The two 565 hulls sitting side by side have caught the attention of Eden local — and father of Edencraft — Ron Doyle. The Captain’s crew gets wind that Ron’s on location, and before long he’s looking down the lens of a large video camera answering questions.
Although Ron’s into his 70s, he’s match-fit, having recently fought off the 2020 Border Fire from his expansive Wonboyn Lake property using three fire pumps, a bulldozer and 4WD tractor with a stick rake. The fire went straight through his property, but Ron and his partner, Maureen, fought it off with 90,000L of tank water. He lost nothing more than fences. As well as being handy on the tools, Ron can recall names, places and details like it was yesterday. And he knows every nook and cranny of the Haines moulds because, at one time, they all belonged to him. The Captain takes aim with a few pointed questions:
How did you find your way to Eden? Ron: My great-grandfather was a mining engineer at Mount Dromedary. He retired to Bermagui and started oyster farming.
So there’s salt in your veins? For sure. He was one of the foundation members of big game fishing in Bermagui and took the American author Zane Grey out fishing a few times. In the ’40s, the family moved to Eden to start salmon and tuna fishing. He built a 61-footer, the Eden Star. My grandfather helped develop the purse seine fishing nets in Australia with the CSIRO.
What was your stock and trade? I’m a motor mechanic by trade. I went to school here in Eden, then did an apprenticeship. When I was 21, I went out on my own and I’ve been there ever since. I started a dealership with mechanical repairs and it just kept on growing from there.
When did the boats come about? We had a motorcycle shop and a marine dealership for Mariner and Mercury. We were Haines Hunter dealers and motors were our big thing — supplying the abalone industry.
So you already had an in with Haines? Haines sold out to a Chinese developer, but ended up going into receivership. Then a fellow called Kevin Fitzpatrick — he used to do stainless fit-outs — and his brother-inlaw bought into Haines. They were strapped for cash, so I made some enquiries.
Where were the moulds at this point? They were all sitting in a paddock, upsidedown. When I asked what he was going to do with them, he said he might just burn them. So I bought everything from the Sea Wasp to the sailing boat — the Tramp, which was a trimaran. We had 25 semi-trailers pick them up from Wacol in Queensland.
How much did you pay for those legendary hulls? I might have paid something like $100,000. Loose change in the mid ’80s, eh Ron? (No noticeable response from Ron, who treats folding stuff pretty seriously.)
Mechanical shop/dealer to boat builder is a pretty monumental leap? Not really. We’d been repairing boats and I left Erick Hyland (who went on to create Whitepointer boats) up there for a month to learn the ropes. He was in the factory laying up, along with a few subcontractors. We didn’t try to do too much — only used to build one boat at a time.
Did managing Erick Hyland send you grey early? Erick was a bit of a handful, but he was one of those guys who could turn his hand to anything.
Which models walked out the door? The most popular models were the 17s, the 565, the 19R, 243L (the model Erick later extended to become the 263 Whitepointer), the Formula 233 and the 24ft cat.
Your favourite? The 19 was a good fishing boat — it carried load well. A lot of divers used them for years before they went to cats in later years. The 17s were a beautiful hull. Spearfishermen used to love them because they travel well through chop and like a bit of power. Most had 200s on them. The 565 was probably one of the nicest travelling boats — we had two decks for that: the L and the R. It was probably the best all-round boat. It travelled well at low speed, turned the water down, it was a good, dry boat. It had a 10-inch planing strake and planed really well at low speed. That was the big difference.
Who were your customers? Mostly game fishermen, ab divers and commercial divers. We built a lot of boats for ab divers in Tasmania. We only used to build to order, never any stock boats. All the cats and Formulas were powered with 200HP two-strokes.
What did you change from the Haines days? We built many boats in commercial survey. The ab divers wanted dive doors for commercial use. They didn’t want windscreens because they drove standing up. That’s how the wave breaker came about — Erick also mentions that windscreens would cave in under big green ones. I used to build all the plugs for the wave breakers and the wheelhouses. We had a panel shop in Eden and all the tooling was built up there.
What was the price of an Edencraft Formula 233 back then? (Ron has brought along an old magazine featuring said model.) True Blue was set up with twin 200s on pods on a trailer. It was $30,000. Tell us about the 24 Edencraft cat — that’s a bit of a mystery to us. A lot of people didn’t like it. The cat didn’t like the weight forward. All the abalone blokes used to stack their bins aft. It had a really fine entry on the hull where the Shark Cat was very full up forward. It used to trap the water and had a very small entry (tunnel). It used to pick up on a pocket of air then all of a sudden you’d feel that air let go. But it was a very soft-riding cat and it loved chop.
Did you make much coin out of Edencraft? I wouldn’t say we made a lot of money, but I got out of it square.
What do you think of the new 565 sitting next to the original you built? They’ve done a great job, it’s nicely finished. But 40 years makes a lot of difference. It bears no relationship to the original boats and is different in nearly every respect — the only thing the same is the name. It’s as big as the old V19. (Ron’s suspicions prove bang-on when the tape measure comes out.)
If you had to go to sea in a boat that wasn’t one of yours (i.e. not an Edencraft), what would it be? An 18ft Shark Cat is pretty hard to beat as an all-round boat.
What are you riding in now? I own an old Quintrex tinnie.
Long live the tinnie, Ron, and the Edencraft name. The Captain salutes you!