Dr van Groningen has lived in Port Douglas permanently for two years, spending almost one of them and close to $150,000 building the craft (including ski, tender, and floating dock), with help from Port Douglas Engineering, SB Canvas, Port Paint and Panel and On The Spot Signs.
It was the death of his youngest daughter Kate, aged 24, in a car accident last year that inspired the project and journey’s destination.
“Since I live in Port by myself, I needed a project to take my mind off things, particularly at night,” he explained.
“I wanted to create a craft that I could explore coastal areas not accessible by traditional boats, hence the jet ski as my base platform. And I wanted to get away and be a ‘castaway’ for a while, hence the name,” referring to the Tom Hanks movie Castaway in which a Wilson volleyball became Hanks’ character’s best friend while marooned on a deserted island.
“Kate and I (and my other daughter Jessica, aged 30), used to live in Indonesia, and the remote islands are just out of this world; it seemed an appropriate destination.”
Wilson’s features include:
- Two 3.5 metre NACRA racing catamaran outriggers
- An integrated alloy superstructure, including cabin, roof, hammock, and surfboard rack.
- A 300hp supercharged engine, capable of 60 knots, or 120km/hour.
- Two chart plotters, a fish finder, radar, VHF, stereo, three sonars, INMARSAT satellite phone and Internet, PFM Blue fuel management, and day and night vision.
- A 3.3 metre long Duck 330 tender, featuring a watermaker and shark deterrent system.
Before Wilson, Dr van Groningen said his jet ski experience was limited to a three hour trip with Kate around Magnetic Island on a hired ski.
Despite that, he said his “only concerns are sufficient fuel available at the various pre-arranged fuel-drop stops along the way.”
Mr Van Groningen and Wilson will be featured in a Discovery Channel/National Geographic documentary, ‘The Explorers’, to be aired in 2014.