Boating is about getting out on the water and enjoying the sun, right? Well, not always. Sometimes you need a break from sweltering rays. That’s why boats have Bimini tops, T-tops and hardtops. Yet aboard many boats, the aft cockpit — the area where much of the socializing takes place — remains exposed to the sun.
A cool solution: SureShade, a canvas that telescopes aft over the cockpit to provide extra shade. SureShade quickly retracts and tucks out of the way. Motorized SureShade canvas extensions are offered as options on the hardtops of many new boats.
Now SureShade offers the RTX, a manual version that you can custom-order and add to an existing hardtop, T-top or even a wakeboard tower to create extra shade. Here’s how to specify and install an RTX, using the solid-fiberglass factory hardtop on a Scout 275 Dorado as an example.
Skill Level: 3/5
Time to Complete: 3 Hours
Tools and Supplies
*SureShade RTX (Starting at $1,700, sureshade.com)
*Drill motor and 3/8-inch bit
*Allen wrenches (1/8 and 3/16 inches)
1. Measure Width
Each RTX is custom-built to match the width and curvature (if any) of your top. Be aware that the outside width includes two stationary actuators with a pair of mounting clamps. These actuators require an area 4 inches wide by 18 inches long to mount properly on each side under the top. The roller and crossbars required another 7½ inches when retracted, but these elements need not be positioned completely under the top. Make sure the area aft is clear of obstructions that might interfere with the 4½-foot-long shade.
2. Determine Camber
The RTX’s cross members, including the canvas roller, can be cambered to match the curvature of the top. Determine the camber height by placing a straightedge on the underside of the top and measuring the distance to the top from the center point. You might need mounting spacers for the actuators to clear the hardtop’s overhang or other obstructions, such as rod holders. SureShade offers these spacers in ½-inch increments up to 3 inches. Once you have the dimensions, place your order with SureShade or an authorized dealer.
3. Mount the Actuators
Position the actuators and mounting brackets on the underside of the hardtop, making sure these cylinders are parallel. Keeping the roller and crossbars attached at this point helps to ensure the mounting width ends up correct. Ask a friend to hold one side while you hold the other. Mark and drill the holes through the hardtop. Remove the roller and crossbars, then through-bolt each actuator (apply marine sealant to prevent leaks) using the supplied stainless-steel 5/16-inch bolts, nuts and backing plates.
4. Attach Roller and Crossbars
With the actuators installed, you can reattach the roller and crossbars. Loosen and rotate the roller clamp on the actuator to line up with the roller mounting screws at each end of the roller. You might need to loosen the mounting clamps for the actuators to rotate each actuator to get the midcrossbar and pull-bar connecting screws to line up properly. Once everything is lined up, re-tighten the mounting brackets and roller clamps and install the mounting screws for the roller and bars on each actuator.
5. Tension the Roller
To enable the SureShade to retract properly and remain taut when deployed, the canvas roller is spring-loaded. You might need to add tension or “preload” the roller to make sure that the SureShade assembly operates correctly. To do this, unzip the canvas from the outer bar and rotate both the roller and canvas several revolutions as needed toward the crossbars, then re-zip the canvas to the outer bar. Do not rotate the canvas in toward the hardtop; this will distort the internal springs.
To test the RTX extension, center yourself in the middle of the push/pull bar for even leverage. Lift the framework up and aft to reduce friction for easier movement and extend until all locking pins are engaged. To retract, lift the framework up and out one side at a time to release the locking pins on each side. Center yourself and lift the framework up while pushing it in to reduce friction for easier movement until fully retracted.
Shade for Towers
The SureShade RTX can also be installed on wakeboard towers and arches. Special mounting clamps are included with a SureShade ordered for tower application. The installation takes the place of a traditional Bimini top, yet it does away with a Bimini’s bows and straps.