Bimini Frame Bites the Dust

I didn’t realize we’d have so much rain last night.  The weather forecast called for 40-50 percent chance, but the forecasters have been so conservative lately. . .  Since several storms have been stronger than expected over the last few years, the meteorologists have taken a beating in public opinion.  In reaction to this, the forecasts have become so conservative as to be nearly useless.  It’s almost better to look at the radar map and make your own decision about what the weather will be.  Okay – enough complaining about the weather.  No one does anything about it anyway, unless you count congress and local law makers who would lead you to believe that the right set of laws and ordinances will put everything to rights concerning the weather.

Anyway. . .  not heeding the threat of rain, I left the bimini top on Cay of Sea up, as I’ve been doing some work in the cockpit (the canvas provides a lot of shade at the pier too).  But we had rain last night.  Not only rain – we had torrential rain-fall.  The weight of collected rain water in our old, poorly designed bimini was too much for the frame, and it broke in several places, and bent in several more places.  The bends are not so alarming.  The breaks, however, were a surprise until I examined the locations where the tubing fractured.  Here’s a photo to demonstrate what I mean:

See the corrosion?

See the corrosion?

On the long straight pieces of the largest bow, there were long pieces of steel rebar inserted in the aluminum tubing.  Well, we all know that aluminum and steel don’t play nicely together.  Though the rebar strengthened the aluminum straight runs, ultimately the steel was the demise of the aluminum tubing.   Interaction between aluminum and steel resulted in this corroded end-fitting end of the tube and broke it under strain.

Further up the tube at the radius bend

Further up the tube at the radius bend

This break is right at the top of the rebar on the port side.  I think corrosion played a role here also.  The electrolysis between steel and aluminum caused at brittle spot.  Instead of bending, it simply broke at the place of weakened integrity.

Here's the skeleton removed from the boat.

Here’s the skeleton removed from the boat.

Several pieces of the old plastic hardware fittings and connectors were split and distorted as well.  The frame has been on the boat for the 10 years we’ve owned it, and no telling how long ago it was actually installed.  Ruth built a new canopy several years ago, which resulted in a big improvement with respect to weight and flexibility.

We’re not quite ready to have our custom canvas dodger/bimini built for long-term cruising, so I will repair this frame, probably using a combination of aluminum conduit and smaller tubular stock for sleeves.  New end fittings are in order, though – these are ruined.  Having the bimini dismantled also gives us a chance to make some adjustments in the shape of the canopy, and to sew in a leather chafe strip on the section that rubs against the backstay.

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