Custom Catamaran Loaded with PS Picks

Posted by Ann Key at 10:40AM - Comments: (0)

HyTech Marine
HyTech Marine

Ice Wars II, a custom Fastwater 52, in Sarasota, Fla.

It's very rare that a story lands right in our lap. We normally have to research and find new products, take them to the test bench, beat the living hell out of them, and then report to our faithful readers on what works and what doesn't. It's not a random process, by any means, and it takes a lot of time to think it through and get it done.

Then along comes boat owner Gary Onik and project manager Pat Reischmann, formerly of Manta Catamarans, who have created a living laboratory of what we've been talking about—and believing in—for a very long time.


Gary and his son, Alan, are about to embark on a circumnavigation aboard a hell-for-stout, custom Fastwater 52 sailing catamaran finessed into being by Pat, president of Hy-Tech Marine Inc. Ice Wars II, an expedition cruising cat, is loaded with a bevy of Practical Sailor-endorsed gear and maintenance products, and we had the pleasure of touring the boat over the weekend while it was docked in our homewaters of Sarasota Bay, Fla.


Before we get into all the gadgets and gear that the team carefully selected to get the Oniks around the world, a little background is in order. Gary Onik is a physician who invented a way-cool cryogenic procedure that treats cancerous tumors in the liver and prostate. (Hence the boat's name, Ice Wars II.) He's also a passionate sailor, an RYA Yachtmaster, and a technologist with several ABYC certifications. Teamed with Pat, who has sent many Manta owners off on successful trans-ocean voyages, the duo is a staggering combination of guts, brains, experience, and creativity—and it's all embodied in Ice Wars II.


Our invitation to check out the boat was prefaced with the explanation that Ice Wars is a Practical Sailor posterchild of sorts, outfitted with electronics, hardware, and other gear that has survived PS testing and garnered our recommendation. How could we turn down an invitation like that? Our dockside tour did not disappoint.


Cool Stuff on Ice Wars

A vintage jukebox repurposed as a storage cabinet.

We were impressed with Pat and Gary's creative use of weight-saving and space-saving materials. Beyond the unique construction features, there also were little touches like using sealed Formica cut into tiles for the shower walls; the end result resembled stone but at a fraction of the weight. Clear floor panels in the heads serve as inspection ports for the bilges, which can be lit with installed LED lights to make bilge checks quick and easy. Another favorite: Gary's prized original Wurlitzer jukebox, the focal point of the saloon, was gutted to reduce weight and turned into a liquor/storage cabinet that keeps the inverter and library out of sight but easily accessible.


Ice Wars II has many other design elements that rated high on the “cool” factor—too many to list here—so we suggest checking out the Hy-Tech Marine website or keeping an eye out for the boat as it makes its around-the-world trip.


The Nitty-gritty

Testers and tinkerers themselves, Pat and Gary wanted to be sure Ice Wars II was loaded with tried-and-proven products, and they turned to PS to find out what those were. (Is there any better compliment for us?)


So what PS-tested gear made the cut for the voyaging boat's must-have list?


There's Epaint antifouling on the aluminum boat's bottom, and according to Pat, the coating is living up to its PS-recommended reputation. Two Spade anchors, set on all-chain rodes, are the heart of the ground tackle setup, which also includes an impressive anchor locker with washdown showers for the gear. And a Spectra Watermaker keeps the boat's freshwater system flowing. Ice Wars' deck hardware runs the gamut as far as branding, but we did note that Harken blocks and Spinlock jam cleats were used for sail handling.


Gary installed most of the boat's electronics himself—quite the feat when you consider the Starship Enterprise-grandeur of the electronics panel. The system includes redundant fixed Icom VHF radios and an Interphase Forward-looking Sonar.


Ice Wars even has a Walker Bay rigid dinghy with an inflatable collar, a Quickline Flat Rope and Reel, and Caframo Sirocco fans that cool off every cabin, the cockpit, and the saloon.

An AirHead composting toilet in the laundry room.


Our favorite PS pick aboard Ice Wars? Serving as a backup to the two electric, freshwater-flush Tecma heads (one with a hot/cold bidet) is an AirHead composting toilet hidden in a cabinet in the laundry “room.” (Yes, on a 52-foot cat, you can have a laundry room.) It's been nearly 10 years since we looked at composting heads (which PS staff tested AT the office...we'll spare you the details), but you can find more recent tests of electric-flush toilets like Ice Wars' Tecma heads in the February and March 2011 issues.


We've asked Gary to keep us posted on how the gear holds up to a circumnavigation, so stay tuned for updates as Ice Wars II sets out to conquer the world.

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