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Project: Former Stern-Drive Skater Raceboat Shines With Outboard Power

A little more than a year ago, Don and Amanda Gardner of Cape Coral, Fla., embarked on an ambitious project, to convert a former stern-drive Super Cat Light-class Skater 368 offshore raceboat to an outboard engine-powered pleasure boat. They completed the project just in time for the mid-October Roar Offshore Poker Run in Fort Myers Beach, but opted to leave it at home for the Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run the following month.

Once a Super Cat Light-class raceboat with stern-drive engine power, Don and Amanda Gardner’s Skater 368 proved ideal for all four events they entered last weekend in Southwest Florida. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

But last week, they gave the former canopied catamaran, now an open-cockpit four-seat beauty, a workout in four consecutive Southwest Florida events that finished with Sunday’s Fort Myers Offshore Fun Run to Punta Gorda.

And the 36-footer was everything they wanted it to be, starting with simply being more boat in the water than their former 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran.

With twin 465-hp outboard engines on its transom, the 36-footer runs a respectable 118 mph and delivers a solid ride in rough water.

“We love it, and we are already talking about what a good move it was to go with a bigger boat,” said Don Gardner. “It was pretty rough out there on Sunday, and we had no trouble with the conditions.”

Powered by twin 465-hp, long out-of-warranty “flashed” Mercury Racing 350 outboard engines, the catamaran tops out at 118 mph. That’s a significant dip from the 127-mph top speed of the Gardner’s since-sold 32-foot Doug Wright cat, but that doesn’t concern them in the least.

Like the last few catamarans the Gardners have owned, the Skater 368 is a four-seater.

“For what we did this weekend, with all the big boats in the water and the conditions we had, it was perfect,” said Don Gardner. “It’s drives more like an inboard board, like Chris Ryder’s Skater 368. It turns flat and predictably.

Gardner, an aerospace engineer familiar with complicated projects, said the most challenging aspect of re-rigging the boat with outboards was simply making sure he had everything he needed.

“You think you have all the parts you need ordered, and then you discover, ‘No, I forgot this or that,'” he said, then chuckled. “The amount of detail that goes into rigging a boat like this—it’s a lot.”

The only part of the project Gardner outsourced was interior and new windshield fabrication. “I did everything—fiberglass, paint, body work and rigging—myself,”

Next up for Gardners is the Fort Myers Offshore Hyatt House-Naples Fun Run. (Amanda Gardner is a Fort Myers Offshore board of directors member. In the meantime, their outboard-powered Skater 368 won’t sit idle when the couple is free.

Said Don Gardner, “We’re going to use it every weekend we can.”

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