Last summer was our first aboard Summer Dance for the first mate and I. We live at around 48 degrees North latitude, which means that we don’t get a lot of hot weather. It will get to around 100 degrees for a couple of weeks in August, but that’s as hot as it gets. The rest of the summer is in the 80’s and 90’s.
We have four distinct seasons and enjoy them all. But Mrs. $tingy can’t tolerate much heat for long before she gets into heat exhaustion territory. She had a close call once while we were anchored out last summer after a full day of cruising on a clear, hot day on Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. We took all the appropriate precautions. She tried to stay in the sail shade most of the time, drank plenty of fluids, took breaks below deck, etc. but it only delayed the inevitable.
All that to say that consistent shade in the cockpit is more than just a luxury for her, it could mean the difference between a great weekend and one cut short by making a beeline for home or worse, the emergency room. I hadn’t seriously considered adding a bimini until after that episode.
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During this past winter’s refitting, I found what looked like an excellent value for a new bimini on eBay and clicked Buy it Now. I’m very pleased with the purchase from Marine and RV Direct:
- 1″ thick-walled aluminum frame with nylon fittings
- 600 Denier PU coated, UV resistant canvas cover & free matching boot
- Front straps with stainless steel split clasps
- Matching rear support poles instead of straps
- Stainless steel eye straps and fasteners
The hardest part of the decision was figuring out what size to buy for the most usage and stowing options once it was mounted. I settled on:
- 6′ long covers most of the cockpit but leaves room at the stern for the main sheet, backstay, and a good view of the mainsail
- 73″-78″ wide mounts easily on the deck outside the coamings
- 46″ high, which is 10″ higher than most biminis sold for the C-22. I wound up shortening the frame by 5″ to not interfere with the boom but we can still stand up under the cover.
The price was irresistable at only $88.76 including shipping! It was probably so cheap because it was old stock or an unpopular color, gray. It arrived quickly from the Midwest. The color was okay and didn’t detract from the overall look of the boat as much as I thought it would. The non-skid surfaces on our deck are a light gray anyway. (Later that summer, I sewed the blue Sunbrella cover that you see in the picture above and a boot to match the rest of our canvas.) The construction quality is very good considering the price, as good as most others I’ve seen.
For maximum versatility while under sail and at anchor, I mounted the frame onto Carver 36″ tracks (not included) just outside the coamings. This leaves just enough deck width to walk forward around the bimini when necessary. The tracks let us position the bimini in the middle of the cockpit while under sail to shade most of the seating area.
We can slide it to the rear and fold it down onto its support poles when at a dock or at anchor and board or walk around in the cockpit without it being in the way.
To get it completely out of the way without detaching it, we can slide it all the way forward, fold it down, and it will pivot forward onto the cabin roof in the space between the pop top and the mast.
The rear support poles really add to the cover’s versatility, particularly with the top folded up in the rear position. They replace the rear straps that would otherwise need to attach to the pushpit railing, right in the way of the main sheet and operating the outboard. Instead, I mounted 1″ hinged jaw slides (not included) on the sides of the pushpit railing, one pair forward for the mid-cockpit bimini position and one pair rearward for the rear cockpit position. The slides aren’t used when the bimini is in the forward position. When attached to either pair of slides with tethered quick-connect pins, the bimini is very stable in both locations and takes less time to set up than having to adjust straps.
For front supports, I kept the nylon straps but replaced the double-D type buckles with cam buckles so that I could quickly and easily lengthen or shorten the straps depending on which set of jaw slides the bimini is attached to. I mounted the included eye straps to the existing screws for the pop top dogs, so no drilling was needed.
Shortening the frame was fairly easy:
- Detach the vertical tubes from the frame so that you can work on them.
- Drill out the aluminum rivets that hold the hinge fittings in the ends of the tubes and remove the fittings.
- Cut the tubing to length with a metal cutoff blade in a miter saw. Use a hacksaw if that’s all you have and file the end flat and smooth.
- Drill new holes in the tube and reattach the hinge fittings with new rivets or sheet metal screws.
Mrs. $tingy loves the bimini and when she’s happy, I’m happy and we can keep cruising. If you’re considering a bimini, you owe it to yourself to check out Marine and RV Direct. Unless you must have only the best, it’s hard to justify paying more.
The Bottom Line
Suggested price: $590.39
$tingy Sailor cost: $160.96
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