Friday, December 09, 2011

SOLAR BIMINI PART THREE: A plan comes together!

Let's see where was I. Oh yeah, back in August I was explaining how plan B of the solar dodger project came to fruition. That was before preparations for Hurricane Irene interrupted my train of thought. Now it's time to revisit the Solar Bimini Project on BIANKA.  I had been wanting to use my 75 watt solar  panels to replace the vinyl worn dodger material and had been somewhat successfully done that using the boats existing dodger frame. As explained here and here.

But, now I also wanted to extend it to create a bimini over the cockpit using the new 48 volt solar panels I had bought to help charge the electric propulsion battery bank.  BIANKA never had a bimini. It previously only had an extension of vinyl material that could be zipped to the existing vinyl dodger and even then this could only  be used while at anchor because it interfered with the mainsheet on my Nonsuch.

So if I wanted to have a permanent solar bimini it meant I would have to build a custom frame for it. I thought about how to do this and some things I wanted and some of the limitations I would need to overcome. After sipping  a beer in the cockpit I came up with this list of what I wanted:

1) I wanted to be able to stand at the helm without hitting my head on the dodger as lifted my six foot two inch frame up in one of those "what the hell is that" situations when sailing along.

2) I also wanted to have easy access to leave the cockpit to go forward on the deck. So I did not want a lot of frame tubing in the way hindering me in those situations.

After a lot of thought I came up with a plan that met my needs. The major piece would be a bow frame. I was able to get this from Sailrite a wonderful source for all things a sailor might need for sails, dodgers and biminis. One of the dilemmas I had was about where to install this frame. Should it attach on top of the cockpit coaming like the existing dodger did or should it land on the deck outside the coaming. I decided that it would be better to have it land outside the cockpit coaming. My reasoning was if things got nasty and the boat was bouncing around having the bimini frame mounted on the cockpit coaming could allow a persons head to hit it. Leading to at minimum a painful bump or worse unconsciousness.

Who needs that!  While I debated about where to mount the frame I went ahead and  ordered a one inch diameter long bow stainless steel frame kit from Sailrite. It comes in three pieces. Two side pieces and the top piece. According to the description:

"All tubing bows are prebent in a custom jig mounted on a wall in our shop. To keep shipping reasonable and to allow for greater customization, the bows are cut just beyond each bend creating three sections — two curved and one crowned. The crown in the center bow increases rigidity and improves the appearance of the finished cover. Assemble the three pieces by inserting splines and riveting in place. Once assembled, the bow has more strength than the uncut original."

I also ordered a real handy jig for helping to drill into into the stainless steel tubing for the rivit holes. The Sailrite catalog says "it's not required" but, if you have ever tried to drill into stainless steel tubing you know it can be a real pain.  The Drill Steady Tubing Tool really made drilling into the one inch frame tubing real easy as shown in this Sailrite video:

I recommend it if you should ever need to drill a hole into the stainless steel tubing on your boat. 
The final piece I needed to complete mounting the frame was some way to attach the frame to the boat. I chose a 90 degree stanchion base fittings to secure the one inch frame tubing to the deck:

With these pieces I was able to move onto phase one of building the solar bimini on board BIANKA.

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