Installing A Bimini Top
A Bimini top is a great way of creating shade, while also offering the versatility to fold it back to catch some rays, trailer home or store your boat. While Bimini tops can be mounted in a variety of ways, the simplest tops are anchored at the gunwales and utilize adjustable web straps forward and aft to keep the canvas taut and the structure secure. The most affordable models from brands such as Carver (carvercovers.com) and Taylor Made (taylormadeproducts.com) have aluminum bows with reinforced nylon fittings, while more expensive versions feature stainless-steel bows and fittings, offering greater durability in salt water. In either case, make sure the top has at least three bows for proper support.
Skill Level: 2/5
Time to Complete: Under 2 hours
Tools and Supplies
*6-foot-long Bimini Top
*Eye straps (4) with fasteners
*BoatLife LifeCalk polysulfide sealant
*T-square (to square the deck hinges)
*Chalk line (to snap a line between the two deck hinges)
*Power drill and bits
*Cleanup rags (to wipe off excess sealant)
1. Select the Size
The width of the top is determined by the measurement between the points where the two deck hinges will attach, but the length and height can be varied to suit your needs. For example, if you want to stand underneath, make sure the height, when combined with the distance below the mounting point, offers sufficient headroom. Off-the-shelf tops generally range from four to eight feet in length, with six-foot-long tops ranking as the most popular on runabouts. Choose a canvas color that coordinates well with the boat’s colors.
2. Position the Top
Ask a buddy to hold the fully extended top in place as you decide where the deck hinges should be installed, knowing that these will mark the longitudinal midpoint of the top. It’s important that the deck hinges are exactly opposite and parallel to each other, lest the top would bind when folded. Side-mount deck hinges are available for mounting on vertical surfaces such as cabin bulwarks, if gunwale mounting won’t work. Make sure the folded top will stow with minimal interference in the cockpit.
3. Mount the Deck Hinges
Place pieces of masking tape on the mounting surfaces and use the deck hinges to mark the mounting holes for each. Before drilling the mounting holes, be sure the underside is clear of items such as hoses and wires. After drilling, chamfer the holes with a countersink to eliminate gelcoat cracking, and then remove the masking tape, bed the surface with a marine polysulfide sealant and screw each deck hinge into place (use nuts and bolts where possible), cleaning up the excess sealant with a rag dampened with solvent.
4. Install the Top and Eye Straps
Bolt the bases of the main bow to the deck hinges and erect the top, extending the fore and aft web straps in line with the legs of the bows to form an M-shape on each side. This will tell you where to mount the eye straps. Mark, drill, chamfer, bed and mount each pair (fore and aft) with self-tapping screws at the same position on each side of the boat. The eye straps work best when mounted horizontally. Attach the snap-hooks to the eye straps and use the buckles to evenly tighten the top.
Quick Tip: Pin Pal
If stowing the top is a problem, mount a second pair of deck hinges and use quick-release “grenade” pins. This way, the top can be moved aft to where it folds out of the way.
Adjustable Aft Stays
Instead of straps, some Bimini tops use telescoping aft stays, attached to the boat with deck hinges, to secure the main bow. Forward web straps keep things taut. A big advantage of this system is that you can fold back and store the Bimini in an elevated position, so as not to interfere with seating or deck space. With this system, it’s best to secure the canvas in a zippered boot (starting at $51.99, iboats.com) when not in use.