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Topaz!...part three
by Brad Raby sailormon@torchlake.com
Be sure and read: part 1 & part 2

Over the 4th, my wife and I took a trip down from our home on the chain of lakes which is our home.  We live in northern Michigan  near Traverse city which is the home of some of the most beautiful waters and of course is the center of tourism for downstaters known as fudgies hereabouts.  What makes the 4th interesting, is the number of people who are out there on the water.  Many give meaning to the title of 00's.  Owner operators of boats.  Luckily, we had no mishaps even though some were in a real party mood.  
We live above the Bellaire dam and had to portage through town and put in just below the dam to go down the intermediate river.  A friend who lives next to the ramp said we would not make it as the river was too shallow here.  I like challenges.  First I pulled it out of my river using my lawn as a launch.  My first impression is, the boat is a piece of cake to launch and retrieve.   My trailer has no guides yet and it still was easy.  A small fishing boat is about as hard.  BOAT62.jpg (18951 bytes)
However, my amateur like welds gave way when cranking the boat back onto the trailer and I will have to beef up the winch stand.
BOAT66.jpg (28026 bytes) The first test was getting down the river which is shallow.  With the motor up we navigated without hitting bottom going or returning.  The boat can go anywhere there is knee deep water.  After this river, there is a moderate size lake and another river which leads to a second lake.  This was just plain pretty.  The real test with the wind up was  navigating the narrows leaving this lake and entering torch lake.   The Topaz was easy to keep 
under control, my only worry being the number of boats maneuvering to get into the dockside bar in an area that is hardly two boats width.
Once on torch lake, we were in our element.  Miles of clear aqua water looking like the Bahamas in clarity.  Waves were choppy and the wind was off our starboard bow made even more confused by the occasional large wake of a faster boat.   The bow always remained buoyant and high and dry. At moderate speeds or high she was well behaved. 
What was surprising was how well she handled a wake from the side.   She of course would respond to it, but dampened the motion very quickly. We toured the lower end that afternoon, picking up friends, daughter and grandkid for the fire works that night.  Through ten that evening, we had nine people aboard, two large coolers and assorted gear and still did not feel crowded.  During the works all but two were on the foredeck enjoying the show.  I will confess that the boat is 

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sensitive to weight distribution.  I noted that the group was crowding one side and we were really listing.
BOAT69.jpg (19659 bytes) The next day we took another couple down the Torch River to Elk Rapids and would have continued into Lake Michigan except for another dam dam.  Elk lake and the river is a two hour trip and another wonderful lake as it is very big.  This guest was a knowledgeable boater and was very impressed with the Topaz performance.  At any given time, even with the wave action, there were at least two laying or sitting on the foredeck.  This is turning out to be a
wonderful design feature.  Jay feels that this boat can go anywhere you might want to take her within reason.  His girlfriend who grew up with boats remarked on a couple of occasions when I was rafting or getting into to some tight dockage's at how maneuverable the boat was. My impression are that as a motor vessel traveling some distance, it is great.  Shutting the back door, keeps what noise the Honda makes down to a purrr. All you really notice is the nice sounds of water against the hull.  Sailors like myself do not like the sound of motors.  I may even go one step more and completely enclose the Honda. 
A rough estimate is that I burned about one gallon per hour which included fast hull speed, planing and a lot of slow river work.  Speaking of which, when in a no wake area like we were, you will go faster than other boats because the boat leaves little wake anyhow.  I am going to set the idle even slower as I kept having to take it out of gear to avoid running into slower motor boats.  When loading, the narrow hull is sensitive.  Sit two on one side and one on the other, and it will list.  Not a problem, but could be when storing gear.  For instance I have two gas tanks, each offset to either side.  In the future, I will keep gas in both and drain them equally.  Do we like the boat, an emphatic yes.
Now to the real neat part.  I hope the Bolgers are reading this part.   I would estimate that well over a couple hundred people shouted complements as to how beautiful the boat was.  Ranging from, "there should be more boats like this on torch lake" to where can I get a boat like that.  Many, many others just waved wildly and gave thumbs up.  Quite a number wanted to know what year the boat was or suggested that it must be a restored antique.  It was fun to admit that it is a year BOAT70.jpg (18115 bytes)
2000 design.  I thought only older folks would like the design.  Haint true, the kids came up and admired as well as complimented as well. What a response to the design.  One of my guests told her son to stop by our boat when he was on the lake.   Her instructions were, "just look for the classiest boat on torch lake".   He jet skied directly to our boat and having never seen it before.  This is a beautiful boat to own and a great way to draw attention if you are into that sort of thing.  Of course, I had my equally beautiful wife in a bikini on the front to help.
BOAT74.jpg (11059 bytes) At the time of these pictures, the boat resembles closely what it will look like when  finished.   The day after these photos, the top was finished and painted.  As well as the top roof beams on the exterior varnished.   This makes a major difference in the looks.  Also, molding inside has not been done yet, as well as shades on the side windows.  Speaking of which, you may notice a few ways I treated the windows.  The two middle ones are stationary above the settee.   The
foreword settee windows hinge foreword.  All the rest of the windows that open other than one other, are removable.  None of the windows at this point have finished edges yet.  When looking into the foreword cockpit, it is obvious that fairing and painting still is not done yet.  The settees exceed the designers specs as they are 6 inch foam with tufted backs.  Very much like a couch in a living room.  The back can be maneuvered back against the wall to widen the settee for sleeping.  Four drawers under the settees also swallow a great deal of gear-bedding and clothes.
Looking forward in a couple of pictures, the raised floor that holds the seats is apparent.  This is also not in the plans, but works well.  The seats are screwed down after taking off the wooden covers.  No, I can't put them back on as I told my wife I had no need for them.  Near the boat is our camp fire pit. The seats themselves are office chairs from Sam's club.  They cost fifty dollars which is cheaper than marine seats.  By extending the BOAT77.jpg (17526 bytes)
raised floor foreword, I created a great deal more storage space under.  Some will note a oh oh in the foreword bulkhead.  A mis-measure which will be dolled up later.  The dash is still under construction and will have a leather like cover when finished.
BOAT63.jpg (24148 bytes) In this picture the rear ladder is clear.  Somehow,  I neglected to get a picture of it up in place.  It really looks awesome with the white edging in place.  The rear stained glass oval window is also not in the plans.  This was pushed on me by the women.  Nice touch however.  Take note of the brass railing fore and aft.  This really sets the boat off.  I am already experimenting with protecting it so that tarnish does not set in. On one rail, I
applied clear coat which might work.  Looking from the front, with me aboard, it is obvious how high the bow is.  I have had it in rough chop and high wakes many times with no water aboard.   This with four people sitting in the foreword cockpit.
Connie constantly claims she loves this boat.  We go up our river and around the lake on the spur of the moment.  I would rather take this boat than any other I have owned.  For it's size, she maneuvers very well.  Speed is personal.  It will go faster than 20 mph, but we prefer going slower.  When the back door is closed, little noise comes foreword from the 75 hp Honda to indicate it's there.   When docking, the large engine is a dream.  The boat can be stopped on a dime or pivoted in her own length. The down side of owning the topaz is the interest it generates.  I am now scheduled to give rides to half the neighborhood at this point.   Sometimes one has to sacrifice.

I hope to follow up with the actual finished product under power.  This should be in a few weeks.

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