1. Image Is Everything
Towers may be functional, but form still rules. “Before anyone gets into details like fit and construction, the first factor they consider is style,” says Tony Williams, president of MAC Tower Solutions. Look for a style that complements the lines of your boat. Modern designs can rake backward or forward. The windshield design and location will have the most influence on what looks and works best. Cockpit clearance is another consideration.
2. Where’s the Beef?
Towers endure a ton of torque. Look for beefy construction that will minimize motion. Aircraft-grade anodized aluminum (6061-T6 or 6063-T6) is typical, in 2 1/4- to 2 1/2-inch diameter. Other alternatives include stainless steel, in polished or brushed finishes. Colors are becoming increasingly popular, but with powder coating, insist on marine-grade polymers that will better resist corrosion, particularly in salt water.
3. Feet and Hand(le)s
Not all decks have a flat surface for mounting. Tower feet should mount to the top of the gunwale (ideal) or the hull sides (if necessary). Manufacturers utilize rubber pads between the mounting feet and deck to adapt to sloping contours. Swivel fittings or heim-style joints, situated between the tower legs and base brackets, will allow the necessary play. Towers should fold for towing or storage. Large threaded knobs or handles are best.
Board racks offer the most bang for the buck and add cockpit real estate. Styles that can swivel into the boat may be more costly, but they make it easier to load and unload. Tower-specific Biminis are also worth considering, because many tower designs will interfere with a conventional top. Going for the bling factor? Tower-mounted speakers are a popular addition, but avoid tower lights, which may tempt you to ride after dark. It’s illegal.