Sunday, October 18, 2009

The T-top from hell, and the little anchor light that couldn't

Lets start from the top (ha). T-top's have two functions. The first is to give you shade, and rain protection, and the second is to provide a location to mount equipment such as radar, VHF and GPS antennas, lights and other gear. There are good T-tops, and certainly  there are bad ones. Some of the problem is with bad design, the boatbuilders can take some fault, and most of all the T-top builders. So lets take a look at our perfect boat discussed earlier. This vessel is purpose designed for offshore fishing, and cost about $150,000. So you would think that the new owner would stick some equipment on the T-top, or am I being unreasonable.

When we look closely at the wire pulls from the top to the console, we discover that the pull hole inside the console is 1" in diameter, and  this is a  generous hole compared to some I have seen. Coming through the hole are already a set of wires for the anchor light, down spots, fuse block wiring from the electronics box, and the one thing that's not present is a pull wire. To make things worse, not only is the remaining hole space small, the pull comes out of the electronics box and is welded into the 2" down pipe at ninety degrees. The wires go down several feet, and then turn ninety degrees again into the console. So lets see now, two ninety degree turns in four feet, no pull wire installed, and we have to get two Garmin N2K GPS engine cables with connectors, a radar power and data cable, VHF antenna wire, weather receiver N2K cable with connector, and its audio cable, and I haven't even got to the spotlight yet. All is not lost you think, the pipes are the same on the other side, but alas there are no holes drilled at all. So what's the answer, call the builder, and ask for advice. This is a no go, the tech support staff tell you they don't make the the T-top, but here is their number, and maybe they can help. The T-top manufacturers conversation goes something like this, "We always drill a one inch hole, and they never told us to do it any different, and we always put in a pull wire". "The boat builder must have used it to pull in his wires, you will just have to drill additional holes, or make the existing ones bigger, can I help you with anything else?" This problem can be very costly to solve.

Now this was a fictional example, but I regularly encounter all of these problems and more, so in Bill's fantasy world, This is what I would like to see:

1. Pulls wire should always be installed, and those who use them should always replace them.
2. Pull holes should be as large as possible, and should be on both sides of the T-top.
3. Internal holes should be just as large, and take a minute to chamfer the edges so wires don't get cut.
4. Ninety degree turns should never be used, ever!
5. Boat builders should do a better job of anticipating what equipment owners will buy, and make sure the wire pulls are adequate for their buyers potential needs.

This isn't hard to do. The boat builder's need to specify clearly what the T-top vendors should supply, and keep them honest.

Not everybody does a bad job, I do want to give a kudo to Fountain for a terrific T-top on their 36' open fish.  I just installed a ton of stuff, and the pulls were large, were located on both sides, and after a substantial pile of gear was installed, there is still space left. Also Boston Whaler is consistent about installing pulls, Bill says thanks to both of you.

The little anchor light that couldn't

Ok, this bugs me, and I see it all the time. Here is our new boat, the T-top, and or arch have specific locations to mount the radar. So what's up with these short little lights (4" to 12"). The moment you put a radar dome on, the light is no longer high enough to be seen 360 degrees around, and the light has to be replaced. The wiring is tightly harnessed, and I have to cut the pipe half way up to end up with enough wire to connect the new light. You know, if you put a light on, that would clear the top of most radars, life would be better for myself and the owner, who pays the bill. A light that is a whopping 24" in height will clear all domes on a 5" mount, and all most all open radar arrays. So buyers beware, say no to little weenie anchor lights that can't. PS, if you leave the little light on, and you install a radar, the water authorities will write you a ticket if they catch you at night with a light that is not visible 360 degrees. Never going to use your boat after sunset, don't worry about the little light.

Coming next, "Marketing designed the helm console, and isn't it pretty"