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Jeff Gilbert

Design Philosophy

(23' Catamaran)

Scarper Flo
(31' Gaff Cutter)

by Jeff Gilbert jgilbert@dynamite.com.au

October, 2000



Here in Australia, we have and will continue to take our cues from the good old USA in general, and Hollywood & Detroit in particular. So it was that we grew our very own brand of "Petrol Head" or Hot-Rod Harry, driving a souped up Ford or HoldenV8 with big mobs of chrome, & excessive rubber on both rims & roads. The Australian Auto Industry was soon booming along with a life of its own, and has now reached the point where Holden has accidentally produced the hairiest 4-door sedan on the planet, assuming all doors remain on. General Motors has done very well in the USA by flogging thinly disguised Holdens called Chevrolets to the unsuspecting American punters. (‘Course this is only the beginning, it won't be long before Industrial espionage claims the entire gamut of Aussie Innovation, including the rare and wondrous hand-carved Mulga clutch-plate, & even Spinfex tyre inflation.)

A well adapted and established Species such as the Horsepower Hoon is not apt to be wiped out overnight, by jingo, and has survived and indeed thrived upon attempts at their forcible removal from their natural environment via wowserish Drink-Driving Legislation and blatant use of radar to check reasonable knottage.

And so it is with amazement that we have witnessed the decline & near disapperance of the aquatic equivalent, the Horsepower Hoon on Water. He too was booming along nicely from the long nosed front engine speedboats of the twenties thru post war years, where the Aussie HHOW could be glimpsed thru a curtain of spray and noise, idly twiddling the wheel of his fabulously expensive imported Chris-Craft.

But as his land-based equivalent expanded in numbers, overcoming exhorbitant car prices by hitting the chop shops to "do his own thing" and make Horsepower Excess available to all, the HHOW failed to join in the creativity and faded from sight.

At this point we must pause to point the finger in blame. The real problem is lack of guidance. The wheeled hoon has almost unlimited resources in the matters of design and availability of both potentially adaptable machinery and shop manuals to steady the manic creative hand. Building ones own uniquely fast "set of wheels" merely requires a set of spanners, plus the usual lashings of poor taste and enthusiasm. The land based Aussie hoon has these in abundance, the former aptly demonstrated by national worship of the Sydney Opera House, the latter usually generated by the prospect of "getting a bit". This latter spur is sadly missing for the HHOW: "going for a burn" in someomes dodgy "set of wheels" at least does not offer a 50 percent chance of drowning.

Back to guidance. The requirements of the HHOW are obvious, yet in this age of myriad designs for the home boat builder, he remains standing on the dock, or perhaps chainsmoking Camels in his darkened workshop, forlornly sharpening propellor blades with a rusty No.8 Bastard.

But hark, the solution is at hand. What are the HHOW’s simple requirements alluded to above? They are merely the same as those of his more wheeled cousin: seating for two or three, a steering wheel, windscreen, cigarette lighter, wireless & a rear tray for …well, fishing? A pickup that floats!

The No 8 Bastard file hits the floor with a joyous clank, narrowly missing a suddenly unnoticed spotted mutt. Something is up thinks Khan, and settling down in the sun, he watches his corner of the world go mad………….. The 40’s Ford Ute with the rusty doorsills and the "solid 289 donk" is turned on its side to reveal a solid chassis, which the boss pats, calling it the Fortri. Ho ho ho! This is a worry.

Months pass quickly in a frenzy of activity. Wave shaped bulkheads are bolted and glassed across the chassis. Strip planking forms three hulls and two tunnels under the black Ford, with the centre hull bow faired up into the grille, supporting engine and radiator mounts on shaped hardwood blocks. Outer hulls of the Fortri are faired into the wheel wells, doors are shortened and new sills built half way up. The dog hides behind a pile of mag wheels and suspension bits, trying to get used to the stink as epoxy and bog kill the back lawn in scruffy patches. The dog wonders if dinner will be late again and worries he is not getting enough sleep. The master has lifted up the front jaw of the Fortri and stuck his head in its mouth. He shouts at it for several days, and hits it a lot. He only closes its jaw when it roars at him, with the same roar that used to wake Khan as a pup.

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The pickup floor is up and the jet impellor fits straight along the old driveshaft line from gearbox, in second for posterity, to transom. The snout of the jet is linked to the steering. The dog wishes the discarded diff were a discarded bone.

The master smiles as paint mist fills the air. The dog is a pale shade of blue.

Khan pricks up his ears. A car-load of his dopey master’s noisy friends have arrived with green cans not containing dog food. They use a lot of familiar words in loud voices, and the Fortri is soon in a big box behind another car. Khan gets in the big box.

The rest is Heaven and History. In between swims there are bits of bait to eat. Sometimes Khan jumps thru the sunroof to share the front seat with Dopey and Shaylene. Dopey keeps roaring the Fortri, and saying odd things like "40 bloody knots, mate" and "She didn’t even get her feet wet". Ah, this is the life!!! .


Jeff Gilbert


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