Incorporating unconventional design into dodgers and biminis.
I often suggest that my customers try to think out of the box when envisioning what their boats can look like. I tell them, “If I have done my job properly, the cover will become part of the boat.” Take a spray dodger, for example. I generally recommend that if the gel coat is white, then the dodger should be white, because it should appear to be a continuation of the deck lines.
I like to have a plan and list of questions to ask a customer regarding his or her use of the boat. This helps establish a vision of the finished product. With a dodger-bimini combo, the customer’s answers will help determine whether I introduce compound frame bending to help with window shape
as well as winch and cockpit entrance clearance.
Adding compound bending definitely adds more time and cost to a project, so establishing budget constraints is a big factor. Always offer three choices, so if the customer’s budget allows it, your creativity can extend beyond conventional shapes.
Keep in mind that 95 percent of dodgers that I work on never get folded down. That means that you can start moving frame mounting points aft and sliding front frames higher to allow for more wraparound vision in the clears and windows. You can offer customers the upgrade of removable polycarbonate windows. This adds better visibility and improved manufacturing by separating all panels—like the roof and three or five window panels.
Another added option is to offer side and back handles on the dodger. I sell that option as a safety option—and it keeps dirty hands off the dodger fabric. You can also offer pockets inside for accessories, sunscreen and cell phones. Shane Beashel, from SB Marine Trimming, Sydney, Australia, offers LED lighting in his biminis. Every addition or option adds value to the end result and your profit margin. After all, we are in business to make money and offer quality products. I hope this has inspired some fabricators to go the next step and stop thinking black and white and come over to the gray side of design.
Dave Elliott owns David’s Custom Trimmers in Brisbane, Australia.
This frame was made specifically to gain extra roof length and shade. A traditional longer frame would have been useless and rendered the winches unusable. The before and after shots show the extent of change achieved by using compound bending. It transformed the catamaran cockpit. This is a classic example of how by changing the basis of all dodgers and biminis, the frame can ultimately change an ugly and impractical enclosure into an aesthetically pleasing and practical application. Customers gain better clearance for winches and cockpit entrance, along with shade and safety with the addition of handles.
Photos 4-5 are examples of similar designs on different boats, highlighting what can be achieved with compound bending and changing mounting points. The first photograph is of a 53 Jeanneau. The work started with the dodger, where there is compound bending in the front frame. This is needed to create front-to-back frame symmetry. Rolling the aft supports establishes a flow between window, joiner panel and into the bimini. The dodger is also tracked to the deck for a seamless flow. The bimini frames are compound rolled forward, aft and outboard. This process strengthens the frames, opens up the entrance area to the cockpit and adds better entrance outside
the frame into the helm.
Photos 6-7 highlight a similar design. On this Beneteau, a stanchion rail mounted bimini with rounded frames shows the extra cockpit entrance created with the compound process. It also highlights what a small outward roll can do to add symmetry between the dodger and bimini.
Photos 8-9 show a dodger design and how much extra window space is made by using different frame designs. The changes make a standard dodger into an adaptable accessory that can be altered for changing conditions—like weather or racing—by removing the windows and stowing on the bunk below.
Photos 10-13 The next example depicts an owner’s request for a more permanent window with a removable fabric roof panel and folding frame design. On this boat, the original bimini is much wider than necessary; hence, the aft dodger frame is wider to help with adapting a better joined panel-link sheet.