HOW TO CLEAN AND MAINTAIN YACHT AWNINGS AND SUPERYACHT SHADE STRUCTURES
Last updated: 02/10/2019
Superyacht awnings and parasols can be some of a vessel’s most eye-catching elements, especially in warmer climates and on sunnier shores – but they’re not just for aesthetic purposes, performing a number of important functions on board. As such, correct cleaning and maintenance is important to guarantee their long and functional lifespan.
Retractable, fixed or freestanding, yacht awnings and canopies are constructed out of high-quality marine-grade materials that are weather and wind resistant to provide both guests and the yacht itself with UV-ray shade, wind protection and shielding from direct sunlight. Although each shade structure is chosen for its unique appearance and constitution, the method of care can vary massively between each. Read on to find out how to care for and maintain the shade structures on board your yacht.
How and when to clean yacht awnings, parasols, canopies and curtains
Superyacht awnings, canopies and curtains are made from top-quality marine canvas, fabrics and threads, and should be cleaned at regular intervals before dust and dirt accumulate and irreversibly damage or soil the materials.
Philip Demler of Reckmann Yacht Equipment advises that awnings and parasols should be rinsed thoroughly with fresh water almost every day to avoid salt-water build up from the ocean spray. For more thorough cleaning, water and a soft brush work well to clean most fabrics. He recommends spreading the awning on the deck or dock so it’s as flat as possible using the brush dry to remove the loose dirt from the fabric, before wetting both the upper and under-side with clean water. He suggests starting with the uppermost side as this is most exposed to dirt and pollution.
Next, wash with a specialist detergent that’s specified for the fabric in hand, again using a soft brush. Rinse thoroughly with clean water, and then leave the awning to dry in the open air if possible. Heat and powerful chemicals should be avoided in order to preserve fabrics’ size, shape and colour.
How often should superyacht awnings be cleaned?
Demler explained that although superyacht awnings and canopies are designed for easy cleaning by crew, cleaning routines and frequency will depend on the yacht and the grounds in which it cruises. In extreme cases of staining, and on an annual basis, professional cleaners will be required, but day-to-day care can generally be performed by capable crewmembers.
Oliver Hourquot Rimbes of refit preparation and protection specialists Y-Pack warns that white or light-coloured fabrics need extra care and more frequent cleaning, as staining is much more likely. He added, “A coating treatment would be recommended on these and all fabrics to protect the fabric against staining, dirt and black exhaust dust.”
If you find stubborn stains on marine canvas, these can be brushed and cleaned with a mild soap as above, but with an added cup of bleach. Scrub the stained area vigorously with a soft bristle brush, sponge or clean towel before allowing to air dry.
Minimising damage from exposure to the elements
Superyacht awnings, canopies and covers need to be able to withstand a range of testing conditions, with high winds, scorching sun and salty sea air all needing to be taken into account in their design and manufacture.
Demler advises that the affects of these factors can be minimised by ensuring your product is of a good quality to start with. He said, “If an awning or parasol is poorly designed or used in conditions it was not laid out for, deformations due to water and wind loads can occur. But when properly cared for and maintained, yacht awnings will last many years in the marine environment. Reckmann has had some permanent awnings on large yachts which have been in use for over 10 years and have never been replaced, and they are up all the time. This is due to good design and proper care and maintenance by the crew.”
Caring for awning frames, fixtures and fittings
The frames of shade structures are often made of fibreglass, aluminium, teak composites or hardwood, making them strong enough for use in the windy conditions of the superyacht deck. The connecting fixtures and fittings, including nuts, bolts, pulleys, cams, cleats, etc. are also typically made of marine-grade stainless steel to withstand the moist air, but fresh-water rinses and regular inspections should still be carried out once a week to ensure these sometimes-fragile parts can be kept in peak condition for a long time.
Yacht parasol care and wind speed
Before setting up freestanding shade structures, such as marine parasols, ensure that they are properly secured to an adequate shade anchor, and that that the locking system is properly implemented. It’s typically recommended that each rib is separated from the centre post before raising the hub, and it’s important not to force the hub if it does not rise easily by itself.
Common sense should always be applied in extreme wind and weather conditions, with collapsible shade structures and frames closed in wind conditions exceeding 22 knots, depending on the integrity of the structure.
Demler explained, “Marine awnings can typically be left up while the yacht is cruising in normal conditions. The loads on the awning poles and the attachment points on the superstructure get quite high with increased wind speeds, so it's crucial that these are accurately calculated and taken into account already in the design phase. There are big differences in how much wind the different awning systems on the market can withstand, and how much effort the different suppliers invest into quantifying these loads and the resulting safety factors.”
When closing yacht parasols, the fabric should be pulled out from between the struts to avoid pinching or damaging.
Wintering superyacht awnings: Storing shade structures and parasols on board
During wintering, awnings should be cleaned, dried, collapsed and stored in their dedicated storage bags. Awnings could also be stowed away while there are no guests are on board to help preserve their integrity. A suitable protective cover should be used at all times to ensure its longest serviceable life, with all components stored in a dry, well-ventilated area.
Rimbes advises that awnings and parasols should never be tightly folded, as the lines and creases can remain for a long period after unpacking. If there are no dedicated storage bags in place, items should be rolled, clean and dry and placed into a non-airtight bag. He advised that any metal components need to be cleaned, degreased and taped or wrapped in film to avoid contact with the fabrics. Once preparation is complete, they should be stored flat in a dry and ventilated space, without any weight on top.
Maintaining shade anchors and bases
Shade anchors and bases should be cleaned regularly to maintain their appearance with a gentle soap-and-water mix, using a non-abrasive cloth or pad. The bolts in the anchor or base should be checked regularly to ensure they remain tightened, perhaps on a weekly basis if these are regularly moved.
If a shade structure features an Aluma-crete (aluminium shell, concrete filled) anchor or finished base it should not be rolled on its sides to protect the finish and casing. Bases fitted with wheels are very useful in this situation, but even then, take care to move slowly and cautiously and not to attempt to travel of uneven surfaces or over long distances. Avoid use on stairwells.
If damage does occur to the paint or finish, small touch ups are easily completed during standard cleaning routines.
Caring for automated shade structures
As technology evolves and advances, superyachts are becoming more regularly fitted with automated shade structures. These have obvious benefits for guests and crew, but can often prove trickier to care for.
Reckmann’s Demler said, “Automated systems can be easily deployed and retracted by the guests at the push of a button, without the need for crew setting up poles and awnings. They eliminate the need for storage space and require the same cleaning procedures as many other yacht awnings and anchors. Machinery and electronic parts require a different cleaning and care routine however, and crew may need professional training to ensure damage does not occur during the process.”