Whether you want to create shade when boating on a hot summer day or you just want to make sure your boat is well protected from the blazing heat of the sun, a bimini top (aka canopy) works wonders.
With all the comfort and convenience it offers, a bimini can, without a doubt, give you a better boating experience.
In this guide to inflatable boat biminis, you’ll learn everything you need to be able to choose, install and use a bimini on your SIB.
What is a Bimini Top?
A Bimini top is simply an open-front canvas top for a boat which is usually supported by a metal frame.
Most bimini tops can be easily folded back when not in use and be raised again when needed.
What is a Canopy?
Do you know what is the difference between a bimini top and a canopy?
Nothing 🙂 They are synonyms when it comes to boating, and are used interchangeably. The official name is bimini top though, but many people say canopy.
Why Do You Need a Bimini/Canopy for Your Boat?
Have you ever experienced being out on the water for hours under the scorching hot sun? If that is the case, then you probably know why many boaters choose to install a bimini on their inflatable boats.
By having a bimini top:
- Boating becomes more comfortable and therefore more enjoyable.
- You can spend more time out on the water.
- You protect yourself and your passengers from getting dehydrated and burnt by the heat of the sun.
- You prevent your boat and your boating gear from getting damaged by the long exposure to extreme heat.
- And last but not least, you get to pimp up your boat and increase its value.
What to look for when getting a Bimini for your boat?
Now that we established how essential it is to have a Bimini top for your boat, the next thing you will be concerned with is choosing the right Bimini for your boat.
Do you want a Bimini that’s easier and quicker to stow and deploy, or are you looking after the most durable one? It will really depend on your usage and preference.
To help you out, here are some of the things you need to consider when picking a Bimini top:
1. Bimini Top Fabric
Since the fabric of a Bimini is constantly exposed to the heat of the sun as well as other elements, it is typically the first part to get damaged. You may want to look for a high-quality and marine-grade fabric that can withstand all.
The bows are the number of bars that run through the Bimini top to secure it to the frame. The longer your Bimini is, the more bows you need for support, thus the longer your boat needs to be.
3. Mounting Frame
Most bimini mounting frames are aluminium, but you can find stainless steel ones as well.
Stainless steel is the best material for a mounting frame when used in saltwater boating.
Aluminum, on the other hand, works best in freshwater boating. This shouldn’t be a dealbreaker though if you want to use an aluminium frame in saltwater, just make sure it is treated for saltwater.
4. Storage Boot
When you fold back the Bimini, it’s good if you can store it safely and neatly in a storage boot.
How to measure your boat for the right size Canopy/Bimini top
Bimini tops come in all sizes, so you need to decide how large you want your bimini to be.
One of the first things you need to determine is the area of your boat that you want to shade and cover.
To do this, you need to measure the length, width, and height.
- Measure the length: you need to know that a boat top’s length extends from the front of the boat to its back.
- Measure the width: locate the midpoint of the boat top’s length. These midpoints are where we usually place the main mounts for the Bimini. Measure the distance between these points to get the width.
- Measure the height: you need to go inside the boat and measure the height starting from the mounting points and not from the floor up. Do note that the higher the boat cover is, the less shade you’ll get.
Top-Rated Biminis for Inflatable Boats
Here are some of the best Bimini tops (canopies) you can order online.
Sea Eagle Bimini Top
Sea Eagle (the maker of the awesome Sea Eagle 9) also makes their own bimini top. It comes with all the hardware you need to install it on your inflatable boat. It is UV resistant, made of aluminum, and folds nicely for easy storage.
Here is a smaller version of this bimini for smaller boats.
This Bimini is made from 600D polyester canvas with PU coating, Marine grade. It comes in 13 different sizes and 10 colors. You can buy it here.
Leader Accessories Bimini Top
This boat cover is made from Marine-grade 600D polyester canvas and 600D solution-dyed fabric. It’s UV resistant and has double overlapped stitching. Find out more about it here.
Oceansouth Bimini Top
This Bimini Top has heavy duty 1” bright dipped Aluminum frame and is made from heavy-duty 600D polyester canvas which is resistant to fade, mildew and water. Click here for more info.
Some bimini tops do NOT come with mounting kits, so you’ll need to check this. If your chosen bimini does not include a mounting kit, you can buy one separately.
They contain 4 D-Rings and 2 universal deck hinges.
Here is a good one. When ordering, you need to choose whether you need the PVC or the Hypalon version.
How to Install a Bimini on an Inflatable Boat Using Glue
Every bimini package comes with a guide on how to install the bimini onto inflatable boats, but here is a general step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Determine the position where you would prefer to mount the Bimini Top on your inflatable boat. After marking the mounting points, check whether there’s enough open area on the top of each tube to mount the deck mount patch.
Step 2: Position the deck mount patch on the tube in the proper location. Trace around the patch on both sides of the boat using a pencil or a marker. I’ve found it’s better to deflate your boat for this step, but some instructions state otherwise.
Step 3: Thoroughly clean these areas of the boat to remove any grease or dirt. Clean the underside of patch assemblies also.
For Hypalon, you may want to use toluene.
For PVC, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) is the best choice.
Using these specific cleaners will result in a stronger bond later when you glue the patches up.
Step 4: Gluing
For Hypalon boats, make sure you use Hypalon adhesive. For PVC, urethane adhesives work best. Using these high-quality glues ensures the strongest bond.
If you’re gluing Hypalon, it’s important to mix Hypalon accelerator with the glue as it will increase the strength of the bond and speed up the glue’s curing time.
If you’re gluing PVC, this step won’t be necessary, but it could make the patch more heat and chemical resistant.
For Hypalon, apply three coats of glue to both the boat and the patch. Wait for 10 to 30 minutes in between each coat.
For PVC, apply 2 layers of glue to the boat and the patch waiting around 5 minutes between coats.
Position the deck mount patch assembly onto the glued area. Make sure to align the deck mount parallel with the boat tubes, with the screw head facing outwards. Remember that once it’s already in place, the mount can’t be adjusted or removed.
Rub and press the patches down thoroughly to ensure all surfaces have adhered properly. Allow to dry for 24 hours before inflating your boat.
Step 5: Now that it’s all glued up, you will need to inflate the boat.
Step 6: Position the stern of the top toward the rear of the boat and attach the eye end on the side tubes on each side to the deck mounts.
In attaching the Bimini, make sure that it is securely attached, stretched out and does not sag.
Installing a Bimini on an Inflatable Boat Using the Oar Locks
Another way of installing a Bimini on your boat is by making use of the oarlocks.
The deploying process is the same as above, but you won’t be needing to glue a mounting patch.
The mounting hardware that comes along with the Bimini top package can be directly installed onto oarlocks. You may have to adjust the size of the end pieces in order to fit over the oarlock pin.
How to Close and Store the Bimini When Not in Use
Another added perk of having a bimini top is its versatility. When you prefer to catch some rays or when you don’t need the shade, you can fold it back and store it securely. It’s fairly easy!
Step 1: Unclip the tie-down straps starting from the front.
Step 2: Fold the top backward while smoothing it to avoid crumpling it.
Step 3: Get the storage boot and zip it around the curve of the Bimini.
Step 4: If your Bimini has a rear brace, you need to unscrew it or release the pin to allow it to lay flat for proper storage.
How Fast Can You Go with a Bimini on a Boat?
If you have a motor powered SIB, you might be wondering how fast you can go before the bimini tears off.
If the canvas is made out of good material and your mounting point is solid, you can pretty much max out even a 20 HP motor without any issues.
Here is a video of a Saturn equipped with a bimini. You can see that a properly installed bimini top does not even budge, despite the high speed of the boat.