By Warren Steptoe
For 20 years, Sportfish have been building some of the best fishing boats available - anywhere! Built tough, immaculately finished and invariably with thoroughly thought through and entirely fishing friendly layouts; Sportfish boats have a long history of not only being the standard by which so called 'plate' aluminium boats are judged, but of setting the standards - and continually re-setting them. Their popularity amongst the fishing fraternity is explained - and justified, in those few words.
However, there always has been one area where Sportfish boats, and it has to be said, plate aluminium mono-hulls generally, suffer badly in comparison to their moulded 'glass counterparts; and that's ride quality. If plate aluminiums can be described as great fishing boats in a few words, then there are other words to describe the way they ride when fishing anything more than calm sea conditions. Words like roughÉ and harsh. The addition of colourful expletives is optional. When used to paint word pictures, words like those two, with or without added expletives, have until now done no more than tell it like it is. Or more correctly in light of recent experience; always has been. It's been a long time coming but I've just spent a day on Moreton Bay in a Sportfish boat which rode softly. And that's a word I've never before used to describe the genre. In fact this advance in plate alumin-ium hull technology is so significant that to put it into proper perspective it's appropriate to comment that I've ridden in a great many variable deadrise GRP hulls of similar dimension which struggle to compare with Sportfish's new Super Vee hull in terms of ride quality. I was surprised it was as good as it was; and I certainly didn't expect it to be as good as it was. In full awareness that those are strong words, even fighting words in some camps, you'd better believe they're not being offered lightly. To conduct this test, Bill Hull, sales manager of Brisbane Pacific Sportfish dealer Northside Marine, and I took a 6.2 metre centre cabin Sportfish Super Vee loaded with rods and the rest of the paraphernalia entailed in a day's fishing out onto Moreton Bay. However, on the day, Moreton Bay was in a particularly mellow mood. This unlikely event forced us to venture around the north-western corner of Moreton Island past Comboyouro Point and out onto the open sea off North Point (the northern extremity of Cape Moreton) looking for less benign water to put the new Super Vee through its paces.Typically we encountered a messy chop over a low swell steepened by the shallows extending offshore from the infamous Comboyouro Point, one of Moreton Bay's least friendly features. The Sportfish treated that with disdain.
Across the top of the island the sea stayed calm and it wasn't until we reached North Point and poked the Sportfish's nose out from behind the island's lee that we found real swells with enough sea breeze to overlay it with wind chop. In the tiny bay between North Point and Cape Moreton, bigger sets occasionally stood tall and broke.
Bill had a point to make and so pushed the boat way past a point where mature skippers like myself would normally ease back on the go lever. The point was made. Nary a bump or a bang despite an odd skyward launch. Meanwhile, not a drop of water made its way onto the 'screen around the centre cabin despite us having removed the clear spray curtains the better to spot birds signposting roaming tuna and mackerel schools on our way across the bay. And yes, amongst all the fun we actually managed to do some fishing; and even managed to bring home the proverbial feed of fish. I mean how could we be serious about testing a serious fishing boat without pelting lures from it; and doing a couple of laps of the boat over a bent rod?
Such is merely the call of duty for a boat like this. But by accident and definitely not design we managed to ask much more than that of it. During the photographic session I was perched on North Point, camera at the ready, positioning Bill in the boat with my comprehensive repertoire of articulate gestures when a huge set barrelled around Cape Moreton.
Both pre-occupied, neither of us noticed until the first one cracked. It caught the boat in an awkward position side on to a tumbling lip. Equal credit is due a fine piece of helmsmanship - and the boat for surviving a situation plain commonsense would never ask of it.
Without time for the niceties of composition or the technicalities of camera settings I hope my hastily grabbed sequence of frames makes the grade necessary for our editor to share them with you. If not, I guess the whole silly and potentially awfully embarrassing situation spoke volumes in itself!
The inspiration for this innovative new hull came from left field. Rigid inflatable is one of those contra-dictions in terms now in common usage. Accurate or not, it describes the evolution of hulls combining the unlikely elements of rounded (at one time inflatable and latterly of the same material as the hull's bottom) chine sponsons and a steep deadrise rigid hull bottom made from polyethylene, 'glass or metal.
Although quaint to look at, the concept of a boat which rides like a deep vee under way, and is as stable as a rubber duck when those chubby sponsons sit on the water at rest actually works - and works amazingly well. Our neighbours across the Tasman in particular have attained a high stage of development with them although they're far from alone in expertise with the type. Ocean Cylinder here in Brisbane for example, build a range of rigid inflatables encompassing anything from one person oar-powered yacht tenders to armed patrol craft capable of maintaining 60 knots.
In adapting the concept, Pacific Sportfish developed what they now call the Super Vee hull seen here. It maintains a fine entry at the forefoot with a doubled chine line which cants over to sweep back under the hull's shoulder and become a very broad double step towards the transom. At rest those wide chines doggedly resist being pushed deeper into the water by movement inside the boat (you see Mr Editor, honestly, the only way to check this out was by fishing!) At speed the hull rides on the steep deadrise (deep vee if you prefer) centre section of the hull. And there's a very real bonus in effective spray deflection where the chines flare over at the shoulder.
The Super Vee hull tends to ride a little bows up and looks even more so because the sheer rises towards the bow. At times it feels almost like a trihedral or even a little like a multi-hull, presumably being cushioned to some extent by aerated water being forced through those stepped chines.
One other benefit from the reshaping of the Super Vee hull is that the widening of the chines resulted in the hull now dropping vertically from gunwale to chine, unlike most mono-hulls which taper in. This manifests itself in one way by increasing floor space in the already roomy cockpit Sportfish boats have always had.
However its down in the centre cabin where the vertical sides make a more remarkable difference. The vee bunks in the centre cab extend out to the sides of the boat underneath the raised walkaround forward deck and thus gain considerable sleeping space. What you then have is a genuine easy to walk around cabin big enough to sleep two quite comfortably.
People who expect to encounter broken water might be better served to consider a full cabin able to shed any green water which makes it over the bow rather than hold it inboard and that's about the only negative aspect of the centre cab design. While chasing tuna and mackerel back inside Moreton Bay we both literally ran right around the boat, and were dragged around there by recalcitrant tuna I might add to prove the point about the effectiveness of this centre cab layout.
The raised foredeck area obviously doesn't support a body as high up the legs as the cockpit perimeter does but with the aforementioned point in mind, it's very secure to either cast or handle ground tackle from the bow of this 6.2 metre boat.
In the helm area a pair of flat bucket seats are mounted atop storage boxes. The one under the helm seat in the test boat was insulated as an icebox. Access into the cabin was between the seats and then by ducking under the dashboard. Travelling in the boat is comfortable when seated with ample grab bars on the cabin top and behind the screen frame and a foot rest. Standing wasn't quite as comfortable although certainly acceptable for my small frame. An underfloor kill pit sits between the seats and way farther forward than in past Sportfish boats I've fished from.
Out in the cockpit it's all high sides with the requisite toes in under except for against the central part of the aft bulkhead where the engine well interrupts it. The motor sits well outboard on the transom behind a central cutting board mounted high to save the back while working on it.
As we found out, this can get in the way when lapping the boat with bent rod although if it's preferred to leave it at home on a particular day it can easily be removed. Twin wells with sealed hatches are sited in the aft bulkhead each side of the central work area. In the test boat one of these had been plumbed as a livewell.
The test boat was fitted with power operated trim tabs, which I suggest any prospective owner consider as an essential fitting. Like other deep vees of my experience, tabs were often necessary while running the Super Vee at an angle to wind and sea, or if somebody moved around while running.
On the day we were fairly lightly loaded and while perhaps more power may be worthwhile if constantly carrying big loads, the 135hp 'Ficht' Evinrude fitted here didn't leave this big heavy hull wanting at all. Bill wasn't happy with the engine height at the time of our test. He felt it was too deep in the water and I agreed. Yet while the performance figures belie this to some extent, the fact that the motor only managed to reach 4800rpm flat out somewhat supported our seat of the pants view. 4800revs is barely (by the skin of its teeth) within the manufacturer's WOT rev range of 4750-5250rpm.
All things considered it must be said that the Pacific Sportfish Super Vee hull represents a huge step forward for aluminium boats. In very much the same way Quintrex stepped across the gap traditionally existent between smaller 'glass and aluminium boats with their stretch formed Millennium hulls, Pacific Sportfish have now completely redefined the way we've always thought about the larger so called plate aluminium hulls. Specifications
|Max. Beam:||2.45 metres|
|Hull weight:||1080kg |
|Fuel Capacity:||180 litres|
| || |
|ENGINE||Evinrude 135hp Ficht ram|
|Induction:||patented OMC Ficht ram fuel injection|
|WOT operating range:||4750-5250rpm|
|Weight:||319kg (each motor)|
|Propellor fitted||OMC S/S 17 inch pitch|
|Test conditions:||calm, no discernable current in test area.|
|Load:||two adults, safety and fishing gear, ice and drinks. 2/3 tank. |
33.4 top speed