Running with the Big Cats

| April 07, 2005

Randy Linebach, who builds really big boats – over 50-feet long – for a living, owns and drives the 24 Airborne/Big Thunder Super Cat. He also drives a Kenworth T600 that he bought from Ryder, where it had been in the business of hauling furniture.

“We used to haul the boat with a small truck with duallies, but it really wasn’t big enough. I’ll tell you this, driving the big truck is still a lot more relaxing that driving that boat at 140 miles an hour,” he says, laughing.

So why drive the boat? “It’s the adrenaline. I think that’s why we all do it. But it beats you up pretty good out there. Get some rough water, and you come ashore black and blue. The Kenworth, on the other hand, leaves you feeling really fresh even after a 700-mile run,” says Linebach.

Glen Dalton from Santa Barbara, Calif., pulls the 45-foot Super Cat No. 139, the How Sweet It Is, which also sits on a tilt trailer. “When you look in your side mirror and pretty much all you see is road, it’s a lot easier to drive that when you have the boat sitting flat on a trailer. And there’s a lot less worry that the side of the boat will get hit.”

John Meiser drives the Kenworth T600 that hauls the No. 31 Page Racing boat Patriot, and when a turbine needs to be changed the day before the Marathon race, he disappears into the engine wells and is part of the mechanical crew. When the boat is ready for testing, he drives the Kenworth to the 33rd Street dock and waits in line.

“This is slow, and it’s really tight for a big truck. A lot of races you just drive under the crane and when the boat is lifted off, you can drive away. But today it’s wait, wait, and the crowded little dock requires some tight maneuvering and waiting while one boat goes in and its truck moves away.

“Sometimes I think a smaller truck would make things easier. But with this one, while we wait we’ve got an air-conditioned sleeper and an air-conditioned workshop.”

The complete package. Wes Gilmore and the Dirty Duck, loaded and ready to roll.

The Disappearing Duck
A hydraulically tilting trailer narrows a wide boatload

Watch Wes Gilmore in oncoming freeway traffic, and you’d think his Freightliner was hauling nothing more than a regular load. Maybe a flatbed or a van. Even a reefer. But few suspect there is an offshore racing powerboat in tow behind the tractor. The Dirty Duck, a Super Cat Light entry in the APBA offshore racing series, is 10 feet 6 inches wide, 39 feet long, powered by two 525 horsepower Mercury engines and weighs in at 8,000 pounds, but you can’t see her as the Freightliner drives towards you.

“She’s 10’6″ until we tilt her. Then she’s 8’6″,” says Gilmore.” Driving with the boat tilted really isn’t very difficult. You can’t see the boat, but that’s not really a problem. I’ve had truckers ask me if the wind affects the boat when it’s up and tilted, but it really doesn’t affect the handling unless it’s a really strong wind, and we can wait those out.”

Fewer onlookers suspect that the Freightliner is not even a tractor – it’s officially a recreational vehicle.

“We’re not a wide load, and we’re not over height, so we can move about a lot more freely and without all those permits. And when someone stops us in an official capacity, they’re usually surprised to find we are registered as a recreational vehicle, and we can drive a lot of places and times commercial tractors and trailers can’t. We’ve got a generator and everything else you need to be an RV. And why not? That’s what we are; this isn’t a trucking business, this is recreational adventure.”

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