SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Simple Bimini

Jaunary 13, 2014

A reader asked for the details of the simple bimini we have on Eurisko. The following is an excerpt from Simply Sailing, available in paperback and for Kindle.

For several work stops Dave has found employment at canvas shops: perhaps the source of his dislike for typical dodgers, biminis, and awnings. Our dodger is tiny, barely covering the companionway. Our awning is nylon cloth sewn together under duress while trying not to bake in the August Trinidad sun. It drapes over the boom and the roof ridge (lines tied from the back stays to the forward shrouds on both sides), then tied to the lifelines with bights. It is quiet and removable in under twenty seconds; the only type of awning we will tolerate. Understandably then, our bimini is not typical either. Our "temporary" prototype was small, retractable, and disintegrated in two years. Dave wanted to build one a bit bigger, yet still retractable with--we hoped--a longer lifespan.


Laying out the shape on plastic

Since Dave enjoys working with wood and finds it more aesthetic than stainless, he decided to laminate the bows for the bimini. Besides, his pipe bender bit him, and he has not touched it since. He started by measuring the maximum sizes: height under the boom and the width of the bow when the bimini is folded back, since the boat is narrower farther aft. In his workshop, Dave marked the measurements on a table then used a batten to connect the points with an attractive curve, trying to avoid a bimini that was too boxy or oddly shaped. Once he found a curve that was pleasing to the eye, he used a batten to fair it and traced it on the table. He laid down clear plastic so that the table was protected yet he could still see his marks. Next, he screwed 2" x 4" scraps to the table every foot along the outside of the line. In order to get the wood to bend to the desired shape it may be necessary to include a few pieces of wood inside the line, as well.


How many clamps do you need? More than you have.

After measuring the arch and determining that he needed just over 14', he bought a 1'x16' cypress board. Using a table saw, he ripped six 1" pieces 3/16" thick. He placed these pieces into the jig to dry fit them, clamped them in a few places, and marked the centerline on each board as well as a few other points so that he could easily see when the pieces were aligned. He removed the pieces from the jig and laid them out individually. Since he was laminating them together with polyurethane "Gorilla Glue," with a damp cloth he wetted each surface according to the instructions. Using a disposable chip brush, he spread the glue along one surface, stacking each piece after he applied the glue. Once all six pieces were together, he fitted them back into the jig and realigned them according to the marks he had made. He secured the pieces together using about fifteen clamps. When I asked him how many clamps would be necessary, he said, "You always need more than you have."


You may have to chase the shade, but we still prefer it to an oxygen tent.

Dave allowed the glue to dry overnight, used a hand plane to fair all the edges, then brought it to the boat to fit it. The bow is attached to the toe rail at a point where it can swing back to touch the back stay or forward almost to the main sheet at the desired height. When we were sure it would fit, Dave varnished the wooden bow and screwed brackets to the end through which he bolted it to the toe rail. We have a metal toe rail, which made more sense to use than installing bimini frame brackets. Using the same jig and laminating technique, Dave made a shorter bow long enough to span the back stays. This bow was also varnished, then tied to the back stays. Dave patterned the cloth necessary to cover the area between the two bows, hemmed the edges, then screwed it onto the wooden bows every six inches. We pulled the bow forward with lines to the stanchions secured with rolling hitches with a bight so that in a squall it can be quickly folded back. The two bows then meet at the back stays where we tie the canvas with a hitched line. Though the twenty-one-square-foot bimini does not provide much shade, it is sufficient, and we can still see the mainsail and go forward easily.


Bimini and back screen, anchored off Providencia, Columbia.

They say the best days of your life are when you buy a boat and when you sell a boat. I don't know who "they" are, but they've obviously never sold a boat they truly loved. MONDAY we'll share how boats get in your blood and become part of your life, family, and dreams.

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