FROM THE ARCHIVES: First published in TrailerBoat #177, March 2004
THE GRASS IS always greener on the other side of the ocean’s horizon. There always seems to be bigger, better fish — or more of them — further afield.
These days, saltwater anglers are putting more nautical miles between themselves and the ramp than ever before. This is probably because the pressure on fish stocks close to shore is making it more difficult to catch a feed — but it’s also because many fishos now have the capability to cover some serious miles.
This extended range has come about with the evolution of more accurate and reliable navigation equipment, but also because of the evolution in the midsized trailerboat market. These rigs are usually under the 6m mark and are trailerable behind the family’s big six-cylinder car — but are replete with many of the features and big-water credentials normally found on much larger boats.
Features such as broader beams for better stability, deep hulls, twin-engine configurations for safety and high gunwales for improved cockpit depth are just a few prerequisites that combine to make a good offshore hull a great one. Developments in outboard technology have also made boats more fuel efficient, allowing them longer legs for fewer dollars.
Northern NSW-based Sailfish Boats has managed to combine all these elements in its plate-aluminium 5.5m cat, which has the safety features, stability, ride and workspace that belie its relatively short waterline length. Which means storage is easier and there’s no need for a big 4WD to tow the rig.
SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT
I was in Adelaide recently and took the opportunity to run the 5500 out into the St Vincent Gulf for a spot of fishing.
This area was my old stamping ground and its unnerving habit of turning nasty in a very short time was uppermost in my mind. A vast expanse of relatively shallow water at the mercy of south-easterlies can generate some pretty uncomfortable chop in the blink of an eye.
The test day had the wind blowing at about 15kmh from the southeast, and chop was running about a metre high and two metres apart — enough to sort out the gremlins hiding in most small trailerboats.
The camera boat was a 4.6m centre console that gave a good indication of what these sorts of conditions can do to a small boat not designed for the job. With the external shots out of the way and the camera boat back on its trailer, it was a relief to jump aboard the Sailfish.
Powered by twin 70hp Suzuki four-strokes, starting the second motor was hard to discern and I had to look to see if the telltale was working on the port motor. With the exceptional height of the transom and the quietness of these four-strokes, engine noise was practically inaudible at idle.
It was hard to pick the point when the hull hit the plane, apart from a noticeable flattening of the wake. While not neck-snapping, the boat accelerated smoothly and ran out to 5700rpm and 52kmh over the chop. Landings off the steeper swells were soft but noisy due to wave-slap in the tunnel and reverberations off the plate.
The sharp entry of the hulls had a noticeable cushioning effect, though, and considering the type of seas, the windscreen remained relatively dry with very little spray entering the boat until the wind blew over the forequarters. Then things got a little damp.
Backing off from full throttle, the Sailfish settled in at a cruising speed of 34kmh while the tachos showed 4000rpm. Ease the throttles back and the boat eventually falls off the plane at about 19kmh.
Cornering the Platinum was similar to most other catamarans, in that it leant out of turns rather than into them as monohull would. It did not lean out excessively, though, and it was comfortable and surefooted even when cornering beam-in to the chop.
Trimming dual motors can be a bit tricky sometimes, but all the guesswork is taken out of the equation on this boat thanks to Suzuki’s preset trim system controlling both motors with a single button.
Off the plane, the Platinum exhibited the stability characteristics that make multi-hulls worth their salt. This, combined with a big cockpit work area, really puts them squarely in the sportsfishing or light-commercial arenas.
The thigh-high gunwales were well padded and silicon sealed to prevent water intrusion, while full-length recessed grabrails added to the feeling of security when fishing in lumpy seas.
Fishing over the transom was a pleasure using the railed boardwalk between the engines. Access is granted through the transom door, and there’s a drop-down boarding ladder at the end to make getting in and out a bit easier.
You can reach the cutting board workstation from the walkway. The livebait tank on the port side was plumbed, while the starboard side’s was used as a general storage bin.
Keeping stuff off the floor and out of the way was made a lot easier thanks to the extra-wide cockpit sidepockets and generous storage modules under the helm seats — both of which were insulated for use as iceboxes.
You really get an impression of quality and craftsmanship when you examine the helm area. Welds are neat and the paintjob is first class — in fact, the whole setup looks as if it were made from fibreglass rather than aluminium.
Deeply-padded helm chairs, footrests and integrated sidepockets for personal items really made spending time aboard a more comfortable, enjoyable experience. There’s also ample room for electronics on the carpeted dashboard.
I thought the cabin was reasonably spacious for a boat of this size, and it made an ideal area to store things like clothes, food, spare rods and reels. A heavy-duty lockable door adds security at the ramp or marina.
The windscreen left a little to be desired, and compared to the sturdy construction of the rest of the boat it was too flimsy, with the centre section wallowing under the hand.
I felt that the centre section needed a supporting grabrail tracing it, while the windshield probably needs upgrading altogether.
A bimini shelters the helm area and is mounted on a collapsible aluminium targa with GPS aerial and sound system plus radio speakers.
While the stability of this hull goes a long way to fulfilling the safety you need when venturing offshore, the engine setup offers even more peace of mind. Each engine has its own fuel tank, filter and batteries, and as most engine failure is related to a batch of bad fuel or an electrical fault, having separate systems makes a lot of sense.
While the Platinum 5500 commands significant bucks as tested (dual motors don’t come cheap, after all) it gives a good return for the money.
A husband-and-wife team could handle this boat at the ramp with ease, and it was an effortless task to launch the rig and drive it back onto the trailer.
And best of all, it puts those greener pastures well within reach.
Price as tested: $80,650
Options fitted: Maxwell windlass, Lowrance electronics suite, bimini, clears, CD player and speakers
Priced from: $74,520
Material: 5mm/3mm aluminium plate
Length (overall): 6.4m
Height on trailer: 2.7m
Rec/max hp: 2 x 70hp four-strokes/2 x 90hp two-strokes
Towing weight (dry): 1900kg as tested
Fuel: 2 x 100lt
Passengers: Six adults
Make/ Model: Suzuki DF70
Type: Four-cylinder, four-stroke
Rated hp (ea): 70hp
Displacement (ea): 1298cc
Weight (ea): 167kg
Gearbox ratio (ea): 12:29
Propellers: 19in three-blade aluminium
Don Morton Marine, Kilkenny, SA, tel (08) 0347 0011 or visit www.donmorton.com.au
• Stability, safety and performance for long-range fishing
• Practical cockpit and accessories
• Great helm station and lots of storage
• Build quality and craftsmanship
• Windscreen needs an upgrade, and centre section could do with a grabrail
• Landing off steep sweels can be a little noisy
• Cockpit can get wet when wind blows over the forequarters
Story & Photos: Rick Huckstepp
First published in TrailerBoat #177
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