FEATURE – Project Boat part II

Project Boat Part 2 - High & Dry

First up, let’s get one thing straight. For the record, there were two version of what’s commonly referred to as the Mariner Pacer 26. The Pacer 760 was produced from 1971 to the mid-to-late 1970s. Measuring 7.62m, it was the boat that introduced Australians to a true fibreglass production craft. That’s the Pacer we bought as our project boat. Ralfy IV

is a 1976-model Pacer 760 originally powered with a Chrysler V8, but bought for $16,000 with the engine out of it.

As one astute reader picked up, there was another Pacer 26. The later model was the Pacer 780. According to Mike Gaffikin, the Sydney boat dealer who was selling oodles of Pacers at the time, the 780 was based on the 760 but it had a moulded swimplatform, lowered moulded shower floor, aluminium rubrail, and the cockpit was extended. There was also a Mariner Pacer 22, but that’s by the by. And one other thing: our project boat is obviously the Sedan not the Flybridge model.

So our project boat will hereafter be referred to as the Mariner Pacer 760, not the Mariner Pacer 26, to clear up any confusion. As its original builder Bill Barry-Cotter told us: the Pacer 760 is just perfect for the purpose of a restoration or rebuild. Bill estimates he built more than 400 Mariner Pacers all told. Our well-kept 760 reflects the longevity of the Mariner marque and the good design sense of one of Australia’s classic cabin cruisers.

But with that cleared up, your editor still wasn’t sleeping too well. Ralfy IV was lying on its mooring, without an engine, with flat batteries and, thus, no bilge pumps. All that kept her from heading down to Davey Jones’ locker was a watertight seacock, shaft seal and skin fitting. But for how long?

After lying away, wondering if she’s still afloat, listening to several torrential Sydney downpours, I rowed out to Ralfy IV with the wife and three-year-old. Despite sitting on a mooring without an engine for a year or so, despite not having an antifoul for about two years, said the previous owners, she was remarkably watertight.

At best, I bailed out a bucket of water. The only real leaks are through the bowrail fixings or screw holes and, as ever, the zips on the storm covers and canvas enclosure. There might have been a slight drip elsewhere but for now, at least, our boat was watertight.

Even with that in mind, it was time to get cracking — to shift Ralfy IV to a safer (read dry stand) location, to blast off the years of marine growth, to inspect the hull, and to remove the accumulated junk and fuel in the tank in anticipation of trucking the project boat back to its builder, Bill Barry-Cotter, for a rebuild.

Of course, there are numerous options for hauling out a boat like this in Sydney, so you can work on it on the ‘dry’. Few, if any, would be quite as sophisticated, and convenient for visiting trucks, as Sydney City Marine located under the Anzac Bridge in Rozelle Bay.

You should read the box hereabouts for a bit more background on Sydney City Marine, suffice to say, it seemed a logical location to store our beloved boat, to blast its bottom, empty the holds of junk, and prepare the boat for the truck at the end of July.

The next question was how to get Ralfy IV from its mooring in upper Middle Harbour to Sydney City Marine, a distance I am supposing of 10nm. The obvious solution would be to take the family’s 42-footer, but what if our project boat started taking on water? With just the wife, a top driver I should add, and a troublesome three-year-old as crew, the last thing I need is a sinking boat.

So we called the professionals. Matt Cummings from Sea Tow does this for a living. He drives a twin-outboard powered cat, equipped with high-volume pumps, and has towed countess boats long tied to their moorings before. After snapping some pics of Ralfy IV as it was towed past Seaforth, I drove across town to catch the boat coming out of the water and, moreover, receiving a long overdue bottom blast. Wow! Not an osmosis blister to be found. Thanks Bill Barry-Cotter.

Here’s a photo essay documenting the big day when Ralfy IV was hauled out onto the dry stand. Thanks go to Sea Tow and Sydney City Marine.

Check back next month for an update on our project boat, the 1976-model Mariner Pacer 760 called Ralfy IV.

There was no grand opening at Sydney City Marine. Located under the Anzac Bridge at Rozelle Bay, the state-of-the-art boat-maintenance facility just sought of emerged from its surrounds. That’s partly because the ship-lift took a lot longer than expected to commission. But with that working, this is now quite some boat-maintenance facility located virtually in downtown Sydney.

Described as a one-stop-shop marine maintenance centre, Sydney City Marine now has the ability to service, refit and maintain all vessels up to 55m in length, with a 13m beam, weighing 800t. There are marina and holding pens, the aforesaid ship-lift, a travel-lift, a coupe of remote-controlled trailers, and a submersible with automatic pressure pads that share the load. That’s the toy we used for bringing Ralfy IV out of the water.

With 6200m² of open hardstand and 3200m² of covered all-weather hardstand, plus the necessary development approvals, you can work on your boat here 24/7 irrespective of the weather. At the time of visitation, the superyacht Obrigado was in a shed being resprayed, there were shipwrights recalking one of Vagabond’s timber charter boats, trucks shipping various boats such as the Sunseeker to Melbourne, as racing yachts looked on from the ‘dry’.

Amid all these glorious big boats, our Pacer 760 was a tadpole. But it was a momentous occasion to get the boat onto the hardstand, to have the local staff move in with their Ghost Buster-like high-pressure guns, and strip the hull clean. The water is recycled on site, while the list of available services run the gamut in keeping with Sydney’s latest boat-maintenance facility (see www.sydneycitymarine.com.au) — David Lockwood


1) With no engine, flat batteries and, thus, no bilge pumps, it was time to take our Mariner Pacer 760 project boat from its mooring in Middle Harbour to the safety of the hardstand. The pros were chosen just in case we sprung a leak —
Sydney Sea Tow franchisee Matt Cummings carries plenty of high-volume pumps including one that can keep the Queen Mary afloat.

2) The tow from the mooring in Middle Harbour to Sydney City Marine near Glebe covered about 10nm. After driving across town, we were glad to see our Mariner Pacer 760 arrive while floating on the same waterline.

3) Out go the fenders as Ralfy IV is shunted into a service berth at Sydney City Marine’s marina. Already an audience was waiting having heard of our project-boat plans.

4) Most onlookers were pleasantly surprised by the condition of our 34-year-old Mariner Pacer 760 — “I was expecting much worse,” was often heard.

5) If not the badge, then teak boarding platform is another giveaway that this is a Mariner Pacer 760 and not a 780. Your editor wants to increase the platform in future so you can sit out here and peel the prawns.

6) The travel-lift at Sydney City Marine has a 100t lift capacity, a tad more than we needed for our Mariner Pacer 760 sans its V8 engine.

7) With no engine, Ralfy IV was towed into position for haul out by the double-ended workboat.

8) The submersible cradle from Holland is a trick bit of gear, with a remote-control panel worn around the neck.

9) It became increasingly obvious that we had a fair bit of the Barrier Reef here as well.

10) The running gear for the shaft-driven V8 Chrysler, not fitted, was a little worse for wear…

11) You can see the kink in the rudder from, we presume, a close encounter with a beach one sunny Sunday past. All the running gear, including three-blade prop, will be removed and the Pacer 760 converted to sterndrive.

12) Suddenly, the Barnacle Buster’s appear with their high-pressure guns. What appears at first like a one-man job is fast turning into a two-man one, but the marine growth is coming off pretty easily.

13) With all the weed and shell removed, our Pacer 760 hull is looking pretty clean.

14) No blisters around the bow, no real damage as far as we could see.

15) But for the bent rudder, the running gear and hull running surfaces were in good nick.

16) As the sun sets on Ralfy IV and Sydney City Marine, and the Sydney Tower looks on with approval, we call it a day and a job well done. Our Mariner Pacer 760 is safely on the hardstand.