I had been thinking about buying a small tinny since our trip to Lawn Hill NP in 2005. When we were at Kingfisher Camp, we hired a 12 foot punt with 6HP outboard for half a day and explored the very beautiful Nicholson River. We had such a great time that I started to wonder about all the other great waterways and coastal areas that we visit where we could have been doing this same thing. So once we had settled down after our move to Mackay in 2006, I started gathering information on selecting a boat package that would suit our needs.
Now its not as easy as going down to the local boat yard and saying "yep, that's like the one I saw on old mates car so I'll take it". There is so much more that needs to be considered for something that you want to take camping. Sure if you are going to stick to trailering it around on the blacktop, then it is a little easier, however if you already have a camper trailer and head off-road quite a bit then there are a lot of other things that you need to take into consideration. This is one reason why I did this webpage up to allow others to look at another persons perspective.
The considerations I had were:
Based on the above, I had to decided how I was going to transport the thing. As we had the Aussie Swag already, this narrowed it down to either carrying it on the Aussie Swag or on the roof rack (which we don't use all that often anymore). The roof rack was from our old Pajero and although it did fit nicely, was higher than those roof racks designed for the Patrol. The pros of carrying on the roof rack were its ease to transport right to the waters edge and not having to muck around taking the boat off the camper to open it. The cons were that I would have to modify the roof rack to carry or buy a specially designed boat loader roof rack for between $1800 and $2400. Also it was heavy to load manually (unless you have the boat loader) and there was the issue of carrying all the gear and outboard. There is also an increase in wind resistance and hence fuel economy and the fact that I would have saltwater dripping all over the car which I wanted to avoid.
With this in mind, it was decided that we would carry the tinny on the Aussie Swag. To aid in the lifting and taking off of the boat, I decided to fit an Aussie Swag boat loader to the camper. This would allow the boat to be easily flipped over to the side so we can erect the camper quickly but also permit a boat with a relatively wide beam, longer length and higher weight to be carried as it could handle a boat with a weight of 80 kg with ease. We could still carry ample firewood and kids bikes on the rack if required and provide a more secure mounting point for the boat. Although the cost was high, it was cheaper than a boat loader roof rack.
Now that I had decided on how I was going to transport the tinny, the next thing was what size I was going to get. Because we are a family of four, this was a big factor in choosing what would suit our needs. Initially I didn't want to go over 3.5 metres due to its weight and transportable size, however I soon realised that the persons and weight ratings of the boat would not allow this so the smallest tinny that could accommodate our family and all our gear was a 3.7 meter unit. Some measurements on the camper revealed that this was still a good size to carry and its weight meant that I could still easily manoeuvre it by myself.
The type of tinny that we would purchase was very much dependant on where we were going to use it. The different styles ranged from Punts to V-nose Punts and Dinghy's. The trade off between them was that Punts were very stable but did not handle choppy water comfortably to Dinghy's which were not as stable but better at handling choppy water. As we only want to use it in rivers, dams and some close inshore when it was calm, we chose the V-nose punt which was a compromise between the two and had good stability as well.
Choosing the outboard was relatively easy. Firstly everyone I spoke to said to go the biggest you can get for that size boat. When asked why they said that there was no difference in weight between the 9.9 and 15 hp and the price was very close as well. Nearly every manufacture was the same - both outboards were the same size, weight and cubic capacity but their power rating and pricing (only by a small amount though) were different. With this in mind I went for the US made Mercury (which is different from the Asian model) which matched the boat perfectly. What I liked about this outboard were its warranty and the fact that it had the gears on the tiller which meant no turning around to flick between forward, neutral and reverse..
Transportation to an from the water was the next thing I had to consider. As we were carrying it on the Aussie Swag, I needed to come up with a means to get the boat around from our camp site to the waters edge. This was not a problem when we were camped on the waters edge but there are many places that this is either not allowed or is unfeasible. First up I purchased a set of the Tinny Wheels with the belief that these would suit my needs perfectly. However, although they did a pretty good job at allowing you to drag the boat, motor and all the gear short distances on hard ground with relative ease, once you got to anything that was soft like sand, they just sank down - regardless of what pressure you had in the tyres.
Next trial was with a fold up trailer that we purchased from Flip-N-Easy. This was more aligned to our needs and fitted the bill nicely however there was one small problem and that was how to carry it whilst out camping. Our first major trip with the trailer was to Cape York where we carried it on the roofrack. It was relatively easy to get it up and down and was pretty secure but it would take over an hour to set everything up ready to be towed. Hence we only used it a couple of times but we were fortunate in that a lot of our camps were on the waters edge so could drag the boat down and be fishing in a matter of minutes. The next step is to manufacture a mount on the camper that will hold the semi assembled trailer during camping trips. At home the Flip-N-Easy gets used a couple of times a month where we tow the boat down to the river so it is something that we will keep due to its versatility.
Apart from the trailer, it has been easy to find a spot to carry the rest of the gear. The outboard we wrap up and strap to the top of the camper next to the fuel tank. Everything else we can fit in the front compartment of the Aussie Swag. It is easier to fit the roofrack and pack some gear on it but we mainly use it for long distance trips. Short trips we just pack everything on or in the camper and so far we have been extremely happy with how it all goes together.
Once we settle on the boat and motor, it was time to start ringing around for pricing. The quotes I got varied considerably, all the way from Brisbane to Cairns but whilst we were in Brisbane getting the boat loaded fitted to the Aussie Swag Camper, we ended up buying our Quintrex and Mercury from a Caloundra dealer on the Sunshine Coast. Not only were they $500 cheaper than the the rest, but they also threw in a couple of extras and were very good to deal with.
This was to be the final piece to all the work we had put into the researching of buying a cartopper, however, it was the beginning of many new adventures with the boat which we were looking forward to with eagerness.