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May 1, 2002 Issue


May 15, 2002 Issue




May 1, 2002

Commentray - Maine Boat Builder's Show

By Bob Hicks

As we walked through this year's Maine Boatbuilders' show I felt that this might be the year when the Show moved beyond where I am at. Last year we decided to retire as exhibitors in the two boat shows we do, this one and the WoodenBoat Show, as the commitment of time and expense was just not cost effective (bean counter jargon). This year, after absorbing the $15 each ticket price for Jane and I (which had metastisized from the advertised $ 10 due to a last minute insurance crisis, we understand), having already paid the parking man $7 to park nearby, we were confronted with the Ellis 36 Express Cruiser flaunting a $525,000 price tag. Sharing its up front and center spot was a Saberline 36 Sedan Motor Yacht, which was not flaunting a price tag. Getting past these diversions, we entered more familiar surroundings, a gallery of the smaller boats on which my interest in the show has rested for 12 years.

But, when we moved along to the next cavernous gallery we were greeted with two long rows of "lobster yachts" completely dominating the gallery to its furthest end and then, rounding the turn into the last main gallery downstairs, we were confronted with yet more of these craft. A moment of visual relief burst upon us there as we spotted Alex Hadden's 34' William Atkin Seabright Skiff, custom built for a client, a Jaguar sports car nestled amongst a room full of SUV behemoths.

SUVs, that's what came to mind as I contemplated these boats offered by those in the Maine boatbuilding trade who appear to be chasing after Hinckley and its Picnic Boat (which also was on display). That's a trademarked name, son, Hinckley's lawyers go after any builder even implying their version of lobster yacht is good for picnicking. One well respected Maine designer explained to me that the lobster yacht concept has been the single most significant development in powerboats this past decade, taking what has long been a wonderful workboat design and gussying it up as a yacht. They all look sort of like lobster boats above the waterline even if below they may rely on that deep V concept that drives most powerboat designs today. It seems that the deep V can carry a bigger crowd than the lobster boat hull without bogging down.

SUVs are trucks. The pioneers like Land Rover and Toyota's Land Cruiser were off-road trucks to the core. Jeep got into the act with its long established off-road truck vehicles. When this fad got rolling others in the auto industry belatedly decided to get onboard and so today we have Mercedes, BMW and Lexus behemoths on the roads, costly fuel guzzling luxurious versions of trucks that seem to have particularly attracted women who drive in fear of accidents and thus hope to be the ones who prevail in any accident that may befall them.

And so it is with the lobster yachts, aside from the accident aspect. Serviceable workboats brought to costly luxurious levels of opulence, powered by monster 500hp diesels that alone run to $35,000 each. There have always been expensive yachts available for those who could afford them, but the outpouring of these big powerboats inundating the Maine Boatbuilders' Show this year suggests to me that the builders assume there are still plenty of prospects for these craft in our post-affluent economy. Or maybe were when they started to design and build their contenders.

So, back to the show. Most of the small boat builders who regularly participate were there, additional space had been made available to allow for the influx of the high end boats. Costs had gone up, not only for showgoers, but also for exhibitors. The required liability insurance for those not covered by their own business insurance had quintupled. Can many of these smaller builders afford another year? It depends on results. Those I spoke with seemed optimistic about their experience, so perhaps all will be well for the small builders.

But, I still recall the year the Small Boat Show held at Newport in the early '80s went upscale with an influx of arrays of flashy outboard powered boats from volume boat dealers. The original small boat exhibitors soon disappeared, followed soon thereafter by the demise of the show itself. I do not see how the evolution of the Maine Boatbuilders' Show in its apparent direction will continue to be attractive or affordable for small boat builders. Phin Sprague has long promoted his show as an effort to boost the Maine boatbuilding industry, and this year it appears he has been spectacularly successful.

Acknowledging this, the show is now evolving into something other than what I am interested in, moving beyond where I am at, as I stated. This is not faulting the show, which is moving with the times. It is I who am stuck in place, but it's a place where I really want to be, amongst the small boat world of builders, amateur and professional, and all those who love small boats.



May 15, 2002

A Folding Trailerable Houseboat

By Walter Head

Here are three photos of a large scale model of my houseboat design. I would like to determine if there is any interest for this type of boat.

I plan to begin construction of a full-size boat during this summer. It will have a deck surface of 9'wide by nearly 18'long. This deck will be built in a special way that allows it to be taken apart in six sections each of 3' ft by 8'. These sections will easily fit into a pickup truck bed of 4'x 8'. The 8'x 9'cabin consists of panels of special rigid lightweight material. These panels nest into the stack of deck panels adding very little height to the deck stack, A small size U-Haul truck, or a flatbed trailer with a 4' x 8'or I O'bed would be ample transport.

The large model has convinced me of its strength in relatively calm waters. Also, I was amazed at the performance of the pontoons I designed and settled on. They will have close to twice the needed flotation and provide an unusually steady deck.

I've worked out a unique cabin interior layout that will sleep two in separate 30" beds, with real comfort. There is room for one or two slightly smaller beds, if needed. It has good galley space and an enclosed Porta-Potty, and lots of storage.

If interest is sufficient, I would work out marketing it. I could make a construction manual (like with my kayaks) but I'd prefer to market a complete boat. I figure the price would have to be between $2,000 and $2,500.

Hobbycraft Kayaks, 1178 Laurel Fork Rd., Vilas NC 28692



Lightweight Cartop Boat Trailer

By Jim Wonnell

Dick and Sheri Bartlett own Wagon Wheels campground at the tip of the Door Penninsula, NE of Green Bay. They wanted a lightweight trailer for their 19' x 10' Fulmair trimaran, which could travel on top of their Suburban when the Suburban is towing a camping trailer to Key Largo for the winter, a 1,000 mile trip.

The trailer began with a Topper galvanized roof rack he bought at their factory in Chicago. To this, he welded a tongue of auto exhaust tubing, and a hitch. Underneath were bolted the leaf springs, axle, and wheels from a snowmobile trailer, This gave a light weight trailer to move around, tow or launch the trimaran. Small wooden cradles with padding support the main hull. PVC frames left and right support the akas. 0 the road, the akas fold up at their midpoints and the amas are lashed together with a pad between them.

The Chevy Suburban had enough roof strength and capacity for the boat and trailer, but they were too bulky to push up a roller over the Year of the Suburban. So he designed a lift with four comer posts, each with a winch, to safely raise the trimaran on its trailer; unbolt the leaf springs, axle and wheels and rebolt them on top; drive the Suburban under; then lower and attach them with tumbuckles to the Suburban's roof rack. A ball on a string orients the positioning as the Suburban is driven underneath.

A local muffler shop welded up his design using three diameters of auto exhaust tubing; 2-1/8", 2", and 1-7/8", which can slip inside each other. The tubing is strong enough, has some corrosion resistance, and is probably less costly for its weight than wood or aluminum.

First, 2-1/8" cross tubes were welded front and back under the trailer frame to receive the comer posts. Each of the four corner posts is 2" diameter x 7'6" long, with a square foot welded on the bottom and a block welded into the top. On each post slides a 2 1/8" diameter with a winch U-bolted and welded to it, and a 12" x 2" diameter piece welded at right angles to slip and bolt into the cross tube. For over the road, the four posts are unbolted and lashed with the mast on top.

He wanted to have the posts adequately clear the Suburban, but be able to retract the cross tubes to reduce their width for over the road. Four 30" lengths of 1-7/8" tubing fit inside at each comer, and slide in the cross tubes to new bolt holes after the posts are removed. Lateral stability was okay but he found that the legs were not stable fore and aft, and might collapse. So he replaced the wire rope on the winches with Dacron line, and used the winch cables with turnbuckles to cross brace the legs.

Little clips of 1/8" galvanized steel were used between mating pieces of exhaust tubing to get enough surface for a good weld. A muffler shop had the equipment and skill to get strong welds with this thin wall stuff.

There are lower cost solutions. In Maine, all that is needed is an axe, rope, a chain fall, and running shoes, Trees are cut and lashed into monster tripod(s). Using the tide, a boat or a big engine is lifted onto a truck, repaired, and replaced the same way. But if anything starts to slip, run FAST and FAR.

How Do You Put Stays on a Windsurfer Type Rig?

Only about 30 Fulmar trimarans were built. Vacuum bagged, Fulmaf's workmanship and finish are excellent. A fold down prop on the starboard side moves it with pedal power from the front seat. The loose footed boomless main roller reefs around the unstayed carbon fiber mast. The sleeve on the sail slips over the mast. But Dick Bartlett wanted stays, to deal with Lake Michigan squalls. He wanted a jib for light air. He put a large grommet on the top of the sail sleeve. Thru it slips a 3/8" stainless bolt epoxied into the head of the mast. A 3/8" locknut holds a nylon washer and a 3" square stainless plate on the bolt with some clearance, so that the mast can still rotate to reef. Three of the four holes in the comers of the plate take the forestay and shrouds. The fourth hole takes a wind vane. The mast is being reinforced to take the compression.

I hope this helps someone (like me) who was not clever enough to think of these solutions.




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