Now celebrating 20 years of building rugged, unsinkable aluminium pontoon boats, Stabi-Craft has evolved into a company that sets and continues to evolve world standards in rigid buoyancy boat design and construction. The humble beginning from the first, small fishing boat has evolved into a range that now includes 18 standard models. It also has a custom-build facility that produces special versions, such as a 14m model for the dolphin encounter fleet in Kaikoura.
Unsinkability is the basic feature of all Stabi-Crafts. Right from the first model in 1987, the boats have featured sealed pontoons built into the gunwales, with separate water-tight compartments providing ample reserve buoyancy even if one is punctured. Not only do the pontoons provide buoyancy at rest, they also provide a cushion under each side of the boat at speed, with a superior ability to handle rough water.
The requirements for a “magazine boat” are slightly different to the usual boat user. While fishing is definitely high on the list of intended uses, it is primarily intended as a platform for photographing other boats and water activities. For this we need a stable vessel, both at rest and at speed.
It needs sufficient headroom for standing upright, large windows with unimpeded views, and a large, protected cockpit where we can take photos while sheltered from the elements. And finally, as the boat is used by a range of staff members with different skill levels, a hull tough enough to withstand the occasional bump and scrape was essential.
Stabi-Craft’s 589 Super Cab fulfilled all our needs. Apart from being a solid workhorse, it is sufficiently “smart” enough for use on corporate trips, with ample space. Plenty of storage space plus no-nonsense aluminium mean it’s easy to maintain and keep clean. We specified a few options to the standard boat to suit our particular needs.
The boat was supplied with a Yamaha 150hp four-stroke engine. This is at the upper end of the recommended power range for this model, but it remains economical.
A standard 150lt underfloor fuel tank offers an extensive range, and trips from Auckland to Great Barrier Island and back on one tank are easy.
The cockpit of the boat is well laid out. The battery is accessed through a hatch on the starboard side of the transom. It is stored on a dedicated shelf, keeping it well above any water or muck that may splash around the deck.
We selected the livebait tank option, with a viewing window also installed into the transom just off-centre on the port side. This is plumbed in with a pump for filling and circulating clean water and overflows out the stern of the boat. A secondary inlet enables the tank to be refreshed from a through-hull scoop while the boat is underway, extending the pump life and reducing battery drain.
On the port side the transom has a removable door to give walkthrough access to the boarding platform. The door stores in a handy slot on the starboard side when not in use. The boarding platform is accessible across the width of the boat and can be used as a fishing platform in calm conditions. We opted to have a fold-up aluminium boarding ladder fitted on the port side, enabling the boat to be used for swimming and diving duties.
On either side of the cockpit the pontoons form wide gunwales. Non-slip pads make these comfortable seats while fishing. Full-length storage shelves run under the gunwale and forward into the cabin for storage of rods and other gear. The underfloor fuel tank is equipped with a visual fuel gauge recessed into the floor. Our boat has the bilge pump set into a well under the transom to take care of any water that gets onboard. A sealed deck with self-draining cockpit is also an option.
The boat came with the fixed baitboard welded to a bracket on the transom. Other options include a removable baitboard as well as a board that fits to the optional ski pole. The fixed baitboard is large and perfectly adequate but difficult to clean — one of the removable baitboards is a better option.
There is no such thing as too many rodholders, and this boat has two recessed into each end of the transom. We also selected the optional rocket launcher fitted to the rear of the cabin roof. This has six additional rodholders plus a decklight facing into the cockpit for night-time fishing. All rodholders have plastic inserts to protect the rods from damage.
The main cabin is dominated by the huge, curved glass windscreen, and large, fixed side windows. Due to our intended usage pattern we decided against the standard sliding side windows, and we also didn’t take up the windscreen wiper option.
The cabin has two swivel seats mounted on fixed pedestals at the helm and passenger positions. These seats feature upholstered cushions on rigid plastic shells that have conveniently-moulded grab handles for any passengers standing behind the seats. The navigator position has sturdy grab handles on the side and along the dash to hold onto, while the rear of the cab also has a grab handle along the top.
The dashboard is large, with a good, level area for items that need to be accessed easily. It has a huge area for fitting instruments, and can easily accommodate one large display unit or several smaller ones. Since fishing is a primary use of the magazine boat, we have fitted a Furuno GP-7000F chartplotter and fishfinder.
That’s complemented by a Uniden Solara DSC VHF radio, while a Pioneer stereo sound system, fitted into a waterproof anti-shock housing, provides some entertainment when the fishing is slow. Since trolling for marlin is also on the agenda, we also specified a Coursemaster CM80i autopilot, allowing automated steering for those long slow trolls. A set of three Yamaha Command Link electronic gauges provides insight into every aspect of the engine’s performance, and a bank of switches for all the electrics completes the dash layout.
The forward cabin has the side storage shelves from the cockpit extending right to the bow. The cabin features two short bunks with removable squabs. This boat is not intended as an overnighter and hence the bunks are suitable for kids to sleep on or adults to snooze. Storage under the bunks is spacious, and the sealed floorplate extends under the compartments. No problems with losing items into the bilge here!
Cabin walls are lined with carpet to dampen the noise and create warmth in colder weather. The large waterproof access hatch has a pneumatic stay to prevent it flipping open and smashing against the windscreen in a strong wind.
Access to the bow area is either through the forward hatch or by stepping around the cabin. The pontoons have non-skid pads for safe stepping, and the cabin has sturdy grabrails integrated into the roof. Once forward, a split bowrail provides added security when working forward.
The spacious anchor well does not have a winch fitted, but setting and retrieving the anchor is easy. A welded bollard in the self-draining anchor well is for tying off the anchor rode, while a stainless fairlead with roller (properly insulated from the aluminium hull) ensures the anchor moves easily.
ON THE WATER
When underway, the boat shows its true colours. Although aluminium boats are generally noisier than a similar fibreglass model, this boat is better than most. The big Yamaha ticks along quietly at low revs, and the excellent electronic instruments display everything you want to know about the engine.
With the boat up on the plane the ride smoothes out, and in a calm sea there is very little pontoon noise. In a slightly choppy sea, especially a quartering sea, the noise of waves against the pontoons is quite apparent, but this is compensated for by the enhanced ride from the pontoons.
Anything above 24kts seems to give the smoothest ride — no doubt a function of the pontoon design’s stability and the 17.5-degree deadrise.
The boat responds quite markedly to having the engine trim correct. Correct trim results in noticeable speed improvement. She’s not equipped with trim tabs nor does she need any. The pontoon design is self-levelling at low to moderate speeds, and at high speeds trim tabs are unnecessary.
The boat handles very well, with turns at high speed being predictable and well controlled. With pontoons it is virtually impossible to heel the boat over, even in very tight turns — this is a great, family-friendly design.
Fuel consumption is excellent — the boat uses almost as little fuel per nautical mile at 24kts as it does at 18. Opening the throttle wide gets the boat up well beyond 35kts, if conditions allow, and consumption rises accordingly.
This boat makes a comprehensive package that not only suits the magazine perfectly, but would suit most fishermen just as well. It is a tough, no-nonsense boat that is well built and smart enough to satisfy a fussy family, yet easy to maintain. Cleaning requires no more than a hose and brush to get everything sparkling again.
Specifications: Stabi-Craft 589 Super Cab
Packages from $58,999
Length overall 5.98m
External beam 2.31m
Internal beam 1.62m
Deadrise 17.5 degrees
Approx tow weight 1200kg
Dry hull weight 720kg
Fuel tank 150L
Height (on trailer) 2.75m
Hull thickness 5mm
Max/Rec HP 150/115
Reserve buoyancy 1600lt
Originally published in TrailerBoat #232