I quickly covered bimini tops in one of my last posts where I was writing about 10 Thing You Should Have On Your Boat. If you have time I suggest you red it and post a feedback if you think I missed something important.
Bimini tops can make a real difference in your boating comfort. They can very well protect you from direct sun and rain. Putting a bimini on your boat means you won’t have to be exposed to the direct sun while you are sailing around. You can build a bimini on your boat if you’re willing to invest in some fabric, aluminum or stainless steel tubing and a few fittings. All the needed materials can be bought online.
How to Select Your Bimini Top
Decide what length you need, 6′ or 8′. Be sure not to order a top that is too long. When you order your top and fix it on your boat I suggest you step away from the boat and check how it looks. If its too big try to change your newly bought bimini top for a new one.
Measure where the top attaches on one side of the boat to the same location on the opposite side of the boat. This measurement is not the same as the beam of the boat or boat width. This is the most important measurement becouse if you do it wrong you won’t be able to change anything later.
The correct height is one that enhances the good looks of the boat and is functional (so you could stand under it if desired).
Where to buy a bimni top
You can start by looking for a bimini top in all your local marine supply shops and the go online ant find better prices on eBay or you can buy one at Amazon marine supply shop for bimni tops.
What materials do you need to build a bimini top?
|You can buy bimini top frames materials in all hardware stores. Frames are usually made out of aluminum and stainless steel tubing. If you are using your boat in freshwater enviroments then you should go for aluminum frames which are cheaper and easy to maintain. Aluminum tubing should be anodized to resist pitting and oxidation. Stainless steel is much stronger, will not corrode, and is nearly twice as expensive as aluminum. Plus, stainless steel’s strength allows you to travel at higher speeds, so it’s the ideal choice for powerboats. For saltwater applications, stainless steel is well worth the extra cost.
Tube size ranges from 2 to 2.5 cm which is standard and provides plenty of strength in both metals. Whether the tubing is drawn or extruded has a profound effect on the strength of the tubing. Drawn tubing is pulled through the die process, giving it a denser consistency and more strength. Extruded tubing may have weak spots because it’s pushed through the die process.
Check Duck Works Magazine for a tutorial on building a bimini top frame.
|Fittings are available in nylon and stainless steel version. Nylon is relatively strong and weather resistant and also nylon fittings, which are far less expensive to replace, will break before the tubing bends in stressful situations. This means that it is better to use nylon fitings and always keep spare parts with you. I use them and I am very staified. Stainless fittings are more expensive, but are the strongest and most durable. Coated brass fittings are inexpensive but they have a tendency to corrode and peel.|
The top material
|There are four basic choices of material for the top to your bimini. Cotton canvas is the least expensive option, but it won’t last and tends to leak. A high quality vinyl is waterproof and easy to clean. Like canvas, vinyl can become brittle after extended exposure to the sun. Polyester, particularly the form called “solution dyed” polyester, holds its color well, stands up to sun longer without becoming brittle, doesn’t leak and stands up well to abrasion. Acrylic tops stand up to the sun well, but tend to stretch, meaning they will eventually sag. The best material out there you can use is Sunbrella acrylic fabric.
Where to buy the material?
I would say that the best place to start looking is your local marine stores and off course eBay. You can buy a lot of cheap material on eBay.com. By far the best resource is www.sailrite.com where you will find everything regarding your bimini top or spray hood. They have a wonderfull database of videos that show how to build you bimini top and a great online store where you can buy everything you need for your project. They also sell bimini top and spray hood kits which allready include everything you need. Be sure to check it out. You can also check some great books on the topic of bimini boat top building.
|Check this sample video from SailRite.com|
Sizing the Top
Use a measuring tape to measure the length of the area you want to cover with the bimini. Stock tops come in 6- and 8-foot lengths, a thought to keep in mind when looking at frames because standard frames are built to accommodate standard tops. Measure the width of the area to be covered. This measurement should be taken from where the frame is attached to the port–left–side to the starboard–right–side of the boat. Because the mounting bracket will be atop the gunwale, or top of the boat’s side, this isn’t the same as the width of the boat, the beam.
Decide how high you want the top to be and take a look at your boat. If you have antennas sticking up, you’ll either need to relocate those antennas or change your top configuration. If you have rod holders along one side, those will affect how your top is configured and how high it is. If your rods only stick up 5 feet, you’ll be safe with a bimini that’s 6 or 7 feet high.
Squaring the Frame.
Attach the mountings to the gunwales after you make a decision about the fittings and frame. You need to be sure that the frame is perpendicular to the gunwales and both ends of the frame are parallel; if it isn’t the ends will twist and the top will sag. The fittings will give just a bit but, if you measure from the front corner on the starboard side to the back corner on the port side, it should equal a measurement from the front corner on the port to the back corner on the starboard. If these measurements don’t match, move the frame around until it does. When the measurements are equal, the frame is square and perpendicular to the boat.
Storage of your bimini
Always take the bimini down for winter storage. Bimini tops should be cleaned, dried and stored for the winter or whenever your boat is laid up for long periods. They should not be used as substitutes for a winter cover. Storm winds or snow load can destroy a bimini in a season.Your boat maintenace can become very expensive if you will have to buy new bimini top every year.