The boating fun meter drops precipitously after a few too many hours in the hot summer sun or a few minutes in a chilly rain shower. That puts a Bimini top high on the list of essential equipment. Maybe you want a top that’s quick to stow and deploy, or one fitted with an enclosure, or maybe durability and maintenance are paramount. Whether it’s OEM replacement, bought off the shelf, or fully custom, here’s what to look for when choosing a new Bimini.
Most boatbuilders use precisely designed digital templates from which suppliers computer-cut canvas. To replace the factory top, or just part of it, consider ameritexdirect.com. It provides thousands of OEM tops, along with detailed hardware-mounting locations. Since 2010, Ameritex has sewn on a rubber label with the part number on all of its tops. Check yours.
Aftermarket Bimini tops are simple rectangles, 4, 6 or 8 feet long, typically with three height choices, and made to any whole-inch width dimension. Online tools such as West Marine’s Boat Cover Fit Guide (westmarine.com/boat-covers-and-bimini-top-selector) let you choose a specific boat model and year to find a predetermined best fit (not a custom-fit top) with no measuring or guessing. Using that same 10,000-boat database, taylormadeproducts.com selects the right top to order through your local marine retailer.
A canvas shop provides wider options. Coated or laminated vinyl-alloy fabrics, like Stamoid, are fully waterproof and withstand harsher scrubbing. Lifetime-warranty PTFE thread, along with acrylic fabric’s 10-year warranty, make custom tops particularly durable. A few canvas shops, like Canvas Designers in West Palm Beach (canvasdesigners.com), digitize their templates and cut fabric by computer, which saves time and money on replacement parts.
Whichever route you choose to take, consider stainless-steel tubing over aluminum in salt water. Stainless or square-cross-section aluminum also adds rigidity, which is particularly important on tops wider than 7 feet. Fixed supports allow stowing the top partly erect. Consider quick-release deck fittings that snap into place, rather than pull pins that can be hard to align .
Sunbrella — or similar solution-dyed acrylic fabric — offers higher fade resistance and water repellence, as well as a longer warranty, but that might not matter if you’re selling soon. For midprice tops, 600-weight polyester fabric lasts longer and repels water better than lighter 300-weight material. Look for solution-dyed fabric (versus pigment-dyed) to gain about four times the fade resistance. Also check for quality high-tensile-strength polyester thread with ultraviolet resistance.