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I have fond memories of boating as a kid. We owned a centre-console aluminium dinghy, and we went out fishing with friends of the family regularly. We went on trips on bigger boats out to Fitzroy Lagoon, or other spots on the Great Barrier Reef. We rode the car ferry over to K'gari (neé Fraser) Island about once a year for camping. The deep diesely thrum and stench of that ferry is forever buried in my hindbrain.

Years later Michelle (my wife) and I decided to do some sailing lessons at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. We started their helming, crewing and skippering courses. I just finished the course just in time for 'rona to ramp up. We were sailing the Elliott 6 keelboat during the lessons. Our instructor, Austin, was utterly unflappable in every situation, even ones with lots of flapping. We developed a habit of keeping an eye on him because he would regularly throw one of the fenders overboard to make us practice yet another “man overboard” manoeuvrer.

My wife standing next to an Elliot 6 at dock with a half-raised mainsail.

We loved being out on the water with no engine sounds or smells. Zooming around with only the wind. Very peaceful and only a little bit of panic during a hairy tack or exciting gust. In late 2023 we were on a holiday in Caloundra and rented a Hobie 14 (maybe?) for a sail up and down the Pumicestone Passage. We got the boys on-board and had a brilliant time and only got stuck on sandbars three or four times. That night I did a survey of various buy/sell services and discovered that little catamarans like the Hobie were A) Trailerable, and B) Relatively inexpensive, roughly 20 times what we paid to rent the boat for an hour. I mentioned this to Michelle and she was surprisingly enthusiastic on the idea of buying one.

A photo of us four sailing a hobie catamaran.

After a moderate amount of research and guidance from more experienced sailor friends we ended up driving to the Gold Cost to check out a 14' Caper Cat. This boat was designed and manufactured by the folk at Calypso in Brisbane, where we live. They're on the same scale as the Hobie we sailed, but with lots of storage space inside the pontoons, designed for stowing camping gear. The idea of loading up and scooting across to an island in Moreton Bay or a quiet spot on Wivenhoe was very tempting.

I had a list of things to check before deciding to buy:

  • Soft spots on top
  • Soft spots on sides
  • Joins between aluminium and fibreglass
  • Cracking around fibreglass joins
  • Mast step cracking
  • Mast straight
  • Rudders OK
  • Cracks around rudder mounts
  • Trampoline wear
  • Sail boltrope
  • Sail eyelets
  • Blocks

Everything looked pretty good on this specimen, except the hull was slightly soft *everywhere*. This confused me, but the price was right so I haggled down $50 to account for the tattered jib and drove home in one of the worst storms south-east Queensland has seen in years. I do not wish to repeat the experience of doing 80 km/h in a 110 km/h zone with 20m visibility towing a trailer of unknown integrity while lightning flashed around us. Scary shit.

A photo of the boat under our carport with two boys climbing on it.

After some investigation I found the hull softness wasn't a problem on the Caper Cat. It's a warning sign on boats filled with expanding polyurethane foam as it indicates the foam has started to break down with age. The Caper Cat gets its positive buoyancy from dozens of sealed plastic bottles stuffed into the insides of the pontoons.

We're now boat owners, it seems.

projects/sailing/blog/1_new_boat.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/12 04:41 by tjhowse