Installing a new T-top is one of the easiest fixes you can make to give your boat a new look and more functionality. The BD Skiff, a 20-foot center console, needed a new T-top so we did some research and it led us right to Stryker.
The first thing you notice right from the start is the quality of the packaging. The aluminum components are sensitive to scratching and bending. Stryker uses heavy-grade, reinforced cardboard boxes and each piece is individually wrapped and strapped down for shipping.
bottom top package
Stryker tops are built to last. Each piece is big and beefy with clean welds. On the legs, the company uses solid aluminum joints to ensure proper alignment and a tight connection.
stryker 4 detail
The folks at Stryker have a keen eye for detail and all of the welds are super clean and professionally done.
5 e box
The electronics box is made of thick fiberglass with a nice gelcoat finish and a spring-loaded, locking door.
The T-top came with a complete rocket launcher rod rack, which added nine new rod holders to the skiff.
All the joints went together easily and we assembled the legs in little time.
While assembling the legs we found that a large ratcheting clamp helped keep the joints lined up perfectly as we installed the hardware.
You want to be sure the distance from each shell clamp is the same all around. This ensures the T-top will be perfectly assembled and that the finished product is square. After all measurements were confirmed and we were sure the hoop was centered, we tightened everything up.
hoop assemble 14
The hoop went together easily with the hardware provided in the kit. This T-top is solid, consisting of a 2-inch, 6061 aircraft-grade aluminum frame.
It definitely helps to have at least two guys on the project and three is ideal. You want to be careful not to drop the legs or frame and having the extra hands helps hold everything in place when it comes time for drilling.
After a little debate, we all agreed that it was best to put the pieces together in the boat instead of on the ground.
Now that we had the legs and hoop in the boat, it was time to get everything in position to join the three pieces together. These clamps secure the topper or hoop to the legs.
hoop clamp inside
To insulate the connection from vibration, Stryker provides rubber isolators. The company really thought of everything.
With the legs in the boat, we could place the hoop on top and get it ready to tighten into place.
With the hoop in place, tighten the clamps that secure it to the legs. Again, leave these connections a bit loose while you’re working on them. Once everything is squared up go back and tighten them down all the way.
Take your time when aligning the top and legs. Get the T-top in perfect position, exactly where you want it. After all measurements were confirmed and we were sure the hoop was centered, we tightened everything up.
With the frame together, we turned our attention to the electronics box. We lined up the box, took some measurements and began drilling the first hole.
We bolted the first corner of the box and did the same for the opposite corner. A couple of more holes and bolts, and we were done.
Once installed, the electronics box provides ample room to mount your sounder, GPS and VHF radio. It also provides lockable storage space for other valuables.
Next up we secured the frame to the deck. We found the position we liked (fore and aft) and then started drilling. We drilled all the pilot holes through the mounting plates while in position and then moved the top out of the way to clean up the holes. Whenever you drill into the gelcoat, make sure you first start the hole by spinning the bit in reverse. This will chamfer the edges of the hole and prevent spider cracking. Wipe the mounting areas with acetone to make sure they are clean and free of any grease. Shoot caulk into all the drill holes and lay a few beads under the spot where the feet will mount. Be sure to use a strong adhesive caulk like 3M’s 5200.
With the caulk in place, we carefully lifted the top onto the new caulk “pads” we created and began to screw the top in place. After all the screws were in, we placed a bead around the mounting pads from the caulk that was pushed out as we tightened the feet in place. We then cleaned up everything with more acetone.
With the finish line clearly in sight, we eyed the console support mounts. These mounts tie the top into the console for lateral support. We measured the correct length of the support for our boat and then cut the pieces to fit with a hacksaw. Use a vice to hold the aluminum support piece while you make your cuts and wrap the part with some rubber sheeting or leather before putting them in the vice. This will protect the finish from scratching.
Using a T-square we marked the holes we were going to need in the console and tower legs for the supports.
Go ahead and drill out the holes in the supports.
Drill out the necessary holes to the center console and go ahead and mount the supports. Again, use the same process as you did when mounting the legs to the deck of the boat. Shoot a bead of caulk into the holes in the fiberglass before securing down with a bolt.
The rod rack is the final piece of hardware to mount. To make this as easy as possible, Stryker provides more shell clamps that bolt to the hoop and grab hold of the rod rack securely.
rod racks 2
The rocket launcher is one solid piece and easily mounts onto the hoop with the shell clamps. It only takes five minutes to get the rod rack in place.
Get the rocket launcher lined up evenly and go ahead and fasten down the clamps. Now you’ve got nine additional rod holders to store rods on the boat.
canvas stretch tie
The final step requires stringing the canvas onto the hoop. This process is quick and painless with one little tip: Position the canvas and use a dozen or so large zip ties to hold it in place. Make sure the spacing is even all around and run the rope through the holes and around the pipe. Cut the zip ties and you’re done.
If you strapped the canvas down properly, you should have the same amount of space between the aluminum frame and the canvas around the entire top.
It took us four hours to complete the project. Some might do it quicker and for some it might take a little longer. One thing is for sure, installing a Stryker top is a painless project that just about anyone can handle with a few extra hands. Stryker provides everything you need down to the allen wrenches and all the hardware.
Unlike other prefab T-top kits, the Stryker top features great lines and solid joints. We were stoked with the final look and fit, not to mention the new set of rocket launchers and a better mounting location for our antennas.
bloat ad 1
The BD skiff looked so sharp with its new Stryker top that it was used in a company photo shoot.
To learn more about Stryker’s universal T-tops and accessories, check out the company’s website at www.strykerttops.com.