Sailing is essentially an outdoor pursuit, with the boat and its occupants exposed and subject to the seas and the weather. With the advent of pleasure cruising, protection from some of those elements came into demand to make the experience more, well, pleasurable. Spray hoods, more commonly known as dodgers, were an early adaptation at the front of the cockpit to shield cockpit occupants and the companionway from wind and rain, as well as sea spray coming over the gunwales. Made with sailcloth or canvas that could interfere with forward visibility, windows were and are usually installed in the dodger. Probably originally made from isinglass, these mica-based portals eventually gave way to clearer and and more flexible. In tropical latitudes, canvas was suspended above the cockpit to provide relief from the sun for the helmsman and other cockpit occupants. This protection became known as Biminis, after one of the islands in the Bahamas where they were developed. Dodgers and Biminis are supported by framework attached to the boat. The frames are often collapsible so the coverage could disappear until it was needed. With time, side and back panels were added to provide further relief and protection, especially in areas that could get cold. Such cockpit enclosures were also made from canvas with vinyl windows for visibility and air circulation. Screen panels were eventually incorporated to let air in but keep biting insects out.
At the request of clients in the mid-1990s, Gozzard Yachts began offering hardtop alternatives to the canvas dodgers and Biminis available for new builds and for retrofitting. These hardtops are made from fiberglass. While the initial cost is higher, hard dodgers and Biminis eliminate the need for repairing or replacing worn or damaged canvas tops. Side enclosures and a canvas Bimini connector are attached to the hardtops.
Support for the Bimini requires the installation of a main arch at the leading edge of the Bimini and a secondary arch at the back. An augmented aft arch allows for the installation of offshore dinghy davits, additional solar panels and other equipment that need elevation and a solid footing. Besides providing durable sun and weather protection, a hard Bimini provides a solid base for the installation of solar panels. It also allows reconfiguration of mainsheet control from a winch mounted on the cockpit table to the array of rope clutches on either side of the companionway.