HIT THE TRAIL
Malcolm Douglas remains a living legend in Australia. The down-to-earth Aussie adventurer and documentary maker will forever be welcomed on the wide-screens in mine and many other Australians' households. Ditto his faithful cattle dog.
A bushman with bushy beard who has lived with aborigines and knows all the survival tricks, Malcolm has now lent his name to a special edition of WA boatbuilder Trailcraft's 600 Sportscab. Given our reverence for the man, the arrangement will therefore count for a lot more than just dollars and marketing sense. Malcom has put his reputation on the line with this boat.
A regular to the wild Kimberley region, he sought a boat with the cruising range to gad about the wild west of Australia – where the tides can be 10m high and low – and access remote areas. That means big built-in tanks, self-sufficiency, shelter from the elements and sleeping space, plus the ability to carry a huge amount of gear and get back home in the face of adversity or engine failure.
What’s more, Malcolm isn't averse to fishing and, in fact, looks as comfortable casting a baitcaster as many high-profile anglers. So his eponymous Special Edition Trailcraft needed to be a fishing boat, too. Depending on how fishy you want it, there's still a lot of scope to customise the boat for serious trailerable gamefishing.
Fittingly, the Sydney dealer made something special of its demo Malcolm Douglas Special Edition 660 Sportscab, launched at the Sydney Boat Show. As it does each boat show season, Boater's World commissioned a custom spray job from Advanced Airbrush, which painted an eye-catching Kimberley scene on the hull, complete with croc, jumping barra and billabong backdrop. Needless to say, the kiddies playing on the beach alongside were agog. But there's more to this boat than just eye candy.
Specifically, the Malcolm Douglass Special Edition has a 310lt long-range fuel tank, a heavy-duty hardtop with radio box, welded, robust, alloy rodholders, an extra large cutting board, and on the demo boat there was an optional 9.9hp four-stroke Yamaha auxiliary on a factory bracket. Hopefully, you never need the auxiliary, but it would get you out of trouble.
The main engine was a Yamaha four-stroke 150hp outboard spinning a 19-inch stainless steel prop. If you envisage carrying a big load, a 17-inch wheel is better suited. I believe Douglas straps 44 gallons of fuel, carries additional water, all the camera gear, a swag, his dog, and more in his boat.
For such jobs, the 660 Sportscab is an amazing high-volume hull with a super-wide 2.55m beam. In fact, it will require a permit to tow. But, given the width of many American boats these days, that won't pose a problem. The laser-cut hull – reducing the risk of uneven surfaces – features a 5mm-thick bottom and 4mm sides, with a 6mm transom and central keel beam, plus box section stringers and cross members.
Flotation is achieved via a sealed, self-draining floor, but thankfully there is a riveted inspection hatch under the glued carpet that grants access to the fuel sender and top of the integral alloy tank. The hull is faired for a smooth finish before being painted and backed by a two-year structural warranty.
The keyword with the 660 Sportscab is utility. The huge plate boat, rated to carry seven adults, has a commodious cockpit that's so wide you can sleep across its deck. It's also got great access to the water through a walkthough transom and deep boarding platform, under which the hull running surface extends. This provides buoyancy to the transom and the setup appeals to divers as well as anglers, I'm told.
Then there is the cabin and hardtop that together, especially with aftermarket clears, provide protection from the elements. And while centre consoles are always popular fishing boats, cabins boats are fast catching up. Everywhere you look on the wide blue yonder these days there are cabin boats at anchor, trolling and drift fishing. After all, there's only so much rough-and-tumble that you can handle in a centre console.
I moved around the sidedecks and considered this an easy boat to get around. Non-skid decks, grabrails and a high bowrail provide support. You can also reach the foredeck through a cabin hatch, but why bother? If you were to fit outriggers to this boat, as I believe you must, just make sure they are mounted off the hardtop so you can walk around the side decks.
Such is the strength of the well-supported hardtop that Malcolm Douglas unfurls his swag and is known to sleep up there when in croc country. Others might consider mounting a fish-spotting tower. A six-rod rocket launcher is provided.
Back on the foredeck I found a deep anchor well and a windlass is an option, but for my money I would employ a side anchoring system with dan buoy. Robost bollards are dotted about the deck, along with the six welded rodholders and big aft grabrails.
I get to see a lot of engine setups in my travels and full marks go to the dealer for this waterpoof arrangement. The dealer moved the fuel filter inboard, but brought the rigging, including fuel and steering lines, closer to the motor for a cleaner fitup. Being a wet area, everything was made waterproof and with fewer lines there's less to snag, gaff or damage by mistake.
You can walk out on to the boarding platform, which has a portside fold-down ladder, and the boat barely shifts. Such is the buoyancy and support from the broad hull underneath that the powerhead on the extra-long shaft Yammie outboard was well above the water with two adults standing out back.
You could mount a berley pot on the transom, but watch the toes at sea. It would be easy for a mako to sidle over the checkerplate area. But for that, the access might come in handy for clearing the rod tip around the motor while fighting a deep-slugging tuna or a big kingfish from a dead boat.
The boarding platform will also assist with gaffing and netting fish. I judged there to be enough room for carrying a tub of bait or berley or mounting a livebait tank, though a small bait tank is provided in the transom.
Along with the built-in bait tank, which needs to be fitted with a scoop for water on the run, there is a storage box with twin batteries well off the floor, access to the aforesaid fuel filter, and an optional dealer-fitted Jabsco pump with deck wash. The cutting board on the Malcolm Douglas special was oversized, to allow him to fillet his barra I guess, with drinkholders and storage for loose tackle and lures.
PACK 'EM IN
Speaking of storage, the boat has a utility box in the transom, twin three-quarter-length sidepockets and big seat boxes. Best of all, a floor hatch lifts on a gas strut to reveal a decent wet well. It drains when underway and you can screw in the bung for dry storage.
There is dry storage under the vee berth in the cabin, but backrests and sidepockets are optional, I'm told. However, I did find a portable chemical loo.
As it was, you could catch 40 winks on the vee berth, especially given the optional infill, and sit out of the weather on the bunks. But the cockpit floor was actually a much larger potential sleeping area, especially with the addition of a mattress or airbed or two. Add covers to make a trailerable camper.
Last but not least: another plug for the dealer. While it isn't protected by a cover, the wring was very neatly done, with heat-shrink sealed joins, grommets on all the drill holes through which wiring passes, and conduits and cable ties where appropriate.
The boat's wide helm station and seemingly stouter helm seats than those once used by Trailcraft provide a good cruising setup. More importantly, there are handholds and legroom to drive standing up, and the dash is accommodating of electronics.
The demo boat had Yamaha's new 2007 multifunction engine gauges: fuel gauge with instant litres per hour, total use, economy settings and more, tacho with trim and trip, speedo with fuel gauge, and optional water gauge (a 96lt tank can be fitted to this boat).
A $4,000 (fitted) Furuno GP7000F combo chartplotter/sounder with 50/200khz transducer fitted like a glove to the centre dash panel, while the radio box with VHF and stereo was overhead. The boat also had a decent spread of waterproof switches for lights and pumps. Trim tabs are an option I would fit to keep the boat on an even keel in cross winds and with an offset load.
Although I guessed the boat's wide hull and relatively flat run aft would encourage easy planing, I didn't think it would be quite this willing with a four-stroke outboard and 200lt of fuel. The Yamaha 150 shot the boat to planing speed with virtually no discernible transition or labouring over a hump. The boat held plane at 2400rpm and 10.8kts.
Low-speed cruise was clocked at 18.6kts at 30000rpm with some out-trim on the outboard. Consumption of 16.2lt/h equates to a safe working range of more than 320 nautical miles, leaving 10 per cent of the 310lt fuel supply in reserve. Just huge.
At 3500rpm, the boat cruises at 23.2kts for 22.5lt/h and a safe range of 290 nautical miles. If seas are calm, you might be able to do 27.5kts at 4000rpm and 30.8kts at 4500rpm. Top speed was 35.2kts. At all speeds the Yamaha was smooth, quiet and agreeable.
Of course, with such a high-volume hull ride, comfort will centre on keeping the forefoot in the water. Insist on loading it up with gear and driving it with a view to keeping the bow down. With hydraulic steering as standard you won’t have to wrench the wheel about in the turns.
But, as Malcolm Douglas attests, the boat is a fine working platform and a decent fishing machine. And, above of all, it’s a huge amount of boat for your money. Imagine the country this boat could open up.
Move over Malcolm Douglas. Here we come…
WHAT WE LIKED
Long-range boat capable
Huge hull with massive volume
Solid hardtop provides all-weather protection with the addition of clears
Cabin boats are popular for offshore boating
Very efficient at moderate cruising speeds
I-beam trailer from Trailcraft should be able to handle backcountry boating
NOT SO MUCH
Big boat on trailer with oversized beam
Requires a permit to tow
Not a lot of polish in what is a utilitarian fishing boat
Not sure how perspex or acrylic windscreen will handle serious bar work
Wide hull with moderate deadrise will need to be loaded and run so its forefoot cleaves the waves for the best ride
No storage for personals at helm
Backrests in cabin are optional
Specifications: Trailcraft 660 Sportscab – Malcolm Douglas Special Edition
Price as tested: $87,900 w/ Yamaha 150hp four-stroke outboard, 9.9hp four-stroke Yamaha outboard auxiliary, dual-axle braked Trailcraft trailer, safety gear and registrations
Options fitted: Custom Kimberly spray job, Yamaha 9.9hp four-stroke outboard auxiliary on factory-fitted bracket, dealer-fitted Jabsco pump and deck wash and chemical toilet, custom premium engine setup and rigging, Furuno GP 7000F GPS chartplotter, VHF radio and marine stereo, Trailcraft I-beam trailer, and more.
Standard Malcolm Douglas Special Edition includes long-range fuel tank, hardtop, integral rodholders, maxi baitboard, kill tank, livebait tank and more.
Material: Plate aluminium, 5mm bottom, 4mm sides, 6mm transom and backbone.
Length overall: 6.9m
Weight: Approx 995kg dry hull only. Add 500kg for trailer and 220kg for Yamaha 150hp four-stroke outboard 1710kg. Add 200kg for fuel. With full tanks and gear, approx 2200kg loaded on road.
Berths: Two in cabin plus two on deck
Fuel capacity: 310lt
Water capacity: Optional 96lt
Rec/max HP: 200 (300kg primary motor)
Rec/min HP: 150
Make/model: Yamaha 150hp four-stroke outboard
Type: Four-cylinder DOHC injected four-stroke petrol outboard motor
Rated HP: 200hp at 5000 to 6000rpm
Drive: Outboard extra-long shaft, 25-inch
Propeller: Stainless steel 19-inch
723-731 Victoria Road, Ryde, NSW, 2112.
Phone: (02) 9807 2333
Websites: www.boatersworld.com.au, www.trailcraft.com.au
Originally published in TrailerBoat #211