The traditional view of aluminium boats as rough, tough tinnies is seriously challenged by Stacer’s 525 Easy Rider optioned with a Ski Pack. Warren Steptoe explains.
Perhaps its exterior could be seen as rough and tough as anyone might expect a tinnie to be – because it is built of aluminium. But with the addition of one of Stacer’s Ski Packs; this boat’s heart is as plush and comfortable as they come.
But don’t think plush and comfortable in terms of something soft and lazy, as in a nice quiet snooze kind of boat. Powered by a 115hp Mercury Saltwater two-stroke, our test boat ran out to a top speed of 38.5 knots and had a surprisingly short transition from idling along to planing speeds.
The jump from displacement to planing speeds largely came about because of certain technical aspects of the motor’s power delivery, which we’ll come back to later because first; to completely rout any remaining preconceived notions about aluminium boats, there’s Stacer’s stretch formed variable deadrise hull. They call it EVO, and it quite does away with yet another long held aluminium boat tradition – the bumpy noisy ride once characteristic of every tinnie ever built.
Although some will no doubt persist in describing this boat as a tinnie simply because it’s built from aluminium, there’s no longer any need for shame in that. It’s human nature that us boating folk tend to hold polarised views on some things; what ‘glass boats do and what aluminium boats do being prominent amongst them. But when you take a Stacer 525 Easy Rider for a run, be prepared to change your views.
Our test was in many ways a typical day out in a boat like this. Our models for the day, Stacer’s Damien Duncan and his wife, Jenny, plus the star of the whole show, their one-year-old son, Charlie, launched the boat at the Gold Coast City Marina at the northern end of the Gold Coast. They travelled from there by water down to the Jumpinpin area of southern Moreton Bay for a bit of not too serious fishing, a picnic, and for the little bloke to paddle about in some sand and saltwater – oh yeah, and to eat a handful or two as well.
Stacer boats generally stand pretty firmly grounded in fishing but this boat takes a step away from that with its Ski Pack options. Less luxuriously appointed Stacer bow riders feature a drop in deck section to convert their bow lounge area to a casting deck and a fold-away aft lounge to make the rear deck quite a fishable cockpit. They’ve a real split personality – being both family fun boat and serious fishing platform.
But Stacer is a very customer driven company and when demand for an upmarket interior leaning towards family fun and somewhat away from fishing became evident, the Ski Pack option fitted to our test boat was the result. The Ski Pack involves full carpeting and a lot of upholstery, notably deeply-padded backrests in the bow and aft lounges and an upholstered infill for the bow lounge instead of the carpeted one that converts the area to a casting deck that comes with standard model Stacer Easy Riders.
Our test took on a hot, steamy Gold Coast summer day and the bimini top, which comes as part of the Ski pack, certainly earned its keep. As did the fold-away boarding ladder mounted on the extended transom, that Stacer calls a Mod Pod, which made it so easy to get out of the boat onto any one of several beaches we visited. In fact, the stainless steel ski pole was the only option we didn’t use on the day.
Stacer have come a long way from the utilitarian looks of the classic tinnie with a low profile, raked-back windscreen. The bimini can be folded back and stowed in a zip up sock if sporty looks are a priority, but on the day we left it up and really appreciated how well it shaded the central seating.
Helm and passenger seats behind the screen are well sheltered from slipstream and spray, even though we left the centre section of the screen open for ventilation in the summer heat. With the screen, and the lower door through to the bow lounge closed, it was a calm air situation behind the screen.
Folk in cooler southern climes may prefer the gap between the windscreen to be filled with a clear section to complete weather protection. On our steamy, summer day the flow of air was fine thank you. A zip/clip in/out section here would offer the full gambit of ventilation and shelter possibilities.
Sure, you can fish from it, but as we’d already discovered, a Ski Pack optioned Easy Rider doesn’t take its fishing as seriously as the standard model. The driving position was quite sports car-ish with arms and legs stretched, an impression helped along by the pair of instrument binnacles protruding from the top of the dash panel. In front of the passenger was a glove box for car keys and things, and to remind you this is a boat after all, the screen frame itself included a substantial grab bar.
Family outings, especially if two couples and a couple of kids, or the three couples who can be seated so easily in this boat are involved, means heaps of gear. The Easy Rider takes care of that one too. Underneath the bow and aft lounges is enough dry, out of the way, storage to contain several heaps of gear. Storage space under the aft lounge is in rotomoulded bins making them the site of choice for gear likely to make a little noise against a metal compartment.
Speaking of noise, a standard Easy Rider has the traditional side pockets along each side of the cockpit under each gunwale. Our Ski Pack optioned test boat had carpeted infill panels to finish off the cockpit sides so well that a casual inspection of the boat’s interior could end none the wiser as to what this boat was constructed from.
Even after a ride on the water, it wouldn’t be too hard to be totally unaware you’d been out in a metal-hulled boat because with all the carpeting on the decks, the deeply upholstered lounges and the side panels, water noise from outside the hull was remarkably muted. Certainly, I’ve been in ‘glass hulled boats which were a lot noisier over the water than this one.
Which brings us to ride and handling. Stacer stretch form their bottom sheets to create a flared, or more correctly termed variable deadrise bottom. Forget the usual teeth endangering slap, slam, bam of the shallow to moderate deadrise aluminium hull it would be easy to dismiss this one with a casual inspection. With a sane hand on the go lever, it coped with estuarine wind chop remarkably well.
Given how quietly the hull deals with surface chop, while perhaps it didn’t cut water like a so- called deep-vee ‘glass boat, neither did it flop from side-to-side at rest, or try to ride one chine or the other at speed like so many of them do. Pushing hard into turns needs the astute thumb on the trim button expected of metal hulls, in other words if you don’t trim well in you can induce the propeller to ventilate fairly easily, however it only occurs if pushed harder than commonsense dictates for family boating.
Overall the hull’s performance was very much no fuss and quite confidence inspiring, in fact exactly what it should be for the type of boat it is. If a boat is obviously meant for fishing it can’t be expected to perform like a ski racer, but despite this boat’s option list taking it a step away from fishing towards the social side of skiing it’s performance was not found to be lacking.
The maximum factory rating for the 5.25-metre Stacer hull is 115hp so some go in a straight line is perhaps to be expected of a boat wearing 115 stickers on its powerplant. Mercury’s Saltwater 115 is a classic outboard, which has been with us a long time, albeit these days with the addition of some trick electronics.
Up to 1800rpm the motor is electronically kept to running on two cylinders out of four. At 1800 revs, the last pair kick in to produce a very noticeable boost to forward motion.
It took some effort to actually determine the boat’s minimum planing speed because of this. Eventually we found it to be 8.5 knots, but only by punching the 525 Easy Rider onto the plane and then easing back. At about six knots the extra cylinders come on line and before you know it, the speedo (our GPS under test) is reading 11.5 knots. A little disconcerting at first, but once accustomed to it the jump to warp speed only means you can zap it onto the plane at will. This turned out to be quite an asset for social skiing.
Mercury claims the system, which they term Concept 2+2 gives smoother idling and improves slow-speed trolling manners, which is barely of interest here. However, the motor certainly runs smooth at idle. For what today is becoming an elderly design, this faithful four-cylinder, inline two-stroke showed there’s life in it yet. The cost benefits compared to higher tech contemporary motors ensure this motor will remain a relevant choice for a while yet.