A Noble Think Tank
Light was flickering around the inside of Mike Rowe’s
little cat-yawl, the high gloss paint sending annoying stabs
of sun around the interior surfaces. This irritated him for
several reasons. He knew he should have stuck to his guns about
using a satin finish below instead of being seduced into the
easy-to-clean gloss; but what disappointed him most was that
the sunlight meant that he had slept much latter than he had
The boat lay at anchor under the lee of headland composed of
massive granite boulders, scrub, and towering Norfolk Pines.
An after-market Bruce anchor held well in the sandy bottom where
it had been dropped an hour after dark the previous evening,
and the flat-cut mizzen, sheeted fore and aft, held the vessel
head to wind.
Mike was alone because his wife did not like sailing. There
had been a few occasions in the past when she had enjoyed a
short sail in perfect conditions, and she certainly appreciated
being on the water. But what it really came down to was that
she felt intimidated by the apparent complexity of sailing,
and her impatience ensured that her definition of successful
travel meant a straight line from departure to destination.
For some time, Mike had been considering the option of a power
cruiser to solve the marital dilemma, and last night he had
been unable to sleep because his head had been full of ideas.
The boat which was taking shape in his mind’s eye would
solve everything, he thought:
High length-to-breadth (L/B) ratio for efficient
operation with low-power engines and a slicing motion to combat
the short chop in her home waters;
Comfortable berths for two people;
Standing headroom in the semi-enclosed wheelhouse;
Large, open, and self-draining cockpit to
allow for fishing, picnicking on day trips, and a flat-floored
area for bedrolls when the boys came on overnights;
Two metres wide to allow for easy storage
on the trailer, and for efficiency under power;
The ability to tow a good sailing dinghy,
which could be hauled into the cockpit when conditions were
bad, or when high speed operations prevented safe towing;
Workboat looks, reminiscent of the New England
Lobsterboats he had admired in Woodenboat Magazine;
Taped-seam plywood/epoxy for quick construction,
light weight, and easy-to-maintain interior;
11kts with a 20hp outboard, or 23kts with
a 50hp outboard;
Fold away shade cover over the huge cockpit;
Low initial cost.
Contemplation of this seductive picture was interrupted by a
blast of noise from a hand-held foghorn. True to form, his mate
Ian was steaming into the bay 12 hours late, Jolly Roger flying
from the starboard shroud, stomach protruding, and face beaming.
Rust stains under the chainplates and chalked gelcoat may have
given Ian’s boat an air of neglect, but the practiced eye
would have seen past that, to the professional standard of the
anchoring procedure. A closer examination would have revealed
an adequate length of nylon anchor rope, quality chain and a genuine
CQR hook. These were made fast to the strong Samson post which
Ian had put in place of the production boat cleat.
That evening the boats were still in the same location, but now
both men were aboard Mike’s cat-yawl. Most of the day had
been spent in exploration of the headland and ridges, with conversation
ebbing and flowing as the hours passed. Subjects covered included
work, kids, backpacks, rations, bureaucracy, cars, the cosmos,
models, and music… However, the favourite was always boats,
and it was to that subject that they had now returned.
Mike had always been obsessive regarding the purist side of things,
and felt guilty about the idea of a powerboat. The contact with
his friend was good for him, as it tended to re-boot his brain,
and brought his mind back to a reasonable perspective. His ideas
regarding this new power cruiser had been crystallising, and he
was currently discussing power and layout options.
The idea of a diesel inboard had been raised by Ian, and Mike
was tapping away at a calculator, working out projected performance
figures and propeller options. Maybe +10kts was achievable using
a 22hp diesel, but it seemed to him that the simplicity of the
project would suffer. Also, the clear run of the cockpit floor
would be interrupted. Still, he would do some more work on the
idea on his return home.
A cool breeze eddied through the bay, and Mike tried to switch
off his runaway thoughts. He lay back in the cockpit, enjoying
the buoyant feel of the deck, and gazed into the blackness of
space. A passer-by, unaware of this noble think-tank, would only
have heard the snoring of two middle-aged men.