Kayak Cover and Center Spray Skirt
for the Native Watercraft Ultimate 12 Tegris

     I use my kayaks for wildlife photography, and having a spray skirt is practically a necessity. I cook like a lobster in the sun. I had thought that would not be a problem in my cockpit style kayaks, but I learned the hard way that even when wearing long pants, my feet could still get sunburned in sandals while paddling. I knew that the open design of my newly acquired Native Ultimate Tegris would mean putting spray skirts on it. The extra protection from paddle drip and sudden rain showers that they could provide for my camera gear and myself was high on my list of considerations too. Though I added OEM bow and stern skirts to my Tegris, the company did not make a center skirt for it, so that task fell to my own creativity.

     The kayak cover was almost an afterthought. While planning my spray skirt design, I figured if I had to order material for it, there was no reason not to order enough extra to make a custom cover. The idea of a coating of oily road spray all over the inside of my Tegris (and the seat) from hauling it on a trailer in the rain did not appeal to me at all. Unlike a simple cockpit cover for my other kayaks, sealing out the weather would be a little more involved with the Tegris and other Ultimates. Sure, it would have been easier to just purchase a generic-fit "bag" to put it in, but I was already going to be measuring and sewing the spray skirt. Making a fitted cover would be even easier than figuring out the design for a center skirt, and it would be 1/3 to 1/4 the cost of a pre-made, generic fit boat cover of any description.


The original scaled grid layout
with only the Tegris images.
Here the OEM bow and stern skirts have
been drawn on an additional layer.
In this initial draft design the center
spray skirt pieces are drawn on a top
layer and set partially transparent to
show what is underneath.

In this enlarged detail the red line is a bungee or
nylon cord, the blue lines are zipper locations
and the white lines are possible batten locations.
This enlarged detail shows the skirt separated
into sections to better fit the Cordura material
for cut-out. Side flaps and hem allowances
have been added to make a pattern.
     My first task was to create a design plan for the center spray skirt, figuring out how it would work, or even how it would attach. It would have to be versatile and practical without getting in the way of paddling, or limiting access to my photography equipment and other gear, while still providing sun protection for me and water protection for my gear. Beyond that, a preconceived design would give me a good idea of how much material I would need. I started by putting images of the Tegris into my favorite graphics software. Then I set up a 12-inch by 12-inch scaled grid overlay. I scaled the images to the grid, then began drawing various design ideas layered over the scaled images. By adjusting the layer transparency settings I could see through the various pieces I drew and line them up with the kayak image underneath. This made it much easier to visualize how and where to attach the skirt, as well as how and where to incorporate battens to make it retain its shape and properly drain away water. A design incorporating simple and easy attachment and removal was important too. After many hours of adjusting and tweaking my idea drawings, I had the major design details figured out. Then I spent some time figuring out a rough design for the custom boat cover so I would know how much material everything might require.

This scale diagram of 7 yards x 5-foot wide
material (6-inch grid) shows cover and skirt
pieces arranged for cut-out with minimal waste.
     With the cover and skirt designs ready, I could see it would take about seven yards of 60-inch wide material. I ordered mine from Rockywoods Outdoor Fabrics at Rockywoods.com, an online source I had used before to get hard-to-find material for some of my other projects. I chose 500 Denier coated Cordura nylon fabric in a dull gray-green shade called "Foliage Green", which is a fair match to the green color of my Tegris, though a bit grayer. Their "OD Green" might have been a slightly closer match, but I thought it was a bit too dark for my needs. I had considered ordering some sort of camo pattern material instead, but decided a solid color match for the Tegris color would be more practical. I thought it would make a better looking boat cover, for which there was no need for camo. As for the spray skirt, I would not need "camo" all the time, and this center spray skirt would likely stay on 90% of the time anyway. I reasoned the dull green skirt could serve well as a base for whatever camouflage add-on I decided to use whenever camo was needed for my photography.

The completed kayak cover

The cover rolled up for storage

     It's important to note that I designed this cover for use while transporting my Tegris. It is neither meant to be used as a year-round outdoor storage cover, nor will it be used that way. If I wanted that, it would have been designed as a fully sealable "bag" to ensure no critters could utilize my Tegris as a seasonal home. What I needed was a cover to keep the Tegris dry inside while being carted around on my photography expeditions, so the design reflects that purpose.

     The seven yards of 5-foot wide Cordura I ordered for these projects is a huge piece of material to deal with. So I decided to make it easier to handle by making the kayak cover first. I draped the whole thing over the kayak, pulled the material together under the bow and stern and pinned it in place. Then I marked it with white chalk so I had a close general shape to cut out from this huge piece of material without wasting anything. I removed the material from the Tegris and cut out the rough shape I had marked. That left a bit less than half the material, which I set aside to use later for the center spray skirt. This cut out piece of Cordura for the cover was now easier to handle.
Another view of the cord tie between the hull channels.

The seamed bow section anchors the cover

Nylon cord and web strapping secure
the middle of the cover

     Next I draped this rough cut-out over the Tegris again, then flipped the kayak bottom up. This made it easier to pull and snug up the material to the keel so I could fit, mark and trim it more accurately, allowing for overlaps and hems. During the design drawing phase I had decided to take advantage of the double channel hull shape when tying on the cover. This approach allowed me to pre-fit and sew the bow end for a snug fit. With the bow end sewn, I slipped this fitted bow end onto the bow like a sock. Then I draped the rest of the cut material over the kayak. The fitted bow secured it in place so I could pull the material tight and make an even closer fitting and marking of the rest of the cover. All that was needed now was a final trimming, then sewing all the hems. I stitched on the webbing loops to thread the nylon cord through for tying on the cover, and added a nylon web strap with a plastic snap buckle across the beam. I also added a small pocket just behind the left hull channel to store the lashing cords. That was it. The cover was finished.

This pocket with velcro closure holds
the nylon cords ties for storage.
The bow handle exits through a
velcro closure opening.
The stern handle exits through the stern opening.

The stern lashes snugly
with nylon cord. The cord
pocket is also visible in
upper right of photo.
     Putting on the cover is as simple as slipping on the fitted bow end like a sock, then draping the rest of the cover over the kayak and cinching it up. A single 3/16 diameter nylon cord pulls the cover snug inside the floor recess between the two channels, while another 3/16 nylon cord laces up the stern along the keel to form fit it to the stern. The adjustable nylon web strap across the middle of the kayak ensures the cover does not flap along the sides when transported at highway speeds. The two nylon cords used to secure the cover remain attached to the cover so they cannot be lost, and they store in a handy pocket with velcro closer sewn to the bottom of the cover. The nylon strap and buckle also serve to neatly cinch up the cover when it's folded for storage. The bow point has an opening where the T-handle comes out for carrying or tie-down. This opening will velcro shut to keep out excess water and air pressure during transport. The point of the stern also has a small opening for the T-handle, but since the stern is trailing when transported, water will not blow in, and it won't catch air and balloon up the cover. No velcro was needed here. This gives me a very snug, well-fitted cover with virtually no bagginess to whip in the wind while transporting. Hopefully these photos will make it apparent how the cover design works.


     The next page of this article details the making of the center spray skirt.
Continue ››   Center Spray Skirt article