Just like The Captain, the owner of this Black Watch 31 forked out good money for a lemon. But just like The Captain – and with a little help from Matt Inman at R&M Marine – Now he couldn’t be happier.
Every big boat that sails through The Captain’s (metaphorical) porthole these days seems to be a Black Watch. First, there was Eddie Lawler from Exmouth in his sailfish-slaying 36ft model; then came Cockney Russ Housby in his 40ft live-aboard from Vanuatu. Those lads have serious fishing cred, so we don’t need to tell you that Black Watch boats do the business. When we heard a Black Watch was being rebuilt in the backblocks of the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, we thought we’d take a peak in the bilge. Matt Inman owns R&M Marine, a full-service warehouse and storage yard in Rosebud, not far from the sandy shores of Port Phillip Bay.
On weekends, this coastline is a playground for owners of “weekender” boats, especially Bayliners and Caribbeans. Which means the fish are generally safe, but a bottle of chardonnay won’t last five minutes. It’s Matt’s job to keep these fussy customers happy by keeping their boats in tip-top condition. He recently had a call from Andrew Duncan, who had got his hands on a 31ft Black Watch Express. Being something out of the ordinary, this piqued Matt’s interest — and it was the same make of boat he had caught his first marlin in. When we catch up with Matt, he’s in his office, sitting in front of a print showing a marlin charging away from a Black Watch — a fond memory of a momentous blue-water battle. It’s obvious Matt has a soft spot for Black Watch boats, and not just because he drew first blood in one. “They’re a great boat,” he says. “Very simple, good lines and they handle the water well. It’s such a stable boat and very seaworthy. I’d have no hesitation putting that boat out on Bass Strait in pretty average seas.
SPANNERS WITH MANNERS – R&M MARINE
Matt Inman started in an automotive trade before taking on a marine apprenticeship then stepping out on his own 14 years ago. Since then, he’s got his coxswain ticket and done numerous advanced courses — and he’s got the tickets on the wall in his office to prove it. With Volvo Penta on board, he reckons R&M has come along in leaps and bounds in terms of what they can do for their clients. “We specialise in Volvo Penta and MerCruiser,” Matt says. “We focus on inboard engines because we’ve got the diagnostic equipment and the facility to manage large vessels. We give our clients the ultimate package, looking after the boat with antifouling and polishing.”
Matt says he can store up to 70 boats inside and outside at his large premises. “We’ve got almost 5000 sq m of storage and work spaces five minutes from the water, with a gantry to lift boats off the trailer onto the hard stand. We’ve got forklifts and a big dog 9.5m trailer that can carry up to six tonne.” He’s a by-the-book guy, which meant upgrading his 79 Series LandCruiser to a Silverado for towing duties was an easy decision. “It’s chalk and cheese compared to the Cruiser,” he says. “It’s an absolute beast, able to pull just under six tonne. You don’t even know it’s behind the truck.” Matt’s new truck comes with its own custom-made oversize sign and flashing lights, which can be neatly hidden by hitting a button and activating a couple of struts. Nice mod, Matt. “We keep it all in-house and do it properly,” Matt says. “I can check the boats and make sure quality control is kept up. I charge batteries once a month, and organise all trades. The boats go out in pristine condition. And we pride ourselves on having a clean and organised workshop.
Not only does it make it easier and more practical, but we can show customers through and they can see their boat is in good hands. We also offer on-water tuition, coaching new owners through docking, refuelling, and general good seamanship.” Having done the tour, The Captain can confirm R&M is up there with some of the top dental practices for order and cleanliness — a pleasant surprise in the marine industry. Appropriately, the yard is full of shiny clean new boats the Captain will never be able to afford — Caribbeans, Chris-Crafts, Axopars and Fairlines. The Captain gives you a five-star salute, Matt.
TOUR OF DUTY
The 2007 Express model Matt has just repowered is a sedan, but that doesn’t mean she’s moored up in front of the bathing boxes with the chardy set. This sedan is built for offshore duty — hunting around Bass Strait islands and exploring Tassie for jumbo crayfish. Tipping the scales at 5.5 tonne with 750L of fuel, she features a 3.3m beam. For the past three months, this big girl has been in the R&M workshop having a heart transplant and general refurb.
The new donk is a Volvo Penta D6-380, a 30HP upgrade. “Blackwitch arrived on a truck from Western Australia,” Matt says. “When I first saw her, she was pretty average. We checked over the engine, found a few dramas and knew it was going to be a real test.”
He says the refurb took three months from start to finish by the time the new engine was built in Sweden, airfreighted to Australia, custom-painted white, fitted and tuned. “It’s all EVC (electronic vessel control), so it’s all flyby- wire. We rewired pretty much half the boat, from the helm to the engine. Now, at a cruising speed of 20 knots at 2800 RPM, we’re using 45L an hour. With a 750L tank, the owner can get 280nm (519km) — pretty impressive on a single engine. Top speed is 31 knots.”
After noting Matt’s handy work on the engine refit, Andrew presented him with a wish list of things to fit to his new boat. It included a new dash reconfiguration with twin 12-inch glass cockpit Garmin screens, refrigeration, solar panels, lighting and wiring.
His brief for Matt was to create an off-the-grid boat. “We put 300W of solar panels on the roof,” Matt says. “Andrew can head down to the Prom (Wilsons Promontory) or Deal Island or even Tassie and still be self-sufficient with power, freshwater — and it’s very reliable.” He says it’s been a good journey. “Andrew’s been fantastic, very patient. We’ve done a hell of a lot of work on that boat and it shows.
The most challenging aspect was keeping up with Andrew’s wish list.” Matt’s advice for any punter embarking on the purchase of a large second-hand boat is to go with diesel if you can afford it — for the reliability, the safety aspects of diesel (less flammable than petrol), efficiency and longevity of the engine. He recommends getting someone accredited in that make of engine or style of boat to check it out prior to purchase — otherwise it can become very costly, very quickly. “It can get a little overwhelming with a big boat, thinking you need to get 15 different trades to do their little piece. We try to simplify it and manage it all in-house. Nice and easy.”
MATT’S FIVE-WORD ASSESSMENT OF BLACKWITCH
FROM BLACK WATCH TO BLACK WITCH
Blackwitch owner Andrew Duncan is semiretired, but still does a little cattle farming on his property in Dromana, not far from Matt’s factory. He was a dredging contractor for 32 years and, as we discovered, had to dredge up quite a few dollars for his new boat. He’s owned 18 boats, plus a few more he reckons he’s forgotten about. “The first was a Haines V15 I bought in Tasmania in 1972,” he says. “I fell in love with Haines boats and had six or seven.” With his new rig, Andrew wasn’t sure whether to go trailerable or moored, eventually being converted after checking out a mate’s Black Watch. “I had a look at a friend’s boat and liked the layout,” he recalls. “It was a good compromise on most aspects.
For fishing, it has fantastic deck area out the back and it’s nice and beamy and stable. It’s a moderate vee with a good planing hull.” So the hunt was on to find something similar. “When I started looking, there were only two available,” Andrew says. “One was in Queensland, but it had a tower, which I didn’t like. I found this boat in Geraldton, WA. I went out on it, there didn’t appear to be any issues, so I put it on a backload to Melbourne. I’m the third owner.”
However, before delivery of the boat, the previous owner rang Andrew. There was a problem with the boat — a shudder in the drive train — but he assured Andrew he’d cover the cost of the repair. “One of the bearings in the drive had let go between the engine and unis, and done quite a bit of damage, a bit over $10,000 worth,” Andrew says. “I was lucky that the previous owner agreed to stump up the money.” With the boat now in Melbourne, complete with flogged-out drivetrain, Matt and the R&M crew started investigating, bolt by bolt, Andrew watching over his shoulder. “When we started going over it, we took two injectors out and found there’d been a bit of pitting in the bores due to some water ingress,” he says. “That was mainly because the turbo had no high-riser on it. At some stage, water had come back into the pots and obviously sat there for a while. We took the end plates off the heat exchangers and found there were blockages that should have been attended to.” After beating himself up that he didn’t spot the trouble when he was in Geraldton, Andrew bit the bullet. “The question was — do we fix components that have to be done, knowing there’s a fair chance they’re going to be unreliable over time?”
The decision made itself. Putting a new long motor in and reconditioning the ancillary equipment would cost only $15,000–$20,000 less than a new engine package with a five-year warranty. “Really, it was a no brainer,” Andrew says. “It’s still a 12-year-old boat with a new drive system. We’ve gone up 30HP, changed the props from G4s to G3s and we’re running at 2.5L per nautical mile (1.3L/km) — which, for the size of the boat, is pretty economical. Compared to my mate’s Black Watch (running the D6-350) there is a noticeable improvement in performance.” On the touchy subject of cost, Andrew says that overall he feels he made the right decision. “It was substantially north of $100K (for the initial boat acquisition) and we’re probably now not far away from the cost of a new boat.”
Back in Happy Boat Land, Andrew has a few plans for Blackwitch. “Apart from fishing and cruising in the bay, I want to head down to Wilsons Prom, do some of the Bass Strait islands,” he says. “At some stage, I’ll do a trip down to Tassie. I’ve got some friends who’ll come with me. They’re keen divers — I’ll be dive master as long as they give me the first cray!” Asked if he has any tips for The Captain before we empty the treasure chest on a flybridge cruiser, Andrew says there’s no substitute for smarts. “Get it fully checked out by a reputable mechanic. If it’s got diesel engines, I’d recommend pulling the injectors out and checking the bores for water ingress. Do compression tests on the engine and see what the electrics are like. Get on board, see what works and what doesn’t, then figure out what you’ll have to spend.” Andrew reckons he’s pretty happy with R&M. “They were very honest upfront, told it how it was with no beating around the bush. They’re great guys — no bullshit.” Matt is definitely going on The Captain’s speed dial — we’ve got a flybridge on the shopping list.
R&M Mobile Marine Services
5 Jennings Court, Rosebud, Victoria
(03) 5986 7788; www.rmmarine.com.au