November 12, 2017

Just built this DIY sun awning...preparations for a modest budget Mexican escape plan.

Jessica and I are sailing from our home port of San Diego down to La Paz, Mexico. We will drop the dock lines on December 20 and plan to arrive in La Paz somewhere in the first week of January.

sun awning
Jess enjoying a shady cockpit.

We have a lot of things on our 'to do' list. One of these things was to acquire some shade across the cockpit of our Newport 30 sailboat. 

Mexico has a lot of sun and we only want some of that sun hitting us.

Our sun canopy is not designed to withstand heavy conditions. We will keep it up when travelling in light air and when the boat is at rest. Aside from that - it will stow easily down below. I like a wide open cockpit with unobstructed visibility, so I wanted a canopy that could be easily taken down at a moment's notice.

I figured this might be of interest to others, so I am describing the steps we took below.

All in, we spent about $120.00 and it can be done in a couple of days.

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sailboat bimini
2 panel system 

As you can see, we went with a 2 panel system. This way we have a back panel to shade the skipper on the tiller near the stern. This aft panel will be in place whether the main sail is up or down.

Then the front panel will only be up when the main sail is down (the front panel rests across the boom).

custom sun canopy
Front corners attach with a bungee for easy release.

Here, you can see the front panel rests across the boom. We use a bungee to fasten down the front corners. These can be popped off quickly.

When we cut the sun shade fabric to size and when we set the height of the PVC poles, we wanted to maximize visibility from the cockpit. The UV resistant canopy material we choose is transparent. This allows us to see incoming boats through the material. It also allows a breeze to pass through. But at the same time, it keeps the strong Mexican sun out of the cockpit.

UV resistant canopy material with compatible plastic grommets
We picked up this UV resistant material at home depot. You get a 20 foot by 6 foot panel for 30$. We bought 2 of these panels. For 5$ you get a bag of these plastic grommets. With a hammer, you punch them together with the fabric in the middle, this creates an eye-hole. You can then buy some parachute cord and tension all the corners.

4 PVC poles (1 inch) cut to length 

We bought 10 foot pieces of 1 inch PVC pipe at the hardware store. 

We cut them to length. The front 2 pipes mount on the inside of the cockpit. We attached them to the inside of the cockpit with pipe fasteners. The fasteners were raised from the surface with plastic spacers, this allows the PVC pipes to be pulled out easily when the sun canopy stows away.

front poles attach with a pair of pipe fasteners

The 2 pipes mounted on the stern rest in fishing pole holders. These fishing pole holders mount directly on my stern rail.

stern PVC poles fit perfectly in a stern rail mounted fishing pole holder

We bought some stainless eye hooks with threading on one end. Then we drilled these through the top of the PVC pipe. This allows us to tension the parachute cord that is connected to the canopy eye grommets.

an eye hook drilled through top of PVC pipe

A small design challenge: we wanted the canvas material to wrap around the boom lift line and the back stay. We cut open a slit on both panels to allow the canvas material to wrap around these lines. Then we popped grommet eye holes along the slit, so we could tension them back up around the backstay and boom lift.

canvas dodger
top view of 2 part sun canopy
So, that is it. We feel pretty good about this. 

Like I said, it is not meant for heavy weather, but it will certainly keep the sun at bay while cracking beers after a long day cruising.


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Mike from Filling The Sails said...

Very cool modification! I don't have (and cannot install) a bimini on my boat, so something like this would be of much use to me.

....another item on the to-do list. 😁


Kevin Curran said...

Thanks Mike - Yeah try it out.. Like I said, it won't work in heavy seas. But it will keep things very shady in calm conditions..