A Small Motor Boat Option

The small motor boat option

About the author

Ray Dickson is a Teignmouth Watchkeeper. His boating qualifications are RYA Level II Powerboat, RYA Dayskipper Theory and he holds an RYA SRC (VHF) licence.

The experience

I have a 3.5 metre Honwave inflatable with an aluminium deck and an inflable keel. My boat has a 15 hp Tohatsu four stroke engine and a standby pair of oars. As motor boats go it is the simplest motor boat on the market - I keep it in my garage and I do not need a mooring or have to antifoul. All very simple - however like all boats there are practical issues to be addressed if the boat is to be used safely.

Once at the slipway the first lesson is never to rely on the boat trailer winch ratchet as the sole means or stopping the boat rolling off the trailer. You only have to launch the boat on to the concrete slipway once and you will never forget the lesson. Backing the car and trailer down the slipway requires practice and it is a good idea to have the rear boot door open to improve visibility. When the boat trailer has entered the water, check the car is secure on the slipway and use the brake, gears and a chock on the wheels. Launching the car as well as the boat is not helpful.

It's a great feeling when the boat floats off the trailer and is now in its element. The boat needs to be tied or anchored into the Polly Steps stones whilst removing the car and trailer off the slipway and parking it. The slipway can be a congested area. It is important to be efficient in launching and to get clear as soon as possible. You need to have good manners and to offer help to others if they have a problem.

At last we are now ready to get into the boat. But wait - how fast is the tide running - it will be at a maximum half way between high and low water. Launching is easiest when the close to high or low water when the stream is not too strong. Now comes the tricky bit - the engine needs a metre of water to prevent it hitting the bottom. (Bigger boats with electric starters and hydraulic lift controls for the outboard can start the engine with the propeller just immersed in the water but mine boat does not have those facilities and the outboard needs the full metre of water.)

First make sure the kill cord is fitted, fuel tank vent is open, engine is in neutral and the fuel aspirator bulb has built up fuel pressure in the line. Then push off and jump into the boat. Lower the engine into the water quickly, check the throttle is in the start position, give it a small amount of choke and start the engine. Give the engine a moment or two to settle down before pushing the choke in, engaging forward gear and slowly increasing engine speed. If the tidal flow is strong the boat can be swept into the moorings, get tangled around mooring buoys and approach other moored boats at speed with a risk of touching, before the engine is ready to move the boat forward. This must be borne in mind as part of the launch preparation. I am very glad of the airbag virtues of an inflatable which limit the chance of damage.

Launching may sound a bit scary but as with all things nautical if you have had the right training and you do your preparation carefully it is actually quite a smooth process. The best advice is to watch how others do it.

I frequently launch, operate and recover my boat alone. I regard it as essential that both I and my passengers wear lifejackets. The kill cord is attached to my safety harness and I also wear a safety line in case I fall out of the boat. If such an event happens I want the engine to cut out immediately and to stay with the boat. The recent tragedy of a power boat driver not wearing a kill cord, falling out of the boat, tipping his family into the water and then being killed by his own propeller followed by a fatal injury to another boat passenger, has focused the minds of boat operators everywhere.

Once I have settled down, I decide where to take the boat. Usually wind over tide makes the entrance to Teignmouth harbour in a 3.5 metre boat turbulent with a swell. Not a problem to some boats, but for me I prefer not to be the subject of an NCI report.

This summer, I have taken my boat to Babbacombe and Exmouth, when the sea was slight and the harbour entrance was calm, keeping within the window of two hours before or after high water tidal flow is at a minimum.

We have also boated up the estuary to Coombe Cellars and stopped for a drink - very civilized. The boat has also been taken to Newton Abbot up to the new bridge. The estuary can be very choppy at times, but can change very quickly with the tide. The estuary has a number of oyster beds marked by sticks and buoys. These must be avoided.

I find that the sea is always changing, different patches catch the wind or back eddy around rocks. The state of the sea has a major effect on boat comfort. When wind and tide are together, the boat speeds along but returning with wind against tide can be an uncomfortable experience.

I have written this from the point of view of a small boat user. The bigger the boat the more one has to think about. Experience and knowledge are vital. The power of the sea has no equal.

The boat

Honwave 3.5 m T35 AE2 Inflatable boat external length 3.54m, external width 1.71m aluminium floor - available for around £1000

Main outboard motor - Tohatsu 15hp - available from around £1900

Reserve outboard - Honda 2.3 Type BAVJ - available for around £650

Snipe roller trailer - available for around £800

Total outlay if buying new £4,350

Other essential items would include lifejackets, anchor, handheld vhf radio, launching wheels

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