The Bimini Boat Top
About Bimini Boat Tops
The bimini top takes its name from the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, where it was first used by boaters in that region to provide shade from the strong rays of the sun.
The bimini top mounts to the gunwale, deck or other surface of the boat with a pair of main hinges. These hinges mount on either side of the boat and support the bimini in the up position while allowing it to fold down along the gunwales when it isn't in use.
To use the bimini, the boot is removed, the top is raised to a vertical position and the hinged bows (metal arches) are swung open, pulling the cover taught like an awning. Two forward tie downs and two rear tie-downs are clipped to eyes fore and aft, then adjusted to hold the bimini in a stable open position. The setup and adjustments may very, depending upon the size of the bimini top and style of boat, but once the bimini top has been set up and adjusted, it normally needs not to be adjusted again.
Bimini top hardware, primarily the type of hardware used to mount the bimini top to the boat. This is another very important consideration. To use hardware composed of nylon or stainless steal. This will depend upon the size of the bimini top and the type of conditions the boat is used in, fresh water or salt water surroundings.
Selecting the bimini boat top for your boat is a matter of size.You most likely will not need to make any of the following measurements. Most major companies will allow you to give them the make, model and year of your boat and they will know the correct dimensions required for a correct fit. Try out a bimini top selector, to get an idea of the options available. But if for some reason you need to make these measurements, these companies will also provide illustrations showing exactly how to make the measurements needed.
Width: The most critical dimension will be the width. Determine the width of the bimini top by measuring from mounting point to mounting point, that is where you want the bimini top to attach on one side of the boat to the same location on the opposite side of the boat. Most bimini top frames have several inches of adjustment to them to facilitate mounting.
Length: Bimini Tops usually come in 4', 6' 8' and 10' lengths. Typically they will center on the mounting point and provide shade half the distance in front and half the distance in back of that point. For example, an 8' cover would provide roughly 4' of shade in front of the mounting point and 4' behind it. While there isn't a set size, 8' and 10' covers are typically used on larger boats as well as Pontoon boats or deck boats. 6' lengths are the most common for sports, fishing or runabouts.
Height: Your bimini will need to be tall enough to allow you proper headroom, but it should also fit the proportions of the boat. Typically ski and high performance boats will have bimini tops 30-36" high, runabouts, fishing boats etc. will favor 36" to 48" heights, while pontoons, deck boats and boats with center consoles will often use 48" to 60" high bimini tops.Note that the height listed is for the bimini frame, your actual clearance will be the combined distance from your boat's deck to the mounting point and from the mounting point to the top of the bimini. The height of the bimini top is determined from the mounting point up, not from the floor of the boat. Before you start shopping for a bimini, it is always handy to have these three measurements in hand. You'll find that most serious bimini top dealers will offer some form of bimini top finder to help you sort through the options. You may be able to get recommendations for your specific make, model and year of boat, or you may have to enter your preferred dimensions to see your options.
A major consideration should be the material used for the top. Getting a premium fabric will increase the cost somewhat, but it will often increase the warranty and will probably increase the useable life of your bimini top. Biminis are exposed to lots of sun, wind, rain ect. so you'll want a cover that will hold up over the years. Bimini tops are made in a wide range of fabrics such as cotton, mixed blends, polyester, and acrylic. When deciding upon the type of fabric for your bimini, choose the fabric that is best suited for the weather it will face. Humid climates, choose a fabric that breathes well and has a high mildew resistance. Climates with snow or heavy rain, choose a fabric that has a high water repellency rating. For dry, hot arid climates, choose a fabric with a high UV protection rating.
As far as colors are concerned, all of the company's offer a wide range of color options.
A storage boot is also a handy option. Designed for a specific bimini size, the boot will wrap around the closed bimini top, keeping everything together, protecting the material when it isn't in use and make the whole package look tidier on your boat. Always check to see if a boot is included or available for your top.
A very important factor to consider when purchasing a bimini top for your boat. Manufacturers offer warranties on bimini tops and it is up to the customer to check out the terms and conditions of the warranty. The length of the warranty will depend primarily on the quality of the bimini top. The tops made from less costly fabric and frames will not have as long a warranty as tops made from better quality fabric and frames. They range from 3 years on most polyesters up to 10 years on solution dyed acrylics. Warranties are good, but with proper care and attention, you will get many years of use. When purchasing a bimini top, make sure to check out the warranty on the product.