How to pimp your tinnie for under $500

Putting a little effort into your boat can make a world of difference, says Kevin Smith. He did up his tinnie, and very cheaply at that.

Kevin Smith spent just half a grand on pimping his tinnie, a 4.2m TABS with standard layout.

Unfortunately many of us don’t have the luxury of limitless funds when it comes to boats or cars, so we have to start at the bottom. Well, this is Australia, and owning a boat is pretty much on all of our agendas, or at some stage should be.

Getting into the marine scene is usually a case of starting on as tight a budget as possible with a new or (more often) used tinnie. These little boats are great to start off with but, as time goes on, the passion can start to fade and you dream of something better.

PIMP MY TINNIE

Take my own tinnie: a 4.2m TABS with a standard layout comprising an open deck area and bench seats. These were as silver and shiny as they come and after running the boat for two months the glare off the aluminium was really annoying me. Regardless of how much sun-block I applied, I always came away from the boat feeling like a walking melanoma. Drastic action was called for.

Secondly, trying to stand and cast lures in rough conditions, or when the deck area was wet, was a nightmare. My son and I were quite tired of pulling moves like Michael Jackson or John Travolta just to keep our balance, so improvements were needed there too.

 

GETTING STARTED

When modifying a small boat like my TABS the best plan is to draw up a basic design or layout that matches your style of fishing. In my case that plan included levelling out the midships between the two bench seats by putting a deck in — transforming the bow section into a casting deck and stowage hatch — and putting in some reasonably comfortable seats, followed by carpeting the hull and gunwales.

It sounds simple enough, and the design part was, but doing it on a budget was a different story, mainly because I wanted to use materials like genuine marine ply and marine-grade carpet.

The truth is that if you can’t afford the best materials, you have to settle for something you can afford, which means shopping around for the best deals. Bunnings Warehouse had most of what I needed, and at a reasonable price, including carpeting, plywood, glue, solvent, and screws/rivets. The rest I could get from local chandleries.

Tools for the job included a jigsaw for cutting the ply, an angle grinder with a sanding pad and disc for shaping, a cordless drill, a paint brush, a Stanley knife, a decent straight edge, and chalk to mark the carpet for cutting. The missus assisted with passing the tools, and a few evenings were set aside to work on it.

 

MEASURING UP

Measuring it up: First, I measured the deck area and front casting area. On a standard 4.2m tinnie with bench seats, it’s best to measure the deck area between the two seats, leaving a couple of millimetres spare for the carpet.

The ply: If you’re on a budget you can use standard structural ply in 19-22mm to avoid having to add major cross beams for strength. Standard sizes (1200mm wide) fit in just fine from gunwale to gunwale.

The template: With a curved bow casting deck, I found the best strategy was to cut a template out of cardboard first, draw it out on the ply and then cut it, leaving some extra to sand back. This way I could shape it more precisely with a sander or, if you’ve got one, a sanding pad on an angle grinder.

The carpet: Once the decks are cut it’s a matter of measuring the carpet and cutting and gluing it onto the decking. I wrapped the carpet around the ply, covering the underside completely, or at least a portion of it.

No flare zone: To eliminate glare from the gunwales you can either go the painting route, which costs heaps, or — as I did — you can carpet the gunwales right to the top. Marine carpeting is best, but if you can’t afford it, go with whatever outdoor carpeting is on special. Note that this stuff doesn’t last as long and the standard weave loves the hooks on lures.

Carpeting the full gunwales eliminates glare, reduces noise and is softer on gear. Prep work includes proper cleaning of all surfaces, measuring each panel, and cutting the carpet to size to fit snugly into the gaps. Standard chalk is good for marking the carpet for cutting, and again, go slightly oversize so you can cut back with a Stanley blade if need be. There, job done!

 

TINNIE TIPS

• Make it easier on yourself.

• Work out the required carpeting area in square metres

• Measure deck areas and try to get the closest standard pieces to fit

• Trim rough carpeting off and lightly singe the edges to avoid laddering

• If you drill holes into carpet, singe the hole first with a hot drill

 

DIY COST

• Standard ply decking: $59

• Standard carpeting: $90 (from a hardware store)

• Glue: $50

• Two seats: $160 (from a chandlery)

• Two seat brackets: $60 (from a chandlery)

• Foam for benches: $12 (from a sports store)

• Pop rivets/aluminium angle iron: $50

• Total approximate cost on budget with a few extras: $500

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