A feature story from April/May 2015 Print Edition Volume 14 Edition 3 InTheBite The Professionals Sportfishing Magazine
Top It Off
by Ric Burnley
The elegant beauty of a classic boat is as appealing as Raquel Welch in a bearskin bikini. While her pouting eyes and perky attributes never lose their allure, the cave-girl bodice has to go. The same holds true for a classic sportfishing boat. While the old girl’s curves still get the blood flowing, that old hardtop needs to be updated.
That’s why Capt. Jimmy Bayne took his 58-foot Paul Mann Sniper to Bluewater Yachts in Hampton, Virginia. “The boat was 13 years old,” he explains, “and the hardtop needed some work.” Bluewater partner Earle Hall saw more reasons for Bayne to replace his top than repair it. “In addition to modernizing the look, the connections were starting to work loose and there were also some structural issues,” he recalls.
So Bayne began the complicated process of redesigning and replacing his hardtop. “The guys at Bluewater made it a lot easier,” Bayne says. Hall adds, “In the past 25 years, we’ve replaced over 100 hardtops,” he says, “so we’ve got it down to a science.”
There are two main reasons that a boat owner should replace his hardtop: esthetic and structural. “Some boatbuilders want to build boats but they consider the hardtop a pain in the ass,” quips Hall. He feels that the top, tubing, curtains and electronics complete the look of the boat. “It’s really the icing on the cake.”
An outdated hardtop will feature smaller tubing with truss-style perimeter rails spaced apart with spools while a modern top uses a single, larger tube and utilizes shape and crown to achieve strength. “I was standing on the deck at Pirate’s Cove and looking down on the boats in Millionaire’s Row and I could see wire ties and cables and sloppy work,” he says. Hall remembers building hardtops in the 1980s. “We used a double row of 1.5-inch tubing around the perimeter rail,” he recalls, “and we had to run the tubes through the curtains.” In the past 30 years, Hall has learned that a single, larger tube around the perimeter increases strength and cuts down on weight and profile. Using a single perimeter also allows them to use fewer supports. “We end up with a cleaner look that is stronger and lighter.”
Weight is an important consideration when replacing a hardtop. “The hardtop is the highest point on the boat,” Hall explains, “so it takes the most abuse.” That results in loose fittings, stress fractures and worn parts. “A lot of customers come to us after water dumps on their head,” Hall jokes. A water-logged hardtop is also heavier and weaker, putting more stress on already stressed-out fittings.
Bluewater uses a vacuum bag lamination of Divinycell coring and either polyester or epoxy laminate to build the hardtop. After the rough blank is vacuum-bagged between a two-part mold, the top is trimmed to size and options such as lighting, teaser reels, drop-down electronics boxes, lighting and……………………………….(To continue reading this article click here) You can also subscribe to InTheBite The Magazine to enjoy more industry leading editorial.
Ever wonder how a Hart Top is made? See Bonus Editorial Here