Sunday, 22 January 2012

Toronto Boat Show Report, Part One: Old, New, Borrowed and Blew

                "We gotta have that funk..."
                       -Parliament Funkadelic

                This weekend SWMBO and I made our annual mid-winter pilgrimage to the Toronto International Boat Show.  Saturday morning we caught up with Guy, and wandered the rows.  One thing we have discovered about attending the show every year is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  There are few debuts, few truly unique or new designs, so when something new does show up, it makes an impression.
                This year, apparently, the knob on the Weird-o-Matic  was pegged at 11, then broken off.

                Like the post title says, we saw boats and gear that were old, new, borrowed and blew.

                New:  Debuting at the show was the Footprint Boat, brought to you by, uh, Footprint Boats, which generated an amazing amount of buzz.  Like it or hate it, it seemed that nobody who saw it was sitting on the fence.

Footprint Boats

     With all the styling of a RQ Riley "Phoenix" homebuilt camper from the 70s...
                                                image courtesy of Robert Q Riley Enterprises, LLC

   ...The Footprint is a modular pontoon cruiser.

      Forward is the pilothouse, with a forward central helm and benches along both sides.  Aft is an expanding accomodations module, including galley, head and berths for 4-6.  The pontoons are capable of sliding under the bridgedeck for towing, then electrically winched out to the max beam width, or any configuration in between.  Power is provided by an outboard on each pontoon.
      My first impression was that it was the answer to a question nobody asked. Then I sorta- kinda reconsidered.  Perhaps there is a place in the market for a modular pontoon boat with more amenities than the typical deck boat, without the windage and bulk of a pontoon- hulled houseboat.  Hell, it has worked for VW with their Westfalia campers for over 5 decades, in a marketplace flooded with fifth wheel trailers and big-ass Winnebagos.  I can see the benefits from a manufacturing and customization standpoint as well.  One basic platform can be configured as a camper, or with a different module behind the pilothouse, a floating site office, bunkhouse, forward control barge, or mobile hunting camp with storage for an ATV or two.

       Some details left me scratching my head, though.  What is with all of the non-skid glued to the VERTICAL surfaces?

      The raceway for the O/B controls is household ABS drain pipe, and the wiring conduit is, er, conduit.
The kettle  grille, seen above, is less than a foot away from the non-removable canvas and vinyl wall of the accomodations pod.  Besides being a fire hazard, having to barbecue through a window, over a countertop, might get old quick.

     The pilothouse doesn't seem well thought out.  The roof is retractable, which is great for making the space feel open and airy, but the really big windows are all fixed.  A big greenhouse with no cross-flow ventilation.  That's gonna get warm and stale,  topless or not.
    The helm is fully forward, putting all of the guests and crew aft of the helmsman.  This means that the helmsman is not able to interact with guests easily, and more importantly, with the only access to the exterior of the boat at the aft end of the house, the helmsman can't dock singlehanded, and can't easily communicate with crew during docking.
    The cabin is out of commission when closed. All of it.  Including the head. And the galley.   So, you either have to pop the top and fold out the pop-outs when you embark, or you and your guests pee over the side and eat  what you can keep handy in the pilothouse until you get to your destination and open up the cabin.

   Finally, there is no way to access the stern of the boat with the cabin opened up.  Got engine trouble?  Gotta close everything up, walk back, realize you need your tools inside the cabin, walk forward, open up the cabin, grab your tools, close up the cabin, walk back ... Maybe more importantly, it means that some of the most useful real estate on the boat is out of bounds.  You can't hang propane bottles, store a generator or install  a swim ladder/ platform because all of it is inaccessible.

     It was heartening to see the designer/builder, Ian Collombin, at the show.  He was happy to show off his baby and answer questions, and genuinely seemed interested in feedback.   The Footprint isn't perfect, and it isn't a big water boat, but I think there might be some real potential here.  If you can get past the Snow-Cat-knocked-up-a-party-barge appearance, and want a weekender to enjoy in Muskoka or on the Trent-Severn, this might be your boat.

     Borrowed:  George Jetson called.  He wants his boat back.


         Meet the Circraft.
More info on Circraft

       This is a  cool take on the PWC.  Basically an outboard motor bolted to a really big fiberglass dog dish, one of the first things I noticed was that there is no helm.  No wheel, no tiller.  None.  Nada.  This boat is turned by weight transfer and body language.  Lean right, turn right.  Lean left, turn left.  The harder you lean, the tighter the turn.  Simple.

     This is a pretty spartan ride.  There is no seat, no trim, no radio, no storage cubbies.  this is as basic as power boating gets.  It is just you, the motor and the hull...and the mandated safety gear.

  With a 20 hp O/B installed, trailer included, and a starting price point under $7 grand, this makes a great alternative to a traditional two- up jet-drive PWC.

 Old:  The Canadian Antique and Classic Boat Society had a great display at the entrance to the show.  Dedicated to preserving and promoting Canada's boatbuilding heritage, examples of hydroplanes, runabouts and rowboats, restored, as found and in progress were on display.

   A uniquely Canadian boat- A Greavette "Dippy"

     Here's how it got it's nickname- this boat has a "Disappearing Propeller."  The propeller can be retracted into the hull, a big advantage in near-northern Ontario, where the water can get skinny in a hurry and the bottom is rocky.

    A beautiful hydroplane:
    Note the Robertson screws, all "clocked."  Is that Canadian, or what?


     Blew:  The sail section was represented by the usual suspects.  Hunter, Beneteau, Catalina, Jeanneau, Hanse and Gemini were all in attendance with an assortment of boats in an assortment of lengths.  My favourite boat of the show, however, is from a brand that is little known in North America, TES.

TES yachts

   Their Magnam 28 is loaded with features and attractively priced.

   This is a package of contradictions that works.  A trailerable 28' centerboard boat with almost a ton of ballast, a folding swim platform, wheel steering, full headroom, aft cabin, head with shower,  furniture and joinery that doesn't look cheap and flimsy? It sounds impossible, but this Polish company pulls it off beautifully.

 The Magnam is a BIG 28 footer.

    What other current production boat offers a private aft cabin in a boat under 30 feet in length?

...and an aft head with a shower?

   A simple but clever sliding outboard mount is standard.  What's really cool is that the mount is infinitely height adjustable, a bonus in shallow water.  Want an inboard?  No problem.  It's an option.

 At under $90K all in, including motor, trailer, sails, stackpack,  furler, etc., etc., etc.,  this is a pretty impressive value.

     "But wait," you say, "What about those big fancy boats?  What have you got to say about those?"

I liked the retractable bow thruster on the new Hanse 445.


   Come on back for Part 2.

And, as always, thanks for taking the time to check us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock!"  Link us, follow us or just tell your friends.

1 comment:

  1. The TES gives a whole new slant to "trailer-sailer." Interesting! We're still fantasizing about having one boat in the Great Lakes and another in the Bahamas, and traveling between them every 6 months.

    ...of course, we're still fantasizing about winning the lottery, as well.