WIN A BOAT! Saying goodbye to our project boat...

Saying goodbye to our project boat...

When it was announced at the start of the year that I was to acquire a small boat, several individuals ventured the opinion that people like me shouldn’t have one, small or otherwise. Unkind I know, but even I could understand why that remark found reason to crawl out of its hole when it did. For a long time, indeed all my life as far as I can tell, I’ve been a world-class bungler when it comes to anything mechanical. And since a boat is a combination of various things mechanical, the better informed among us certainly had reason to fear the thought of Bazz and Boat coming together.

And yet, I did have one advantage. Namely, that being a bungler excuses a lot of sub-standard behaviour. People expect me to be weird and are therefore unsurprised when, for example, I get into the wrong car in a car park (with a complete stranger sitting in the driver’s seat — Ed), or eat someone else’s meal at Maccas, or get a taxi home from the airport and leave my car behind to accrue parking fees.

Being weird has also allowed me to make a living by ridiculing myself over a period of 40 years or so, while drawing from what can only be described as an ever expanding body of work. For better or worse there has never been a shortage of material.

And so I set out on this perilous voyage of discovery with only a warped mind, a Border Collie and a 4.3m tinnie for company. There was much that could go wrong, and some of it did (and rather quickly too), but in the end I made the valuable discovery that small boats have a worth far beyond cold retail value.

Pete Messenger catches an undisclosed number of bream and flathead at the Club Marine Trailer Boat fishing tournament in Port Stephens, NSW.

“Savage” and “Jabiru” are an odd combination of words when you think about it, given that the Jabiru is a large water bird that doesn’t have much of a reputation for savagery.

When the hull arrived at Bazz HQ it came with a motor, a trailer, and not much else. BRP’s Riley Tolmay made sure it had a 30hp Evinrude E-TEC on the back, and the boat had all the safety gear it required. But as I said, that was about it — which was exactly our intention.

The idea was to build this water bird into a desirable fishing boat, so the first thing we did was sit down and think about how this should be done, and in what order, although when I say “we” I really mean me and my mate Peter Messenger. Our plan was to do all the work ourselves, just to prove that two DIY nuff nuffs can do anything if they’re sufficiently determined and have unrestricted access to someone else’s Gold Amex.

This boat came to mean a lot to me over a period of six months. During the build-up, it was put on display at a major boat show where, indignantly, I moved it twice because show organisers had stuck it in a cul de sac at the back of a dead-end behind doors the size of a hobbit’s drawbridge. I’d hauled the boat all the way to Sydney from Newcastle down the arrow-straight F3 in order to excite TrailerBoat readers, encouraging them to subscribe by giving them a chance to win the boat, only to find that show organisers were doing their best to hide the bloody thing?

Pete makes aluminium boxes for the Fusion speakers while Bazz gets an icy-pole.

The Jabber was also employed to great effect on Lake Macquarie while targeting bream and flathead, and in intervening periods it transported me plus Bill The Flying Wonderdog to all points known and not so well known. We frolicked on the lake’s sand islands (at night, so no-one would be offended by the geriatric fandango), explored the upper reaches of unexplored creeks, or unexplored by us anyway, and motored across the lake to Belmont where we enjoyed fish and chips, all because we had a tinnie and I’d worked out how to get it from A to B without ramming anything larger than a small warship.

And thanks to Fusion we had a stereo, again installed by Pete. To this device we added two speakers, and to those, connected by mysterious means beyond my grasp, the voice of Glen Campbell. As the Jabiru glided across silvern waters as still as the sky, I would upset the locals with By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Galveston, Rhinestone Cowboy, and Jimmy Webb’s wonderful Wichita Lineman. Bill The Flying Wonderdog didn’t sing along but I could tell he was thinking about it.

Is it a good tinnie, or what?

You’re probably wondering what this story is all about, so maybe I should discuss a teensy bit about the actual boat, the improvements we made to it, and what I think of it since Nuff Nuff Inc. finished their work.

As a stranger to boats — I knew nothing about them until the boss gave me one and said “Here, write about this” — I was pleased to discover that getting in and out of one was made easier thanks to a decent handrail as well as a rear boarding step. Not only that, but a rope could be attached to it, thus securing the boat when the water police professed a desire to interview me.

Contributor Jack Murphy handles the Jabiru with precision while simultaneously fishing with five rods.

I was pleasantly surprised to find how much room there is in a 4.3m tinnie too. I’ve never felt cramped in it. On the other hand, although two generous thwart seats provide sufficient space to comfortably seat four, that many blokes in a boat this size is, in my opinion, one too many when we’re out fishing in a vessel that has been turned into a floating warehouse for all the crap my mates like to take with them.

Standing and sitting room there may be, but the biggest problem with any tinnie is finding a place to put small stuff, like your wallet, car keys, mobile phone or hand gun. So naturally, that was the problem we tackled first.

As a result of its design, common to many similar tinnies, the Jabiru has a space between the front thwart seat and the bow. It’s an oddly shaped space too since it has to contend with the curvature of the hull. No probs. Nuff Nuff Inc. made up a big and solid shelf from marine ply and installed it over the gap. The ply was cut to shape using templates made from cardboard, then covered with grey marine carpet.

This shelf rests on aluminium right-angle strips, attached to the boat with rivets and plenty of Sikaflex. I can stand on that platform — I like to think of it as a casting deck — while I admire what a nice piece of amateur carpentry it is, and I can store odds and sods underneath it.

I had no idea what to expect from a 30hp two-stroke when the boat arrived with an E-TEC on the transom, but now I know what a great little engine it is so I see no reason to whinge about anything it does.

Call me old, call me crotchety, call me a baked potato if you like, but I still believe two-strokes have much to offer the owners of small boats (as opposed to “small boat owners”, which didn’t look right when I wrote it and didn’t sound right when I said it). Anyway, as I say, for this boat I’m not convinced that the expense of buying into the latest four-stroke technology is justified, especially with modern small-capacity engines in which fuel consumption is light and noise levels low.

In any event, when we asked our resident engine expert, Andrew “Engine Man” Norton”, to water-test the E-TEC, he discovered that it was a tad high on the transom when we got the boat. How this affects performance is startlingly technical, for me anyway, but I’ll do my best to explain what was happening and how lowering the engine fixed the problem.

With the engine positioned in the top set of transom mount-holes, the anti-cavitation plate above the prop was, as they say, in the shadow of the transom. In other words, it was no lower than the hull, and it should have been. Consequently, the prop was running in aerated water which meant it couldn’t help but cavitate when we tried to trim the motor out.

Bazziru, complete with bright blue wrapping, will soon belong to a new lucky owner...

Another pesky phenomenon called skin friction was not only slowing the boat down but making it handle poorly. It’s hard to believe that dropping a motor a mere 25mm can make so much difference, but it did. Lowering the motor to the second set of mount holes positioned the propeller lower than the hull and gave it clean water to work in, so it no longer cavitated.

Once the adjustment was made, the prop was now in the correct position, which meant the motor could be “trimmed out” to its maximum potential. This then meant that skin friction between water and hull was broken and the bow freed from the invisible force that was sucking it back. Moving the engine 25mm therefore meant the boat handled better, felt smoother under power, and ran faster as well.

The Jabiru will do about 27kts (around 50kmh), but on Lake Macquarie I find a comfortable cruising speed is around 15kts (around 28kmh), especially if it’s a bit choppy. I use only Evinrude’s XD100 direct-injection two-stroke oil and never anything less than premium unleaded, usually from my local Caltex servo.

The only thing the Jabiru needs now is a couple of high-backed boat seats on adjustable mounts. Thwarts are all well and good but they’re hot in summer and the glare is quite something. I’ve looked at a lot of seating alternatives. Before too long (and before we hand over the boat to a lucky winner) I’ll place an order over the web for a couple, then allow the boss’ Amex to pay for it.

What else have I learned while owning a boat? Plenty actually. I’ve learned that most boaties are friendly and polite. They like talking boats and are happy to help you if you get yourself in a pickle. I like the friendly wave I get from other boaties, even from flybridge cruisers. I like the funny things I see at the local boat ramp. I enjoy the meagre skills I’ve learned in getting a boat on and off a trailer without making a fool of myself at that ramp. And I like the way my wife thinks I’m clever for being able to do all these things.

Owning a boat has been a surprising pleasure in many ways. I hope they give me another one when they’ve dragged this one away.