Friday, February 20, 2015

Bimini Canvas

Bimini Canvas. How to select the right bimini top for your boat. Take a look to the largest range of Bimini Covers from European manufacturers
If there is one product that will help you enjoy your boat on a hot summer day or a cool rainy one, it is your bimini top.  They do however require replacing from time to time.  Either a bad storm came through or your brother in law left it up while trying to go under a low bridge, bimini tops can get pretty beat up.
Choosing the correct bimini top is important because the right looking one will set your boat off from the rest while at the same time giving you plenty of coverage and years of use.  The wrong one will leave you looking for the duct tape to repair the fabric, or the frame.  Thus living up to the saying ” a boat is a hole you sink money into.”
If you are on ebay and have searched the internet you have seen how many different folks sell bimini tops.  A lot of them are the same – atwood, carver, etc…and are just sold by different companies.  Those companies buy a bunch of them from atwood and carver and then resell them.  If you need something a bit different than what they carry, they probably can’t help you.  It’s not that they don’t want to help, they just don’t carry what you need.
So what do you need?
To start off with you need to know how wide your boat is at the mounting point.  That is going to be your width.  Next, decide how long you want your bimini top.   Keep in mind some of your passengers may enjoy the sun so covering the entire boat may not be a great idea.  Now consider how tall you need it.  Keep in mind you are mounting it to the windshield, or rail, or gunnel of your boat.  This is the easy part by the way.  It gets more difficult from here.
So you have a good idea of the length, width, and height of your bimini top and frame.  Here is where all the decisions and the price differences come into play.  Let’s talk fabric.
I am amazed at how many sellers claim the material their bimini is made with is the best.  Really?  Is Sunbrella the best?  It may be, but it may not be what you need.  I always ask customers to think about how long they are going to own the boat.  If they are planning on selling it in the next few years,  sunbrella may not be the best choice.  It may be overkill.  You don’t need to own a Cadillac to get to the corner grocery store.  I can’t say anything bad about Sunbrella though – it carries a great warranty and has a great reputation for not fading as fast as others.  Cases can be made for several other fabrics.  Only holding on to your boat for a year or two?  A nice strong solution dyed polyester called navigator will be just fine.  Maybe you are keeping it for the next 5-7 years.  I’d go with a fabric called weathermax or even surlast.  Top gun is another great choice.  Are you planning on running 50MPH on the water or just a leisurely cruise?  Keep in mind the way you use your boat as well.  There are so many different fabrics out there it is hard to keep track of what to use – unless you are in the  industry as I am.  I always inform my potential customers of the advantages and disadvantages of each fabric.  Make sure you buy from someone who really knows the difference and will help you make the right purchase for you – not their pocket book.  To some degree it also comes down to your budget as well.  There are some great materials out there that you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on.
Okay, now that we have the fabric chosen (if not give me a call, I’ll help you out) lets talk framework.  Stainless or Aluminum that is the question.  You guessed it – it depends on your use.  Are you in salt water or fresh?  Do you have a cabin cruiser or a pontoon boat?  The right framework needs to be strong but also compliment the boat.  Let’s start with fiberglass runabouts – cabin cruisers.  Stainless Steel is stronger than aluminum.  Even double reinforced aluminum that I’ve seen floating around ebay and the internet.  Steel is stronger.  Does that mean you need to buy the stainless frame?  No.  Again consider how you use your boat.  Consider if you are in salt or fresh water.  If you are in salt water and running hard go with stainless.  7/8″ or 1″ round will serve you well.  I caution you to stay with stainless hardware on the frame and deck mounts as well.  Okay so you aren’t in the ocean, perhaps on a small inland lake.  Not running too fast or too hard?  Stay with the 7/8″ aluminum.  It will serve you well and save you some bucks.
Have a pontoon boat?  I’d go with square tube aluminum.  If your top rail is 1″ or 1 1/8″ go with a 1″ square tube frame.  Is your top rail 1.25″?  I’d go with square tube 1.25″ aluminum.  There are two main ways the frame is connected together.  You can get the black vinyl fittings or the metal aluminum extruded fittings.  In saltwater?  Tough choice.  The black vinyl fittings won’t corrode but you lose some strength.  Freshwater pontoon?  You can go with either black vinyl fittings or the aluminum extruded fittings.  I prefer the metal.  They are typically satin anodized to match the frame and add more rigidity to the frame.
Every bimini top package should come with a storage boot, rear braces, and front straps – standard.  A good company will let you swap out those front straps for front braces at little to no charge.  The bimini top should be sewn with a UV protected thread as well.  After all if you choose sunbrella but the manufacturer uses a cheap thread, the bimini is no good.  If you can ask for the thread to be tenera or another lifetime guarantee type thread even better. The bimini should be edged or bound in the same color as the rest of the fabric.  I’ve seen a lot of red bimini tops with black edging all the way around it.  Make sure it is color coordinated – it just looks better.
Speaking of looking better.  Make sure you like the way the bimini top looks.  The lines of the bimini top should compliment the lines of your boat.  Pick a color that will accent your boat.  I’ve also found that the lighter colors tend to take a longer time to show fade.  however,  pick too light of a color and it will only take one seagull to really make it look bad.
There are some companies that can sell you just what you need right out of a box from carver or atwood or taylor made.  Their bimini in a box might just happen to be what you need.  If you need something different though, you need to find a custom shop….or us.  We are the kind of company that will walk you through the process all the way through installation.