The View Up Here

Random scribblings about kites, photography, machining, and anything else

The Ugly Duckling Project

Posted by Tom Benedict on 21/03/2012

I managed to pare down my project list. Not by getting anything done, mind you, but by pruning it with a machete. In short, I bought a boat.

To be fair I have been looking for a boat for some time. I used to sail a Prindle 16 beach cat that I co-owned with two of my friends. It was a tremendous amount of fun to sail, but when our family moved to Hawaii we had to leave it behind. That may sound odd, considering we moved to an island in the middle of the Pacific, but the practicalities dictated our decision: We bought it for $600, and it would’ve cost several thousand to transport. So for years we were boatless. Still, each time we went to the beach I found myself watching the sailboats as they sailed by, just wishing. A couple of months ago I knew the time had come. The kids were older, and we’d waited long enough. We had to get a boat.

Every boat is a project. Even a new one. There’s an old saying that the word “boat” is actually an acronym: B.O.A.T., or Bring Out Another Thousand. It’s not far from the truth. We dodged that bullet more than we deserved with our old Prindle 16. I figured we spent maybe a thousand total the whole time we owned it. A new main halyard, a new trampoline, a new trap harness I bought for myself, wheel bearings, wheel hubs (don’t ask), license, and registration. It adds up. So when I started looking for a boat out here in Hawaii, I knew I would get in over my head to some degree.

I didn’t disappoint myself. I’m in over my head. The boat I found is a Pacific Catamaran 19, or a PC-19 (not to be confused with the P19, which was made by Prindle). It’s a bit of an odd boat in the beach cat world because there is no trampoline. It has a hard deck. Because of this it’s also several hundred pounds heavier than a comparably sized Hobie, NACRA, or Prindle. By way of comparison, the Tornado, a 20′ boat used in the Olympics, weighs over 200 pounds less than the PC-19, and is a foot and a half longer. Go figure. It’s slow by today’s standards, but it makes a comfy day sail boat. Perfect for sailing with kids.

The boat is in what’s affectionately called “project condition” or “beater condition”. The best translation I’ve found for this is a quote from Firefly:

“You paid money for this, sir? On purpose?”

The good news is almost all the bits are there. The mast is straight, the halyards are in mostly good shape, and all three sails are in reasonably good repair. (Yes, three sails: two mains!) The list of immediate needs is actually quite short: Almost all the pins are missing, and a couple of shackles may need replacing. Most of the cam cleats are jammed, and could probably stand being replaced. The larger main needs to have its top plate re-riveted. But other than that what it mostly needs is a firm hand with a scrub brush and a lot of TLC. I figure a month of evenings and weekends should see it ready for the water.

The trailer is another matter. It needs rust treatment, painting, lights, a license plate, and a tow kit for my Jeep. (Yes, I have a Jeep with no trailer hitch. Whatever.) This may take longer than the boat itself. Figure two months.

For now I have only two projects left on my plate, aside from what I do at work. The first is the Worldwide KAP Week 2011 book, which has been on my wife’s plate (and hence mine) since last year. I want this wrapped up and published in the very near future. The other project, of course, is the boat. For now, everything else gets set aside.

There is very little information available about the Pacific Catamaran 19. I haven’t found any online manuals, and there are precious few photographs. I can’t remedy the former, but I can certainly address the latter. I plan to make before, during, and after photos of the boat as I go along. And of course once it’s out on the water I plan to photograph it as much as I can. Eventually I’d like to fly a kite off the boat and join the ranks of the sailing KAPers. But that’s a project for another day. For now, getting it seaworthy is project enough.

– Tom

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