Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Our New Look - A Hard Bimini and Helm Cover

Life in Grenada is full of distractions. Not complaining but now that hurricane season is over and our departure date is looming we're feeling the push to complete our various boat projects.

We tucked in on the dock at Secret Harbour Marina almost a month ago and in that time we've tackled a (small) number of projects, the most involved of which is building a new hard bimini and improved helm station for Mowzer.

Mowzer at a great location on the dock, next to our friends on Nahani River (another Ottawa boat).  Notice how we improved the neighbourhood by slinging our canvas sunshade over the back of the boat once we removed our navy blue bimini.  It's still deadly hot on the back of the boat. 

Our old helm station was a hard plastic bench which no arm rests and minimal padding.  We had added a back roll but as soon as you put a cushion under your chaffing tush, the back support was in the wrong place.  Needless to say, not a very comfortable place to spend hours piloting the boat.

Old old uncomfortable helm seat removed and sitting on the deck - the new seat under it's cover that will hopefully keep it protected over the years.

Now that's riding in style and comfort!

And the back of the seat flips sides so we can enjoy the sunsets while sitting at anchor.

We were also quite unhappy with the sun and weather protection at the helm and generally over the entire cockpit area.  Not sure what the French engineers where thinking at Fountaine-Pajot when they built the bimini edge just above the cockpit cushions, but it meant that every time it rained we had to scramble to clear anything out of the cockpit or it would receive a good soaking.  In addition, the bimini top Sunbrella was worn out and leaky itself so half our living space would disappear with any rain shower.

Bring on a new design idea which we blatantly borrowed from a member of the Cruiser's Forum who so graciously shared photos and design drawings, we ordered three large sheets of Starboard (HDPE ½" thick plastic board) and a new padded double helm seat to be shipped in from Miami and finally, we engaged the services of a stainless steel welder.

The plan:  replace the existing helm seat, build a stainless frame above the helm seat and mount hard white Starboard panels in place of the navy blue Sunbrella fabric cockpit bimini.  The centre of our existing bimini was constructed of fiberglass and strong enough to walk on, so we left that intact.

Dry fitting the starboard panel over the bimini frame.

Its a good fit and butts up nicely against the central fiberglass panel.

The folks at Secret Harbour Marina were exceedingly kind to allow us to store the big sheets of Starboard in their garage and set up an impromptu workshop at the edge of the parking lot.  We spent a number of days cutting and sanding the three large panels under the hot Grenadian sun, but we ended up with nicely shaped replacements that extend our coverage out a bit further to drop rain on the decks where it belongs.

Thankful for a cooler cloudy day as I sanded out the large panel for the helm bimini.  The sweat was still pouring off us with 32C temps and 76% humidity.

Silvio (On The Spot Welding) did a great job building our new helm bimini frame, taking just one day to weld it all together "on the spot".

Silvio really gets into his work!  Here he is drilling holes in the frame for us to attach the Starboard panel.

Putting the final weld on the frame for the helm bimini.

Look at all the beautiful shade and weather protection we now have!

The Starboard we used has a really nice non-skid pattern embossed on it which gives a very good finish.

Next up, we still need to paint the unfinished top of the old fibreglass - this will be completed with a non-skid finish to make it as safe as possible up there when closing up the sailbag.  Then we'll mount our solar panels back up on the unobstructed surfaces.

And finally, I will sew sun/rain shades that will attach under the edges of the bimini to give us all-round protection.

We are so pleased with how this project has turned out.  It has been a lot of hot sweaty work but by doing as much as possible ourselves it was not an exorbitantly expensive project that will add greatly to our comfort on the boat.

As we tidied up our garage storage we pulled out some of the packing materials - they were a big hit with the boat kids (for all of about 30 seconds of course.)  It sounded like firecrackers where going off on the dock as they snapped the big airpockets in the plastic padding.

Small joys!