Latest News

Tiktok: The Lost Speed Machine

Tiktok: The Lost Speed Machine

Around seven years ago, while purchasing a diesel motor off a chap, called Charles Dembitzer, out near Beaudesert, I just happened to catch a glimpse, through Charles’ garage back door, what looked like ‘The Star Ship Enterprise’ from Star Trek. Immediately, I felt the excitement of something special. This is when I found TikTok.

Over many years, the sister ships, Free Spirit and Blithe Spirit, made a big impact on the Australian multihull racing scene winning many races, while their other sister ship TikTok was sailed around the world by Charles.

TikTok was never officially weighed for racing. But with a 1.8m bridge deck shorter than its sister ships, having no rear double sleeping cabins, and very spartan interior fittings, it was easy to tell that TikTok had far less weight than Free Spirit’s original 3500 kg launch weight.

As soon as TikTok was built, it took off to sail the world. Shortly after Charles departed, the builder Geoff Cruze received a call from Charles asking, “How the heck can I slow the boat down?” It was obvious that TikTok was a real handful, as it was clocking in the high 20’s with ease. Geoff responded, “Reef in the main and put up a small storm jib,” to which Charles replied, “I’ve already done that!”

Ten years into the world cruise, Charles unfortunately lost the rig overboard while sailing overseas. TikTok was then weighed for transport (2200 kg minus mast, rig and sails), then transported to Sydney by ship where it was refitted with a new mast and sails. It was then sailed back to Queensland where it was de-rigged and transported inland near Beaudesert. Twelve years later, I found TikTok in Charles’ backyard in need of a rebuild.

My boat-building experience began from having done maintenance and repairs on many of my own boats. I also have experience in manufacturing my own sailboards and surf skis in foam and epoxy, which is not much different than the materials used on my boat. Taking on TikTok’s re-build was an exciting and new challenge. The only difference between an expert and a novice is information and hands-on experience, so I was up to the challenge.

I wanted to restore a sailing catamaran after I actually found TikTok. For many years, I knew of her existence and heritage. From there, I wanted to own her. It then became the project of my life. After purchase, I quickly learned new skills by asking many people in the boat building industry, and, of course, “Mr Google”.

The difference between the old TikTok and the new is quite a lot. Looking at photos of how Super Shockwave Bridgedeck 40s (BD40s) sailed, I noticed what I believed to be a very slight disadvantage in the design – the tendency to sail nose-down because of the bulbous bows robbing the design of some potential speed. So I set about adding two metres to its length. First, I added a one-metre rear sugar scoops. I am currently modernising the bows by making one-metre reverse bows and adding around 320 litres of frontal buoyancy. What this will do is keep the boat sailing level, and the bows will be able to cut through the swell and never dig down.

The new features I am building into the design include the new self designed electric DC propulsion system, which was financed from rebuilding and selling of the diesel engine. I am also building a sizable solar hard top over the cockpit using lightweight flexible panels. Batteries will be the new-style linkable lithium with built-in battery monitoring system (BMS). The new toilet will be a composting one. The grey water will be pumped to a holding tank then again pumped to a self-designed evaporation system; meaning, there will be no discharge into the ocean. All through-holes in the hull have been filled, except for one for the water maker.

The most important aspects of the project are with significant changes. The boat will now be far easier to board from the rear via a dingy. We will have swim ladders built in. There is also added safety by keeping the bows up, and adding a tiny bit of speed in the process. There is no fuel required, and it will be fully self-sufficient. By refining its original design and keeping the weight down, with zero impact to the environment, TikTok will hopefully surpass today’s modern designs. For a 20+year-old catamaran, TikTok’s power-to-weight ratio is exceptional even by today’s standards. It still has the ability to out-sail many modern non-foiled boats out there.

The maths of the build was quite simple. The cost to build a similar boat today would not give you much change out of a million dollars. And because I know how to perform most aspects of the build myself, it has saved me money. To save a boat of this calibre at a far better cost than to build a new boat or to buy a ready-to-go second-hand boat, became an easy choice. My budget has blown out a fair bit, but that is due to my own doing because of the new changes I have decided to build into it. Moreover, everything, apart from hull, mast and sails, is brand new. What is the value of this boat when finished? Well, I don’t really know, but I know my smile will be huge when I overtake some of the new expensive boats. My budget is small, but my ability to take on the job is huge!

The performance I expect from TikTok will not change much from the original design. The original owner clocked a top speed of 35 knots, so I am hoping to out-do Charles’ top speed record – and 36 knots will do! Ha Ha! Realistically, these boats have no issues sailing in the high 20-knot mark when the winds are up and the handling is very good.

The most rewarding aspects of the build have been the new friendships made and the help and support I have been given. I was also paid a visit by the original builders, which confirmed my new changes are a good choice so that was a fantastic sign. They confirmed why TikTok is so much lighter than its sister ships, and claimed it will be a rocket on the water. Only time will tell.

Rebuilding work in the Jacobs Well area has been fantastic. Most things required for the build are within an hour’s drive from either direction from the Gold Coast or Brisbane. The only thing that is difficult is watching everyone sail past while I am rebuilding. An important aspect of the project that was a challenge had been to find a great boatyard with supportive yard management; it is the key to a stress-free build. I am glad to say I have now found it at the old Sea Horse Inn boatyard in Steiglitz.

The progress so far has been slow but I am a one-man-show ‘jack-of-all-trades’ so there is a lot going on behind the scenes away from the yard; one has to work to generate income to live and keep spending on TikTok. The most important lesson when building a boat is to always count in the hidden costs. If you believe it will take one month to finish, then multiply that by three. One boat dollar equals one thousand normal dollars.

Eventually TikTok will take my beautiful partner, Alisen, and I to our sailing adventures – up and down the Australian coastline. Along the way, we intend to have some fun by entering some multihull races so that we hopefully can ‘ruffle up’ some of the expensive boats.

The best boats to rebuild are those that you truly love, as second best will never hold your full attention. Never rebuild to make a profit, although a profit is a bonus, so make sure you work smart. If you can build or rebuild in your own garage, that would be ideal; but be respectful to your neighbours and the environment. As for choice of material, that does not really matter too much; but quality of work does. That is what makes the difference between a good boat and a bad one.


By Fred Meeuwssen