seeker of ( treasure) trove
I had been asked by an aid organization to design
the simplest possible inshore and estuary fishing boat for
the people of East Timor, the villagers were dependent upon
their boats for their survival, they fish from them, use them
as the village truck, ambulance, taxi, hearse and wedding
carriage. Boats are their life, and the country needed several
thousand of them to help recover from a disastrous war.
Time was short, the people were starving, money was short
as were skilled boatbuilders. Local materials were almost
unobtainable, and the first few boats were to be built by
Barry Wicks of A.B.E.T. (Aussie Boats for East Timor) in New
South Wales and shipped up to their new owners so it was with
all of these factors in mind that I sat down to design a boat
that would fit all of the criteria.
Construction plywood and builders yard lumber were readily
available and were consistent with the skills and tools available,
and I chose galvanised steel fastenings and builders polyurethane
adhesives which were cheaper than the epoxy and bronze normally
used. There were a whole lot of 15HP Yamaha outboards in the
United Nations store, so we could use those for power. The
boat had to be really simple to build, really tough to cope
with the constant use and very seaworthy as the boats had
to work in all possible conditions.
Barry built the first few boats under his house, I’d
designed a longer and even simpler boat consistent with the
Timorese preference for canoes and they were a huge success.
( See the “Clarence River Dory” the civilian version
of the East Timor “Fat Canoe”
He now lives in East Timor and works with the United Nations
Fisheries officer directing a group of locals building new
boats as hard as they can go.
David Bliss built a prototype of this shorter design which
has proven to be everything that we had hoped from her. Fast,
stable, roomy and dry. So successful in fact that I thought
she would fit the bill for recreational fishers and duck shooters
I have cleaned up the styling a little, and have given her
seats and buoyancy tanks consistent with her five person capacity,
switched from the cheap and rusty options for the fastenings
to stainless steel and have specified marine glues. This is
a “civilian” version if you like, one that is
prettier, that will take only slightly more to build but with
looks and performance an owner can be proud of.
She has a narrow flat bottom panel with a very fine entry
to reduce wave impact, this planing shoe gives her the ability
to plane a heavy load with a relatively small motor. The chine
panels are well veed to ease her motion in a seaway and the
topsides are flared enough to keep her dry inside. This shape
is a well proven one and ideal for the shot sloppy waves of
the lakes and estuarys that she is intended for.
With the ability to launch off a beach, skim along in very
shallow water, carry a large load with a small engine, and
still cope with the rigours of inshore fishing, this is a
versatile and tough little fisherman. One which will take
less labour and cash to build than most, and one which will
get you out there. After all, the worst day fishing is better
than the best day at the office.
The old man sat with his back to the spray and wind as his
14 year old grandson drove the little open boat through the
rising chop in the dim light of the evening.
While the fishing had been nothing to write home about, it
had been a good summer with the young lad he thought to himself,
in fact it had been a good year! The boy had been going a
bit off the rails, poor school results, too much time hanging
out with other idle types, sitting in front of television
eating junk food ( here he spat overboard) and playing with
those unfathomably fascinating electronic games.
The boys parents were both working, the choice between family
time and paying the mortgage being a difficult one, but it
left his grandson at more than a loose end. He'd been in the
same trap himself but his own grandpop had been able to involve
him in other things.
Memories of fishing the estuary near home with his grandfather
lead the old man to gather up the boy one day and run off
down to the local lumber yard involving the resentful youth
in selecting and loading a short list of plywood and lumber,
they then headed off to unload into the space under the house.
It took most of the winter to build the boat, it was nothing
extravagant but suited the small rivers and lakes as well
as being tough enough for the fine weather fishing along the
shore that he hoped would show the kid that there was much
more to life than pre packaged food and a square screen.
As the regular twice a week afternoons went on, the resentfulness
gradually subsided, and a friendship grew, skill with tools
began to emerge and a real involvement in the creation of
something together gave them a shared interest that made those
building sessions something that they both looked
Launching day had been something very special, the small sister
got the job of sprinkling the lemonade and blessing the new
boat , Grandmum had produced new woolly caps for the intending
mariners, and the old 15 hp Mercury had responded first pull
( some of the unoccupied evenings had gone into a very thorough
service check to ensure that it would be reliable).
Everybody had a tour around the bay, the boy taking the helm
only after his
Grand father was sure of his abilities to think through and
act on the boats performance.
Not long after, the fishing trips started, first just a couple
of hours at a time, drift fishing at the top end of the tides,
setting a long line with multiple hooks, a try with a couple
of crab pots and experiments with nets. Then the expeditions
got more serious, towing the boat on the old garden trailer
for a few hours on Friday evening when the chores and homework
were shown to be up to date, and pitching a tent near a prime
spot, cooking the days fish wrapped in foil had proven to
be a real adventure! The young man had only ever eaten fish
as fast food before and cooking his own catch to satisfy an
appetite sharpened by a day out on the water put a whole new
perspective on life.
During summer break the two had taken the boat up country
to a fair sized lake, loaded up with camping and fishing gear
they'd spent the first day exploring and looking for a good
tent site, and from there on the two had forgotten their age
difference, and had the time of their lives fishing, swimming,
cruising and reading the covers off the few books they'd taken
With the summer rapidly cooling into fall, the leaves turning
gold and red the old mans thoughts turned to the possibility
of Ducks. Goldie, the old Labrador should cope with another
season and the pump gun was well preserved in its coating
of oil. Hmmmm.
Yup! The boat had been a success, and the boy hadn't turned
out too bad either!