PROJECT BOAT PART 8 - Trucking you boat

PROJECT BOAT PART 8 - Trucking you boat

Greg Mutton has been trucking boats for almost as long as they have been built by production means in Sydney. The founder of All Boat Transport some 30 years ago, he ramped-up his trucking business when Mariner got cranking in Mona Vale in the 1970s. Keeping close to the big boatbuilders, Greg now shares the same Queensland address as Riviera and Maritimo.

Of course, as anyone with a drop of saltwater in his or her veins knows, experience counts for plenty when it comes to most everything boating. After a wet summer in Queensland, we wanted someone experienced to deliver our lovingly restored 1976-model Mariner Pacer 760 from the Gold Coast to Sydney, from its dad’s yard at Maritimo back to its hometown waters of Pittwater, in what would be a great homecoming.

So we turned to All Boat Transport, which these days remains a preferred trucking company for Maritimo and Riviera. Although business is much quieter due to scaled-back manufacturing, Greg and his fleet of three trucks still transports some 100 to 200 boats a year. Because production has slowed, he’s been targeting the used-boat market, though not often as used as our Ralfy V.

All Boat Transport has the means to move cruisers up to 60 feet and truck yachts as big as 75 feet locally and interstate. Each boat is assessed independently in regards to logistics. “As they get longer, wider and higher, the requirements for trucking them vary. And the laws also vary from State to State because we haven’t got a uniform transport code yet,” Greg explains. At which point we left the details in his hands and just said: “Mate, take good care of him.”

In today’s trucking world, Ralfy V is a small job. The retail cost (including GST) for the one-way ticket from the Gold Coast to Sydney would be around the $2800 to $3300 mark. This seems very reasonable should you decide to truck your boat north for winter. Even a 25-footer like ours would be handy parked at Southport Yacht Club and used as a weekender. Avail yourself of the club amenities and gad about by day.

Although less people are trucking these days, Airlie Beach remains the dream destination for holidaying boaters. Owners typically truck their boat there, leave it for three months while the family uses it, and then truck it back home. Because the Whitsundays’ yachting market is covered by bareboat charter businesses, most of the holiday boats trucked north are powerboats — the cabriolet-style Riviera 3000 and 4000s, Sea Rays and Four Winns are common. The boats are usually 35-foot plus because the smaller boats don’t have the accommodation and can’t handle the choppy waters.

“When we started 30 years ago at Mona Vale, not long after Bill Barry-Cotter began building Mariner cruisers, Ralfy was a medium-sized boat. Now, by comparison, it’s a relatively small boat. But we’ve trucked hundreds upon hundreds of these Pacers over the years. And often the same boat more than once,” Greg recalls.

It’s also true that trucking and boating have things in common. Some of the earlier boats he toted about the land had inherent problems. These were always passed back to the factories or dealers for rectification. A particular popular model of boat had a problem with a sliding door on the rear of the cabin. It used to jump off the tracks. So we’d wedge the doors in place to make sure they didn’t have a problem. It also happened on occasion offshore. Sometimes trucking issues are consistent with boating usage,” Greg adds.

Needless to say, trucking boats isn’t without its challenges. Think how many surfboards have been lost off holidaymakers’ roof racks. But Mutton says he has never had a serious incident in 30 years of trucking, mainly along the Eastern Seaboard. He puts that down to the care and attention in planning, not only with securing the load but with picking the right routes. Avoiding low bridges helps.

During transit, Ralfy V lost a couple of windows that jumped out of the tracks, even despite being taped up. Yours truly got a call in the evening from a concerned truckie. But we’re onto that now — they are just glass after all — and thankfully the valuable panes stamped 1976 remain in place. The missing bits are the triangular sliding windows.

We also noticed that All Boat Transport had paid attention to supporting the full length of the boat by chocking under the keel. An adjustable cradle on the trailer provided additional security and there was a series of straps. The concept of carrying a boat is to support it or cradle it and the straps are there only to secure any additional movement. As with trailerboating, you don’t want to compress your hull.

The driver commented to Greg that Ralfy V was an easy load and he only had to tighten one of eight straps on the trip to Sydney. That meant the boat was sitting beautifully on the trailer. But because the boat is oversized, the driver couldn’t continue through the night. The delivery was a two-day affair after an overnighter at Macksville. At first light, he started his International truck and made it to Sydney after peak hour, another legal requirement of trucking oversized boats.

We are grateful to yet another partner, The Quays Marina at Church Point, now owned by former Riviera board member, Richard White. The big semi was in position when we arrived and Ralfy was soon lifted free with a travel lift without incident. We dropped the boat in the water, I leapt aboard and… “Where’s the key?” Ah, hiding in the sink. No problems. Vroom, vroom. The MerCruiser V8 388 Stroker, all 350hp of it, kicked into life. Heads turned our way.

The assembled crowd looked pleased and I could see faces pressed up against glass office windows above. Then someone on the dock tried to offload a nearby Mariner Pacer 780 with flying bridge that was looking worse for wear and parked on the dry alongside. I manoeuvred Ralfy out of its sling, kissing a workboat only gently when the bow swung in the big breeze, before waving farewell. Otherwise, it might have been lunch and a coffee and The Quays.

We are most grateful to the Royal Motor Yacht Club at Newport for a berth in a prominent position on its terrific marina. Trade-a-Boat has a long association with this club and our sister magazine, TrailerBoat, staged its Greatest Boats shootout from the amenity. I reversed the boat into the stiff southerly before reaching our pen and used the Bravo 3 leg with duoprop to steer the boat in. Easy. Now try doing that with the old, single Chrysler-engine shaftdrive configuration. No chance!

Rain was imminent. So our local ad man, Ian Kissin, no stranger to boats and the owner of a 1970-something model Savage 33 on this same marina, leant a hand. Plastic and tape soon covered the windows. Those items that were tied down for trucking were freed and located in position. A few bits and pieces were put back in place.

We are now concentrating on fixing the windows and a piece of teak trim in the cabin. But for that, Ralfy V is ready to cruise Pittwater with our flag flying, after we have reconnected with the simple pleasures of 1970’s powerboating — zinc
cream on the nose, terry towelling hat on the noggin, with a pack of cards and a fishin’ line to while away the time. The Sovereign barbecue is just as eager, while our 12V portable Waeco fridge is being transported to Sydney about now.

We will then truck Ralfy V back to Queensland for the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show in May, where he or she will be the centrepiece of our in-water Trade-a-Boat display, wedged between Maritimo and Riviera. You can see the old and the new and enter the competition to win Ralfy V. More on that next issue.

Of course, Greg says it’s cost effective to road transport your boat interstate, not only in respect of running hours on the clock and fuel use, but with the time involved in taking it by water. The efficiency of road transport means you can have your boat ready and waiting in the best possible location and fly in to maximise your precious boating time.

Besides Airlie Beach, and the Gold Coast/Sydney route, All Boat Transport trucks a lot of boats to Hervey Bay. Owners use that as a stepping-off point to cruise the reef. Greg will then pick-up the same boat a few months later in Cairns and deliver it back home.

“The trip north in a boat with the wind behind you is much more pleasant than having to punch back home into the southeast tradewinds. While we have to put up with it — a strong headwind can be like towing two parachutes behind the truck — smart boaters don’t and hitch a ride home instead.

After some serious detective work, we found two of the original Mariner boatbuilders, who may well have had a hand in our 1976-model 760, dubbed Ralfy V.

Bob Haygarth, left, and understudy Dave Calcraft, now from Sydney Wood Industries, were like two inseparable old mates when we put them together around the dinette to do nothing more than shoot the breeze. They built hundreds of these boats together.

You can listen to our interview and glean some additional insight into the good old days of boating and boatbuilding, back when a Mariner Pacer 760 was king, at Scroll down to the Ralfy files.

Photos: Restoration complete, Ralfy V
is loaded on an All Boat Transport
flatbed at Maritimo's Gold Coast factory and trucked to Sydney and a new berth at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Newport.