When we first decided to go cruising on Elara, I decided that adding a solar panel would be a necessity at some point. It wasn’t really super-urgent while heading down the ICW (since we were motoring everyday anyway to charge the batteries), it was definitely a “do before we head to the islands” project. Sitting around in a boatyard for a month was the perfect opportunity to do the install.
Since we do not have an arch, nor any space/inclination to add one, the flexible panel mounted on the bimini route was the way to go. Most flex-panel-on-bimini installs that I see use some kind of velcro flap to hold the panel in place, however I did not want to use velcro for several reasons
- While the velcro on the bimini might be sewn on, the velcro on the panel itself would just be held on with adhesive, which can break down/get gummy in the heat and humidity of the tropics.
- Velcro all around the panel (to hold it securely) eliminates airflow under the panel.
- The panels I got do not have much of an edge, so there isn’t much surface area for the velcro to stick to anyway.
I spent a while brainstorming alternatives. The panel does have grommets in it, so I wanted to take advantage of them somehow. I thought of various schemes to install grommets in the bimini & somehow tie the two sets together, but none of them were really “elegant” solutions. Finally I came across these: http://www.sailrite.com/Stayput-Canvas-to-Canvas-Fastener-Black
The idea was simple. I started out by positioning the panel on the bimini while it was on the boat. Marked the position of each grommet hole. We then made a hole at each point for the post of the fastener to pass through. We used some vinyl reinforcement around each hole to both prevent against chafe, and prevent the post from tearing the sunbrella. Making each reinforcement patch a perfect square allowed us to easily center it on the hole already in the bimini & sew it in place sure that everything would line up. Once the reinforcement patches were in place, the bimini was reinstalled, and the solar panel dropped into place on top of the mounting studs. Perfect fit! The little swing down clips may not look like much but they hold it in place well. So far we have had it installed for several months and have been in winds gusting to high-40s, and haven’t seen any signs of it coming off the posts. We’ll see how it holds up over time, but so far I am quite happy with the solution.