While we were anchored in our new favorite spot this weekend, the sun came out. Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. So what? Well, that’s what YOU think. There’s no ‘so what’ about it. When the sun comes out two things happen: people get happy, and people need shade. That’s because up here our delicate skin burns to a rosy crispness after only a few minutes of high-latitude sun exposure, even with loads of sunscreen. We are pathetic sunbathing losers, to say the least. Washington state: land of the pale. I wanted to sit in the cockpit and read Bernard Moitessier’s [amazon_link id=”0924486848″ target=”_blank” ]The Long Way[/amazon_link] so I needed some shade. Out came the UMBINI.
Glad you asked! An umbini is one of Mike’s clever little inventions, proving once again that he is the most brilliant man in the universe when it comes to solving problems in a cost-effective way. As I sat in my warm shade reading I had a sudden flash of inspiration that this blog needed a little infusion of energy in the form of our own ‘Practical Sailor’ tricks. Thus the category of ‘Cheap Tricks’ was born. This is the first post!
The umbini is a creation born, as most are, out of necessity and shallow pockets. The year: 2010. The trip: Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Three weeks of fabulous. The boat: S/V Moonrise, our intrepid Cal 34. Back in the day, Moonrise didn’t even have a dodger, much less a bimini. And the ‘boat kitty’ had no money for one. So we were faced with a lot of sun and weather exposure on this 3 week cruise. We needed something, anything.
During a trip to Costco, probably loading up on supplies, Mike found a ‘sport umbrella’ for 40$. Basically this is a huge umbrella with little side ‘wings’. It’s meant to be used as a portable shade for sporting or music events, or for laying in the park with your best friend. But he thought he could retrofit it to work on Moonrise. And he did!
He cut half of the pole off and attached a loop to the top of the thing so it would hang easily from the backstay. Then I cut the fabric on the back side of the umbrella, reinforced the curve with sunbrella, and hemmed it on the sewing machine. I attached side relief buckles to hold it closed behind the backstay. We attached webbing with grommets around the bottom of the thing and added small bungee cords. These wrap underneath the safety lines and the stern pulpit to hold the sides down. Voila! The Umbini is born!
It is dead easy to deploy and you can even sail with it up as long as you are going downwind. It has two little windows with mosquito netting on them that allow airflow when unzipped. When motoring in fog or rain, it protects the helmsman from getting wet. And, of course, it offers shade from that fair weather friend, the sun. The icing on the proverbial cake was that the umbrella was exactly the right size for our cockpit. I think we will patent these because they are so cool.
40$ and and about about 2 hours of work. Not bad for a cheap trick. Stay tuned for more cool ideas for ‘thrifty’ sailors!