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Well sort of…

Like most early Stabicraft, our Spooled project boat certainly started life as butt ugly or even affectionately, Fugly! Yet the strip down, repairs, modifications and a new spray job from the boys at Ozsea Boats in Seaford certainly started the transformation. I don’t think she’ll ever morph into a beautiful swan, but certainly now has the potential to ‘phoenix’ into an impressive aquatic assault vessel.

The new black wave breaker certainly gave this little craft an alter ego. Let’s face it, she’s turning from a puce pussy into an armour plated Trojan. With our modifications she has gained an incredible amount of serviceable function that will now gain respect instead of ridicule. 

We waved goodbye to Barry and Brendon at Ozsea after they sand blasted, repaired any misdemeanours and corrosion, fabricated the wave breaker as well as a new inbuilt fuel tank, transformed the seat storage and made the small cuddly storage functional and trailered he back to my place for the engine fit and bolt down.

Our old mate John Fay at Icey Tek solved the icebox, bait, refreshments and fish storage problem with one of his ripper 70 Litre roto-moulded boxes with dual lids for easy access. We really like the fact that it’s not only removable at the end of a watery session, but it runs east-west across the cuddy and is secured by the original cross frame, at the same time creating quite some forward secure storage space. I have used these Icey Tek ice boxes in two other project boats and find them exceptionally tough, attractive, functional and will keep your precious cargo cold for days on end.

It seems ice box construction is a little more high tech than most of us consider, with the hinges and fittings made using 316 stainless steel, premium thermoplastic/elastic catches, dual bungs (very handy for draining from either end), high quality roto-moulded polyethylene outer skins, plenty of internal insulation and smooth food-grade internal liners. John explained that the smooth internal liners are essential, as they are impervious to contaminants and hence will not hold smells and restrict bacteria growth. There are optional cushions that make terrific seats in portable excursions and, with the prevalence of large pelagics currently available in our home waters, we have also ordered an insulated fish bag to quickly cool a big’n.

The new alloy fuel tank under the transom is around 50 litre capacity, which is more than adequate for many sea miles. Yet we are still toying with an added bow tank, and now there’s room, but let’s see how she rides first. At worst we can now easily carry portable tanks for extended sojourns far from civilisation. The icebox has created a terrific barrier in the cabin, forming a deep cavity suitable for carrying tackle boxes, safety equipment, lure rolls and the multitude of other gear we tend to gather for serious fishing trips. 

Bow access through the front hatch will now be restricted, but still possible; however, we won’t need it because the infamous Malki Ary from Lone Star will be providing a new GX1 drum winch with all the ground tackle and accessories, including a stainless steel bow fitting. There is no question in my mind who won the “winch wars” of the past, and who also comes with a great reputation for customer service. These Lone Star winches are tried, proven and are true blue Australian-made. That’s good enough for us!

Meanwhile, back at my place I got the job of sorting out the shemozzle of nuts, bolts, looms, control cables and assorted fittings. I must have removed 50m of useless wiring, most of which wasn’t tinned cable nor colour coded, and mainly corroded with rotten plastic outers. Corrosion will simply travel throughout non-tinned cable, causing potentially dangerous failures, and at the least major frustration.

My wonderful little mate and “Spooled” owner Rob, bless his little heart, had done his best when removing the engine, gauges and components, but had disconnected the engine by disassembling the hand set controls instead at the engine. Wrong move, Rob! It’s just lucky you weren’t around to cop the wrath of the Bear while I sorted out that little mess!

After all his hard work at stripping down the boat, Rob unknowingly is about to poke the Bear!

At the other end, the engine needed to be refitted and sealed, but I no longer have my big workshop and gantry for lifting. So how was I to separate the boat and engine, securely take control of a 113 kg outboard and refit the mounting bolts with sealant – all alone? The answer was to back the boat under the carport, making sure the engine was in line with a strong cross member in the truss. I lowered the tilt by releasing the relief valve on the side of the trunk and nipped it back up so it was locked in the vertical position.

Next I positioned the jockey wheel so that I could securely lift and lower the bow on the axle axis until the skeg of the engine just touched the ground, taking the weight. I had a top rope tensioned from the engine lift points keeping it upright enabling me to take full control when the mounting bolts were released. I virtually removed the boat from the engine, not the engine from the boat, sealed the whole unit with neutral cure silicone and replaced the bolts individually. Some will use Sikaflex or similar sealants, but let me tell you, you don’t ever want to try to change engines if you do!

You need to be very aware of your steering arm at this point, especially if you are using standard non-feedback cable, as in most cases the steering arm needs to be installed while the engine is free swinging. It wasn’t so important with Fugly, as we were replacing the hydraulic steering that came with the boat, but you still need to ensure that you fit all of the necessary links before bolting the engine back on permanently.

The gauges were refitted, switches mounted, wave breaker securely bolted and the steering reassembled, with the wiring, shift and throttle cables all pulled through the tight channel along the side pockets. Always make sure that you leave a pull-through in the channel for further accessory cables. In my case I use a plastic strip from yellow tongue flooring.

I am a boat builder, not an electrician; in fact, I hate fitting electrical wiring. After all these years I now have a basic understanding of electrical circuitry, but I will always pass the job over to the experts rather than botch it up myself.

This is where another old mate and genius ex Australian Navy aircraft electrical/electronic engineer, not mention former super yacht industry whip Michael Fitzallen from Nautek Marine, entered the project. The team at Nautek are the go-to guys for getting a proper job done. There is almost nothing more dangerous in an aluminium boat than bad wiring, not only with obvious shorting, but invisible power leakage that will cause electrical corrosion throughout. You would be amazed at just how quickly this form of corrosion (often loosely and incorrectly termed electrolysis) will turn aluminium to chalky powder!

It is vitally important to use premium connectors, tinned wiring, tidy colour coded looms and high quality waterproof switchgear in any boat, but most certainly in small alloy boats with a high possibility of salt water soakings. The salt itself is a good conductor and vicious corrosive, so a professional wiring job is essential. 

Michael strongly recommends creating a wiring plan for the loom, ensuring sufficient power to all of the electronics, and we have plenty to consider. The winch is the primary accessory with by far the highest power drain, and hence has its own circuit run directly from the “house” battery in our twin battery setup. We are also utilising a Narva VSR (Voltage Sensitive Relay) Battery management system to ensure that the engine starting is never run down by the raft of electronics. Most of our lighting and electronics have evolved to lower power draw due to modern LED and LCD technology, but it still all adds up.

Garmin is always keen to put their money where its mouth is and, as such, has supplied us with a EchoMap UHD 95SV Model touch screen colour sounder/GPS multi-function unit and Garmin VHF 115 radio . We couldn’t be more pleased with their contribution, especially since the GPS/plotter is one of the first to combine both Garmin charts and Navionics after Garmin recently acquired the brand and its intellectual property. More on all that later, but we have planned for uninterrupted power in the installation. Making a new gadget like the Garmin sit perfectly on the dash with a customer “fitted-from-factory-look” took a bit of crazy trigonometry planning by the Nautek team. It looks suberb in a practical location to use this latest tech, and more so, easily find the fish.

We just love having great sound to accentuate our fishing excursions, and Audioxtra have joined the party with a terrific Axis sound system with a MA1802 watertight marine AM/FM radio, Bluetooth and multimedia head unit combined with MA600B ultra slimline marine speaker system. These speakers feature an IP65 weatherproof rating to rock the fish straight out of the water!

Nautek fitted three switch panels, two in-dash and the other on the starboard side in the back coaming. The dashboard switch panel operates all the essentials, such as navigation and work lights, coaming lights etc, and the stern-mounted panel is for the array of accessories. These include the live bit tank pump, deck wash and internal light, plus quite a few added bonuses supplied by the premium electrical wizardry from NARVA. 

We have the twin battery BMS, navigation and overhead work lights with twin 5W LED’s, blue 5W underwater lights (rated to 50,000 hours lifespan), high output waterproof LED strip lights, and even a complete new ‘plug and play’ boat trailer wiring kit with waterproof connectors so there’s no splicing or joining immersed wires. The best thing is the confidence of knowing we have the very best in marine electrical accessories from NARVA, teamed with professional and experienced installation from Nautek.

Nautek also connected the fuel tank gauges fitted by Ozsea, a spunky new sports steering wheel and provided a host of sensible layout ideas and alternatives. Yet again, it’s all in experienced planning!

So it’s onwards and upwards for “Fugly” and now we are hanging out to finish the project and go fishin’!

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