Photos Video, drawings and more about a full cabin mini - cruiser style boat fashioned from an old ski boat hull. Also features articles on the the budget DIY marine and RV air conditioner (not an ice cooler) and other DIY boat parts. The Explorer 300 Blog and Polecat Boats. As seen on Parramatta River, Sydney.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Explorer 300 Blog

In the Beginning : Ebay

So my girlfriend and i wanted to get into boats,  but we are both tight on funds, shes at uni and I'm a struggling contractor, So we put out minds and fingers to work and started hunting around on ebay.

We realised there was an excess of late 70's and early 80's ski boat type vessels on ebay, most abandoned, unloved, rather daggy and often without a trailer.

We eventually settled on the literally the cheapest thing we could find - a late 70 Savage 3.7M hull. A little smaller than the 5.6m boat originally wanted, but smaller boats have their benefits. Especially as i really wanted this boat not so much for fishing, but more for exploring and possibly commuting around Sydney.

 The boat as it was in Nowra. Although it looked ok in the ad, the trailer wasn't worth spitting on. Amazingly i sold it for $100 on ebay to fund a better trailer
" The winch is the only decent thing your looking at here" said the bloke that we purchased it from.
 Mostly gutted already
 At least it had some accessories. Not bad all up for $140


We hired a car trailer ($70 ish) and went to Nowra to collect it. There it sat ready for work in the muddy rear paddock of an oyster farm.

Salvaged and trailered home with the trusty Subaru we quickly got work gutting the rubbish out and starting on a basic frame.

The hull is sound but this small section of the flase fllor needs repair. Good oppurtunity seal in a bilge area under the rear deck.

Whats wrong with boats today 
I had already started some basic design work. tryin to elinate some issues i have with current half cabin type boats:

- Wind. I hate wind.
- Rain. Sydney's getting worse with crazy afternoon showers in summer 
  and on / off rain in winter.
- Passenger comfort
- Storage - never enough, especially if women are onboard.
- 4 Seasons - most boats under $5000 dont allow for all weather comfort.
- Facilities- Your average half cabin has no sink, air con, toilet, audio system,
  roof racks and often no flat floor.
- Air conditioning - Why? Because it means you can use the boat all year  
-Safety. Its bright red so if it all goes to shit and we get lost at sea, we can  
  be found easily lol.. and it goes faster.

So essentially what we have above is criteria for our boat.Once completed our little utility boat will feature:
-A full or 3/4 cabin enclosing approx 2/3 of the usable floor space.
-l/h console steering
-Internal dry all weather seating for 4 seated (4 person better be small)
-Air con (see post and page on the $350 DIY marine and caravan air  
-Plenty of storage holes
-4 speaker radio / with the usual ipod in stuff.
-Roof rack for storage of life jackets and inflatables, sun baking if your keen
-The usuals :  Marine radio, fish finder, GPS, rod holders, tie rails. 
-Initially a 5hp and 3.6hp main and backup engine, upgraded to a 30hp main and elec aux when we have more money and boat licences!
-Lockable sliding rear doors
-A shallow hull for exploring the upper reaches of Sydney's creeks, canals and rivers, but be able to withstand decent winds, waves and perhaps go out past the heads on calm day.

Bear in mind the hull is a river boat type and i don't intend on this being a bluewater or ocean boat in general..but may be capable on a calm day. The next project will definitely be a larger, deeper v hull or hopefully twin hull.

Not being a boat engineer or shipwright i am also taking a very slow, cautious approach to this project, unlike most i attempt! 

The Original Box

The original shape i took with the boat wasn't the most attractive, but the most practical. Whilst I'm good with most tools, i hate curving wood, moulding and dealing with fibreglass but I'm great with angles, perspex, and silicone lol...

The Redesign

Once i had actually done this to the boat i was not overly happy with the original realisation from 2D cads to 3D reality. So one rainy day i went back to the drawing board to what i could create.

The old boxy shape

The revised shape

Construction Commences

I went at it fixing and finishing the main frame,ply roof, right angle trims for the windows and exterior fascia.l will let the pics best describe the work.I also built the tie rail - i will put that on its own page with some other DIY boat bits.

boat dry docked whilst i dealt with the trailer(s)

Temp work floor. The finished floor will have a recessed walkway and marine carpet.

I also made the roof rails from 16mm round tube, and towel rail fitting from bunnings. bona-fide stainless fittings start at $24 each!!! My complete alloy and chrome roof rack cost $30 total. Its mainly for aerials, lifejackets and lightweight luggage.

You can see in this pic the new trailer. All registered and ready for dunking.

Just as i was getting used to the two-tone of wood and white, it was time for paint. and lots of it!

I use Brinlay paints as they are cheap and very good quality, also the guy at my local Brinlay in Blacktown is just the friendliest most helpful trade based person ive ever dealt with. Beats bunings on price anyday. I can get cheap $15 paint from bunnings buts its just that - cheap $15 paint.

The paint is a high gloss epoxy for wood and metal, i got carried away and painted the fibreglass too, it turned out good for brush on... i should have let it set more before i started working on the boat again - my only complaint is it scuffs up in places of hard use, Sure its not gelcoat, but it wasnt $194 a can either ($45)

After this i felt it was ready for a test, mainly becuase by now the new trailer was registered and was getting ancy about hitting the water.

Test No1

Was good and bad, Good becuase the boat didnt sink! ha! Well it floated alright and didnt tip over, But the the engines let me down bigtime,  the evinrude 5hp stalled and wouldnt start and then the (new) starter cord snapped on the backup 3.6hp. leaving me stranded 30m from shore, having to paddle with a bit of wood.

All set ready to  go
Lifejackets make great buffers
To this point it was all a risk as i had never seen the hull float.

                           It wasnt all bad - i made these videos !

Test No 2 

After some tinkering the next day with the outboards, i decided the give it another go -The result: Was much the same, stranded with 2 stuffed engines this time 50m from the ramp and with a strong wind. I used the anchor i got from ebay for $15 and my girlfriend paddled each throw. We got back sore and wiser.

Motor problems

The motors i had were a  crysler 3.6 hp that cost $30 with a bad starter cord, and a 5hp Evinrude from the 60's that cost me $140 and was supposed to be mickey mouse.. but it didnt pump water, and overheated.

I have a jeep, so i have some faith in chunky american machinery

Main 5hp looked somthing like this. The fact it looked like a drive thru order box from the 60's should have been the giveaway.

A new engine
I had enough of both and decided to get a bigger, better condition engine , so i landed a 25 Hp Crysler for $100 and offloaded the other 2  back on ebay. (chrsyler still for sale! ) As backup we purchased a watersnake 30 pound electric trolling motor. No race engine but certainly moves the boat, great for docking and gets you about 2 - 3 hours use to get you home.... and it always starts!
Bigger means better right?

The boat sees some perspex

I used 9mm Quad trim for the insides of windows and black window silicone adhesive / sealant to hold it all together.

I tried many ways to cut perspex for the boat but found that a jogsaw and going slowly worked best.

As you can see the inside got really filthed up from the river mud from anchoring our way back from test 2

Add caption

Test no 3

Was a little more prepared than the last 2, We now had an electric engine, a slightly newer, and much larger main engine, some oars lol and a better idea of how the boat handles. And luckily for us  - 3rd time lucky or something, It was near success! Only issue to report is again the engine does pump water but drops off at high rpm.

We sure get alot of remarks and questions about it from onlookers and other boaties. most are suprised atthe height.



The 25hp Sure sounds great and makes the boat scream, One pro to having a shollow ski type hull is that the boat planes quite easily. i cant wait to get that Chrysler pumping water properly.Im also considering some hydro foil fins for the engine to help with lift and stability

Test 4  / The Incident

On test 4 I was going into a tight turn when the engine cavitated .. i think, sending the cabin the other way..bit of water over the side but all ok ofter changing my underpants.

Rego, Licensing and the Pope boat.

With the addition of a 25 hp and the want to not get fined $500, i decided to go through the hassle of boat rego and the licence test. The rego was easy, A boatcode inspection ($74) and the appropriate form at the maritime office ($73) and Boast rego we had. I saved the $19 for rego stickers and had my mate Steve paint the rego on.... It sorta looks like Anglin' or Anglican as Steve points. Funny i had a local call it the Pope boat today..Due to its height and perspex must be something about this boat.

The Licence is a little harder. I had to make 3 trips with a mates dad to get enough logged hours to enable me to pass the test. Its a great way to learn about boats from an older hand and good exuse to sink some drinks on a weekday.

Internal Fitout

Is currently being completed. Again the original fitout seen in the drawings and has proved to be not user friendly after all, so i am refitting the internals and will have some pics when i can.

The original layout with bench seats and sink mid cabin.In this setup passenger 3 and 4 would have to crouch onto bench seats for transit in bad weather or to escape the heat or engine noise from the rear. The front nose love-style seat, whilst roomy , tends to make the passenger hit thier head in rough water, so isnt used in transit.
The revised layout with rear set sink (less intrusive into cabin) and passenger seat (side facing behind drivers seat), mid set driver and passenger seats for better weight distribution and r/h side console setup. This is partly due to the steering setups available on ebay on which im trying to obtain. A fold down seat will provide dry seating for the 4th person in bad weather.

Official Launch 

Is still to come when we have a locking rear door, internal steering / forward control setup working and and engine that pumps water, not steam at high rpms!! more to post soon.