Catalina 30 TRBS #2889 "Northern Light"
Bimini frame and solar panels
The photos that follow reveal how the frame was designed and constructed. Much of my time
in this project was spent researching and photographing frames on other boats.
With three Interstate 12V batteries (one group 24 and two group 27) I'm able to run
my refrigerator 24/7 as well as not worry about running down the batteries over a long weekend.
- We used stainless parts obtained online from MarinePartDepot.
(Their website claims that their "sale" ends the very date you look at their website,
but that's just automated verbiage. Their prices are always fairly low.)
- For prototyping I bent up the general frame shape from 1/2" electrical conduit just to
get an idea of how it would look and feel on the boat. Because I used easily
bendable 1/2" electrical conduit with the 1" stainless fittings, I removed the setscrews
from the fittings and temporarily installed hex bolts as setscrews. To get an idea of
the shade the bimini would provide I covered the frame with discarded white shrink material
retained from the previous winter.
- Once the prototype design was acceptable I documented the width and height dimensions of the
three hoops and gave it to the local canvas outfitter. He had a good idea of what radius and crown
dimensions to use, and did a very nice job.
- Over the winter I assembled the finished frame on the living room floor and cut-and-fit
a Sunbrella bimini awning to the frame. The bimini installs with zippers which means that the
frames don't have to be removed to install it each year.
- The frame has three hoops. Two are positioned rear of the aft stay and the other forward of the stay.
This means that the frame can't simply unpin and remove easily for the winter, but it does fold down in place
relatively flat under the canvas cover.
- The entire frame sits on the stern rail; it doesn't extend down to the deck. It's
rigidly held in place by two diagonal struts that are anchored at the stern rail over
the transom. Unlike most other bimini installations there are no straps from the frame to
anywhere on the deck. Removing the two diagonal struts is what allows the frame to be folded down
during the winter.
- The solar panels (and Raytheon radome installed between them) are installed on an
upper frame that straddles the underlying bimini frame. The solar panels are attached with white
hinged fasteners that each have one screw that makes it easy to lift the panels off for the winter storage.
The frame has to be unpinned at it's four corners and lifted off the bimini frame before the bimini frame
can be folded down.
- The solar panels and TriStar MPPT controller were obtained from
eMarine Systems in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The
controller has it's own web server that communicates with the Ethernet network on the
boat (but that will be the subject of a different link on my Catalina 30 page.)
- We've never missed having a completely open cockpit...we're not turning back. The bimini and
solar panels are a real asset.
This is the prototype frame constructed out of 1/2" electrical conduit and
temporarily stuck into the 1" stainless fittings.
Side view of the real frame.
Underside of the solar panel(s) on the upper frame.
Upper frame attachment points.
Another view showing struts down to the stern rail over the transom.
Finished photo showing the installed bimini cover. The radome fits between the panels
and, being low profile, doesn't significantly shield the panels from sunlight.