poles bend in the breeze and the entire shadetree collapses on the windward side, but so far hasn't broken. I'm sure at some point they'd go, just we haven't seen it yet. The biggest problem we have with them is that the forwardmost tent pole tends to break frequently - we replace it every few years. But that's pretty inexpensive. Also we had them restitched in the Rio Dulce, and now they're good as new ... well, almost. BTW, you're right about the pockets being a weak point. Jan, s/v Winterlude,

Deb said...

We ended up with a large quantity of aircraft dacron in 1.8oz weight and made a couple sun shades for our boat. I bought some edging from Sailrite and we used their plastic clutches and webbing to make straps to hook it on. All the covers for our 42ft boat fold up into a space about 10" x 12" x 18", are extremely lightweight and set up in less than 10 minutes. The fabric has to be washed in super hot water before you use it because it's designed to shrink with an iron when used to cover airplanes. It's also not UV resistant but can be sprayed with a UV spray. The big advantage besides the light weight factor is the price - you can get it from Aircraft Spruce for $3.85 a linear yard at 60" wide. These covers have worked out really well for us so far. I've also thought about getting some rip-stop nylon in a super light weight to try whenever we need to do another set.

S/V Kintala

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