Dinghy Chaps

We decided to make ours, but if you can manage a splurge to have them custom made, go for it.
What the heck are dinghy chaps? We had no clue until we saw dinghies with fitted covers during our stops in Florida at Vero Beach and Marathon. Unlike a dinghy cover, these are form-fitting, require a pattern and a great deal of patience. Not to mention some knowledge of sewing- a machine is essential.

We used Sunbrella marine grade in Silver with blue vinyl at the bow for extra abrasion protection. Using vinyl along the rub
rail is worth the extra cost and may save you from a gouge some day. Instructions for you brave DIYers can be found at Sailrite.com and other sites on-line; simply do a search.

We messed up and only ordered 6ft instead of 6yds of clear vinyl for the pattern; using clear drop cloth plastic worked just fine. Be sure to mark everything; darts, handles, d-rings, rub rail, port vs starboard marks (flip the pattern over),  indexing marks are critical to getting your seams together accurately. Every dinghy is a different shape with rub rails in various sizes. Certain makes/models lend themselves to a better result than others. Our 10’4” Achilles has a rather small rub rail and is not overly bulbous.

Marking darts, handle openings

We opted to attach the registration numbers to the chaps- that was a decision we tossed around a lot- using a PVC flexible plate from boatnumberplate.com. I sewed the rectangular pieces on as one of the last steps.

Attaching CT numbers on chaps

When the chaps were complete, or so we thought, we did a test run. Yikes, water nearly flooded  Bunting’s stern. More research led us to think that the chaps needed some sort of mesh or Textilene material at the ends of the pontoon that would scooped up allow water to drain out. Nope- that didn’t work. I then removed a large section of Sunbrella from the stern area on one side and replaced it with Textilene. This was the same material we used to fabricate our sunshade.
Wouldn’t you know it, this was not the solution and I left the other side alone.

Finally we admitted… no, not defeat-yet, that we had one remaining option. We’d glue a strip of Hypalon just under the rub rail with 5/8’ wide Velcro (hook) sewn on the Hypalon. The loop part of the Velcro (1” wide) would be sewn to the chaps.
Once attached, this would (hopefully) create a barrier to prevent the water from scooping up and in.

Velcro sewn to bottom edge, awaiting Hypalon cover strip

Hypalon strip with Velcro sewn on; ready to be glued on.

The jury is still out, but so far, we’ve had more dry trips than not. Four uses isn’t enough to know for sure; the bad news might be that the Textilene section on the one pontoon needs to be removed and replaced by Sunbrella. – maybe I’ll just cover that part with the Sunbrella material. Lesson #1- always buy more material than you think you’ll need. Update 11/21/11:  covered the Textilene on the right hand pontoon with Sunbrella.

One other step we’d do differently is the method used to insert the cord into the hem. Instructions said to create the hem, leaving ½- ¾” space for the cord. We used a piece of metal coat hanger to push the cord all around the hemmed bottom,  which took forever. A better way might be to lay the cord along the bottom inside the area to be hemmed and then fold the bottom up and over the cord, stitching the cord inside as you go.

Good luck if you decide to make your own and happy sewing!

All dressed up with new chaps (Before bottom edge Hypalon cover strip added)


6 thoughts on “Dinghy Chaps

    • Hi- this is Lori. Jackie was another cruiser with better sewing skills than I, but she’s not in the business. She picked our brains in order to make hers. Wishing you good luck in your search!


  1. I’ve made several dinghy covers in the past but am interested in this idea of chaps. I’ve seen several instances of this idea to velcro to cover on using a strip of velcro glued just above the rub rail all the way around. Is this what you did? I could never figure out how the velcro attached to the Hypalon. It looks like you sewed it to a strip of hypalon and then glued that to the dinghy. I would appreciate any advice. Jackie


    • Hi Jackie- yes we bought a strip of Hypalon from Defender and sewed the Velcro along the top and glued the Hypalon at the bottom edge, to the dinghy. In our case, below the rubrail. This finally solved our problem. If you want more info and/or photos feel free to email me at rrlr@att.net. Hope this helps you some. And thanks for checking out the blog!Lori


      • I am also having problems with my chaps. I had some made and same issue, boat fills up when I try to plane. I didn’t use mesh on the tube ends at the stern, but was thinking of switching over, though I like your velcro/hypalon fix. How is it holding up?


      • I must say it was a huge effort but it finally paid off. The Velcro / Hypalon fix worked like a charm and we had no further problems with water.
        Best of luck with yours!


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