Saturday, August 05, 2006

Australian catamaran designs and refrigeration systems

The web can be a funny place... In my search for the new Loose Moose design I kept hearing about a designer down in Oz by the name of Bob Oram who I might like but, as much as I searched, the best I could do was to find enticing snippets about his designs and nothing that was by the designer or actually about the boats... Frustrating with a capital F.

I had a nice note from Ali and Pat of Bumfuzzle fame (or infamy?) the other day, who pointed me in the direction of a pair of couples who were building cats in Oz. And, as it happened, one of the couples was building a boat by the designer in question and had a link to his site. Before you can spell serendipity I finally had an introduction to the designs of Bob Oram which bear some serious looking at.

One thing I have noticed is that there seems to be some serious boat building going on down in Australia and it makes me wonder why boat building seems to be on the rise in Oz and on the wane in the US of A? George Buehler had some interesting questions on this subject in his book about boat building but no answers as to the why... Maybe someone out there has a clue?

One thing I can tell you about the Antipodeans is that they seem to have a practical tilt that makes for successful cruising and boat building. And, if I may digress a bit, here is a small story to illustrate the point...

When Sheila and I arrived in the Med, we found it almost impossible to find ice for our icebox on Loose Moose 2 so we started looking into refrigeration systems. I was quite boring asking every fellow cruiser we met how they liked their system and how often it broke down, etc. To make a long story shorter, most of the cruisers we met seemed to sail from one anchorage or marina to the next in search of getting their fridge systems serviced. So much so, that it was not surprising if the first question you had from a fellow cruiser was "IS there a good fridge mechanic here"? Of course, Sheila and I had lived in Europe for so long that we thought for awhile that in sailing circles "Could you tell me where to find a refrigeration guy" had become the new "Hello, glad to meet you " back home in the USA...

The surprising thing was that most of the cruisers in the USA fleet seemed to think that their fridge systems worked just fine and getting them worked on in every port was just a normal part of having refrigeration on boats. All these years later we have noticed that this is still true in the Caribbean.

The Aussies on the other hand, seemed to understand that beer was meant to be cooler than ambient temperature and seemed seriously surprised that I would be asking questions about how often their fridges were down as all of their's seemed to work just fine. And, as one Aussie cruiser pointed out to me, it was just a refrigerator and not a lot of rocket science involved! The fact of the matter was that in that particular group of Antipodean cruisers, they all seemed to be using portable fridges designed for the outback and they all worked like all the time... This is certainly a practical approach to the whole keeping stuff cold philosophy and one that we have followed, as the factory-built and -shipped units seem to be gas tight, don't leak, use less power, and run pretty much like the fridges most of us grew up with at home, in that they work and work and work... keeping those Polar beers cold cold cold which is how it is meant to be! How many times have you had to get your home fridge or freezer serviced in the last year?... decade? I rest my point.

We really like our Coleman Stirling Power Electric Cooler which is a proper fridge/freezer using the Sterling engine to produce cold with no ozone-destroying gases to leak out and power frugal to the point of 0.9 amp an hour. Better yet, the sucker is available at Costco etc. for under $400 which makes it an incredible bargain. As a matter of fact, the small unit we have is also sold under the name Tropikool who specializes in Sterling-driven marine refrigeration. They also do a build-in unit for existing ice boxes for those who need more capacity.

Now, if I could just find a working email address for Bob Oram...