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Catamaran Sunbrella Sunshade

To get ready for the South Pacific, we had a sunbrella sunshade made that covers the whole front of Golden Glow, reaching all the way back behind the mast to cover the salon roof. The shade keeps the inside of the boat so much cooler, and creates a whole new dimension to living space on the boat.

Having a covered foredeck, salon roof and trampoline area has given us a sense of having twice as much room on the boat. The feeling when you are standing on the deck under the awning is completely different from when the space was open. It somehow feels much larger than it did uncovered.

Making the cover took a good amount of design and engineering work and many fittings, but the effort was worth it. We love the results!

Canvas Maker

We highly recommend our canvas maker, Sunshine Canvas, in Grenada. They were meticulous about getting the design and fabrication perfect, and excellent in communications, punctuality and value. Sunshine finished our sunshade only nine days after the 44 yards of sunbrella fabric arrived in Grenada.

Big thanks to our sister ships, Mark and Sarah of Field Trip and Seathan and Audrie of Rehua, for their design notes on their own canvas coverings. Their tips and notes helped our design process and fabrication enormously.

entertaining in our boat chairs under the sunshade

Like Field Trip when we relax in our hammock under the sunshade, it feels as if we are in our own, private spa!

We also enjoy sitting in our deck chairs, enjoy the view and the breeze, even when it’s raining.

Another favorite activity under our awning is movie night.  With the awning, we not have a Golden Glow Movie Theater thanks to this inexpensive tablet that came with a built-in projector that we aim on the inside of the canopy to watch movies.

Movie time under the sunshade at night

The idea was to be able to have more sun protection and rain protection so we could leave hatches open for ventilation. We decided to run our awning from the front of the boat all the way back, past the shrouds and over the roof of the salon. In the tropics, we are looking for more shade over this area when we’re at anchor. We carefully kept the fabric forward of the hardtop solar panels and incorporated a way to roll the rear-most part of the awning back if the sun is at such an angle that it might shade those panels.

Design details and what we wanted to accomplish with the sunshade:

  • enough headroom for a 6’3″ person to be able to walk under the awning all the way to the front of the boat. Our awning even allows that on top of salon roof
  • shade covering covering trampolines but also extending back to salon areas
  • raised forepeak permitting substantive air flow for hatches
  • rain protection on the hatches eliminating midnight hatch close rain drills
  • forward leaning rain gutters that substantially drain toward the pulpits
  • strength in design with 16mm round battens and 8-point tarp lift with spinnaker halyard and 4-point tarp lift along the topping lift
  • multiple configurations for varying privacy, shade and wind conditions
  • reasonably simple to set up and take down
  • preconfigured snap-shackles and snap-buckles
  • sunbrella fabric for durability
  • tenara gortex thread for longevity
  • full runs of uv-protected tapes against tension points for better canopy shape and sun resistance
  • reasonably compact size – whole tarp folds up to a 2′ x 2′ x 1′ area
  • load-bearing corners reinforced with sailcloth and sail-strength reinforced construction designs
  • tested up to 25 knot winds thus far with no problem
  • be able to hang our hammock under the sunshade between the genoa and the mast, and wanted to have enough clearance to be able to use it underneath

    Rand making the hammock his office

  • rain protection for hatches – we wanted the three hatches at salon level and the two hatches into the third berth and master bathroom all to be covered so we could leave them open even in light rain.
  • no attachment to the stanchions – so they don’t break in high winds
  • side panels that can go up and down – giving us options for privacy, weather protection or more ventilation and view
  • windage – the jury is still out on how much wind the sunshade will be able to handle at anchor. Our hope is up to 20-25 knots. Like Field Trip, we used two removable batons to provide structure
  • relative ease in putting up and taking down – so far Rand can put it up and down on his own. Ellen can assist but not handle it on her own. In part this is because we constructed it to sit so high off the deck. She’d need to stand on something to reach the highest attachments.

Color Choice

Linen color Sunbrella from stem to stern

We wanted a light color to ensure a feeling of openness, but not one so light it would show dirt too easily. If our sail covers were a dark or bold color, we would have gone with white because the darker sunbrella fades and doesn’t wear as well colorwise. In the end, we chose sunbrella’s “linen” which is the same as our sail covers, cockpit enclosures and back shade cover between hardtop room and dinghy davit.

Process of Design and Fine-Tuning

The first fitting was to confirm the overall architecture, design and shape of the sunshade. The second fitting refined the tension and attachment points and added flexibility and configuration options. This resulted in the sunshade have three basic formats. The full sunshade with sides down offers greater shade and rain protection. With the sides up, the sunshade provides greater breeze with still substantial shade. The third version, where we take up sides and roll up the aft section that covers salon roof, will be useful if winds pick up because it results in much less windage area.

our canvas makers were so proud of the results they brought their families to see it

great for holding parties underneath

work in progress

13 Comments on Catamaran Sunbrella Sunshade

  1. Wow great awning!! Have come across your site and facebook page as I was searching photos to make my own awning, but wondering how to go about it! Do you still have detailed photos of the connection points and how you have given the awning structure? Would love to see any if that is possible.
    You look to have a in mast furled mainsail which looks to be an advantage.
    Fantastic job on the design!

    • Hello Laura,
      The simple answers are as follows:
      Connection points: a combination of reinforced webbing used to wrap on stays and pulpits and to wrap around the furled head sail, all of these use a stainless web buckle, I used lines with prusik knots for diamond attachments near mast and stainless ring attached via multiple lines to tie to the spinnaker halyard, finally the aft of the tarp is attached from multiple points to a luggage tied loop to the topping lift. This is connected with a snap shackle to a stainless ring and all the aft lines are tightened with inline prusik knots.
      Structure: there are a couple of battens that run from midway on each side into the center line. These along with a few other points are all tied to a single point that the spin halyard is attached and lifted from.
      Hope this helps,

  2. Like others have said, your designs look fantastic. I see one of you offered to send additional pictures and details. We would love to create something similar.

    • Thank you Nina. We have absolutely loved our sunshade. When we’re at anchor and we put it up, it’s like having a whole new room with lovely shade, breezes and views to hang out under – not to mention using the inside as our movie theater when we hang our roll up screen fabric against the inside of the sunshade and project a movie onto it from our projector!
      What would you like to see additional pictures of? And what kind of details do you need to help you create one of your own?
      Where are you located? We had ours made in Grenada and can put you in touch with the guy who made it for us too. He comes to your boat and takes measurements and returns to drape canvas and adjust. Ours was the first huge sunshade he’d made when he went out on his own, but we understand he’s made many more since so he’s probably learned and improved every time too. I wouldn’t order one from him long distance unless you have the exact same boat as one he’d made one for before (and even then, I think it’s best to have it made locally as it most likely would need fine tuning adjustments by the fabricator.
      We have your email address from your comment, so if you tell us what more we can send you, we’d be happy to do that.
      Ellen & Rand

  3. hi. We are looking to do something very similar and will be based in Grenada in two weeks time, Could you share the price ? Did you have the sunbrella shipped in on your own or did Sunshine canvas do?
    Thanks. SV STar Chaser L 43

    • The price we paid Michael probably isn’t relevant and we were his first customer as he set up his independent business (he had been with a large sailmaker/canvas shop previously) and it was so long ago.
      To answer your question about the sunbrella, I’m not sure if Michael still does it this way, but he had a relative who was flying in and brought in the many many yards of sunbrella fabric we used for our cover, and he passed it along at cost, which was amazing. He was set up to bring in quite regular shipments of sunbrella because he seemed to have relatives flying in and out of Grenada often. It was real sunbrella too (you have to watch out that many places will sell you “sunbrella” that’s not)
      On the issue of using or not using sunbrella though, realize that unless you use sunbrella’s proprietary cleaners/protectors on their set (very frequent) schedule, sunbrella will not stand by their warranty. For practical purposes though, sunbrella is a quality product and if you buy the “right” colors, will not fade. We have heard that some of the darker colors fade quickly and don’t look good for long.
      Good luck to you with your cover. If you do use Michael – and he was GREAT to work with – be sure he uses marine grade stainless for the hardware, even if you have to provide it to him. Otherwise the less good stainless will rust and could discolor your canvas.

  4. Hi Rand and Ellen, as always, you are raising the standards… excellent! We just bought SEAGLE , a Lagoon 400S2 and we did not buy the standard ”tent” so now we need to design something and also the best way to hang/connect it to the boat. Guess you have some good ideas? Thx Tobbe. You will find me Tobbe Ingemansson and SEAGLE on FB.

    • Hi Tobbe and apologies about the delay getting back to you. We’ve been off sailing! We love following your adventures too and congratulate you on SEAGLE. We hang/connect our sunshade using our spinnaker halyard attached to a ring in the center of the “tent” and also have attachments at other points on the front/back/sides of the catamaran. Would you like us to email you (or post) better photos of the attachments and their attachment points?

  5. Simone Fleuren // November 14, 2017 at 1:39 am // Reply

    Hi Golden Glow,

    love your sun shade! We are thinking of installing one on our catamaran (Lagoon 400 S2). There are some ready-made options, but i really like your idea with the three different configurations. May i ask how much the total cost of your shade was?


    • Simone, I’m so glad you liked our sun shade. We love it too, especially in the tropics. I answered your question via FB Messenger. Let me know if you didn’t receive it.

  6. Manicured Willard // August 10, 2017 at 4:25 pm // Reply

    So cool, I love your blog and look forward to becoming part of the Antares family!

  7. Wow, looks amazing! Great idea to upgrade living space like this.

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