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Our Boats and Us: My Favorite Gizmo

An able power cat joins the fleet.


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It’s gotten to the point that even my dear wife regards my boat-owning habits as an irrepressible force of nature. In recent years it’s evolved into a sort of rotating fleet phenomenon; I generally have a couple of small craft waiting to be fixed up, a few in use, and at least one in the lot sporting a “for sale” sign, hopefully destined to finance further experimentation. The focus this year was Gizmo, a 14-foot outboard-powered catamaran that moved pleasantly from shop project into the active flotilla.

Power cats are rare in my Maine home waters, and I wouldn’t have bought this one without a test run, especially as she came from an unknown-to-me and now-defunct Florida company. I was pleased how softly she handled chop for such a beamy, shoal-draft little box top of a boat. I was grinning as I towed her home on her included trailer last fall. A month later I was shocked to discover that her hull is an exact copy—no doubt illegally “splashed”—of a Livingston model long popular in the Pacific Northwest. Picture me standing at a boat show, mouth ajar, as a salesperson explained that her company was the first East Coast dealer for these able Livingstons. “Not really,” I mumbled and wandered off feeling somewhat guilty, though grateful that at least the purportedly bankrupt “builder” of my boat had apparently gotten its just desserts.

Though Gizmo, as the ad said, ran “good” when purchased, by early spring I had—another irrepressible habit revealed—taken her apart. I Awlgripped the topsides gray, treated the funky spackled interior to a similar shade of gelcoat, solidly re­mounted the center console and seat, replaced or rebedded the hardware, and installed an all-new and much-improved electrical system. After all, one pro­ject goal—IRS, please take note—was to have a boat that made it easy to install and test electronics aboard. If all that sounds like a lot of work, keep in mind the boat’s size and my utilitarian quality standards. The Awlgrip, for instance, was rolled on and tipped with a brush, durable as barnacle spit but not mirror-perfect.

At any rate, by the end of June, Gizmo was “my” boat and ready for action. Some weeks I kept her slipped down in Camden Harbor and enjoyed spur-of-the-moment spins and yacht-watching. During a couple of trips chasing sailboat races with a photographer friend, little Gizmo showed remarkable stability and nimbleness on a rough Penobscot Bay. We even towed a 55-foot en­gine­less sloop out to the start line one morning, an unanticipated “rescue” that amply proved the Honda 40’s gnarliness. There were also some island hikes during which, as hoped, I was able to (carefully) beach the cat, like a smaller tender. Oh yes, and I recall a romantic evening under the stars and the town’s big Labor Day fireworks display. Small and wide open can be beautiful!

But I had other fleet assets stationed in the Harbor, so Gizmo mostly sat on her trailer, ready for trips farther afield. One of my life ambitions is to investigate every foot of Maine’s 2,500-plus-mile coastline. Easy to launch and haul, even solo, Gizmo is particularly suited for exploring the many rivers—most with good ramp facilities—that seem inaccessible in a big boat. So far I’ve visited the Royal, the Narragaugus, and the Damariscotta.

Such gunkholing is a ball—and a terrific testing op­portunity. In fact, I can currently mount three small plotters (good for comparing various chart types), and I’m using a digital fishfinder that just might get me chasing stripers next season. I’ve also just installed a cool laptop mount for testing nautical software. Gizmo is living up to her name, as well as my hopes. She’s a keeper, and when Idaydream, irrepressibly, about the ghost in my fleet, the big snowbird cruiser, the specs now include a way to take Gizmo along.

Next page > Mahogany Memories - By George L. Petrie > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

This article originally appeared in the November 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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