WIN A BOAT! TrailerBoat project boat build-up, pt 1

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Editor Bazz starts work on TrailerBoat's recently delivered 4.35 Savage Jabiru project boat.

I’ve never owned or been responsible for a boat so I was looking forward to seeing a brand new Jabiru in my driveway. I had visions of the wife and I chortling around Lake Macquarie and exploring the many enchanting waterways of the Hunter Valley — the Hunter River, Lake St Clair, the Manning River, the Lake Chumquat Sewage Works. I was also hoping we could venture further out and camp near some of the lovely places we’d seen when we didn’t have a boat, like the Clarence River near Yamba, and Lake Jindabyne.

To be honest though, there was another thing I really wanted to do more than any of that: after 12 months of apprenticeship under the guidance of TrailerBoat’s chief boat tester, John "The Bear" Willis, I couldn’t wait to get on the water and take control of a boat for the first time. I was itching to get out there, to find out if I’d learned enough from Bear and the boys to handle a boat skilfully and safely. It didn’t matter that it was a little boat. For now, it was my little boat, and that’s what mattered.

We chose a Savage Jabiru for several reasons but there were two main ones. First, it was the perfect basic project boat that we could pimp as we went along. And two, it was typical of the most popular boats in Oz; a li’l tinnie, but not so li’l that it wouldn’t keep us interested as we built it into a well-equipped fishing boat that any enclosed-water angler would be happy to own.



POWERING IT

First thing after taking delivery was to make it legal to tow around. With all that paperwork out of the way, we then asked David Serone of Morisset Outboard Services in the Hunter Valley to fit us up with the basic essentials and mandatory safety equipment. David came with a big rap from TrailerBoat’s resident engine tester, Andrew "Engine Man" Norton, and he did an excellent job neatly installing the bilgepump, nav lights, fire extinguisher and so forth.

He did it under duress I might add, with me ringing him twice daily and asking in a rather pathetic tone, "are-we-there-yet?" David’s a nice bloke. If you have "boating issues" you can’t sort, and you live in the Hunter Valley or within artillery range of it, call him on (02) 4973 1618.

Next item on the agenda was getting a motor but, strange as it seems, that largish item took the least amount of organising and frigging around. Riley Tolmay (BRP Australia) generously offered a 30hp E-TEC two-stroke for the Jabiru and this, as it turned out, was a mighty fine proposition. The boat was duly delivered to BRP headquarters in Sydney and it was only two days before Riley rang back to say "come pick her up!"

Our first outing with the E-TEC was a three-day stint at Port Stephens, NSW, during the Club Marine Trailer Boat Fishing Tournament in April this year. We were there to fish, but also to scout locations for the Australia’s Greatest Boats shootout later this year. During our fishing trip, two benefits of the Evinrude / Jabiru combination quickly became apparent. First, this particular tinnie has a draft that’s shallow enough to handle the skinniest water; second, the 30hp E-TEC two-stroke is one helluva frugal engine. We spent a full day punting around Port Stephens (not to mention that trip into Tea Gardens for some fush and chups) and when we took her to the servo to fill up it turned out this hard working little donk had operated all day on only 12 bucks of fuel. If they could build a car that fuel efficient we wouldn’t need hybrids (which are way too expensive and less efficient than diesels anyway). But I digress.

No one is particularly interested in how fast a tinnie is — tinnies aren’t fast — but I was curious to see what a 30hp engine can do for a boat with one passenger and one genuine border collie aboard, so when I got home from Port Stephens, Bill and I went off to the ramp.

It so happens that I had recently acquired a handheld, Lowrance Endura GPS unit,
and with this clever and amazingly informative device I discovered that in prevailing conditions on Lake Macquarie that day — with the wind behind me and going downhill — the Bazziru hit a WOT (wide open throttle) speed of 25.6kts (47.5kmh).

As John Willis so kindly reported in the last issue, I’m a bit of a klutz, and often lost, so having a handheld gadget that can tell me where I am, how I got there and how I get back to where I started is more comforting to me than you can possibly know.

WHAT ABOUT THE BOAT, GUMBY MAN?

As I said, I’ve never owned a boat so I didn’t know what to expect when I got one. I mean, I know how long 4.3m is but I was surprised to find how much room there is in a boat of this modest length. I thought it towed well too, although that’s a function of the trailer rather than the boat, and I was pleased to find that I could back it with little trouble into what is not by any means a large carport, accessed down a narrow(ish) driveway in a 15-year-old ute with manual steering and upholstery composed entirely of border collie fur.

Several design features of this boat struck me right away as being eminently practical. The transom step and grabrail, for example, make it much easier for my wife, children and grand-children to climb into and out of the vessel. Whoever decided that a boat like this should have a grabrail running from the transom to beyond the shoulder of the hull deserves a Gold Snapper Award, for this too makes everything safer and easier when four people, not all of them in control of their impulses, share the same space.

As a novice in all this, I will admit to a few mistakes when launching and retrieving — a fancy term for getting a boat off a trailer and back on again without damaging anything (or anyone). I’ve learned through a little trial and much error what is either possible or totally out of the question. One of TrailerBoat’s most prolific testers, Kevin Smith, could drive a submarine onto a trailer, but the first time I tried to do that with the Jabiru I made what can fairly be described as a fool of myself in front of the assembled multitude. Laugh they did. Loudly, while I tried to get myself out of the horrible mess I was making on the ramp.

I’ve always learned the hard way, and nothing’s changed, but the Jabiru is making it easier. We haven’t done a great deal to it yet, but thanks to GME we have a nifty fishfinder, which my mate Pete Messenger will install for us, while I look around for a bimini, upholstery of some sort for the thwart seats, a few well-placed rodholders, compartments in which to store gear so we’re not continually tripping over it, and maybe a trolling motor so we can sneak up on the fish we can’t catch.

Stay tuned for more on the Bazziru project boat!
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