Well, today was the big day (ok, maybe the second biggest day!) While we’ve been preparing for our trip south, Robin has had a huge list of projects that I needed to complete (Some of them, you’ve already read about). Anyway, the biggest concern that she has had was our ability to fit the boat under some of the bridges on the loop.
I was sure we’d be ok, but the more I looked at the radar arch and top, the more concerned I became. I did some quick measurements; it isn’t easy to measure air draft of your boat. The arch came up at 19 ft, the radar added another 15”, even with the antennas down there was no way I was going to fit under a 19 ft bridge.
There is a bridge on the Erie Canal that has a vertical clearance of 21 ft. The lowest however, is fixed bridge on the Illinois River with just over 19 ft. vertical clearance. I would really have hated to be in the middle of our trip and have to perform the ‘Great Turn Around’ instead of the Great Loop, so I agreed to try and drop the radar arch.
We found that whoever installed our hard top, which is a soft canvas top stretched over a metal frame, decided that they were going to make sure it was as close to permanent as they could get it. Supports ran back and forth and cross ways. It was a maze of bolts and cross members. To make matters worse, the top was installed over twenty years ago and all of the stainless cap screws had made a permanent connection. We broke every bolt trying to set this top free.
Next step, get out the drill. All the bolts had to be drilled out and new bolt holes installed. After that, it was time to get some help. The hard top had to be supported while we tried to lower the arch. Another problem, with all the bolts and supports out and broken free, the top still wouldn’t budge. Turns out, one of the previous owners had caulked the arch hinge plates into place. Break out the razor knives! We then pulled lose every bit of caulk we could find.
The Arch started to move, unfortunately, we found several wires running through the arch that we didn’t expect to find. Pinned it back up into place and started tracing wires. Once again, some went nowhere, so they were removed. Luckily, all the wires that need to remain had enough slack in them that we were able to drop the arch. Sorry, no picture of the arch all the way down. I had to call Robin (the photographer) into action to help hold up the arch.
We took a couple of quick measurements in order to build some supports for later and then pinned it back up into place. Success! I’ll have a couple of minor adjustments to make while we’re in Florida, but, at least I know that it will drop enough to get under the bridges.
Looks like we won’t have to do the “Great Turn Around” after all!