Boat or Kayak Camouflage Cover -

      When I returned from the Merchants Mill pond trip, I resolved to redesign the camouflage cover. After some thought, I came up with what I feel is an even simpler cover frame and a much more practical design. It eliminates the problem of a wet cover dripping into the boat, gives easier access to the front of the cockpit, and makes loading equipment and myself even simpler. It will also make it far easier to simply paddle the boat, on those occasions when the trolling motor is not practical. I've even added a simple way to attach branches and other natural camouflage to the boat.

The new concept - two simple hinged u-shaped bars of pvc pipe
that fold up and down, like a convertible car top. (click to enlarge)

      To the right below are four diagrams. In diagram "1" the turquoise lines show the basic pvc box frame which I retained from the first cover design and reused here. The little stubs sticking out around it represent short pvc pipes that I added for attaching tufts of weeds and other natural camouflage material, which I show later. The diagram also indicates two handles I added so I have something to grab onto when sitting down and getting up from the seat, which is flat against the bottom of the boat.

    1     3
    2     4
click diagrams to enlarge
      In diagram "2" at right the red lines represent the "u-shaped" sections of pvc pipe which hinge to move the front and rear covers up or down. The yellow lines show the down positions. The white "L's" are the hinges.

My conceptual illustration of how the newly
designed cover would look (includes motor cover).
(click to enlarge)
      In diagram "3" the white lines show the pattern for the nylon cord used to hold the front hinged frame in place when in the up position. The cord goes slack when the frame is hinged down, but when it comes up the cord pulls taught as the frame reaches the proper position. The cord also serves as a support for the material covering the front so it doesn't droop down into the cockpit. The front points of the cord loop or tie to the eye hooks at the front corners of the cockpit (see this photo). The rear points of the cord hook into the uprights of the rear frame by a small "S" hook, and hold the front frame taught in the upright position (see this photo).

      In diagram "4" right above, the cream colored lines show the cord pattern for the rear frame. The line stretching forward on each side hooks into an "eye hook" to hold the rear frame up in position. Unhooking the two lines lets the frame hinge back and drop down.

Hinges made from two "L" brackets
      I was able to reuse much of the PVC pipe, pvc joints and material from the first cover on the new frame construction (because I used screws to secure the joints originally instead of PVC cement). The hinges were made using "L" brackets as shown in the diagram at left and the photos below right.

      In the right bottom photo you can see how I used short pieces of the foam insulation made for water pipe to pad around the hinges. This insures the metal never rubs on the boat fiberglass, and protects me from cuts and bumps on the sharp end of a bolt or hinge corner when handling the boat. Note the wooden dowel visible inside the pipe in the right bottom photo. I used a 2-inch long section of oak dowel, shaved down to just fit snuggly inside the pipe, to reinforce where the hinge bolt goes through. This prevents squeezing the pipe out of shape when snugging up the nut and bolt. I recommend using a small washer between the pipe and the "L" bracket to insure it hinges smoothly.

      I no longer need the small bungee cords on each side to hold the frame onto the boat. The base rectangle of the frame is now held in place in the rear by the headrest bracket, and in the front by two small pieces of oak at the front corners (see left photo). I used the eye hook bolt to hold the oak pieces in place. To remove the frame, I only need to loosen the nut on the eye hook at each front corner and turn the oak pieces to one side so the frame will lift up and slide back from under the headrest brackets.

      The camouflage material is attached very simply. It's tied to the frame every foot or so with pieces of camo-color nylon cord, the same cord used for the frame supports. This is visible in the lower right of this photo. The photo also shows how the cord from the rear frame hooks into the small eye hook to hold it in the upright position as mentioned earlier. The handles I added (mentioned earlier) are visible in this photo as well.

      The left photo here shows two of the short pieces of PVC pipe (I called them "stubs" earlier) which are located in strategic places around the base frame. This is where I can attach pieces of natural camouflage material. The lower left photo shows three more of these "stubs" at the front of the boat.

     A sample of what I mean by natural camouflage material is shown in the photo at right. I bundled some dried Pampas grass and stuffed it into a short piece of 1/2-inch PVC pipe for demonstration purposes. This one is obviously not finished off. When finished, the grass would have more material around the base to hide the bottom and give it a more natural appearance. You can pre-make a few pieces to carry with you, such as short dead brush limbs with spanish moss draped over them, or perhaps short brush limbs with leaves still present. Just shove them down into the pipe for a tight fit.

     This method allows you the flexibility to add local vegetation from wherever you are photographing so you can blend into your current surroundings. The pipe stubs do not need to be screwed or glued in, as they are sufficiently snug enough to stay put. This permits turning the elbows on the stubs to hold the material at the desired angle. The stubs fit into "T" fittings situated around the base frame, and can be removed or added as desired.

Fully collapsed view - front and
rear covers are lowered.
Rear cover raised, front
cover hinged halfway
Front and rear covers both
fully raised and hooked.
     To the right are three photos of the completed design. It does look a bit large sitting there in these photos without a person in the pictures for comparison, but it really is no larger than a 10-foot kayak.

Interior view

Front angle views, fully covered and fully open.
    As you can see, with both the front and rear covers collapsed, I should have far less wind resistance when I'm trying to load the boat onto the trailer. Secondly, I can climb into the boat and load my gear just as easily as when I had the old cover design hinged up into the air. I will no longer have the problem of it then acting as a sail in the wind. This is a far more elegant and practical solution. Add to that the fact that I'm no longer raising a wet, dripping cover fringe over my head and that messy problem is solved as well. What goes in the water now stays in the water.

      The "interior view" photo shows the headrest. It's a bit hard to recognize since I made a slip cover for it from the same material as the boat. This headrest can fold down flat over the seat by simply removing one wing nut, as shown in the below left photo.

     One more benefit of this new design is that it seems I have more space for my equipment inside the boat than I had with the earlier cover frame. The photo below left shows how well I can see under the front cover now. The earlier frame slanted down on either side from the center "spine", which made it difficult to see underneath the cover, or to reach my equipment bags.

Spacious inside view
with the new cover design.
The seat & headrest
folded down.
Two versions of the
original frame

      The original frame is shown in the composite photo at right. It came to a peak at the front of the cockpit, which was a bit too high to easily take photos over it. It was a simple modification to lower the frame about six inches so I could see and photograph over it more easily. The down side was that it became even harder to see and reach up under the front cover. The space inside the boat is so narrow (side to side) that my bags had to be stored end to end between my knees. However, the cover was so low I couldn't lift the equipment bag in the front over the bag in the back to get to it. This latest squared-off design gives me more room to see under the cover and more height to access my equipment bags much better than before. With the new design, if I need to reach farther under the cover, I can simply hinge the front cover up out of the way. Finally I had a simple and practical design that could be adapted to other boats. I hope the ideas in this article have provided some incentive for you to try making a custom cover for your boat.

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