Install a Wakeboard Tower

Follow these tips for outfitting your boat with a wakeboard tower.

Wakeboard towers boost riders to new heights, keep clutter out of the cockpit, and look cool. If your boat came bare, put one on it now. I chose a universal-fit model from Monster Tower (www.monstertower.com, 877/778-6937), which makes most of the original equipment for big-name boatbuilders. It's a bargain yet uses top-quality materials, such as 2¼" 6063-T6 bright-dipped aluminum and quick-release hand knobs. Installation was easy, but you will need a helper. I strongly suggest beefing up the mounting points on the deck. Other than that, you just have to be willing to drill holes in an otherwise perfectly good boat.

Supplies

•3/8" electric drill •1/8", 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", 1/2" drill bits •13mm, 19mm sockets •Metric wrenches •Metric hex-head wrenches •Torque wrench •Masking tape •Marking pen •Thick rags •Tape measure •Silicone sealant •Antiseize

Location

1. Mounting points are forward on the bow cockpit gunwales ahead of the windshield and on the gunwales aft of the helm seats. First determine the aft points. Assemble the rear legs to the top section to form an arch. Snug up the bolts to hold the arch's shape. Put antiseize on the threads to make tightening easier and reduce wear. Leave the bubblewrap in place to prevent scratching.

2. Protect the gel coat by placing thick rags over the area where the mounting bases and arch might make contact. With a friend, put the arch where you want it when folded into the down position. The cross bar should rest on, and get support from, a sunpad, engine cover, or aft bench.

3. The most secure place to mount the bases is on top of the gunwales, but sometimes a side or angle mount is necessary. You need access to the underside of this location so you can reach the backing plate and tighten the nuts. This may mean removing a panel, speaker, or cupholder.

4. Temporarily attach the front legs and with the help of a few friends (the rig will be wobbly), check that the tower clears the windshield when raised. If okay, place masking tape on the gunwale where the rear bases will sit and mark their outlines, plus the drill points for the bolt holes. Remove the tower and check that each base is in the same location both fore and aft.

Mounting

1. Check that you won't be drilling into speaker wires, control cables, hoses, foam flotation, or conduits under the gunwales. Drill the aft holes of the rear bases first. Using the bases as guides, drill the front holes.

2. Bolt the bases in place with the supplied rubber gaskets and backing plates. Use silicone sealant on the deck. Tighten until the gaskets start to compress. Check that the bases don't wiggle, and then take an extra quarter turn. Avoid power tools or over-tightening, which can crack the gel coat and fiberglass.

3. Secure the rear arch to its bases, attach the front legs to the arch and adjust them to where you want them to contact the hull. Check that each base is in the same location fore and aft. As above, mark, drill, and install the forward bases. Attach the forward legs.

4. Before a final tightening, center the tower by taking diagonal measurements. Shift the tower until measurements are identical, torque down the fasteners, and put in set screws. Give it a good shake. Don't use the tower if it moves or rattles. If secure, re-torque after a few uses.

Where's the Beef?

The manufacturer says if the bases are to be mounted on fiberglass less than 3/8" thick (not counting the gel coat), you'll need a backing block. We say, do it anyway. Use 1/4" or thicker composite or rot-resistant plywood. Cut as big a piece as possible to spread the load over the greatest surface area. Taper the edges to ease the localized stress.

Drilling the Perfect Hole

To avoid chipping the gel coat, or starting spider web cracking, run your drill in reverse. This will prevent the bit from "biting" into the gel coat and chipping it before the bit reaches the fiberglass beneath. Drill a 1/8" hole first as a pilot hole, and then follow up with the larger drill bit. To properly finish the hole, chamfer the edge to a 45-degree angle with a small round file or sandpaper.