This article was written by John Gunter and published in the November 2007 issue of AFLOAT magazine.
Ewan Kennedy's article on the origins of the Deltacraft Islander Motor Launch made great reading for those of us fortunate enough to own one of the two distinct models of this spacious, versatile little cruiser.
Ewan described the Mark 1 as having "firm bilge amidships ... and a low synchronised roll". When out of the water, a moderate amount of deadwood is evident along the keel, which, I assume, leads to the boat's proven sea-keeping qualities.
Now we come to the Mark 2 and its cosmetically different sister, the Mark 3. These versions, Ewan mentioned, were re-designed and as far as the use of the interior space particularly, they are brilliant.
In fact when I took my co-boat owners to view my original choice of a small cruiser, (a Nordic 23) there was a Mark 2 alongside with an appealing generous cockpit. Once on board there were squeals of delight as they discovered a dunny with a door, a shower and with a galley servery to the cockpit. For our ladies it was love at first sight and the deal was done.
Now for the exterior. Ewan describes the Mark 2 as having a softer, rounder hull and an almost total lack of keel. This seems to lead to a most unfortunate drawback indeed. Because the performance of the "soft chine" version of the Deltacraft Islander would have had Bill Haley or Elvis green with envy and I mean green! Talk about Rock around the Clock, underway or moored, it's like, Hang on Daddyo.
The wake from almost any other vessel (alright not rowing sculls) sets up sharp, fast rolls that can flick objects overboard, embarrass those engaged in lavatorial pursuits, throw snacks all over the place and even knock people off their feet. All this does have one saving grace. It's dead easy to "go easy on the drink" as most liquid refreshments leap from the hand and end up in the harbour, via the efficient self-draining cockpit.
After boarding the boat at our mooring it was not unusual to find the fridge had wandered out to the centre of the cabin and the metho stove, along with any object not tied down, were now carpet dwellers. After a clean-up we would motor off to spend the day gently cruising the usually tranquil waters of Middle Harbour.
This particular waterway is often used as a testing area for new or serviced express cruisers which tend to create situations that change the reflective qualities of being on the water to fear of being in it!
When our boat was designed there was no need to worry about the 40-foot 'speedboat' drivers. So what to do?
Perhaps I could stop the rock with bilge keels. I'd seen all sorts of hulls with them from Greek fishing boats to ocean liners, but those with more knowledge than I suggested that their use on small boats might not be all that effective. Even so if I made them proportionately bigger, wouldn't they at least be an improvement? We were getting desperate, so yes, bugger it, let's give them a try.
My amateur boat-building brother-in-law, Michael Coleman, a man who builds beautiful composite rowing skiffs, was between jobs. So with Delta Skelta on the club slip we fronted up to the task ahead.
We worked out after much discussion, how the keels would need to be, say, about this big (holds out arms) ... by about this width, or perhaps this long ... gets out tape and pencil.
Soonish we had measured and drawn two rectangular shapes, from which we would cut out the curves to fit the hull. Mike bought the marine ply, cut and glassed over the two roughly 200cm x 30cm x 4cm planks. We left the fitting until the next slipping, when we planned to glass the keels to the curve of the bilge, avoiding any through-hull drilling.Months later Skelta was at last high and dry and out of her element again (as was I). Mike was by now engaged on another project, so I approached the Davis Marina crew who once again helped me out of a problem by recommending Bruce Walker. His reputation as a meticulous shipwright proved to be spot on and luckily he could spare a few days for this job.
First, the anti-fouling and gel coat was removed, then the keels cut and shaped. When offered up to the hull, they were secured into place with clamps from the cradle. Bruce then glassed keel and hull together with several coats until a very firm bond existed.
Then came the fun of crawling around under the protuberances to undercoat and anti-foul. Suddenly it was finished. Done. A beautiful job, looked great, but was it all going to be just a waste of time and money?
The next day, a Saturday, dawned sunny, calm and no waves. We carefully negotiated the slipway and the submerged timbers of the cradle. We were afloat again. Perhaps I could have used the nautical 'she' there but with those underparts hanging down off our bottom ... well I mean.
We motored out of a very still Manly Cove searching for waves, any waves. Express cruiser drivers were there none, just when they could have done something useful. Then, at last, a Manly Ferry hove into view. Now we'll see. Attacking the lines of steepish parallel waves at an angle, we rolled. But hang on, slower than before, and stiffer, more like a catamaran and we tracked better. Crossing the heads there was confused water, with lumpy waves and backwash from Middle Head. But through we went no worries mate! So for those of us who know the usual antics of the Mark 2, this has been a worthwhile exercise. Not quite so successful when moored, say 40% better and when underway, about 60%. A most definite improvement. Now we have a safer, calmer platform on which to enjoy exploring our wonderful waterways.
We're very satisfied, although there's just one thing. As we no longer own a Delta all-of-a-skelta, perhaps it time to change his name to something like Karma Man.