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Maiden Voyage

Maiden Voyage

August 10th, 2007  · stk

We plunked the double-hulled, aluminum shrimping boat "Pugwis" into Vancouver Island waters for the first time. Read about her maiden voyage and why we were dejected, when we pulled the boat out of the water

Pugwis Hits the Water

After a few months in the boat yard, "Pugwis", was nearly ready for a dip in the ocean. Scott still had to re-wire the trailer, clean the deck and then the boat was ready for her maiden voyage. Unfortunately, we discovered that the boat was laden with nearly 340 pounds of water and had to find a way to drain her.

Finally, "Pugwis" was lighter, her trailer wired and ready to go. Last week, the Gods were with us as both weather and our busy work schedules converged, allowing us to take "Pugwis" down to the public boat ramp at the Ladysmith harbor. With nervous excitement, we hitched the boat to our minivan and headed south, along Yellow Point Road.

To read about the maiden voyage of "Pugwis" the boat and why we're now calling her, "Pug the Lug" ... carry on.

The Champagne-less Launch

We're more familiar with sailboats, kayaks and canoes, than we are with trailered power boats, so we were both a tad nervous about putting-in with "Pugwis". We weren't sure what to expect. The defunct, 50-horsepower, 2-stroke engine had been replaced with a 25-horsepower, 4-stroke engine. Would it be enough to power the 18 and a half foot, double-hulled 'shrimping skiff'?

We stopped in Ladysmith, on the way to the launch, to grab some sandwiches. We figured that we'd head out for an afternoon of fun, stopping at a beach or cove, to have a picnic lunch. Alex was excited!

"Are we going to go in the boat now?" she asked.

"In a little bit," we said, "First we have to stop and get some lunch, okay?"

"Okay," she said, cheerfully.

Finally, we were down at the public boat launch, which is just outside of Ladysmith. It's a nice launch, with plenty of room to maneuver, four side-by-side launches and two floating walkways.

We unstrapped the back end of the boat and Scott backed her down the ramp and into the water. Rachel hopped on board and secured her to the dock, after we released her bowline from the trailer. We were nearly ready to go.

We parked the car, gathered our food, life jackets, camera and other items, walked down the walkway and clambered aboard. The boat lilted crazily, as we each came aboard and moved around. She settled when everyone found a place to sit. It was "test" time. Scott fired up the engine, slowly backing her away from the dock and heeling her around.

"Pugwis" handled easily and it was nice not to have a smokey exhaust, so characteristic of 2-stroke engines. The smell of salt air permeated our nostrils. We headed slowly past the fishing boats and other large boats, tied up at the nearby marina. It didn't take long and we were out in the open water.

Open Water - Big Wake

Because the motor is new, we didn't gun it right up to full throttle. Instead, we varied the RPMs, as per the manufacturers recommendation, to break in the engine. We took it up to about 70% of WOT.

We noticed that the bow rose quite dramatically, the more power we put to the engine. This caused quite a wall of water building under the front of the hull, it hampered our ability to see straight ahead and resulted in a huge wake. It seemed that the engine was laboring under these conditions, so we actually backed off the throttle till the boat leveled off and the prop slip felt "better". Unfortunately, we were only crawling along. Obviously, we had not gotten the boat up on plane.

We were eager to test WOT, just to see if the 25-horse engine would get the boat up on plane, but we puttered along for the first hour or so, following the manufacturers guideline for breaking in the engine. It took forever to get around Yellow Point and at the speeds we were traveling, none of the Gulf islands appeared in reach of our tiny craft. To top things off, the gas tank gauge read "empty", even though there appeared to be a third to a half of a tank left.

We killed the engine and bobbed about in the water, eating lunch, all the time worrying about the engine, the wall of water under the hull, the gas situation and wondering if the 25-horse motor was too much of a reduction in power for the boat.

While parents worried, Alex played and squealed and dipped her hand in the water! She called to sea gulls, who landed in the water nearby. She delighted in feeding them bits of bread and other stuff (though we noted that they weren't too keen on eating cucumber).

It was a fine sunny day and we had wonderful views of Ladysmith, Yellow Point, the Gulf Islands and surrounding areas. We watched several larger boats go speeding by, jealous of their power and that they were up on plane.

Wide Open Throttle

During the trip back, on the 2nd hour of operation for the new motor, as per manufacturer instructions, we let out the throttle to it's wide open position. We were really hoping that it would put us up on plane, but sadly, it just couldn't dig us out of the "hole" it created. More water built up in front of the bow, the wake became taller and more severe and it seemed to be a hugely inefficient way to travel through the water.

We had no idea of our speed, nor did we have a tachometer to know how fast the engine was turning. Dejected, we throttled back to a slower and more comfortable cruising speed. Dejected, we came to the quick conclusion that the engine just wasn't powerful enough for the boat.

"But the guy at Blue Peter Marine had said that he had taken the boat out on the water, had gotten it up to plane, and everything was fine," lamented Rachel.

"I don't see how," said Scott, "One might argue that we have more weight in the boat, what with three people and our gear, but remember - we pulled 340 pounds of water out of the hull!"

Doing some mental mathematics, we figured that our combined weight, plus gear, came to about 400 pounds. It would be equivalent to a Blue Peter test with a person weighing only 60 pounds! (Surely the guy at Blue Peter Marine weighs a lot more than 60 pounds)! We doubted that adding MORE weight to the boat would make it plane better. :-/

Anyway ... the inaugural plunking of Pugwis was a wash, though Alex seemed to have a pretty good time. We headed back to the boat ramp, pulled the boat out of the water and returned home, disappointed and convinced that the new 25-horse motor wasn't enough. Now what?

Update: Hope Prevails

When we got "Pugwis" back to the Hutton House, we explained the performance woes to Charlie, our neighbor, who used to be a commercial fisherman and has been around boats all his life.

"I can't believe 25-horsepower isn't enough," he said, "I've seen boats much larger than yours with 25-horse engines."

This gave us some encouragement and we've since begun playing with a few variables. For starters, we pitched the engine so that it's thrust would lift the aft portion of the boat and had another spin around Ladysmith harbor. This seemed to help the boat 'get on plane', but the pitch is at such an angle that we're worried about prop slip and efficiency.

The very shallow v'eed "Pugwis" does not have any trim tabs and we're beginning to wonder if adding them might help (they're about a $500 investment).

We're also beginning to look at the propeller, wondering if a steeper pitch or larger diameter prop might help achieve similar efficiencies.

There's also the bottom of the hull, which could use with a sanding or scraping, as "Pugwis" was moored in the water for many years and there's still quite a remnant of moss and other things stuck to the hull.

"You'd be surprised," said Charlie, "just smoothing the hull might buy you as much as 5 mph or so."

So we're starting that 'break-in' phase, waiting to get about 10 hours on the engine and look at the technical side of things. It'd sure be nice to measure RPMs and maybe take along a hand-held GPS, to monitor our true speed. Hopefully, we'll get things 'dialed in', to eake our every bit of power out of the 25-horse engine. We need to climb out of the 'hole' and get up on plane quickly, reducing prop slippage and milking as much speed and efficiency out of the engine as possible.

We're hoping that a the new 25-horsepower, 4-cycle engine IS ENOUGH for "Pugwis". We have big plans for taking her to the west side of the island (and maybe even down the Alberni Inlet, out to Barkley Sound). We really don't want 2 boats in our front yard. :|

Stay tuned.

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Updated: 11-Aug-2007
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1.flag Gary Comment
Hi Scott, Nice post.
I take it the motor was on the back of the boat and not at the pointed end ??? This would of slowed it down somewhat !!!

No seriously, it must of been a nice day out with the family and Alex would of loved it.

I don't know anything about botas but I did use to sail a 2 metre (6ft) long radio control boat many years ago and yes putting different props on made a lot of difference, sometime better and sometime worse.

I can remember using different width ones and ones with more blades on. You will need to do some talking to experts or research for this as this might give you the better result I think you were hoping for ?

I bet you all had fun and look foward to taking the Pugwis out again, happy boating.


2.flag stk Comment
Seems what's really needed is a bigger (and more expensive) engine. :(

3.flag Gary Comment
Stop messing around and put a 300-horsepower in !

Surfs-up !

4.flag Yabba Comment
Be real mate, we're talking yanks here ..... it's gonna take more than a stable full of horses to overcome his tyres :|

5.flag Glenn Comment
Scott and Fam. Man what a nice story. I can almost smell the salt water from here. I can fondly remember my days as a young lad, spending all my time on Lake Huron in Mich. What I would give for a day in Pugwis. I may have missed it, how did you come up with the name for the boat? It's catchy and seems to fit the boats look. I think there is a children's short story here some where. "Pugwis the mighty mini boat"