Dodger Sticker Shock!
Just became the proud owner of a Ericson 34 located in the San Francisco Bay area. It came without a dodger and since the Summer winds here can be quite robust, I figured my first purchase would be a dodger. Called some ads I saw in Lat 38 and a few numbers the harbor master gave me for a quote and STICKER SHOCK! Prices ran from $2800 to $3500. At least twice what I thought it would be. Yes I did want 1” SS tubing and cover panels for the windows and ok grab rails on the side but still $3500!
So I am looking for other options. Has anybody seen and tried dodger kits or ‘do it your self kits’ or how hard was it to make your own? Any great web sites that may help?
Input will be much appreciated.
While the price may seem high at first glance, it doesn't seem that out of line with the work required.
Thats close to what I've been quoted. Same specs; 1" stainless, full covers, connecting panel to bimini, hand holds, etc etc. If you have a sewing machine and are good, you can do it yourself. But if you had a sewing machine you probably wouldn't be asking this question.
And a Bimini will cost you almost as much if you decide to add one.
Well let's see.
$3500 ? I could buy about 7 sets of wet weather gear and 15 umbrellas.
I've just run into the same problem. Following advice on this website I looked up Sailrite.com and I think I'm going to go that way. They have sewing machines, instructional videos and kits as well as all the other materials needed for canvas work. Just what I need, another hobby.
The truth is, I bought a boat new to me last fall that needs tons of canvas work, probably as much or more than ten grand. I can cut that to about one third by making my own, and since I'm retired, I have the time. The bimini I want has been quoted to me at between $2K and $3K. The kit sells for $705, everything included. I'm sure it won't be easy, and the sewing machine costs $850 up front, but I should recover that on the bimini alone.
Some price points:
I have a 42' sloop and have replaced dodger (in 2004) and built a new bimini frame and top (1994) while in the BVI. Costs were:
Bimini frame - BVI $400 1994
Bimini top - BVI $572 1994
Dodger - Annapolis $1485 2004
A pic of both can be seen here: Gallery :: Miscellaneous 2007 :: SBF_0126
As can be seen in the pic, they're both still in good condition after 14 years and 4 years, respectively. The Bimini top has been restitched once (in 2004, when the Dodger was built).
The first quote for a Bimini frame in the BVI was well over $1,200. I got a "second opinion" and went to a local metal shop, run by a Brit, and known to be good. Tony came down to the boat, measured, said he could build and install a good frame for $400. Two days later it was done.
Moral: shop around.
Some things to consider..
Read this to gain a better understanding of what a custom made dodger entails..
Hale Kai Dodger Project
The price is in line with the amount of work required. Oh and I would suggest not wasting your money on a pre-fab dodger. You want a custom made dodger or you most likely won't be happy. Custom made will run about 20% more but be well worth it...
Here are some questions to ask:
Tubing: You want 316 thick wall! Not type 304 thin wall. All 1" or 7/8" stainless tubing is NOT the same.
Thread: You WANT a thread that will last as long as the Sunbrella. W.L. Gore's Tenara is the only thread that will do this..
Grab Rail's: Side and cockpit make sure the cockpit rail is welded on.
Windows: Strataglass or equivalent. All 30 mil and 40 mil windows are NOT created equal!
Center Window: A full zip out window is a great option as you can lay it in the v-berth to prevent scratching the glass. Rolling windows up is one of the worst things you can do for dodger glass.
Design: Your canvas guy should spend time with you ON the boat and then design the dodger to YOUR preferences. For example; do you want to look under the dodger or look over the top. When the frame is bent this data needs to be there or you'll be staring at the dodger frame when standing a the helm. Have your dodger built so you NEVER need to fold it. Folding a dodger is the single worst thing you can do for it!!
Lapels: Every exposed zipper MUST be covered by a lapel! A lapel is like the fly on your pants that covers the zipper. On a dodger it prevents UV damage!
Deck Attachment: Most builders use Lift-A-Dot's or Twist Locks to attach the canvas to the deck. This can create un even pulls in the canvas and eventually, after enough hot sun, the glass. You'll want to consider a luff tape attachment system. This plastic track can be heated with a heat gun and custom bent to match the contour of your deck. The dodger has a corresponding luff tape sewn across the entire front bottom edge that is slid into the luff track.
Frame Support: If you have a hand rail you want support struts that attach the frame to the cockpit coaming to distribute the loads.
No grab rail or support struts:
Well done grab rail with support struts:
Use a LOCAL shop that does good work and let the price sink in for a bit..! A well designed and constructed dodger will out last a poorly built one by close to double! Loose fabric, that can flap in the wind, will DESTROY Sunbrella in short order!
A good example of a BAD (Mail Order) dodger:
An example of a good dodger (same boat):
A dodger can make or break the looks and aesthetics of your boat and IMHO it's not a place to cut corners! BTW here's a picture of that same dodger taken last summer after adding side grab rails. It was six year's old when this photo was taken..
If you feel like setting the bar really high, after reading this thread, take a look at this canvas work!
Mobile Marine Canvas Photo Gallery
Don't forget to add a zipper at the back end so you can attach a Bimini later. You also need to incorporate zipper covers in the design.
I think, as the other posters have shown, that you got a fairly common price. It's a bunch of custom work and many man hours of labor.
If making your own is an option go for it. We have a bunch of places here that sell used gear - look around you may find a used frame that is purpose made for your boat, and used frayed dodgers can be used for patterns.
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