‘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)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)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

Just Posted

The public will start to weigh in next month on the possible future uses of Oak Bay Lodge. In the meantime, a request to the province by the City of Victoria to intervene and allow use of at least a portion of the closed facility as temporary shelter space awaits an answer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay Lodge redevelopment planning continues, request for temporary use awaits answer

Public consultation on future of CRD-owned site begins next month

Volunteer Anette Akouri is part of a vital service that connects clients to help them be less vulernable. (Saanich Volunteer Services Society)
Saanich volunteers up the friendship calls, grocery deliveries during pandemic

Saanich Volunteer Services Society helping vulnerable residents stay happy, healthy

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Four new COVID-19 cases added to Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak

Inital round of patient testing is complete, staff testing continues

A rendering of Victoria Wonderland, a drive-thru immersive holiday experience that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Transcend Victoria)
Victoria Wonderland drive-thru show cancelled due to COVID-19

Organizers hope to host a similar event, if restrictions allow, in the new year

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read