When we first purchased Blue Turtle, the canvas and isinglass were very worn, the glass was cloudy and had several large cracks and rips in it. We knew we would need to replace it, so in May of 2013 we spent a week at Cape Coral Yacht Club to have it all replaced. We really never gave it much thought as to whether we really needed to isinglass, just that it had it before and needed to be replaced. My parents boats had always had it and I thought it was a necessity on a boat to protect the bridge and console and keep you dry while underway in storms. I also had high hopes that it would keep the bridge dry from rain and protect our things.
While we certainly enjoyed having it on those few cold days while we were under way, we never really used it while riding through storms. When we have heavy rain, Randy usually comes down and drives Blue Turtle from the lower helm inside. With the care and maintenance of the glass to keep it clear, we quickly realized it was more trouble than it was worth. We spot folks in our marina polishing their isinglass every few weeks and ideally, we should have been polishing it at least quarterly. We were lucky to do it twice a year with our limited time and that just wasn’t enough. After a couple of years, our glass was beginning to show signs of permanent cloudiness. We also realized it wasn’t keeping the bridge dry as we had hoped. We had a few leaks and with the heavy summer rains here it was a breeding ground for mold and mildew up there. On top of finding time to clean the glass, we also had to spend hours removing mildew from cushions and rails.
Earlier this year, we had a few major storms come through the area and one in particular brought a tornado that touched down nearby in Cape Coral. The strong winds ripped the large back section of our canvas and isinglass off. Randy and I decided we liked having the back part of our bridge open, especially since the temperatures were beginning to warm and it let a nice breeze in. Another round of storms passed through in the spring/summers months this year and we acquired more damage to the canvas and glass. We finally removed all the isinglass except for the front panel. After our Dry Tortugas trip, we discussed the pros and cons of having the isinglass while deciding whether to have it repaired. The cons outweighed the pros and we decided to remove it all. We hired a canvas company to come out and fix a few areas of the damaged canvas and make sure the structure would support the bimini without the isinglass panels. We also had them make an instrument panel that covers the upper helm as well as our bench seating and cushions. It essentially protects everything important up there and keeps it dry.
I think isinglass certainly has it’s place in certain climates, but living in tropical conditions in Florida we have found that it blocks a lot of breeze which is important when cruising in the summer heat. For us, the care and maintenance and possible damage from storms just doesn’t justify the high cost of it. If we had to do it all over, we would have never replaced the isinglass back in 2013 and just opted for the bimini with instrument panel. We could have saved a lot of money back then, but this is a learning process for us and experience will enable us to make better decisions when the time comes to purchase our next boat. For now, we are loving our new open-air bridge on Blue Turtle.