Bayside Boatshop  

By Ross Lillistone - Esk, Queensland - Australia


The Perfect Beachcruiser

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Outside, the tall gum trees are moving in response to a chill winter breeze. Wallabies browse on lucerne pellets and on the plants in the precious garden, cold-weather fur having thickened their coats for some time now. A silver moon casts shadows on the brown grass – grass which will carry frost in the morning. It is a cold night…

But come on in, Shipmates (to steal a line from the late William Atkin), come on in and join us in front of the fire. Although we may be in the bush, the atmosphere is filled with good humour and talk of matters nautical. We may not be in the cabin of a small yacht, but the floor is scattered with boat books and plans, and our thoughts range over bays, inlets and islands.

Many, many years ago I thought I was almost alone in this obsession with boats – but of course, I was wrong…

On this particular evening we are working out the details of the perfect beachcruiser. She must be small enough to be hauled up a beach or onto a trailer by one person, yet large enough to carry a load. Her insides must be laid out to facilitate sleeping in comfort, yet still be set up for worthwhile rowing and sailing. The rig must stow inside the length of the boat so that trailing is easy, but the sails must be large enough to make sailing her a spirited challenge. She must be wide enough to stand up to her rig, yet narrow enough to row easily and efficiently with easy-to-stow seven foot oars

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We are working out the details of the perfect beachcruiser. She must be small enough to be hauled up a beach or onto a trailer by one person, yet large enough to carry a load.

Good looks are important, as is a construction method which is efficient and strong. Yes, this boat must also be quick to build, because most of us are impatient to finish, and have little time to spare from the pressures of normal lives – but we expect her to last for three generations or more. If we misjudge the weather, we need her to bring us home in safety and to carry enough emergency buoyancy to ensure that we can self-rescue without calling the coast guard – the list goes on…

This boat has already floated clear of the drawing board, and this session of talk is just about details of tenting and sleeping facilities. Her designer was nervous before the first launching – Would she float on her lines? Would she stand up to her generous rig? Would the centerboard allow her to go where she looked when on the wind? Would she carry excess weather helm? – question after question crowded his uneasy mind, causing him to pace, and to talk quickly…

She floats! Sails are filled and off we go – fears of failure evaporate and we smile as the little craft lifts and plunges through the short, steep chop on this blustery launching day. All too soon the trial sail is over, but the excitement of the trip lasts long into the launch-day evening and makes waking thoughts happy ones…

But back to our warm, fire lit room. My companions recline in comfortable seats, bookshelves within easy reach. We had some liquid refreshments earlier, and now our conversation comes easily. “I think you are complicating internal arrangements too much,” says one, “you need to keep her insides clear and uncluttered.”

His antagonist insists that drop-in boxes shaped to fit the contours of the hull are sensible to keep camping gear dry and out from underfoot.

“Well I can give you dimensions for the correctly shaped boxes,” says another, “but I agree with xxxx, you can stow all the gear you would ever need in the built-in buoyancy compartments already in the design.”

“But,” says yyyy, “you shouldn’t fill buoyancy compartments with heavy items, especially compartments in the ends of the boat. If you do, the inertia will reduce the boat’s ability to rise quickly to waves. She will end up wetter.” He continued, “I would put my stuff in watertight canoe bags and stow them as close to the centre of buoyancy of the boat as possible.”

Mr. xxxx chimed in with the comment, “Yes, and light stuff can go up under the side decks – we already know that the oars and camping stretcher fit there quite well.”

The conversation ranged back and forth for hours, covering all sorts of similar detail. This type of companionship seems rare these days, which is unfortunate because it seems a lot better than sitting in front of a television or a computer screen.

Boats such as the one being discussed by our fireside friends are quite simple to build, and if done with care, will last for a very long time indeed. The first cost is low, but only if you supply the labour yourself. A boat built by a professional builder will necessarily be quite expensive if built properly. If the quoted price is low, you can be sure that the builder has taken short cuts.

But why not build the boat yourself? There are plenty of good building books and plans around the place, and the process of building your own boat will provide challenges and satisfaction in equal measure.

So, sit around the fire, talk with friends, and dream of adventures to come.

More columns by Ross Lillistone







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