February 23, 2018
We've all been surprised by a summer shower when we're out on the boat. Having a bimini top to pop up can make all the difference when the rain moves in. A good bimini also shields sensitive skin from the sun's strong rays, and provides cool shade in which to relax. Too often, a discount bimini top is made with discount materials, too - a flimsy pull-apart frame and fabric that won't stand up to rain and sun. At Great Lakes Skipper, we're proud to carry only the best-quality aluminum and stainless steel bimini tops from trusted brands like Dowco, Great Lakes Boat Top Company, and Taylor Made, with genuine Sunbrella canvas covers. Many of our biminis are OEM tops for particular boats, but will work on other boats as well. Lots of our tops come with a boot to protect the top when it's folded up, but if yours has gotten lost or damaged, we have bimini boots in stock. Great Lakes Skipper also carries replacement bimini top hardware like deck hinges and snap hooks. We have covers for wakeboard towers, camper boat tops, and convertible tops, too. A bimini top isn't difficult to install with some time, the right tools, and a helper or two. But first, you'll need some measurements. Measure once. This part's easy. Decide how much of your boat you want covered by a top. Then, using a tape measure, find the width and length of that area. Most bimini tops are between four and eight feet long. Find your center. The mounting point for the top's deck hinges will be at about the middle of the bimini top on each side of the boat - in other words, about halfway between the top's front and back edges. After determining where the hinge mounting location will be on each side of the boat, measure the distance between these mounting points to determine the width of top you need. NOTE: This measurement is not the same as your boat's beam measurement. Bimini frames have some ability to flex to fit boats a few inches wider; this range is indicated in each top's description on our site. Make sure both mounting points are exactly aligned (straight across from each other), then mark each point with a 3" piece of masking tape; you'll use this tape as a template for drilling your mounting holes when you're ready to install your top. Measure twice. The height of the bimini top is not the same as the length of the frame arms, so you'll need that tape measure again. Standing inside the boat, measure from your mounting point straight up to determine your minimum headroom. Bimini top straps allow for two or three inches in height adjustment. Shop for your top. Now the fun part: shopping for your top. Great Lakes Skipper has complete bimini boat tops in a rainbow of colors, to match or contrast with your boat's color scheme. We also have replacement canopies, if you just need to replace your bimini canvas or want to add side curtains or a privacy enclosure. Installation. This is at least a two-person job, so find a helper. Remember that masking tape you used earlier? If you've left it in place, you already know where your new top's mounting hinges will go. Using the hinge as a guide, mark the mounting holes on the masking tape. Check that the underside of the spot where you'll be drilling is clear of wires and hoses, then drill your holes. Use a countersink bit to bevel the holes a bit at the top edge to protect your gelcoat, then peel off the masking tape. Boating Magazine recommends applying a marine polysulfide sealant to the area before bolting the hinge down. Use a rag and solvent to clean up any excess sealant. Use nuts and bolts to attach the deck mount; if your top came with screws, tighten them carefully to avoid cracking your fiberglass. Next, align the holes in the bases of the bow with the holes in the hinges and bolt them together. Raise the top and stretch the front straps forward, keeping them aligned with the bow, and have your helper do the same with the rear straps, until the straps and the bow make an M-shape. This shows you where to mount the metal eyes, to which the straps will be clipped. [caption id="attachment_675" align="aligncenter" width="286"] You want the straps and central bow to form an M shape.[/caption] Just as you did with the deck hinges, mark the position for each metal eye strap, aligning each eye strap with its mate on the opposite sides of the boat (fore and aft as well as starboard and port). Carefully drill your mounting holes, bevel the edges, and gently screw or bolt down the eye straps. Clip your straps to the eye straps and adjust the buckles to tighten down the top. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYUgkQAK8Og Questions? Call us at 262-898-1855 or drop us a line at [email protected]. Remember, our social media friends get early access to sales as well as exclusive coupons. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram!