Iíd had a couple of dry set ups in the garden and had the outboard running for a few minutes in a bin full of water, but now this was not only the Excel SD360ís maiden voyage but it was my first time in a SIB.
I have to be honest a few nerves were starting to creep in when I turned into the car park at Glenridding. But the boating Gods must have seen me and were being kind, a car parking space right next to the slipway with a nice green piece of land next to it.
The set up couldnít have gone smoother, faster maybe, but I was double checking everything. I think the dry runs in the garden helped a lot.
The packed SD360 was lifted out of the back of the truck, itís very heavy. I can just about manage on my own, but I wouldnít want to carry it far. I inflated it using the 12v Sevylor pump, which I found to be efficient and reasonably quick. I did notice that the pump stopped at the set pressure but the pressure then dropped a little, switching it back on again brought the pressure to the exact setting. When the SIB was fully inflated I fixed and put down the C-TUG transom wheels, which are light but appear to be robust. Fuel tank, anchor, ropes, extra fuel, life jackets etc into the SIB. Now for the part I was least looking forward to, fitting the 45kg outboard.
Again, practising in the garden really paid off. Awkward, cumbersome, heavy and doesnít go where you want it to go first or second time I eventually got the outboard clamped and tethered to the transom and connected the fuel line. Should I have opted for the 9.8HP OB which is much lighter? Maybe, but Iíd only know in a few days time.
Life jacket on, lift up the bow, wheel it down the slip and into Ullswater, and yes ďitís got wetĒ!
Relief must have been written all over my face. Setting up for real with 20 Ė 25 onlookers for the first time isnít something I particularly wish to experience again.
Out into slightly deeper water, I lifted the transom wheels, wife and dog aboard, primed the fuel and after 3 pulls started the outboard. Maiden voyage has started, Glenridding to Pooley Bridge Ė 1st hour no more than 2000 rpm, next hour no more than 3000 rpm, return journey no more than a couple of minutes at full throttle in every 15 mins or so Ė I agree steady and sedate, but I was very happy. The primary purpose of the first day was to get use to the SIB and to run the outboard in. The AV plate was undoubtedly too low, but that could wait until day two.
The SD360 performed better than my expectations on the first day. Stable, solid, fairly responsive, roomy and surprisingly comfortable, even the dog started to enjoy it! Hopefully I would be as pleased on subsequent days.
Back at the Glenridding slipway, it was much quieter which was ideal for me. OB stopped, coasted close to the shore, lifted the OB and jumped out. Transom wheels down and trundled the SIB to the truck. Unloaded everything including the OB into the back of the truck, which is much easier to take off and get it back into the truck than it was to take out and fit to the transom.
AS we were staying for the week and relatively close by, I had already decided to put the SIB on the roof of the truck. Between me and my better half we managed quite comfortably to get it onto the roof. After strapping the SIB to the truck we went for a celebratory pint.
What a great 1st day. I knew Iíd enjoy it, but I didnít know Iíd enjoy it so much!
Iíll post a review of the SD360 and the Mercury 15HP in a few days time.