Our boat had no Bimini shade above the helm station and we really wanted some protection from the strong Florida sun. We looked at the standard canvass bimini, but wanted something a bit more substantial in size and durability and so ultimately decided on a custom built fiberglass hardtop bimini over the helm station. I did the project in 2 phases.
The first phase was to get a suitably sized fiberglass bimini top made with reinforcing points installed to accommodate the support structure to follow. I found a manufacture in Florida that custom makes tops for high end motor boats that was willing to do this for me. Once I got this completed I constructed a wooden support structure to hold the bimini top in place at the correct height and position. I also built the slope angle to match the existing main cabin roof slope angle so that it would all blend properly once installed.
Next was getting a local welder to fabricate a suitably strong support structure. I simulated what I wanted it to look like by building the support posts out of 2 inch PVC pipes initially and they allowed me to see what angle I wanted these to be and also what the finished product may look like. I ended up having this made of aluminum using 2 inch tubing with 4 inch base plates on the top and bottom of the tubes. This was ultimately powder coated white to match the gel coat, but could also be constructed of stainless steel. The front supports are through bolted and the back supports sit on the factory installed reinforcing pads. The overall structure is very stiff and strong.
Attached picture files are:
1) pdf showing initial sketches of layout
2) jpeg showing reinforcing points installed during layup & construction (side and future hatch location)
3) jpeg showing gel coat pattern on underside of bimini (once installed this is what you look up onto)
4) jpeg showing temporary wooden support frame during install process and temp support legs made from PVC to get frame size and layout for later construction out of either aluminum or stainless steel
5) jpeg showing bimini installed
The fiberglass bimini was $2,500 and the powder coated aluminum frame was $1,500. Potentially a hatch could also be installed and that cost would depend on what hatch you choose. I will most likely install a Lewmar hatch with the exact same specs as the cabin hatches so I always have it as a spare if ever needed, as a hatch in the bimini top is not critical.
Since getting the boat I have taken on a number of projects and installed the following myself:
1. Installed additional high capacity 4000gph bilge pumps in each hull and 2000gph bilge pumps in each engine compartment.
2. Installed LED Spot headlights on each bow to spot “crab pots” when sailing at night.
3. Installed “2 person” seats instead of single seat on each bow pulpit
4. The boat came with a 220V system in place (as boat was European spec’d). I addenda completely independent 110V system with Xantrex SW3012 charger/inverter. The boat is now capable of operating worldwide with no power issues. I have also added a new house battery bank consisting of 6 Mastervolt Slimline 200amp hour each batteries, giving a total house bank capacity of 1,200amp hours.
Installing a rack protruding off the coach roof back to hold 4 additional solar panels (250 to 285 watts each) and a small solar hot water solar panel to allow for hot water heating without being plugged into shore power or running the engine. Other projects after that are adding a water maker and small washing machine, additional freezer, and an SSB. I really enjoy doing all these projects myself so I fully understand how they operate and can maintain and operate them easily myself.