When Boston Whaler released its 345 Conquest back in 2008, it marked something of a milestone for the brand by unveiling a beautifully integrated hardtop and windshield system. Whaler hasn’t been alone. These enclosures have been growing in popularity across the board, propelled by innovative brands such as Scout and Everglades — and they’re here to stay.
“In another five years,” says Steven Daugherty, Everglades’ president, “it’s where everybody is going to be.”
Hardtop enclosures bring a yachtlike quality to a smaller boat, but arguably their most significant benefit is greater protection from the elements, replacing drafty, cumbersome weather curtains with the one-piece, fused structure. They nullify wind, making conversation easier, and also allow ducting air conditioning and heat directly into the helm area of boats.
Visibility from the helm is also enhanced, thanks to full panes of glass that wrap around the entire console.
“With a more traditional hardtop, you’ve got everything from frame braces to weathercurtain U-zips, electronics boxes, wiper motors, center vents, you name it,” explains Lenn Scholz, Boston Whaler’s director of product development. “Some of these components end up in your line of sight.”
And although glass certainly weighs more than weather curtains, Scholz says the new structures’ overall weight is about the same. “When you look at how much aluminum work was taken off the traditional hardtop frame, you’re really netting zero,” he says.
The new enclosures also offer a more pleasing, fluid design. And in the process, another important function is served. “The strength of the glass makes the whole system more rigid,” Daugherty says. “It’s similar to an automobile, which relies on its glass for much of its integrity.”
And as with automobiles, watch for more evolution to come.
Glacier Bay 2680
The boat offers a fully enclosed helm area for total relief from nasty weather.
Hydraulics allow you to raise and lower the front windshield for ventilation.
Grady-White Express 330
Wraparound panes of glass offer a wide, unobstructed field of vision.
Regal 35 Sport Coupe
Walk-through provides quick and easy access to the bow area.