Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bullhead Marine Inc. Steelhead Yacht Crane Installation

Yeah, six years later is when you really find out how well your crane was installed. Dennis Speck the self proclaimed "Yacht Crane Specialist" President of  Bullhead Marine installed our Steelhead Crane/Davit in 2009. We had serious issues on the original install, the crane was located so that it was almost impossible to use. After some rather tense discussions Dennis agreed to move the crane but refused to pay for the teak and fiberglass repairs, cost to us an extra $2,200.

Fast forward to 2015. The davit has performed very well, support from Steelhead with some early issues was top notch even through the ownership change (Thanks Brent, Russ!). We use our davit a lot, we tend to anchor out weeks, months at a time, moving about every three to four days. We also use it frequently to launch our water toys, the kayaks. After 6 years it is not surprising that we need to service the crane, Brian at Steelhead was very helpful, new cable, install drawings etc. After leaving the US for the Caribbean we thought all was good, then......I noticed that the step flange in the cockpit was rotating and the fasteners were coming loose from the deck. Not good. Brian at Steelhead sends us detailed drawings and we discover that the step flange was not installed according to Steelheads's manual. The fasteners should be through bolted, ours are not. The only way to access the fasteners is to lift the standpipe, should be straight forward right? Well it might have been had Bullhead followed the install instructions and used TefGel as directed. No TefGel was used, and everything is corroded and seized including the step flange and the set screw. So now there is no way to uninstall the crane without damaging the teak deck in the cockpit. What to do?? We decide it will be easier to have an external flange fabricated locally to fit over the standpipe and through bolt it to the cockpit sole. (more on this as things develop). Then we decide to look at the mounting on the boat deck, I am concerned. At first glance it looks OK, but then I read the install manual, red flags, it is not through bolted as directed. I decide to at least remove the bolts, there are six holding the mounting flange, again , lots of corrosion, no TefGel. The bolts are glued in only, not threaded in at all, once removed we realized that they were only glued in place with 3M 5200!  Very scary, I am not sure of all the forces involved but our tender weighs in at 900 lbs, the entire davit is only glued to the deck by a relatively small flange! Eventually 5200 will fail, can you imagine the risk to those operating the crane should that happen? See the video below.

See the video here



  1. Ken
    While researching Steelhead Cranes I found your blog post. Quite disturbing to say the least. We have a Selene 53 with mast/boom arrangement and are very seriously considering the Steelhead ES 1000. I would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your system and install. My personal email is ScottMacD@aol.com
    Scott MacDowell
    MV Big Smile

    1. Don't get me wrong, the crane is great. Just choose your installer wisely.

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