Australia's boat building industry has every reason to be proud that we can build boats in this country to match any of those from overseas. Without the market volume which makes so many things possible, to produce boats that equal and, at times, exceed the technical excellence and standard of finish of the imports is an achievement indeed.

With a track record that includes, by a long way, the most successful fishing boat ever in Australia (the V Sea). And considering that the current model V Sea remains in any terms a brilliant 5.0 metre fishing boat. Indeed, after two decades - the original V Sea model began production in 1971 - the standard by which 5.0 metre offshore fishing boats are commonly judged. It goes a way towards explaining what it is about Seafarers.

The Seafarer brochure states, "We assume that every buyer will work the boat hard in the most difficult and rugged environments, and we build them to cope with a hard working life". Elsewhere it says, "Every Seafarer boat, from the entry level 5.0 metre boats through to the 6.8 metre models, are built to our own rigid standards, and those standards are never compromised".

Against this background, we come to the new Vega; which in so many ways can be summed up as very much a typical Seafarer. While there are few frills on it, our test boat was fitted out to a fairly basic spec from the comprehensive options list, every fitting is top quality. And the finish of the hull and its ancillaries - and the way they are assembled is impeccable.

These boats are intended to be used offshore and it shows. Helm ergonomics are as comfortable standing as seated. There are foot rests for both helm and passenger seats and grab bars where you need them, particularly behind the substantial windscreen frame. The Vega has a real, toughened-glass 'screen of course, most Seafarers are regularly used for bar crossings.

Anchoring arrangements in the Vega are conducive to safety and comfort while raising and lowering ground tackle in rough water. The cockpit has padded sides, rounded rear corners and a folding lounge. The one seen here in our test boat is the standard fitment, a deluxe lounge is an option, which quickly folds out of the way or comes out altogether - the seat cushion does anyway.

Inside the cabin the bunks are an old fashioned six foot-long with cloth coverings to make overnighting a feasible proposition for average height people, tall folk will find them a little short.

After a quick look around the eye zeroes in on detail. In front of the helm there's neatly matched propriety instrumentation with dash- mounted Lowrance sounder and GPS and a compass is mounted high in the helmsman's line of sight.
Helm and passenger seating in the test boat has departed from the traditional big padded buckets favoured by the offshore set. When I queried Lindsay Fry about this he told me the slim line seats in the test boat were something they were trialling. As he pointed out, it can be difficult to extricate yourself quickly from those deep buckets. I must say that for my, admittedly scrawny, frame they were supremely comfortable in any case.

Each seat in the test boat was mounted atop an optional storage box with a waterproof door opening towards the centre of the boat. A deluxe storage box option adds an extra seat behind these facing the stern. Out in the cockpit the pop up stainless steel rear cleats go unnoticed - until you go looking for the rear cleats. An aluminium stair tread along the topside of the side pocket padding prevents wear when anyone exits over the cockpit sides.

A grab bar is recessed along each side of the cockpit topsides. Opening the lidded well set in each corner of the covering board finds a round well underneath. Most would plumb one of these as a livewell and use the other for bait and/or drink storage. Those rounded shapes look after baits by leaving no corners for them to become disoriented in.
The fuel filler is outboard in the engine well. There are twin-breathers to prevent fuelling blowbacks and the oil reservoir fillers are there too, albeit probably unnoticed until needed. Every metal fitting on the boat from the rod holders, set into the cockpit's covering boards, to any hinges and fasteners and even the shape top's fittings are highly polished stainless steel. Welding and general finish on the stainless steel targa bar leaves nothing to be desired. Six rods can be racked up there out of the way. There are horizontal racks along the cockpit sides above the side pockets too, and there are also mountings for radio and GPS aerials and nav lights. The targa bar folds back to lower the boat's profile when garaging.

Our test boat was the first 2001 model Vega off the production line, a pre-production test horse in fact. Partly because Lindsay likes to take any new boat to its limit, it was powered by a pair of 90hp V4 Johnsons.
He told me at the outset that he wasn't completely happy with the set up. The pair of V4 90s, while within the boat's specified power parameters, were, he said, heavier than ideal for the boat's static balance.
Out on the water the boat certainly exhibited no vices, but also left me agreeing with Lindsay that it would be better balanced with less weight on the transom.

The hull is rated up to a 200hp max and yet with 180hp on the back it seemed to me as if much less than that would still get it moving faster than the average fishing boat needs to go. Even when the extra drag of the second lower unit and the other performance inefficiencies of twin outboard installations are taken into consideration, even I, who usually prefers more rather than less power, would have been satisfied with less.

The first boats through production will be fitted with either a single 135 or 150, or twin 70s and I have to say I look forward to having a run in them. Relative performance figures will be interesting to say the least. The test boat ran 300rpm past its operating of 4500 to 5500rpm to record a top speed of 45 knots at 5800rpm with 17inch props. Seafarer wanted to use 19s, but had been unable to obtain them. We then tilted one leg clear and ran it on a single motor. The single 90 was a little leisurely, indicating that 135 or 150 would be about ideal. Although, given time to wind out the teat Vega still attained a top speed of 34.2 knots on a single 90.

Seafarer hulls tend to weigh substantially more than competitors. Anyone who has ever drilled a hole in one can tell you why. The Vega's hull weighs approximately, depending on options fitted, 980 kilograms. A comparable competitor's hull weighs 820 kilograms.

This is one good reason why current generation Seafarers are some of the seakindliest hulls I've ever experienced - for their size. A quick sortie out over the Southport Seaway, where small pressure waves had been formed by a run out tide against incoming swell, showed that the Vega retains this particular family characteristic. The Vega hull has a 19 degree deadrise and follows the standard Seafarer style of having the transom extended rearwards in an integrated not-quite-a-pod. This arrangement makes for a supremely efficient combination of interior space and performance. The not-quite-a-pod is wide enough to support twin installations. Readers might note that despite both Lindsay Fry's and my comments about twin 90s being too much weight for ideal balance, the test boat is not sitting stern down at rest.

A pair of strakes along each side do their job without interfering with a soft entry as the hull's forefoot shoulders water aside and the sculpted chines common to other Seafarers make their usual contribution to a soft, dry ride too. On the water, the Vega feels as it should, a bigger version of smaller Seafarers and a smaller version of the larger ones.
In itself, that's both compliment and a statement.

Length:5.75 metres
Max. beam:2.35 metres
Hull weight:approx. 980kg
Fuel capacity:150 litres
Factory power rating:115-200hp
Transom height:single motor configuration - 635mm (25 inches)
twin motor configuration - 533mm (21 inches)
ENGINES2 x 90hp Johnson Ocean Pro
Induction:2 x dual throat carburetors
WOT operating range:4500-5500rpm
Weight:319kg (each motor)
Gear ratio13:26
Test conditions:almost flat calm, varying current in test area.
Load:three adults plus safety gear
Fuel load:unknown
Top speed:45 knots@5800rpm

(NB: When full production of the Seafarer Vega begins, Club Marine will run a comparison of single and twin motor installations with a full set of performance figures).
Seafarer Fibreglass Boats, Lindsay Fry.
Tel: (07)5531 6939
Club Marine onwater crew wear Stormy Seas PFD I.jackets and use Magellan GPS.