FROM THE ARCHIVES: First published in TrailerBoat #175, Jan 2004
How do you pick one skiboat from the next? It’s a perplexing question facing the would-be towboat owner. There are oodles of different brands in a highly-competitive market awash with hyperbole and sales jargon. Dealers are keen to undercut the competition, which is great. But the towboat shopper with $35,000 to $40,000 will find it akin to a shopper’s bazaar.
But there is one key area that separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, and a good skiboat from a cost-driven one. In the area of construction, cost-cutting is akin to shooting oneself in the foot. Consider the thrashing that can be dealt out to skiboats — they therefore need to be built strong, which doesn’t always mean heavy.
Investigate the construction of the Longreach 19 and you will find a strong, hand-built skiboat made by a small independent on the NSW South Coast. Ironically, the boatbuilder is busiest building the Arvor cabin boats and Terrara putt-putts. But talk to Nowra-based Paul
Kennedy and you will find a long association with skiing. He’ll tell you he’s been going on waterskiing trips with the family since he was four years old.
Prior to his inboard-powered Longreach 19, Kennedy’s skiboat experience covered a wide variety of craft — from the old clinker hulls to hand-built raceboats, outboard-powered Tennessees and Bullets. The demo boat is one that Kennedy and his family use almost religiously. Once a skiboat driver...
When the Nowra-based boatbuilder went looking for a towboat, he sought an “all-rounder in which the family would feel safe”. It had to have high sides, a roomy cockpit, but be small enough to tow with the family car and stow in the garage. Hence the removable swim platform.
Of course, like all towboat drivers, Kennedy wanted faultless handling and a boat that could satisfy both skiers and wakeboarders. But rather than start anew, he went shopping for some pre-existing moulds with which he could weave his GRP magic. The moulds he acquired produced the hull seen here.
The Longreach 19 has an interesting hull. There’s a lot of deadrise in the transom. I’m not sure what the deadrise is — and either was the boatbuilder — but I imagined it was in the order of 17–19°. But just minutes before setting the type, the boatbuilder phoned through a measurement of 16°. This is deep for an inboard-powered boat.
The boat doesn’t labour getting out of the hole, and when you’re up and running it produces a smooth ride providing you keep it in the water. Aside from helping generate lift, the aggressive chines and double strakes help displace spray.
My observations also revealed some rocker in the hull. Or at least that’s my reasoning for the bow riding quite high. This gave plenty of freeboard for crossing boat wave and windwaves. The big trim range, thanks to the tabs, lets you set the ride for the conditions.
There’s nothing NASA-esque about the construction methods (no offence intended). The 19ft hull is fashioned from handlaid GRP with ’glass-encapsulated oregon stringers and a ’glass-encapsulated ply transom. The hull and deck are screwed and ’glassed together, and the foredeck is strong enough to jump on.
The heavy-duty running gear includes a 12 x 14in Tournament three-blade bronze prop, one centre fin, and a bronze rudder on a stainless-steel stock. The shaft-seal is one of those good-quality PSS dripless types.
A centremount towboat, the Longreach 19 demo was fitted with a MerCruiser 350 MAG producing a handy 315hp. Naturally, the motor rode on soft mounts. An upholstered, moulded engine box lid went some way to reducing engine noise. Ventilation comes via inlets at the base of the windscreen. Kennedy fitted the motor with a hose connector for static flushing of the cooling system.
The boat comes standard with a 5.7lt 270hp MerCruiser and some of that aforementioned sales jargon referred to as DRT for short. DRT stands for Driver Remote Trim, which is a fancy handle for a pair of oversized, American-made Lenco trims tabs mounted mid-transom.
The big tabs let the driver access running attitudes to suit absolutely everything — crossing smooth to rough water, pulling skiers or wakeboarders, and accessing top speed and the speediest holeshot. The big tabs on the Longreach 19 won’t be affected by legislation that outlaws wake-making devices, should such legislation come in.
Anyway, the DRT system comes standard on the Longreach 19. This boat had an optional tow tower for the wakeboarders, which had racks to carry four boards. And there was the motor upgrade — an extra 45hp over the standard 5.7lt donk.
Hull colour is a matter of choice, but the standard decal pack helped create a sporty look. The two-toned hull and deck have some clever moulded fittings including GRP seat bases. Soft furnishings were best described as practical. They include three-tone vinyls, carpeted storage lockers and a carpeted cockpit sole.
FUN IN THE SUN
The layout ably caters for family outings. The swim ladder is a sturdy one made from jarrah timber and backed by a stainless grabrail.
There is a ski hook and corner hooks for the trailer tiedowns. The anodised alloy pack includes a skipole ahead of the centremount box, matching windscreen frame and rubbing strip.
Running right across the transom is a brilliant full-width moulded storage locker for your wet gear, tow ropes, togs and so on. The upholstered lid, which doubles a sunlounge, lifts on gas struts. Other internal storage exists in small side nets and a huge ski locker behind the padded backrest for the rear-facing two-person observer’s lounge.
The aft lounge is removable for access into the bilge, steering gear and the strainer linked to dual pickups. The boatbuilder has indicated that he will incorporate an icebox under a seat base on future boats. I would also like to see a few more drinkholders. I only found one, and it was within reach of the helm.
The matt-grey dash does a fine job of not reflecting in the windscreen, and the vision through the Alfab armourplate windscreen from the through-bolted helm seat was nice and clear. The driver’s seat is adjustable, as is the steering wheel, which was linked to standard Morse steering.
White-rimmed Mercury gauges were as easily read as the view ahead. A small switch panel controlled an override for the automatic bilge pump and lights, but I could find no 12V accessory plug. A dash-mounted fuel gauge lets you know roughly how much of the 100lt fuel supply you have left.
The underfloor tank should see out a mixed day of skiing or boarding, some running, and a picnic under the casuarinas by the bend. At least this is the kind of scenario that this occasional skier was brought up with on the upper Clyde River in NSW. But I digress.
Far from it being a rural setting, this test drive was conducted on the mighty Parramatta River. It’s probably the last place on earth you would want to ski, what with Rivercats flying past as often as buses on Pitt Street, more channel markers than Moreton Bay, sharks in summer and water quality that borders on disgusting.
But it was a good testbed for the handling of the Longreach 19. A stiff southerly tossed up some windwaves, and the ferry wake wasn’t hard to find. No sharks, but the water was definitely of dubious quality. All those channel markers, bridges and boats set us up for a good performance test.
The trim tabs let you do whatever it is you want to do with the ride. For example, locked down the boat has good holeshot and holds a level low-speed plane. The wash is quite rounded; as you ease the tabs, the boat still holds plane but with a higher bow, deeper transom and steeper wake for getting air.
At 2000rpm, the V8 gave a speed of 32kmh (about 18kt on the GPS) for wakeboarding. Social skiing speed of about 48kmh (26.1kt) was noted at 2600rpm, and tournament speed of around 52kmh (28.7kt) was racked up at 2800rpm — which is a nice, cruisy speed for the 5.7lt V8 motor.
Throttle to the dash, the boat touched 43.2kt at 4800rpm. In other words, given a run in, this is an honest 80kmh-er. But as it was, with the big prop, the ski rig was set up to rip your arms off. And in standard form, it is priced to go for $37,900 on a registered EasyTow trailer.
When not towing watersports junkies, the boat should pacify — or thrill, depending on how you take it — the family. Or you might be as lucky as I was and find yourself in the company of two charming models, and wondering if they were more interested in the boat than the booty.
Price as tested: $42,990 w/ 350 MAG MPI MerCruiser, trailer and regos, and selected options
Options fitted: Tower and motor upgrade
Priced from: $37,990 w/ 5.7lt carby MerCruiser, trailer and regos
Material: Solid ’glass hull w/ ’glass-encapsulated oregon stringers and ply transom
Type: Moderate-vee planing hull
Length overall: 6.20m
Length: 5.75m plus boarding platform
Deadrise: About 16°
Weight: From 990kg (about 1450kg on trailer)
Fuel Capacity: 100lt
Water Capacity: n/a
Make/model: MerCruiser 350 MAG
Type: V8 four-stroke diesel
Rated hp: 315 @ 4800rpm
Gearboxes (make/ratio): Velvet drive 1.0:1
Props: Three-blade 12 x 14in bronze
Kennedy Shipwrights, 25 Norfolk Avenue, South Nowra, NSW, 2541, tel (02) 4422 8023
Honest build quality, nice anodised alloy details and wakeboarding tower, plenty of storage for the summer essentials.
The full range of trim lets you set up the boat for all conditions.
A nice drive.
Application of upholstery and soft liners could be improved.
The boat needs a built-in icebox, more drinkholders, and an auxiliary plug for the mobile phone or camcorder.
Story: David Lockwood Photos: John Ford
First published in TrailerBoat #175
Want more boat reviews? Click here for hundreds more!