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Old 12-30-2018, 09:13 PM   #1
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Questioning long term practicality of soft flybridge enclosures.

The boat I purchased a couple of years ago came with a “soft enclosed flybridge in other words plastic panels Lexan or Eisinglas etc. Although the soft enclosures on many boats that I see, like my own, satisfy their purpose, in most cases, I venture to say that they are not aesthetically pleasing to the vessel. Furthermore, in many cases, from my experience, the enclosures are never even taken down to enjoy an open flybridge anyway. I ask other TFers with soft flybridge panel enclosures how do you utilize them? Do you take them down seasonally?

In my own case I’m considering to install a “hard” enclosed flybridge aesthetically designed to the vessel rather than the soft zippered plastic.
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Old 12-30-2018, 09:24 PM   #2
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This is a great dilemma. Having a hard enclosure provide a better protected space, however at the same time it prevent to have an open space. Some time I think I would be nice to have a hard one, then another day I love so much to be in an open space and even remove the bimini top to be able to enjoy some more sun. At this time my own choice is to keep a soft enclosure to be able top remove it and get an open space but I guess this greatly depends on boat usage and where you cruise.

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Old 12-30-2018, 09:34 PM   #3
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My old boat had the full camper canvas setup for the bridge and cockpit areas. It was probably over 15 years old, but was in decent shape. It was kind of a pain to set it up. The pieces never seemed to line up quite right. Much swearing and knuckle scuffing would take place. I almost always left it down, except for the bimini. The only time I ever bothered with the side panels is when I was staying on the boat and it was raining. I'd throw a single piece tonneau cover over everything when I left, which was much easier, and much more waterproof.
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Old 12-30-2018, 09:37 PM   #4
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I'd vote strongly for the hard top... it will likely last.

The soft tops, isinglass and crap will need replacing often. They rip, the glass milks up, gets scratches and it hard to see thru from day one. There are better products out there. And after you've replace a few soft tops, you've paid for the hard top.

I envision a hard top, that has EZ 2CY or similar bullet proof glass product for the sides the swing up under the top for the open look..... working on that one.

Anyone know better glass products?
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Old 12-30-2018, 09:48 PM   #5
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I prefer piloting from an enclosed pilot house. Wind dries the skin (and creates havoc with contact lenses) and have been already exposed to too much sun.
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Old 12-31-2018, 07:37 AM   #6
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On our previous boat we had soft Bimini and a three sided surround. We put it up and took it down often depending on weather and temperatures. I would like to do the same on this boat, but haven’t convinced the boss yet.

I think the key is having it designed for easy setup and take down from the beginning. If it isn’t easy, you’ll hate it. I would store the glass panels in a fleece pocket under the bed when not in use.
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Old 12-31-2018, 07:44 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jdoc View Post
Furthermore, in many cases, from my experience, the enclosures are never even taken down to enjoy an open flybridge anyway. I ask other TFers with soft flybridge panel enclosures how do you utilize them? Do you take them down seasonally?

We have a hardtop, and soft enclosure panels. Hardtop = good.

We remove the 5 aft panels during summer. Of the five forward panels, we open (pin to the hardtop) the front middle Makrolon panel almost every day aboard... and we open (roll up) the two side panels often. That leaves us with a "mostly open" bridge. Opening only the front panel creates a serious wind tunnel when underway, sometimes good (especially at slow speeds), sometimes not so comfortable (on plane).


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The soft tops, isinglass and crap will need replacing often. They rip, the glass milks up, gets scratches and it hard to see thru from day one.

I envision a hard top, that has EZ 2CY or similar bullet proof glass product for the sides the swing up under the top for the open look..... working on that one.

Anyone know better glass products?
I haven't really had that "often" or "day one" experience. We're in the installer's queue to replace our front three Makrolon panels, two of which have begun to yellow a bit this last season... but these have been installed 24/7 for the last 10 years. I've learned more recently that what we have installed was pretty much what was available at the time, and since then Makrolon has introduced better versions, latest best iteration being Makrolon Marine (I think, something like that) which is said to be much better than what was available in early 2009.

Our side and aft panels are Regalite, similar to Strataglass I think but maybe without the coating?... anyway, we're just now having to replace two panels after 10 years, and they've installed 24/7 during that time. The other five are still fine, although those are also the panels we dismount and store every summer.

You'll remember the EZ2CY, Lexan, Makrolon thread from a few months ago...

None of all that being actually "glass"...

-Chris
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Old 12-31-2018, 08:27 AM   #8
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We regularly opened some or all the Lexan windows depending on conditions.
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Old 12-31-2018, 08:34 AM   #9
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We always run with the vinyl installed around the flybridge, opening or closing zippered panels as needed.

I'd love to replace it all with a hardtop and hard sides, but I don't want to put all that weight up high. She already rolls enough! I also think it would look even worse than the bimini and soft sides.

Everything on a boat is a compromise.
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Old 12-31-2018, 12:44 PM   #10
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Wifey B: I vote for hardtop with vinyl enclosures. Having both lower and upper helm, we can use lower in most bad weather and leave the top open for pleasure and beautiful days on the water. If we're in a cold climate, we'll keep the top fully enclosed. I do not like a permanently enclosed flybridge as it prevents enjoying the outdoors experience.

One other requirement. A decent windshield or windscreen at the upper helm so you can use it regularly. Also, if cooler, we will use the enclosures in front but leave the side open.

We might go an entire year without using the side and rear enclosure.
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Old 12-31-2018, 12:46 PM   #11
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We always run with the vinyl installed around the flybridge, opening or closing zippered panels as needed.

.
Wifey B: We sometimes run with ours installed, just fastened in the open position to the bottom of the hard top.
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Old 12-31-2018, 12:57 PM   #12
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Living in South Florida I never felt the need of an enclosure. I had a Bimini top for shade.

The Bimini top was more than 25 years old and still in good condition when I lost the boat. It was easy to fold down if I wanted to avoid opening a low bridge and easy to take off when a hurricane was on the way.

If I was in a place that had an actual Winter, I might have wanted an enclosure.
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Old 12-31-2018, 01:07 PM   #13
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On our previous boat as well as this one we have soft top and sides. I put large smiley roll up/down window on all four sides which can be opened in minutes and feels like open air. No storage issues this way. Should a storm pop up they can be closed quickly. Hard top might be nice but would need to stand up to the snow load here in the winter and may be more difficult to tarp. Depends largely on $$$.
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Old 12-31-2018, 01:24 PM   #14
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You should probably take a hard look at where you are going to pilot the boat the majority of the time. Design of the boat dictates this.
We have a raised pilot house and that is where we pilot the boat most of the time. When the weather dictates we do enjoy piloting the boat from the flybridge especially in warmer climates.
But other designs may not allow you to pilot the boat from anywhere else than the fly bridge. Cruising buddies of ours, ASD, has this issue as the piloting station down below has limited visibility. So the enclosure up above, which is there primary navigation station is needed for protection, especially in colder climates.
When we purchased our boat, it was in dire need of new canvas. We decided to not incorporate a fly bridge enclosure, just a Bimini. A hardtop would be our first choice, and may look into this option down the road.
Instead we chose to enclose the aft Cockpit as that was the area we felt we would use the most during inclement weather. It also has a vent to allow us to heat the aft cockpit from the hydronic heater, and has worked out well for us. But to be fair, the aft enclosure is seldom on while cruising.
As a side note we also made shade curtains for the upcoming trip down south next year.
Another item you may want to take into consideration is the additional windage with enclosing the flybridge, most noticeable during docking procedures.

Cheers
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Old 12-31-2018, 02:33 PM   #15
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We had both completely outfitted lower and upper helms on our old Hatteras.

The boat came to us with a full nicely made set of total enclosure panels for the flying bridge courtesy of the second prior PO. They were stashed flat in the big compartment in the upper helm console. Neither the PO, who had the boat for 3 years or myself, for 7, never got them out and used them. I really liked not having them, though we did have a large double bimini. Other than poor weather, we always ran the boat from up there.
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Old 12-31-2018, 02:50 PM   #16
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We added a hardtotop.com hardtop on our flybridge. Very easy to install and it only weigh about 80 pounds. I made patterns for the front and one panel on the side for EZ2CY panels. The center 3 front EZ2CY panels swing up in about 2 minutes. I fabricated side curtains and aft curtains for the rest of the enclosure. We have smiles in the sides and the middle 1/3 of the back end rolls up. Since I have had about 7 surgeries and hundreds of spots burned off for skin cancer, I don’t want to be sitting in the sun any more than I absolutely have to. We like the hardtop since it doesn’t have any leaks but with the white plastic roof panels we get a lot of light coming through.
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Old 12-31-2018, 03:01 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crusty Chief View Post
You should probably take a hard look at where you are going to pilot the boat the majority of the time. Design of the boat dictates this.
We have a raised pilot house and that is where we pilot the boat most of the time. When the weather dictates we do enjoy piloting the boat from the flybridge especially in warmer climates.
But other designs may not allow you to pilot the boat from anywhere else than the fly bridge. Cruising buddies of ours, ASD, has this issue as the piloting station down below has limited visibility. So the enclosure up above, which is there primary navigation station is needed for protection, especially in colder climates.
When we purchased our boat, it was in dire need of new canvas. We decided to not incorporate a fly bridge enclosure, just a Bimini. A hardtop would be our first choice, and may look into this option down the road.
Instead we chose to enclose the aft Cockpit as that was the area we felt we would use the most during inclement weather. It also has a vent to allow us to heat the aft cockpit from the hydronic heater, and has worked out well for us. But to be fair, the aft enclosure is seldom on while cruising.
As a side note we also made shade curtains for the upcoming trip down south next year.
Another item you may want to take into consideration is the additional windage with enclosing the flybridge, most noticeable during docking procedures.

Cheers
Sounds like the OP has already made up his mind. I would love to have a hard top, but it doesn't pencil out for us. On the bridge, the front glass and back glass does have zipper opening for warm days. Crusty is correct that 100% of my navigation is done from the fly bridge.

I also have a sun deck that is enclosed. During the summer, we take this down and install screen panels.
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Old 12-31-2018, 07:47 PM   #18
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For the uninitiated (like me)..... WOW!

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Old 12-31-2018, 08:03 PM   #19
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For the uninitiated (like me)..... WOW!

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We travelled with a Neptunus 65 from Chicago to Green Trurtle Bay this fall. It is owned by a lovely Canadian couple and is an absolutely stunning boat. I haven’t researched the construction, but the design, fit, finish and interior lighting are close to sex on the water.
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Old 12-31-2018, 09:22 PM   #20
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On our last boat there was a hardtop with Barret (Rainier) bonded windows and vinyl fabric for a 4 sides to open the front of the enclosure the panels would attach to the bottom of the hardtop. the rest of the panels were in tracks and would slide past one another to open( think sliding glass door) .... The cockpit was enclosed with same material and manner... The issues were these bonded rigid panels had to be stored flat, the window material crazed and was almost impossible to replace. The zippers and thread all had to be replaced... My experience is Hardtop or not all soft enclosures have a limited lifespan...
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