Will it float? – 1st trip out..

So we had a boat, which now had an engine. Controls were fitted, safety gear had been purchased. Incredible. We had gone from a bare hull to an apparently fully equipped boat in less than two weeks. Not bad for a pair of dudes who had nothing more than a quick look on the internet to get an idea of what we should be doing, but we still didn’t know if it would float – and it was time to find out.

The date was set – by pure chance the forecast for the weekend was good, so off to Queenborough in Kent we went now fully fuelled up with a ready to go (we hoped) boat.

1-IMG_6423The first challenge was to get down the slip way. No kidding this is the longest slipway ever. At least that I know of.. Of course the tide was out/going out, I can’t be sure we even checked them, but its an all state of tide slipway, so we didn’t mind too much.

Somehow we managed to get the boat into the water without incident, but trying to get the engine to start was proving tricky. These old inline 6 mercury engines we were to 1-IMG_6424learn take some getting used to.  Eventually with the cover off and some fiddling the engine came to life. So first top, to the jetty to see if everything was looking ok.

It was here that the first of our amusing experiences were to begin. On this jetty we found out was part of the Sheerness sailing club. I was checking the engine over, a chap approached us and politely told us we should not stop where we 1-29082009078were, which was fair enough. Not sure why, I guess rules are rules. However he did ask if we had any problems – nope I replied just checking stuff, making sure were not sinking etc. He then asked if the boat was new to us. Yes I replied – never been on the water before, don’t know anything about it. I’m not sure who looked more worried, me about what may lie ahead that day or him staring at two blokes in a 16ft boat with a 140hp engine hanging off the back..

So with everything looking fine, we headed off from the jetty to join the main Swale channel. I began to throttle up the engine and the boat started behaving oddly, the front started lifting up at what was then a bit of an alarming angle, so I throttled back to check everything looked ok – it did. So I tried again, the boat then did the same so I applied a little more power, this time the boat climbed over this wave and we began – for the first time ever – to plane on water. Wow!!

The speedo came to life as the needle crept effortlessly past 20mph, and the boat levelled out. Playing with the trim did some strange things to the way the steering behaved, we decided that probably the best place to have the trim was what made the engine feel most neutral. It seemed to pick up a bit of extra speed too.

1-IMG_6427With little idea of our surroundings we decided to go and explore in the direction of Southend. Steve took over the controls whilst I took a look around and took some pictures.

The boat handled great, in fact with nothing to compare it to, it seemed incredible. The engine ran smooth and the power delivery was fantastic. I was an instant fan!!

We continued our way over to Southend and about 1/4 of a mile or so from the end of the pier we slowed down. It was obvious the tide was out, but we didn’t know by how much, and literally just as we had thought that the engine and boat made some odd thudding noises. Just as quickly we realised this was grounding out on the bottom of the sea, we were crashing into the  sea bed -oops!!! Engine trimmed up we turned around carefully and moved away back in the the main channel. How strange, I knew from a child that Southend pier was long for a reason. I didn’t realise however quite how shallow the water was around there.1-IMG_6458

It was mid day now, but we still had plenty spare fuel – the 90 litre tank proving to be a good choice, so we came back around the North side of the Island, and headed down towards the Sheppy crossing bridge. The picture below shows both the old bridge that 1-IMG_6480raises (also carrying trains!) and the new high one.  This is a sheltered quiet area of the Swale river, with no speed limits in this area we could have a good play about, and it was also great fun. 1-IMG_6499As you can see, although there is not a great amount of land based interest around sheerness, there are some great waters to play in!!

1-IMG_6513We now headed back towards the jetty. Seemed like a good place to stop and have a quick rest and perhaps practice boat manoeuvring.. errr, yes. Steve will remember this well. Since it was his turn. Lets remember now.. Push the controls forward you go forward, pull them back to reverse/stop… But no!! Steve approached the Jetty ever so slightly too fast crashing into it by panicking with the controls. No harm done, but our 16ft.x boat was now 16ff.x minus 1 :)

1-IMG_6502Still not content with an already amazing day and with the fuel tank still showing more available we decided to head out for a final quick blast of the day. This time back in the direction of the Medway River. This area has a huge expanse of water. Possibly a mile or so wide. It looks (and I say looks) perfectly passable, but we were right now about to run into our first real problem. Just as we left the Swale and turned into the Medway we head that familiar bumping sound from the engine we heard eariler, uh oh. So throttled off and engine trimmed up. The 1-IMG_6523trouble was we came off plane, so the boat sunk further, causing us again to stick in he sea bed. An attempt at reversing the boat did nothing, so I tried to tilt up the engine further which then stalled, then all of a sudden “bang!” well more a pop… The engine then fell back into its lowered position. What was that?! A trim hose just popped, we now had no tilt/trim. Ahh not good. What was worse the engine was now properly stuck in the mud, and the engine now refused to start, and didn’t sound good when I tried. Not good x2!! To the safety equipment!! We had oars – yes really. Oars, Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures, but lets just say even on a 16ft speed boat they are a complete waste of time. They did NOTHING!! Well that’s not quite true one got stuck in the sea bed and we lost it, but that was about as much good as they were.

So we were now stuck waiting for the tide to come in. Curiously I saw in the distance a sailing boat and a little rib. They seemed to be watching us (with amusement I guess) as we awaited the tide. about 45 minutes later we were beginning to move when I noticed this rib approaching us. Would we like a tow? Ehh Yes please! The slipway was still in sight, to give you an idea how far we had NOT gone (!!) and this kind chap gave us a tow back to it. I did in fact offer him a tip, but he point blank refused, so I thanked him again and we then went about recovering the boat (hard without a trim system) onto the trailer.

29082009079So why didn’t the engine start? It turns out that the mud had filled up the prop exit, so the engine couldn’t breathe. Trying to reverse did not work and just made matters worse. Interestingly the strange noise from the engine when trying to start was a worn stater pinion. £80 later (WHAT??!! @*@##!!) this was replaced – but that’s another story.

So our first day ever on the water. Was it what I hoped – damn right it was. It was amazing!!



Bringing it all together

20082009069Now armed with an engine boat and controls, it was time to assemble things together.

Then the real fun began. Reading around the internet we were told that we needed safety equipment. This came in the shape of oars (!) bilge pump, lights, anchor, ropes, flares, life jackets oh and of course we needed to get a fuel tank. So this ‘cheap’ little project suddenly started to look expensive. The engine and boat alone before all this had already cost £1400…

Sadly the engine didn’t line up with the old holes already drilled on  the boat, so I had to drill new ones and then seal the old holes up. No dramas and soon the engine was bolted on and the controls fitted.

So in went a bilge pump, battery, wiring, fuel pump and of course gauges. This nice little lot had now increased our budget a further £500 and we weren’t even on the water yet!

All the connections where then made (notice the engine offset, I was told by an old chap who used to race these kind of things we should do this, however I have since learned that I am not so sure, but it seemed to go fine anyway and did mean the steering lined up.

Notice engine offset.

So then the internal wiring and fitting out was done:

The next thing was to find a fuel tank. I wanted the biggest one I could physically get in the boat. I was under the impression that all the heavy weight should be at the back and it never occurred to me to use the front space which was plenty to mount the tank so we then cut room to make the tank fit:

Battery moved and connections made:

The glass would then be repaired later..
We ended up with this

Which I was not happy with but we wanted to get out and testing the boat that weekend.

Finally I added some wiring for the bulge pump and also nav lights and fitted a fuel gauge:

Trailer woes

The following day we took it out for the very first time and in fact our very first experience in a speed boat (or any for that matter) – You can read about that first trip here.

So finally back on dry land (remember read the first trip out to see what happened!) The boat was washed down and time for home. The trailer had by now been driven only about 150 miles we collected it, but on the way back from the first trip the suspension on both sides collapsed on the motorway. This wasn’t a major problem in itself only that as a result the tyres rubbed on the arches on each side. I didn’t notice until I saw smoke coming of the wheels and pulled over to inspect!!!!! The only way around this was to bend the arches up to stop them touching. I then made my way home very slowly and the next thing was to rebuild the trailer… – As a side point re-publishing this in 2015 still fills me with fear from that experience it was horrid and I vowed never to go out with an unknown trailer ever again.

So a week or so later and the new parts arrived:

Old VS new

New parts fitted

And even better a spare just in case:

So the boat then went out a further 4 times with crazy adventures and steep learning curve on each one. But its so much fun and highly addictive – again these can all be read here.

So this was the initial stage complete. The setup was never perfect. The fuel tank in the rear made the boat very rear heavy. I have learnt since that this is great if your racing, and it wasn’t as the boat lacked the power to get on plane – oh no not at all, it just felt too light at the front.

1-IMG_7317Finally winter came and the snow arrived (remember that 2009/2010??!).

If you need an engine then may as well get a BIG one!

I’m no stranger to engines, even back in 2009 my day job was tuning and modifying them. This whole outboard thing however was alien to me. What did longshaft mean? what power do we need? What power could we run?

IMG_6353We had decided at this point that may as well get the biggest engine we could find and afford, 50hp too small!!, 70 was ok but really we wanted something 100hp+.  That sounded much more fun. It turns out I discovered that trying to find an engine is a complete pain in the arse. Even very old engines seemed to sell for much more than we could justify. This we learnt was marine ‘tax’ – the crazy ill informed/misguided sellers of marine junk who think its still worth something – just do a search on eBay its full of thousands of used engine bits at extortionate prices, that NEVER sell!! Eventually we found a complete engine for sale on PreLoved in South Wales, and the best bit it was a 140hp model.. – YES!!!

How about a boat?

EBay_former_logo.svgLets go back to 2009. Sometime in August to be precise. A summer evening in the company of a good friend, slightly bored wondering what to do with ourselves.
eBay offered some light distraction, usually looking for interesting cars/bikes. It didn’t matter really as long as it was propelled along with an engine, but really it was the same old thing. We needed something new, something different.
20082009067Now I don’t remember how but somehow we ended up looking at sports boats. At the time knowing absolutely NOTHING about them, not even having any family with any related experience, I’m afraid I cant even tell you what we looked at. However one particular boat caught our eye. It was listed as a blue 17ft boat. Looking at the pictures the name “Fletcher” could be seen. Was that good or bad? No idea, had never heard of it, but it was local, it had a trailer and it looked like a project we could do something with. According to the description, all it needed was an engine…

This boat was purchased for about £500. It was structurally fine, however the interior, original was poor. The only extras the boat came with was steering controls and an old speedo!

The trailer appeared fine, at that point!!