Build a Boat for Deep Sea Fishing

The adaptable Galloping Gerty is a small boat that allows fishermen the convenience of shoreline fishing with deep-sea results.

| March/April 1982

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Although living in Goteborg, Sweden puts me some 5,000 nautical miles from MOTHER EARTH NEWS' home, my enthusiasm for the many crafts and alternative energy projects featured in her pages isn't dampened in the slightest by that distance. And, because I'm sure there are others who have the same fascination with "things that work" that I have, I thought I'd share the design for a fishing machine that I recently built and tested here in the Kattegat strait.

In all honesty, I can't say I came up with the idea for "Galloping Gerty" myself. She was (as far as I've been able to discover) conceived in New Zealand, where her job is to carry fishing lines hundreds of yards out into the relatively shallow water surrounding much of the island shoreline there with the purpose of snagging the strapping bottom feeders that lurk in the normally unfished regions. I did, however, make some modifications to the basic design that have allowed me to use Gerty at a local rocky beach. I also set up my own arrangement for fastening the hook leaders and incorporated a small snap-clip on the old girl's frame to enable her to drag my regular surf-fishing line out farther than I could ever hope to cast, even with waders.

Making a Deep-Sea Fishing Boat

The theory behind the machine's operation is really quite simple: The frame is merely an underwater sled — with both its shore and sea ends turned upward — to which a flat, bottom-pivoting sail is attached. This centrally placed wing has stops that allow it to move only between a full upright position and one about 30 degrees above horizontal. The device's main line is connected — through an eye on the frame's shore end — to the top of the sail. Outriggers, extending from the sled's sea end, are equipped with rings to which leaders can be fastened.

When the contraption is placed in the surf (with 100 or more yards of strong 1/8-inch line attached to a reel planted firmly on shore), the action of the receding waves pushes the sail to the upright position and skids Gerty out to sea along the sloping ocean floor. Then, when she reaches the end of her rope, the tightening line draws the sail down against the frame, and the water currents lose their effect because there's nothing to push against. Later, when it's time to reel the sled in, the slight angle of the sail in its closed position (which was one of my contributions to the design) is enough to lift Gerty and her catch to the water's surface, where both the frame and the fish are safe from rocks and other snags that might cause problems during the return trip.

Because I enjoy tinkering, building my own Galloping Gerty was almost as much fun as using her has been . . . especially because most of the parts were salvaged from scrap. For example, the sled's frame is just a 6-foot length of electrical conduit bent to the occasion and locked into a loop with another piece of larger-diameter tubing. The sail started life as a Volvo door panel. Everything else — with the exception of the fishing tackle, the 1/8-inch main line, and some of the less common hardware items — can be made from garden-variety junk. 

Of course, there's no need to think that my way is the only way. Feel free to use any formable material for the frame (as long as it's fairly strong and doesn't float) and any kind of plate for the sail. In fact, about the only thing to bear in mind in choosing components is the nature of Gert's environment. Salt water attacks both aluminum alloy and steel, so it'd be best to take measures to preserve either of those metals, perhaps by roughing up their surfaces slightly and applying a coat of fiberglass resin. If you plan to fish a freshwater lake, however (which is entirely possible so long as it's large enough to sustain sizable waves and has an appropriately sloping underwater "beach"), regular paint should serve to protect any ferrous parts.

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