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By using epoxy and plywood, it is possible to install back-to-back watertight bulkheads in a small hull, which, by removing a few fastenings, can be easily and quickly taken apart and reassembled.
Because hull types and individual requirements differ, give some thought to exactly where the bulkheads should be placed. With small boats, it's usually easiest to make a cardboard or thin plywood pattern of the bulkheads and then have a good long look at the pattern in place to see if there will be conflicts or problems. A mix of approximately 75-percent silica to 25-percent microballoons is a good combination to begin with.
This new manual incorporates our old "Manual of Modern Small Plywood Boat Construction Techniques" but now also includes several new sections. What if you're a C2K owner, perfectly happy with your boat, but you would like a wakeboard tower as well? Given the above, it's clear that a major consideration of tower selection - and installation - is stress management with respect to the hull. Ron at Joystick was kind enough to send me some photos of their blue color installed on a boat. The challenge of larger backing plates is two fold: 1) What material to use, and 2) how to affix them to the inside of the hull. Regarding affixing the backing plates to the inside of the hull, think about the fact that the hull is not flat inside or out. As a final step in my quest for the best possible solution, I coated all surfaces (both sides and all edges) of the backing plates with marine epoxy. On my C2K, I can open the windshields on either side and gain direct access to the inside of the hull.
My first mounting point was on the driver's (starboard) side, under the windshield, just in front of the horn. Next, I taped the hull in the area where the first mounting base would be located (and where my first holes would be drilled).
Some tower instructions tell you to mark the hole locations with pencil and then drill them out. Also - and I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough - be absolutely certain to run the drill bits in reverse while drilling fiberglass.
Another trick I learned while doing this: Start with small drill bits and work your way up, always running them in reverse.
As each hole was drilled out (I recommend doing the side holes first and the center hole last), I inserted the appropriate bolt. Here's the inside view after all four holes had been drilled, their bolts inserted, and the center hole had been drilled out. As a further precaution against gelcoat cracking, I used a chamfer bit - in reverse, as always - to put a bevel on the edge of each hole. Quickly, before the epoxy started to set up, I pressed the backing plate into place behind the holes in the hull.
Everything up to this point has been preparation - strengthening and preparing the boat to have the tower installed. Instead of eight square inches to handle the stress, each corner now had almost 40 square inches of surface area.
Tube Shape: One thing about which I asked Ron at Joystick was the sharp bend of the rear tubes. Bottom Line: I'm really happy having a tower on my boat, and with the Joystick tower in particular. I wish Joystick made a mirror mount (they say they're working on one), but lacking that option I did some research and decided on one from Samson in Washington State. Unfastened, the sections can be carried or lifted more easily than a single hull, and they will fit into a smaller space. But it needs a dry, tight hull to work best and is not recommended for traditionallapstrake hulls or hulls with aging chine logs and keels that weep constantly. If you locate them precisely in the center of the hull, one half won't fit inside the other.
The top of the bulkhead can be cut away if it interferes with seating, rowing, or sailing arrangements, but it's best to leave the bottom edge of the cutout well above the waterline. The only problem might appear in cutting through long skinny hulls that depend on fulllength members such as stringers, risers, and keelsons for hull stiffness.
These include new chapters on fitting buoyancy (flotation), shaping and constructing masts and spars and an extensive chapter on fitting out the hull with decks, centreboards, seating etc. This manual is useful for all builders contemplating and building stitch and tape plywood boats up to 18 or 20' - for plywood boats above this size, see our Manual of Plywood Boat Construction for Larger Craft. It is considered by many (especially those who own one) to be one of Seadoo's best full sized watercraft. Last year we started getting into wakeboarding, and while the boat's factory pylon was fine for learning the basics we wanted a tower for its higher tow point. It can cause cracking of the gelcoat (aptly named "stress cracking" or sometimes "spider cracking").
If we presume that the amount of stress is a constant, the issue becomes how to dissipate that stress with the least effect on the fiberglass. Most dedicated wakeboard boats have thicker hull material in the areas where the tower is attached.
They provide freedom of movement in multiple axes, critical for matching the various angles found on the hulls and decks of all the various boats out there. After choosing Joystick, I was delighted to find out that they were the least expensive and had numerous powdercoat color options at no charge. The match looked close enough to my blue trim and upholstery, so I ordered the blue along with two brushed finish wakeboard racks.
Each tube was wrapped in plastic, and all the hardware was individually packaged and then packed into a separate box, which was then taped into the overall shipping box.

With respect to material, you need something very stiff and very strong that can still be worked with normal tools and will survive in a moist application. First, I cut the corners of the backing plates to help them "settle down" into the concave hull surface.
In addition to the marine plywood's already better accommodation of moist environments, this helps to completely seal out water and protect the plywood from rot, mildew, etc. Likewise, removing the factory speakers mounted behind the main seats on either side yields access to the inside of the hull in that region. I decided to use the mounting bases themselves as drilling guides, to absolutely eliminate any possibility of holes being in the wrong place or at the wrong angle.
Fiberglass is notoriously difficult to cleanly drill through, so I didn't skimp on this step. Forward drilling will allow the bit's sharp leading edges to catch in, and chip, the gelcoat leaving you with an ugly, torn up edge that is exceedingly prone to cracking. This helped hold the mounting base in place while I drilled the next hole, insuring that everything stayed straight and lined up.
The bolts are not straight because they're just sitting in the holes without being tightened down.
This prevents the surface stress from being applied directly to the vertical walls of the hole itself. Note that despite my being very careful, the large center hole still has some minor gelcoat chipping around its edges.
Press firmly (you want the edges to come into contact with the hull) and move it around in a figure-8 pattern to spread the epoxy around evenly between the two surfaces.
I used the rubber pads underneath the mounting bases themselves to better acommodate the hull's exterior curvature. That entire surface is physically bonded to the fiberglass so that the 40 square inches of marine plywood transfer the stress to a full 40 square inches of hull.
It's functionally excellent, giving you all of the flexibility needed to accommodate various mounting points and angles.
I like the look it gives the tower, and I REALLY like how it keeps the tower out of the way of people boarding the boat from the side, but I worried that the tower might flex at that point and eventually develop metal fatigue. However, the front mounting assemblies are specifically designed to permit folding and I did "use" that feature once during installation.
Joystick will include them for no extra shipping charge if ordered with the rack (well worth doing, as the racks are pretty stout). They will ship it with Ciba's latest, widest mirror and the result is incredible visibility for the driver. Prams, dories, and rowboats, small as they are, are often subject to severe space restrictions like these, and trailers are usually more trouble than they're worth.
If nesting is a priority, do some measuring to ensure that the smaller half fits inside the larger. The builder must use common sense when severing these, but if they are butted solidly against the bulkhead, they will usually retain full strength.
When preparing to glue double bulkheads into a sheet ply or cold-molded boat, scrape away all paint, varnish, or UV-resistant coatings and sand lightly. A red microballoon mixture will come very close to matching mahogany plywood and timber, and a pure silica fillet will weather to a yellowish fillet that looks acceptable on off-white fiberglass. To address the popularity of wakeboarding and other board-based sports, Seadoo released a version of the C2K called the X-20 that included a factory wakeboard tower. It's not necessary, either, since there exists a large aftermarket of tower manufacturers who make everything from one-size-fits-most units to full custom towers based on measurements taken from the boat in question.
This led me to research aftermarket towers that would work well, and look good, on the C2K. Having the tow point up high, distant from its mounting points on the hull, gives the tower tremendous mechanical leverage. In more severe cases it can develop cracks in the core material itself, which can then permit water intrusion and eventually lead to structural failure even above the waterline. This quickly becomes a question of the size of the mounting bases and their backing plates. Since non-wakeboard boats aren't made with towers in mind, we should do something to strengthen those areas. I nearly bought one of their towers based solely on this excellent reputation for quality and customer service. Remember, aftermarket towers are trying to be compatible with as wide a variety as possible. However, one of the reasons for this article is to share some additional recommendations and ideas that can help your installation go smoothly.
Furthermore, the inside surface of chopper-gun fiberglass is rough with high and low spots.
Second, I filled in the void between the center area of the backing plates and the hull with a fiber-reinforced auto epoxy. By moving the mounting points around a little I was able to optimize for physical convenience and installation access. I purchased brand new black oxide twist drill bits so I'd have clean cutting edges and kept the bits clean while drilling. Reverse drilling is more of a "wear it away" process that takes a lot longer but yields a much better hole in the gelcoat.
You can see the marine epoxy, which I put on in several layers without much regard to appearance since they'll probably never been seen again. This kept the epoxy from mushing through the holes and forced it to spread out and evenly fill the gap between the backing plate and the hull.
I still used Joystick's metal backing plates, but only to better distribute the load to the marine plywood.

This is at least as strong as the "beefed up" fiberglass that wakeboard boats have, and most likely quite a bit stronger. Ron assured me they haven't seen that, and further said that the tower is guaranteed for life on that boat so if there ever is a problem they'll replace any required parts. You're still drilling holes in your boat's fiberglass (yikes!), measuring a lot, that sort of thing. Wakeboarding behind a tower is much better than behind a waterski pylon, too, which makes the whole project worthwhile. Since bulkheads can go almost anywhere in the hull, it's possible to arrange for a specific use or to fit a specific location, like the cabin top of a larger boat or back of the family wagon. When working with fiberglass hulls, remove all gelcoat an inch or so back from the bulkheads because you need a large radius fillet for maximum strength and a good appearance.
The two sister models were in production side by side for several years until Seadoo stopped producing boats with Mercury SportJet engines. That leverage is transferred to the hull through the tower's mounting points, one at the end of each tube, where it becomes stress on the fiberglass. The larger the mounting bases and backing plates, the greater the surface area over which the stress can be dissipated. Some tower manufacturers actually recommend adding layers of glass and epoxy to simulate the thicker material that wakeboard boats already have. Just prior to ordering one I went to a local dealer who had one assembled, and as an Engineer I was bothered by their mounting bases. No single set of instructions can be 100% complete, so I suggest reading everything you can on the topic and thinking about it a while before you start drilling holes in your boat.
Screwing down a flat backing plate to a concave surface would yield contact only at the edges of the backing plate - actually concentrating the stress at the edges and literally making things worse.
Take your time and consider things such as whether the tower legs will interfere with passenger boarding, the opening of storage compartments or windshield sections, accessibility to the inside surface of the hull, etc.
That hole acts as the center for a slightly larger drill bit, and so on until you reach the full sized bit. Ideally, you'll have some excess epoxy oozing out around the edges of the backing plate to prove that the void has been filled. Once it was installed I tested for flex, and it does indeed flex at that point a little bit - there's really no way to prevent it unless the rear tubes are perfectly straight. There's nothing specific about Joystick that makes the install any better or worse (and I did review the install instructions on every brand I considered). A screw-in hatch provides access to the sealed compartment while maintaining positive flotation.
If you intend to reinforce the bulkhead with knees, cleats, or gussets, scrape and sand that area also.
I chose a different approach that is less messy and likely even stronger, as we shall soon see. Heim joints are a decent solution to that problem, but they just didn't instill a lot confidence in me.
Monster never answered the phone, never returned my messages, and replied to just one email. I purchased a quarter sheet which allowed me to make two full sets of plates with plenty of material to spare. The larger the backing plate, or the more curved the hull, the more pronounced this effect becomes until at the extreme the backing plate would only contact at its corners, completely defeating their intended purpose.
This material is sort of like "Bondo" but much stronger and water tolerant, and is available at any auto body supply house. However, I have to really put some effort into flexing them so I don't think it will be an issue in real life. The front bar would pivot in either direction, and the rear bars would likely just settle down (forward) out of the way. Obviously I made my installation more complicated by adding the marine plywood backing plates and epoxying them into place, which many people probably wouldn't bother to do.
Since there are multiple layers, a "hole" or thin spot in one of the layers isn't likely to line up with a similarly thin spot in other layers so thin spots, or outright holes, are permitted in regular plywood.
Furthermore, flexure there means less stress transmitted to the mounting bases and the hull. So was Joystick, plus Ron at Joystick was fast on emails and gave me his personal cell number if I had more questions.
Marine plywood has no such voids - it is solid everywhere, and therefore stronger everywhere.
The longer you take, and the less pressure you put on the bits, the better your results will be. The number one problem with ALL waketowers is stress transferred to the fiberglass, which can start with spider cracks and lead to severe damage. That's why I made such large backing plates, and I think the slight flex in the rear tubes will dissipate much of the stress in the tower rather than in the fiberglass. Finally, I went with Joystick primarily because of their larger and very rugged mounting hardware. Frankly, there is always some stretch in a 60-70 foot rope even if it's Spectra so I don't think the rider will ever feel any difference. LoudLiquid uses Heim joints just like Monster, whereas Joystick machines their own parts from aluminum. The Joystick bases are 2x4 inches (8 square inches), which I backed up with 5x8 pieces of marine plywood behind the fiberglass to absolutely minimize the stress transferred to the hull.

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