‘It’s going to be a test by fire’: Northern B.C. men build homemade catamaran

Final version of the HMCV Cat 1, which Bruce McGonigal and Rob Goodine plan to float from Quick to Smithers on this homemade catamaran on the Bulkley River in August. (Contributed photo)
The Bulkley River in Telkwa. (Chris Gareau photo)

Come hell or high water, 73-year-old Bruce McGonigal and his pal Rob Goodine intend to float a homemade catamaran 30 kilometres down the Bulkley River from Quick to Smithers in northern B.C. in August.

Their plan sparks a notable question: what would inspire someone to undertake such an endeavour?

“I never thought I would live to experience a pandemic and I’m going crazy,” McGonigal said. “I was outside thinking of something to do and I saw the two kayaks under a tarp and had this epiphany; it just kind of flashed and then it kind of just morphed.”

It morphed into a craft, dubbed the HMCV Cat 1, with two boat seats and a cooler bolted onto a wooden superstructure attached to the two kayaks with an oar for a rudder.

“When you think about it, it’s quite a stupid thing that we are about to do,” McGonigal said.

“Structurally, those two kayaks… they’re not designed to take that kind of force as a catamaran,” he said. “Points of contact, that’s going to be the issue.”

To resolve that issue, McGonigal initially bolted the superstructure onto the kayaks’ bow and stern with GRK RSS screws, a rugged structural screw with high tensile, torque and shear strength. But looking at craft afterward, he recognized while the screws themselves might hold up, there was another potential problem.

ALSO READ: Howard rides the waves at Tatlow Falls

“There’s going to be all kinds of force and the only thing [holding the platform on] is the fibreglass thickness of the kayak at the bow and stern,” he explained. “It became readily apparent that the four RSS screws were not adequate.”

So, he added four cinching belts.

“I’m now putting all my faith in the four cinching belts that bind the superstructure to the mid-frame of the kayaks in addition to the four GRKs,” he said. “It’s going to be a test by fire.”

McGonigal — who has been on the river many times in other kinds of crafts and who worked in water management in Smithers for 35 years — figures by mid-August the river will be into its lower flow phase and most of the 30-or-so kilometres will be a fairly casual float.

“It’s a coastal, sort of fairly high-velocity river on the west coast,” he said. “You just have to be attentive, there are some log jams, so you just pick the best channel.”

ALSO READ: Discover Smithers B.C.

However, there are three critical points where hydraulic conditions could be a major factor.

“They’re not to be ignored or taken casually,” he said.

The first is just above the Telkwa Bridge.

“There’s some fast heavy water in there,” he said. “I think I’m only talking Class 1, no more than Class 2 [rapids] for sure, but in this contraption we’ll have to pick the best line.”

The next one is at Eddy Park, where they will have to avoid heavy water in the eddy, but McGonigal believes there is a side channel they can use to get around it.

Finally, the big test, the standing wave at Tatlow Falls, a favourite play area for kayakers, canoeists, riverboarders and even motorboaters, but has unlikely ever seen the likes of McGonigal’s latest invention.

“I’ve been over, around, Tatlow Falls many times so you just do river right,” he said.

What’s the worst that could happen?

“The worst-case scenario is we go under and we don’t come up,” he said. “A more realistic scenario is the boat breaks up and either a) we salvage the kayaks and paddle down or b) if the whole thing floats away on us, we paddle to shore and start walking to a road.”

In any case, he said he has the best partner for the task. Goodine, a local contractor, is a big, strong guy, he said.

“He’s cannon-proof, he’s rock solid,” McGonigal said. “When things go sideways, he’s the kind of guy you want at your side.”

They are not picking a date for the adventure, simply waiting for the first calm, sunny, 20 C degree day in August.

They are also not planning to test the boat or have anybody monitoring the float.

“I just want to put it in and see what happens,” McGonigal said.



editor@interior-news.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Construction to begin on new $2M fire hall in Deep Bay

Long-term debt will be financed over a 20-year period

Parksville Royals hurler earns scholarship to Nebraska school

Frank came to mid-Island from Terrace to pursue baseball dreams

UPDATE: Vancouver Island skydiving community mourns loss of one of its own

James Smith, 34, of Victoria, dies in Nanoose Bay incident

Beloved Parksville volunteer awarded key to the city

July 6 (her 90th birthday) proclaimed as ‘Joan Lemoine Day’

Oceanside RCMP officers will not face charges following 2017 shooting that left man dead

Independent Investigations Office of B.C announces decision

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Almost 99% less land in B.C. burned this year compared to 2018

2018 was the worst year on record for wildfires

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

B.C. tent camps persist as hotels, housing bought for homeless

Current estimate 40 camps, homeless counts stalled by COVID-19

Most Read