Formosa MK3 Classic Half Cabin
I give full credit to any boat manufacturer that spends valuable time and resources on producing new models — companies like Formosa Marine, which recently introduced a redesigned hull called the MK3 Classic.
Now I’ll get to the new hull’s updates and features in a bit, because the most immediate jaw-on-the-floor difference has nothing to do with its construction or on-water performance. About a year ago I tested a Formosa 550 Tomahawk Half Cabin, but when I recently put the new 550 MK3 Classic Half Cabin through its paces, I nearly fell over when I saw the price — at $46,500, it was a whopping $6470 less than the Tomahawk.
While there are several differences between the two, in this day and age when the cost of everything seems to be going up and up, it’s great to see that Formosa has managed to create a similar boat with a number of decent features — and for a significantly lower price.
MORE FOR LESS
The MK3 Classic hull has an eye-catching shape thanks to its raised sheer-line. This is actually a new feature, which adds to the space and freeboard of the topdeck area while enhancing the boat’s handling in a big swell. Like the rest of Formosa’s models, the 550 MK3 Classic Half Cabin looks flashy, with its two-tone paintwork and modern, sporty lines.
This reverse-chine hull also has deeper sides and wider beams, plus a fastback transom with dive ladder and storage shelf, marine-grade plywood floors, and 4mm bottoms.
Yep, there’s a fair bit packed into this hull, which — I’m going to say it again — comes at a very reasonable price, at least as far as plate-boats are concerned.
Formosa’s products have never been left wanting in terms of onboard space, and with a beam of 2.45m, the MK3 Classic Half Cabin is no exception. Entry to the boat is from the dive ladder or transom boarding platform, and then through the small transom door. The stern is spacious and features a solid baitboard with rodholders and tank, a three-quarter padded fold-out lounge, and a fair-sized killtank — the latter set into the new marine-carpeted deck system. There’s also easy and open access to the boat’s battery and plumbing systems.
The gunwales are fairly high right through to the transom, and they have wide coamings plus large sidepockets. There are no toe-holds, but with a high and straight gunwale I didn’t think that was a serious issue. I liked those wide coamings, as they’re far easier to walk on than narrower offerings. I did, however, note the coamings’ surface was painted — something that could cost you your manhood if you slipped while walking on them. Again, it’s not a major problem — just stick on some rubber, non-slip material.
Moving forward, the cab and console area have an extendable bimini of a generous size. A full screen provides protection from the elements and there’s an upgraded seatbox with slide and footrests. A simple dash setup accommodates small to medium-sized electronics.
On the passenger side is a small glovebox fitted with a grabrail. To my mind, an additional grabrail mounted on the side would be more comfortable for the passenger to hold onto when sitting back in the chair.
Entry to the MK3’s open-plan cab is via the centre cut-out section of the dash. There’s good storage beneath the seats and an additional infill could transform it into a full bunk. It’s not huge inside but it’ll be adequate for a nap, and a good place to put the kids when the weather roughens up while fishing.
Up in the bow is the anchor hatch, accessible via the gunwales or cabin hatch, as well as a full bowrail with bowsprit. This too is an area that could do with some non-slip surfacing.
HANDLING AND RIDE
I’ve never found Formosa boats to be speed machines; rather, I feel they’re at their most comfortable in low to mid-speed cruising mode. The 550 MK3 Classic is no different and it rides very comfortably between 15-20kts (27-37kmh) in offshore-like going. Our test was held in nasty conditions outside Mooloolaba in Queensland, so those speeds are probably the norm for most similar boats on a similar day.
The MK3 Classic hull’s 17° deadrise, wide beam and large reverse chine provided above-average stability both when underway and at rest, despite the scrappy day — that’s a big tick for a fishing boat, and one you’ll certainly appreciate, especially if you have kids onboard.
Hydraulic steering facilitates smooth turning, and when cranking into hard turns the hull banks slightly inwards, holding nice and firm with minimal cavitation.
I found that this hull seemed to ride a bit dryer than previous Formosas I’ve tested. This is clearly down to the new hull design, which deflects the spray towards the water rather than outwards.
As I mentioned, these boats aren’t speed machines, but they do produce a nice, constant ride, whether you’re running head-on, with, or side-on to the swell and chop. As ever, it’s all about compromise and your own personal preference. If you want stability you might lose a bit on comfort; if you want a super-soft ride you’re generally going to lose a bit on stability. There are pros and cons to both sides of the equation, but at the end of the day it’s your choice.
The test boat’s 115hp Evinrude E-TEC pushed the 550 with ease. These hulls aren’t ultra heavy so you can get away with fewer ponies. Out of the hole it was perky, and I’m quite positive it would have attained a fair top end, had we not been limited by the Mooloolaba River’s 6kt speed limit (and an upside-down ocean waiting for us at the other end).
The new Formosa 550 MK3 Classic Half Cabin is an ideal entry-level plate-boat that could be transformed into a top rig with the addition of accessories over time. As plate-boats go, its price is definitely attractive. It’s a light package too, so it’s easy to tow. From families
to serious fishos, Formosa’s latest has plenty to offer.
On the plane...
Very stable hull
Entry-level price for a quality boat
Full welds evident
Clean and spacious layout
Dragging the chain...
Coamings and bow area could do with non-slip surfacing
Limited helm dash space for large electronics
Could do with a side grabrail for seated passenger
SPECS: FORMOSA 550 MK3 CLASSIC HALF CABIN
Price as tested: $46,500
Options fitted: Deluxe coloured paint, baitboard with tank, killtank, hydraulic steering, bimini with extension, alloy rockets, seatbox upgrade, cabin bunk infill cushions
Priced from: $41,900
Type: Half-cab monohull
Material: Plate-aluminium (4mm bottoms, 3mm sides)
Weight (hull only): Approx. 700kg
Weight (BMT): Approx. 1250kg (dry)
Propeller: 16in Viper
Rec. HP: 115
Max. HP: 140
Make/model: Evinrude E-TEC E115DSL
Type: Loop-charged, DFI, V4, two-stroke
Gear ratio: 2.0:1
3/1424 New Cleveland Rd
Capalaba West, Qld, 4157
Tel: (07) 3245 2950
Australian Marine Centre
3491 Pacific Highway
Springwood, Qld, 4127
Tel: (07) 3808 7333
Originally published in TrailerBoat #279.