Friday, May 18, 2012

Fleet - Some Initial Test Reports

Since my last post about Fleet, she has been used frequently and hard. Here is part of the text from some stuff I've posted on the Woodenboat Forum in response to questioning: -

This rig is light-weight - even with the relatively heavy 6hp 4-stroke

Firstly the missing dimensions: - LOA 15'/4572mm; breadth 4' 0-9/16"/1233mm; draft as drawn 4-3/4"/120mm; displacement 543-1/2 lbs/247kg. Hull is stitch-and-glue from 1/4"/6mm plywood panels, sheathed in 6oz/200gsm glass.

Testing so far has been with one, two, and three adults (and various combinations of children) using a 6hp Suzuki 4-stroke outboard which weighs 57lbs/26kg - the motor is brand-new and therefore tight, and no propeller development has been attempted. In relatively rough beach conditions (an open ocean exposed surf beach on the Australian east coast) with two large men aboard weighing 385lbs/175kg plus motor, and sundry equipment including water, the GPS-measured speed varied between 10 knots and 12 knots depending on trim and point-of-sail so to speak. The boat has been taken out through dumping surf, and back in again to the same beach, running straight up the beach at wave speed- this has been done repeatedly after fishing trips in the early hours of the morning.

On the day of the initial launching the boat was able to plane with three men aboard, although nobody had a GPS so the speed was not recorded. Now the speed may technically have been in the semi-displacement range, but the boat felt as though she was planing, and operated very nicely.

She has also been tried using a 2.5hp Suzuki 4-stroke and ran in a pleasant and surprisingly fast semi-displacement mode (two men and one man aboard). So far we haven't been able to record GPS speeds with the 2.5hp motor. As far as I'm concerned, the ultimate motor is a 4hp, because it is the largest motor we can use in this State without registration.

Limited rowing has been attempted, but results so far are encouraging. Here is a quote out of an email (unsolicited) from a very experienced tester: -
Hi Ross, yes I went East in Will's lightweight boat, your "Fleet" (called "San Pedro" ) this am.
Bit of a dump of waves on the beach at Moffat, but patience was rewarded by a nice clear push off the beach and a responsive (she shot away) row by the "old man" took us out quickly as the first couple of pulls on the motor failed to fire.
Quite a good ground swell, but lovely conditions on the surface with very light winds.

We motored around trialling the "new 6hp" for quite a while, and on two way runs found about a steady average 10 knots. (two up, (170kg plus say 15kg of gear). We did go to 12 with some wave assist. The waves go faster than the boat of course, which I believe adds to its safety as the fine entry would induce broaching at speed, a vice to be avoided in a light outfit.

Minor adjustments to trim (passenger facing forward and not back) lifted the speed by 10%.

A much nicer feel under way than a "tinny", of that there is no doubt.
I must say Ross, I was impressed beyond expectations as she really moved considering the load and was soft riding and quiet. I guess one of the benefits of the low power is that you can't get airborne, but you sure cover a lot of ground at 10 Knots. The boat with its glass skin and inhales and gunwales, seemed very strong and inspired confidence. I reckon she would be a fairly wet of course if choppy and the wind is off to the quarter. She will benefit from some attention to that aspect. (I know you already have the solution in mind.)
As a bonus on four short drifts away from Bray's reef, we kept four very respectable fish. (One squire and three sweeties, the biggest being over 1.5 Kg.)
Our return to the beach was fun with the good swell still running. We again just picked the time and Will. followed a good wave (with a gap behind it) and went smoothly (at 10 knots) up onto the beach. We jumped out and started pulling, one on each side and she went up the sand like she was on grease. (This is noteworthy as even a light "tinny" binds to the wet sand and is a cow to move up a sloping beach)Will put the dolly wheels under her and we ( actually Will and friend Tim) walked her back up the ramp and then the path to the unit.
Total time to the house from leaving Bray's reef was 15 minutes exactly. Some sort of record for off the beach I reckon.
The boat is a winner Ross, and such an easy build, with practical, useful, outcomes. My guess on motors is 6 hp (maybe 2 stroke) for outside, and 2 to 4 for calm work would easily get hull speed with a load. The big hatches that Will put in are fantastic, and we had all sorts of stuff in them. I wouldn't have it any other way. All he needs now is a leeboard, tiller and a fan or crab claw sail, and the picture would be complete. (wink wink)Thought you'd like a report from an old seasoned observer of small powered beach boats.Good luck and kind regards John

I also had this to say on the forum: -

The owner has just been on the 'phone to me to say that he has been taking out a lot of experienced boat-fishermen up where he lives in Caloundra (north of Brisbane, Australia) and he says that they are overwhelmingly impressed with the boat in the tough beach conditions they get up there - serious surf! What Will said was that these guys have forgotten what it is like to go beach fishing with a light and (hopefully) capable boat like Fleet (San Pedro) because they have spent years using tinnies and 'glass boats with big motors, and have forgotten the joys of light wooden boats.

On the day that the Tuna you see in the boat were caught, Will picked up a friend by backing down to the shore in substantial surf using the little 2.5hp motor and keeping the bow to the waves. They then went out through the surf to the point where he had seen the fish, and both got a hook-up. He said that even though they were relatively small fish as Tuna go, the pair still pulled the boat through the water enough to make a noticable wake. He said that characteristic makes her a "soft" fishing boat. I'm no fisherman, but he says it is a very good feature. He bled and gilled the fish on the way back in, and bailed the blood before the beach.

A significant point is that his friend is a real estate agent, and had put out his signs before coming down to meet the boat at 7.30. They completed the whole fishing and cleaning operation and were at home just after nine. The real estate agent went home, showered and got to his first "open house" before the advertised time of ten o'clock! The point of that long story is that if they had been using a large boat with 300hp of outboard, that fishing trip would not have taken place. Small and wooden is beautiful!

I'll report more when we get GPS data when using the 2.5hp, and if we can get one, a 4hp.


  1. Congratulations, Ross. I read the WoodenBoat forum thread too. Your responses and photos seem to have converted a few doubting thomas armchair experts. Good on you, mate.

    Rick H

    1. How much does she weigh?
      What I like about flint is that the center of balance is over the center thwart making her easy to carry and light enough for this senior citizen to car top.

  2. This was a great read Ross!

  3. I am in South Australia have been told all new builds less than 6m need to be ABP Compliant. Also anything with a motor has to be registered. Will the Fleet be compliant, I think its just what I need on the Murray River great design.

    1. Thanks for the comment, John. The boat will be ABP compliant, but the calculations have still to be completed. The problem about the ABP is that it is classed as a "builders" plate, and as such it is the responsibility of the builder to ensure compliance. This is because the designer has no control over the way in which the boat is built. My attitude is that I am happy to provide data and can work with you on receipt of evidence of the completed boat. Plans are still a while off being finished to a publishable standard, but I'm working whenever I have the opportunity.

      Ross Lillistone

    2. It will be worth the wait, wouldn't start till early next year too cold and wet now

  4. Are plans available for this boat? I can't find them on your website or Duckworks'. She's great!