PROJECT BOAT Pt 7 - Launch Party

PROJECT BOAT Part 7 - Launch Party

It only seems like yesterday that the idea of a project boat was born. But for Trader Classifieds, the publisher of Trade-a-Boat

, projects of this nature are second nature. You see, our sister magazine
Unique Cars embarks on car restorations on a fulltime basis. Why not apply the same strategy to a boat, asked our publisher? Why not, indeed. Thereafter, the wheels or props were put in motion. 

We jumped at the chance to find, rebuild or store, an old boat found betwixt the pages of Australia’s best-selling boating magazine. But which boat? It was during a factory visit to Maritimo on the Gold Coast that we tossed up the idea of our project boat with boatbuilding doyen Bill Barry-Cotter. At that time, we were looking at a second-hand Savage 26 that needed an awful lot of love and attention. That was obvious from first glance, but even more so after the survey that we commissioned and received from Sandy Schofield from Sanran Marine in Sydney.

Meantime, during that fateful afternoon chat at Maritimo, Bill Barry-Cotter said: “Why not rebuild a Mariner Pacer?” We shook hands none the wiser. But there the seed was sown. Subsequent conversations led to an exciting period of research for yours truly. Evidently, there were numerous Mariner Pacers built in the 70s and 80s: 22-footers, 760s (25s) and 780s (26s) in both flybridge and sedan guises. Power options varied, too.

The Pacer hull was based on a boat procured by Bill Barry-Cotter from Clive Caporn, who built timber boats of great repute in Sydney in his heyday. He was known for his performance planing hulls that, as our project has gone on to prove, were ahead in their day. Bill added his own touches, such as redesigned decks and greater amenities as demanded by pleasureboaters. He then applied his production boatbuilding nous and efficiencies to produce the aforesaid range of Mariner Pacers.

We’ve said it previously in Trade-a-Boat, but more than 400 Mariner Pacers were built by Bill Barry-Cotter and his crew, one every four days, for many years. The boats were just great family cruisers, with everything including the kitchen sink, and usually Chrysler V8 inboard petrol power with shaft drive (in the case of the 760 at least). Such were their popularity the Pacers were even referred to, affectionately I should add, as Pittwater Valiants.

Fast forward to May 2010, when after a concerted search we find a Mariner Pacer 760 in Trade-a-Boat in very good condition for its age. The private ad read: “Mariner Pacer 1976, 7.62m. Reluctant sale. This is an ideal family boat/weekender at a cheap price. Shaft drive, sleeps four, stove, dinette, v-berth, toilet & shower with full headroom, also deck shower on the marlin board. Clean and tidy, good covers, bench seats. All safety gear, life jackets, anchors, chains, ropes, 27 meg. dinghy & oars. We have owned the boat since 1995. The family have grown and we're not using the boat enough. Currently, the Chrysler V8 motor is out and needs a rebuild. The boat is moored at Mosman. Asking $19,950. Phone 0423 119 945.”

So the 1976-model Pacer 760 called Ralfy IV was without its Chrysler inboard petrol V8 —
perfect for our repower purposes — and subsequently procured from its owners for $16,000. Trade-a-Boat exchanged on June 1. We followed-up with a cover note with Club Marine and insurance for a year. But first a little history.

Ralfy’s IV’s owners, the Norman family, bought the Pacer from one Paul Armstrong of Greys Point in Port Hacking. Alas, that’s where our CSI work ended, but a reader said he found Ralfy IV for sale in a 1990-something edition of Trade-a-Boat. That fits with the Norman families’ experience: they have owned Ralfy IV for about 15 years.

Even though the Norman’s young kids have grown up, we were touched to find a cache of their toys aboard from their formative boating years. In fact, rather wonderfully, the Normans joined us on the Gold Coast for Ralfy V’s (note new name) official relaunch six-month later. More on that later.

Although the boat was kept on a mooring off Inkerman Street Wharf, Mosman, and there was no engine, the seacocks were closed and the hull seemed watertight. We were told the boat had been resting happily this way for many months. The bilge didn’t have high-water tide lines either.

So we left Ralfy IV on its Mosman mooring for another nervous month until engaging Sea Tow to haul our boat to Sydney City Marine, all the way across town and down Port Hacking, for its haul-out. How would the hull fair?

After removing a ton of marine growth the 35-year-old hull looked almost as good as its sound topsides. The rudder was bent, but no worries as we were converting this boat from inboard shaftdrive to sterndrive.

Next we spoke with David Meehan, the director of MerCruiser in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, about power and price options. They partnered our project with plans for a remanufactured V8 MerCruiser 388 Stroker producing 350hp. The reman’ engine option was a suggestion of Bill Barry-Cotters from day one. He really knows a trick or two.

With a Bravo III sterndrive leg and counter-rotating props, our Pacer 760 was going to fly. But first things first. During the Sydney International Boat Show in late-July/early August, we backload Ralfy IV on a Maritimo table top and trucked the boat to the Coomera factory.

Even Bill Barry-Cotter, our boat’s father and original builder, was impressed by its original and sound condition. And with that, what might have been a remodel became a magic restoration and a repower. Wow! Herein the crux of our project boat and why this Pacer 760 is so special.

The same expert boatbuilders, production processes, and skills employed to build multi-million-dollar Maritimo luxury cruisers were employed to bring Ralfy IV back up to speed. We really must thank Bill Barry-Cotter and his marketing man, Luke Durman, for allocating the time and resources to ensure nothing was left to chance on the restoration. The great original condition of the 1976-model Mariner Pacer 26 Sedan is testimony to the longevity and unsinkable nature of Bill Barry-Cotter’s boats.

Project manager Phil Frazer, charged with the production of all Maritimo cruisers, took care of the critical path. The lead fitout guy was Chris Clarke, who catalogued every part, stripped the boat bare, and eventually rebuilt it. More than 300 photos were taken of all the fittings. As Bill Barry-Cotter says: “Keeping one person, the same person, on the job ensures it’s done properly.” It’s a strategy he’s been using for many years.

Dean Rushby from Maritimo is responsible for the new engineering to big-boat standards that includes a completely new fuel system, fuel tank and rewire. Drew (who had a hand in the mould for the original Mariner Pacer 760 and still works for Bill) and son Ben Hannan complete a spiffy paintjob after countless hours of fairing and respraying. There are many other hands on the torture boards or sanders that we owe thanks. This was a collaborative effort that inspired many shipwrights.

Meantime, Bill Barry-Cotter and his crew outsourced a remarkable number of original fittings, calling on Graham Eeves from Alfab to address the problem of a broken window —
Alfab had the old jigs — and Jolly Roger for various deck fittings. But mostly the original parts were sound and rechromed and refitted. That said, stunning new teak rails were built, and a new and improved bowrail was added. And we got a new and deeper teak swimplatform, a work of art, on which to hang out at anchor.

After the hull, deck and hardtop respray came structural strengthening of the hull and mainly the transom. Then there was the repower and external refit, before the interior was put back together. That latter step was going to be documented but it happened in such haste with such passion that we, too, just wanted to see a completed Ralfy.

As you can see from the pics hereabouts, we kept the Pacer 760 pretty original. There’s a new toilet, new upholstery and we changed the naff teak pinrail tracing the cabin sidepockets. Otherwise, it’s all original right down to the Rinnai stove, kettle and dash (with new MerCruiser engine gauges).

The new Mariner Pacer badges and signwriting from Phil Booker from Booker Signs capture the era perfectly. Step back in time on Ralfy V and experience the carefree 70s. The boat really does impart a feeling of fun and joie de vivre from less-complicated times.

When we lifted the covers off the renamed Ralfy V — after all the work the boat has been reborn — everyone was in awe. Ralfy V has united a veritable army of passionate boatbuilders and boaters and she or he proved that Australian boatbuilding is a force. And Bill Barry-Cotter really is a legend in our local industry.

After turning the key and gadding down the Coomera River we opened the throttle to whoops of delight. Ralfy V hit an impressive 37kts! She flies, but the bit this seasoned tester is impressed about is how well the boat handles. There was no need for ballast despite going from a centre-mounted to rear-mounted engine. We just moved the fuel and water forward to compensate.

In fact, the boat travels in such fine fettle without need for trim tabs that she’s an improvement on the old Pacer 760. We had a second 760 with us during the launch, that of Drew Hannan’s, with the original inboard engine and, while it’s a great Pacer, Ralfy V pulled a tighter circle, had more holeshot, better top-end speed, and more X Factor.

Then there is the sparkling new stainless steel barbecue on the rail courtesy of Sovereign Barbecues that beckons to be used, the handy Raymarine chartplotter to help us get around the inshore cruising grounds from the Gold Coast to Geelong, and the future fit-up of a Fusion marine stereo and AV screen, plus a roll-up tender and more.

The now restored Pacer 760 with remanufactured V8 MerCruiser and sterndrive is one cool boat. People were waving from far and wide on the Gold Coast waterways during our test drives. Here’s proof that Australian boatbuilding is alive and well and, moreover, that the Mariner’s original builder, unsinkable Bill Barry-Cotter, is a true visionary.

Suffice to say, you’ll be reading a lot more about Ralfy V in these pages, from a subsequent boat test and official sea trial, to some sleep-board cruising pieces with our crew. After all, the boat sleeps a family of four and has the goods and space to weekend away. And that is the charter of most boatowners today.

Then, after some months on the campaign trail and touring the big boat shows, we’ll big giving away Ralfy V to a lucky Trade-a-Boat subscriber. We might even have a tear in our eye. After all, it’s not everyday that you get to restore a boat with its original builder more than 30 years later, to such a high standard, and with such passion. Bravo!

Fitting a Sovereign BBQ 

TODD HOLZAPFEL from partners Sovereign BBQs & Grills Australia takes up the tongs and explains why a stainless-steel barbie is an integral part of our project boat Ralfy V…

Having been first contacted by Trade-a-Boat with a proposition to supply a barbecue for Ralfy, I was soon exchanging emails with editor David Lockwood. We were both excited about the project and stunning refit taking place at the Maritimo Hope Island facility.

But I first sighted Ralfy during an anchor delivery (we import Ultra Anchors, too) some weeks prior to the request. As an amateur-boat restoration buff, I like a job well done. The work I saw is a credit to the shipwrights involved and certainly befitting one of our Sovereign BBQs on the transom. Besides, what’s boating without a barbecue?

To permit easy stowage of the barbecue when not in use
—for those people that like clean lines —
our smaller Bravo model was the perfect choice In fact, this model is ideal for up to four people, regardless of the size of your boat (we have one onboard a 53ft Selene, for instance).

At only 12kg, and with a well thought-out mounting solution (more about that below), you can whip out the Bravo barbecue, cook up a feast, and have the unit packed away in a flash.

My communication with David Lockwood suggested our flat/grill plate cooking surface option was the preference for this little ship (we also have a full flat-plate cooking surface as well) — as the editor said he wanted steaks with “stripes on them” and not simmered.

Now the question remained as to how to install the barbecue. This called for a road trip to the factory to meet with Ralfy project manager Phil Frazer (barbecue in my hot little hands). With a wide range of standard Sovereign mounting options at my disposal, I knew a solution was only an inspection away.

On arrival, Ralfy’s original teak timber rail was back in the shed and yet to be reinstalled. The mirror-like varnish finish was simply stunning — all done to the original rail, no less.

The original stanchion design, which had been removed and refinished (I was seeing a trend here — everything on Ralfy has been refinished!), created a forward offset so that the timber rails projected inboard somewhat. This was a godsend for installing the Sovereign Bravo BBQ, as it permitted our standard recess deck mounts to be fitted in the gunwale across the stern and for the barbecue to then drop onto our front-mount system while still missing the abovementioned highly varnished rails.

With some adjustment (think hacksaw) of the front mount tube lengths (Sovereign mounting systems are supplied in pairs), the height of the cooking surface of the barbecue can be adjusted to suit the operator and general aesthetics of the installation. It’s all about practicality with Sovereign.

The installation of the recess deck fittings was to starboard on Ralfy to assist any fat runoff to migrate towards the functional Sovereign inbuilt, removable fat tray. You see, the fat tray is also to starboard when installed across the stern. This mount for the Sovereign also permits the installation of a baitboard when the barbecue is not in use. Nice multitasking.

In regard to the gas supply, a small onboard gas cylinder was first considered. However, the easiest solution was a disposable propane bottle (the green ones you can buy at the supermarket). With the ever-efficient Sovereign BBQ using only minimal gas, each green bottle will give you hours of cooking time. Better still, they are compact and easy to stow away —storage is a vital consideration onboard Ralfy and, indeed. any vessel of this size.

At this juncture, all that remains is to acquire some deck chairs, some ice-cold beverages and a few nice steaks. Then we’ll really test Ralfy’s entertainment credentials. But with the quality of finished I observed, and all the onboard gadgets including the Sovereign BBQ, she is sure to be a great entertainer even some 30 years after first bringing enjoyment to the original owners. And being stainless steel, our Bravo Barbie is built to go the distance. — Todd Holzapfel, Sovereign BBQs & Grills Australia


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