Sunday, March 7, 2010

Boats and all things boating

We spent the last two days getting up way earlier than we are used to in order to travel into downtown San Diego so that we could stretch our minds with an overload of new information.  Trawlerfest is a 3 day travelling boat rally focussed on the group of boats loosely described as “trawlers”.  As I tried to explain to a couple in the hot tub last night, “trawler” is by no means a definitive adjective or noun.  The word originates from the fishing vessels that trawled or dragged nets offshore and in its purest sense the word refers to a vessel that is only capable of travelling at displacement speeds with deep draft stability.  In practice though the word gets applied to some of the most gawd-awful examples of the yachtbuilder’s art. 

The best example of the classic trawler hull design in a current production vessel is likely Nordhavn and they certainly were well represented at the show.  I have dreamed of finding a used Nordhavn at a price we can afford but I was frankly disappointed by what I saw of the new builds.  Headroom is a huge issue for me and that clearly wasn’t on offer in the current Nordhavns.  Equally importantly I like to be able to see and touch the critical mechanical systems and the builders now seem to think that anything functional should be hidden behind some stupid plastic panel.  That was one of the reasons that the engine room on the Dickie Walker appealed to me – everything was out there where you could inspect and service it.

The foolish design features weren’t limited to Nordhavn by any means.  During a seminar yesterday afternoon, 16 of us crowded ourselves into the engine room on some 63 foot pseudo-trawler that actually had ivory coloured carpet on the floor of the engine room.  There’s a practical touch – two Series 60 Detroits sitting over top of white carpet – I can’t imagine anything that could ever go wrong with that plan.

I think Trawlerfest San Diego is likely the least impressive of the five venues where Passagemaker Magazine operates the show.  There were only about a dozen display vessels and no visitor vessels tied up at the expensive dock outside the Kona Kai hotel where the show was held.  Other attendees told us that at some of the locations there are literally hundreds of exhibitor and visitor vessels, many of which you can tour during the show.  Nevertheless there was plenty for a couple of neophytes like ourselves to look at and lots to learn.  We had registered for 2 out of the 3 days and we split up to attend separate seminars in order to maximize the amount of information that we could absorb. 

There was nothing on the dock that we’ll ever be able to afford – the new boats started at a half million for a little bitty 35 footer and went rapidly up from there.  “Dickie Walker” was the only used vessel on display and as beautiful as it was there were way more issues evident with it than I would ever want to contend with.  It was however a gorgeous example of the art of shipbuilding and I have to include a picture of the highlight of the show for me.  The vessel is powered by a D-13000 Caterpillar which is a 6 cylinder engine that generates 140 HP at 1000 RPM.  Cat built them in the late 40’s and early 50’s, generally for stationary applications.  One of my goals for whatever boat we end up with is to have a large enough engine room to incorporate a bit of a workshop and the Dickie Walker certainly satisfied that goal. 

The real highlight of the show for me were the demos on the dock and onboard.  The little red and yellow floating tent is actually a self-righting inflatable 4-man survival raft.  That type of equipment is mandatory on commercial vessels but incredibly enough it is not required anywhere in North America.  We were able to see a

demo inflation and 4 of the conference attendees crawled aboard to experience what life at sea could be like.  We also got to watch Captain Henry crawl into his survival suit.  It looked to me like a clumsy version of a dry suit.  I expect you pay dearly for the red colour on a dry suit that you could never use for anything else so I think I’ll stick to my dry suit but it was useful to see anyway. 

In the long term the most useful part of the show was likely the contacts that we made.  Last night we had supper with a couple from Vancouver.  It seems like a long way to travel to meet somebody from home but that’s not unusual for us.  We’re looking forward to seeing their Ocean Alexander once we get back to BC.

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