MiniCat 420 Evoque

DCIM100GOPRO

Sitting on the edge of Palisades Lake, enjoying my morning cuppa Joe, Minicat 420 perched at the waters edge, I can’t help but feel blessed beyond words. As the wind starts to fill in from the WSW, I’m finding a child like anxiety creep up from within telling me to blow off this damn blog post, and go get on the water!
Although I’ve now sailed Cat2Fold nearly 10,000 miles over the past three winters, I’ve really never sailed much on any other craft. Sure, there were the 3 or 4 charters I did with my ex and her family, on other cruising boats, but never have I sailed on such a small, responsive craft, with no instruments, no autopilot, no wind angles, etc… Just the wind in your face, and a light, powerful boat whose accelerations, decelerations, heel angle, and the underlying knowledge that this puppy could flip within one, un-attentive nano-second, add a pucker factor to the learning curve of sailing on a small boat that I’ve never experienced before.
I bought my new Minicat 420 Evoque as both a replacement dinghy for Cat2Fold and as an easier to deploy, more appropriate sized vessel for tooling around on our local, high alpine lakes. My old dinghy was fat, slow, leaky, non-sailing, motor dependent and was sporting an intensive network of patches that became necessary when a family of mice decided to make a new home within the folds of the then brand new dinghy and decided that they really enjoyed chewing on the heavy duty, PVC covered fabric…
I committed to the idea of a new dinghy this year while sailing North, back to San Carlos, to put C2F to bed for another season of work. The idea was always on my mind, but finally, while in La Paz, I did it. On the morning VHF net, I heard some people looking for an outboard for their dinghy, and they were wanting the exact same size that I had been lugging around all over Mexico without barely ever using it. Even while taking guests out sailing, I never used the outboard, choosing instead to anchor close to the beach, then row the hydrodynamic equivalent of a refrigerator to shore and back without needing to lift the heavy outboard on and off the stern of Cat2Fold. I tried to sell my inflatable along with the outboard as a package deal but, only the outboard was required. A deal was made. I rowed the big, fat, motor-less pig back to C2F with nearly as much cash in my pocket as what I paid for the motor three years previous. I still didn’t know what I was going to replace the boat with, but I knew I wanted to be able to sail the damn thing! Researching sailing dinghies online, I looked at home built row/sail boat dinghy’s. I looked at Portabote, folding dinghy’s. I looked at nesting dinghy’s. And finally, I looked at inflatable sailing catamarans.
Of all the inflatable sailing catamarans available on the market today, it seems all of them (at least all the REAL sailing crafts and not inflatable toys like the SeaEagle) are manufactured and distributed throughout Europe. I imagine the demand for a good quality sailing boat that can come apart and fit under your bed is partly supplied by the lack of space available to park a full size, non folding boat and trailer in the densely populated coastal cities of Europe. After looking at HappyCat, SmartCat, Ducky, and Minicat, with only small details separating one from the other,  I had decided that the HappyCat looked to be the ticket. With virtually no inventory, new or used, to be found here in the USA, of ANY of the aforementioned brands, I kept patiently doing my homework.
Then, I noticed on the MiniCat’s webpage, that Demo units were available at discount prices. They were not even used Demo’s! They had only been set up for display at boat shows! After a bit of haggling, and then nearly a month of shipping time, my new MiniCat 420 Evoque showed up in the outskirts of Felt, Idaho.
I wasted no time in familiarizing myself with this beautiful craft by opening her up, and assembling her on my front lawn! A few days later, the kids and I, along with some other friends, spent the weekend sailing, camping, paddle boarding and playing on Palisades Lake. The boat was a hit! Even with basically no wind, she ghosts right along, patiently waiting for a shift in our typically swirly, gusty, mountain lake winds.
Speaking of the typical mountain lake winds, I’ve since had her out several other times. I’ve spent hours ghosting along in delicately light winds. I’ve had to finish some trips using my SUP paddle to drive the boat whilst developing the technique of steering with my foot on the tiller extension, and found myself cruising along quite smartly!
I’ve also now had some hull flying, getting soaked, sphincter clamping, sessions where one messed up tack would have the boat upside down faster than you can say Minicat! Luckily, so far I’ve stated upright…well, if you don’t count the time I sailed the cat up on the beach, and then had a gust come lay her on her side (on the beach).
I’m anxious to bring along my handheld GPS and get an idea of speeds and tacking angles. It happens to be packed in the “ditch kit” bag aboard Cat2Fold right now, and I haven’t dealt with unpacking it.
As a tender for Cat2Fold, the Minicat 420 should prove a capable beast of burden. With a load carrying capacity of 960 lbs (total crew, engine, gear, etc…) she should be more than capable of ferrying any load I need to get to and fro C2F. I don’t imagine I’ll set up the sailing rig very often, unless of course I’m hanging out in one anchorage for a long time, or if my kids are sailing with me, but with included motor mount, and/or my recent discovery of using the 6.5′ x 14′ platform as a fairly efficient “paddle barge”, getting from Cat2Fold to shore and back should prove to be a joy.
Although I really need to focus on work and making some money if I am to have any hope of making it back down south next winter, I know that on any given weekend throughout the summer, you will find the Charette’s sailing at one of our local lakes aboard the hot, practical, fun, and downright sexy MiniCat 420!!!

Boat Work

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Cat2Fold and I have been back in Idaho for a little over a month now. With my job happening in fits and spurts, I’m glad I decided to bring her home so I can attend to some necessary maintenance. First on the list was to get my disabled outboard motor running again. Pulling both motors off the boat and bringing them into my shop so I could trade parts from the good motor to the bad motor, seemed like the perfect way to diagnose the problem. After pulling the flywheels off, I pretty much could see the problem right away… the coils that create a charge were completely corroded. Switching the good coils over confirmed my theory.

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The crippled motor now had spark! After reassembling the motor, hooking up some fuel, and setting up a big barrel of water to run the motors in (outboards need water to run in), it started right up! But…it ran like shit! And there was no coolant squirting out of the telltale. So, I took the lower unit off that motor to find my impeller (the water pump fan thingy) in about 8 pieces! Luckily, I had an “old” one laying around that looked new! I install the impeller, reinstalled the lower unit, and after a bit of help getting it primed, there was now water being pumped through the motor correctly, but it still ran like crap!!! I was starting to worry that there was more wrong with this poor power plant than was worth fixing! I pulled the carb, cleaned everything as thoroughly as possible, and after reinstalling…Voila!!! A perfectly running Yamaha 9.9 outboard! I also removed the tiller control handles (which were just unnecessary bulk and weight), adjusted the shift linkage, because it was jumping out of reverse all winter, changed the lower unit seals, and the gear and engine oils. I also rebuilt the retractable motor mounts that had become awfully loose over time.

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These pics show how I removed the lower unit seals with screws and a hammer without having to completely disassemble the drive gears.

Next up was to lower the masts to the ground and de-rig them in preparation for a paint job.

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More importantly than painting the masts, I needed to strengthen up my rudder casings. Cat2Fold is equipped with transom hung, kick-up rudders. The case is attached to the transom of the boat, and then the rudder sits inside this case attached only at its pivot. The cases on Cat2Fold were both getting a bit loose and cracked in spots, and they also sat too low in the water where the actual case was below the water line. My thinking tells me this is not good. Probably in part because we are a bit on the heavy side while cruising for 6 months. Anyway, after looking closely at things, I have decided to flip the case, re-drill and seriously beef up the pivot hole/pin, and also incredibly strengthen up the case itself with a horizontal carbon fiber rib added for stiffness and to act as a strong mechanical steering stop. Flipping it will give the clearance needed to get the case above the water line, and overall the stronger, rebuilt cases should feel better and help ME feel better while 100’s of miles offshore.

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Before starting to work with carbon fiber directly on C2F for my very first time, I decided it would be prudent to practice on something else first. I’ve heard carbon can be tough to properly wet out because it doesn’t acquire a “wet” look like fiberglass does. Anyway with these thoughts leading the way, I decided to fix up a small travel guitar that I had broken repeatedly in the past. I took off the neck of the guitar and covered the entire body with carbon fiber. It was a lot of fun, and now the Tacoma Papoose, carbon edition has been (re)born.

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Cat2Fold is also getting a lot of touch ups. Hardware removed. Hardware added. Holes plugged, sanded, and painted. Broken lights replaced. Older, rusty bolts replaced. Most of the stuff I’ve been working on this past month has been the tedious-but-not-so-expensive stuff. I still need new sails. I’m hoping I can save up enough money to buy a sewing machine, cloth and the materials to build soft wingsails for her. I’ve dreamt about it for too long now. Some sort of wingsail is most definitely in our future. Oh yeah, I also need to save enough money to be able to go use her again…

I here tell if you put your ear to the spar of a land locked boat, not only the ocean can be heard, but the mesmerizing thump of mexican ooom-pa-pa beach music… So when you see me with a PBR con limon and my head stuffed way up inside my mast hole, foot tapping to the beat…you’ll no why.

It seems weird. But, I really LOVE working on C2F. I get nearly as much pleasure out of this kind of stuff as the actual sailing and adventuring in warm, tropical locations wearing nothing but a smile, ocean waves crashing nearby, surfing, freedom, wildness…well, OK…maybe not quite as much… 😉