With the installation of the E-Tech 115hp provided by Laurentian Marine and Evinrude completed, it was time to take the Port Erie power catamaran out for it’s first fishing outing. Alain Danis graciously agreed to accompany me on this momentous occasion.
We had decided on the Ottawa River just east of Ottawa as our launching point. Once I sorted out the fuel line switches (there are two internal 20 gal tanks and two auxiliary tanks that can be added as required), we were off. Oh yes, did I mention that Maestro, my 90lb Bernese Mountain Dog guide dog was along for the day?
Our plan had been to fish for walleye during the early morning, but with all the challenges of sorting out a new boat, considerable time had passed resulting in our deciding to skip the Walleye and head straight for the Pike instead. Alain navigated us into a relatively small bay on the south shore and it wasn’t long before we began tying into some decent sized Northerns.
The new Terrova 80lb thrust electric trolling motor with Auto Pilot and Co-Pilot provided by Minn Kota proved to be more than up to the job of maneuvering the cat. Alain, being unfamiliar with the wireless remote co-pilot control elected to use the foot peddle to start with, but once he tried the Co-Pilot remote, he was hooked.
The PFDs provided by Salus were comfortable and were easily worn all day. The large tackle pockets came in handy for holding line snippers, pliers, hook hones, etc. and the over-sized fleece pockets served well for warming the hands, (crucial being that my hands are my “eyes”). The AutoTether wireless lanyard system provided increased safety for all on-board by both freeing the pilot from having to be actually tethered to the kill switch, (the remote wireless switch has a range of up to 50 feet), and the auxiliary unit for the co-pilot notifies the pilot with an audible alarm if there’s a “man over-board” emergency, and also gives the co-pilot the ability to remotely stop the engine with a built-in kill button.
The Garmin 430S GPS sounder / Chart Plotter, once the Garmin SD card containing area maps was inserted, could show us everywhere we had travelled on the river, depth contours, and aerial photos of our immediate surroundings, in addition to the general depth and other sounder data. Trialing of the Marine Instrument Talker and Audio Pilot Devices purchased from a small company in Australia will come next. The Marine Talker device will give me access to depth, speed, water temp, compass and other data from the Garmin via synthesized speech, and the Audio Pilot will provide audio feedback when navigating pre-set GPS tracks via different beep tones and rates. The engineering department at Carleton University is working with me on a more comprehensive set of top-water sensors that, when finished, will provide audio information about what’s on the water in front of and around the boat. I’ve also got a number of other devices being installed, but I’m not stressing myself by giving a date when all this will be finished.
The E-Tech is one sweet motor with plenty of giddy-up and go, and the Cat offers one smooth ride. The dual-sponson configuration of the hull not only means less rolling when drifting or trolling in rough water, but also ensures a smooth ride by the trapped air between the two sponsons cushioning the ride when traversing rough waters. In fact, the faster one travels the more comfortable the ride.
Finally, in spite of the 23” high gunnels inside the boat, Maestro still managed to fall out twice while we fished different bays. Ample deck space and a self-bailing deck helped keep the human cargo aboard dry in spite of the gallons of water that came aboard each time he was hauled back aboard.
Turning the cat into a full-blown blind fishing boat will take considerable time and effort. A really big thanks to all those who have come forward with offers of assistance as without your help, I doubt any of this will be possible.
While the number of frustrated potential blind boaters may not constitute a significant market, there is a fairly significant demand for speech output electronics from boaters who want to find an alternative to staring into a tiny display screen or who occasionally find themselves navigating at night or under low visibility conditions. I’ve been approached by all manner of boaters so I know my efforts in this regard are not in vain. Besides, it’s all just about going fishing anyway.