American dreams

Barry Tranter | VOLUME 22, ISSUE 2
The Americans are no mugs when it comes to fitting out a fishing boat.
Whether you’re a keen angler or after something with some get up and go, these two Yankee imports tick a long list of boxes…

“We have wanted a diesel for a long time,” says Peter from Berowra Waters Wholesale’s Avante Marine. “We have had so many requests for diesel,” he adds.

The Trophy 2352 WA (Walkround) has been around for three years, but it has recently been revised with a fish box, swim platform, helm and gauges, and the diesel power is new. The 2352 is one of 10 Trophy Walkaround models, ranging in size from 18ft to 29ft. The company also does a range of four centre consoles (17ft to 25ft, outboard-powered), the difference being that the Walkarounds have a cuddy cabin.

Fishing is the raison d’etre of the Trophy range, and the addition of the diesel would enhance the 2352’s appeal to the fishing community considerably.

This 2352 is fitted with the Cummins MerCruiser 2.8lt four-cylinder. Now 2.8lt is big for a four, so Cummins uses a balance shaft to improve smoothness (Mitsubishi and Porsche have used the same technique in their petrol car engines for years).

The engine puts out 200hp at 3800rpm, but more important is the torque curve – which, in this case, is up around its peak of 320ftlb at a fraction over 2000rpm. By 3000rpm, it has dropped a little, but at max revs (3800rpm) it is still delivering about 275ftlb.

We did not test fuel consumption, but the Cummins/Merc website claims 36lt/hour at 2500rpm. That doesn’t mean much as we assume it was derived from static engine tests, but it shows I have at least tried to do my homework! The base Trophy is fitted with a 5lt MerCruiser MPI.

The turbo diesel is mated to a Bravo III leg, which carries two contra-rotating props. The combination of the turbo diesel torque and the bite of the props means this 2200kg hull has blasted through the planing transition and is at cruising speed in three to four seconds from rest.

But forgive me for talking about the engine before talking about the boat itself. This is a 7.14m hull with a 2.59m beam (check local regulations for towing width restrictions). The hull has quite a deep vee (20 degrees) and the underwater area is conventional. The vee fattens to the horizontal at the chines, creating a strake about 100mm wide (measured at the transom), which boosts lateral stability and throws spray out and away.

This is a fisho’s boat, but you could take out the family for a day, or two people can overnight. In the cuddy cabin, you will find an enclosed toilet with a holding tank and macerator, a table, vee berths that convert to a double, a sink and a camping-style cooktop, which folds up and stows away alongside the sink console.

“You can catch a fish and cook it,” says Peter. Or make a cup of tea, I say to myself. Do fishos drink tea? I doubt it. There’s a recess under the portside jumpseat (rear-facing) to take a standard Esky for the more important beverages. Under the starboard jumpseat is the live bait tank. The cabin is a nice womb-like space, fabric-lined on the deckhead.

This is a six-seater – there are two main seats (both adjustable for height), two jumpseats and two aft, either side of the engine box. The helmsman’s seat has a moulded recess in the main bulkhead to act as a footrest; the passenger’s rest is fabricated and attached to the pedestal.

Electronics go in a binnacle ahead of the helmsman, the radio behind a green-tinted door mounted overhead.

“The tower is strong enough to jump on,” says Peter, although we can’t find any volunteers. But the structure is made from anodised aluminium and is obviously very rigid.

FITTING FITOUT

The Americans are no mugs when it comes to fitting out a fishing boat. The stern cleats are mounted below the gunwale; lines and fenders are led through a hole in the deck. Rod racks are mounted on each cockpit side and rocket launchers are on the tower, where they should be.

There is a kill tank each side; they drain at the flick of a switch. The engine box is padded and there are removable padded panels on the inner side of the gunwale to ease the pain when battling fish. There’s a door in the transom, a solid landing platform and a swim ladder, which folds out from underneath.

This hull looks beautifully moulded and, purely subjectively, I reckon it looks good in general. I really like that gunwale line, which, in Yankee cars of the ’50s, was labelled the ‘Coke bottle’.

Open the throttle and there’s a hesitation which lasts about a millisecond while the turbo gets excited, then this substantial boat charges onto the plane as fast as anyone could want. Four seconds maximum, as we mentioned earlier, from stationary to throttling-back cruising speed.

We had planned to head out to sea, but when we were halfway down Sydney’s Parramatta River a weird southerly change arrived earlier than forecast, and, as it was pumping at 25 knots or so across the harbour, we decided that cowardice should rule.

Even inshore we had short, square seas well over a metre high, but across the wind and the nasty chop she coped well. She showed little tendency to lean onto the windward chine (a deep-vee characteristic), but that could be handled by the windward tab, anyway. I lifted the nose a fraction and she was happy.

An easy cruise is 25mph and 2600rpm, a speed where the ride is gentle, fuel consumption should be good and the engine under-stressed, but there’s a lot more if you want it. Pull 3000rpm and you’ll hit 30mph, while flat-out at 3800rpm gives you nearly 40mph in still conditions. Peter observes that the fastest you would want to cruise is 3200rpm and 34mph, and I reckon he’s right as above that the diesel gets a bit noisy.

Because the engine has so much low-down torque when you’re running at, say, 2600rpm and 25mph, veteran diesel experience suggests that the engine should not have much more to give. But the modern turbo always surprises, because at this speed there is still 1200rpm and almost another 15mph to come.

Perhaps this feeling arises from years of old non-turbo diesels, which started to get breathless at 3000rpm. But the combination of torque and the bite of the props means the hull is happy at any speed, fast or slow. It trolls easily, sprints fast and will roll along forever at medium speeds.

On my Christmas holidays I saw a near-new petrol Trophy 2352 on a trailer near Forster on NSW’s mid-north coast and it made the holidaying tinnie owners dribble with envy.

I’m not fisherman enough to fault the Trophy’s ability as an angling platform, but it seems to me that everything is there and in the right place. Value for money is high; compare its prices with Aussie-built near-equivalents or US-built direct competitors.

And you can take the family out on Sunday for fun. In recent years, old-style yacht racing – where the blokes vanished all weekend and came home late and under the weather – has gone, replaced by a mix of less-intense racing and social sailing.

Do fishos go out with the blokes on Saturday and take the family for a run on Sunday? Or is sport fishing the last refuge of dinkum Aussie blokes? Either way, the Trophy 2352 will keep you smiling. When I do a boat test, I like to find an owner and ask him or her how he or she uses the boat and whether the boat has failings not obvious during a brief acquaintance – just to see if there’s something I might have missed.

If I can’t find an owner, I like to ask the builder about the uses the boat was designed for. In the case of the Maxum 1800 MX, the builder is in America, so I took the lazy tester’s way out and resorted to the builder’s website, which came up with this masterly piece of understatement. It says that the Maxum 1800 MX is ideal for “…day trips, when you want to spend the day out on the water; and water sports, including swimming, tubing and water skiing.” Which tells us just about everything. And nothing.

On a strange Sydney day in late spring, we launched the Maxum at a ramp on the Parramatta River. The day was strange because the weather couldn’t decide whether it was hot or cold, cloudy or fine. After 20 minutes on the water, it made up its mind and kicked in a cold sou’westerly change, at least half a day ahead of the forecast time.

Considering the strangeness of the day, we decided against watersports (the Parramatta River is also a happy hunting ground for the bull shark) and opted for a good old-fashioned day on the water – sightseeing, hanging around, trying out the boat.

The 1800 MX is a 5.36m hull, or 17ft 7in. With the standard 3lt MerCruiser V6, she weighs 903kg, or, very roughly, 1150kg with the trailer. It is one of eight from Maxum’s Sports Boat range; all bowrider styles and all very nicely built. We have tried the biggest, the 24-footer, which is again both well-built and beautifully detailed.

The Americans like to define a market niche then develop it to the utmost. This breeds, I suppose, brand loyalty, and if you are looking for a sports cruiser, you will find it somewhere in Maxum’s four distinct product lines.

The 1800’s specs list the deadrise (the angle at the transom made by the hull’s bottom planes) as 19 degrees, but things ain’t that simple. The hull is ‘vee-d’ at the centreline, then there’s a flat bit – a plank – which provides hull lift and sits snugly against the trailer’s locating bars, making the boat stable on the trailer. Then there’s more vee and finally the chines are slightly downturned, for the last 150mm or so.

The result is a ride that is firm, while never being too harsh or hard. It’s well damped, like a car with good shock absorbers. And engine noise – something I feel strongly about – is damped nicely, too. For me, engine noise spoils a day on the water more than anything else.

This is a revised model for 2007. It has what Peter, from Berowra Waters Wholesale, calls a king plank hull, which means it is in a solid colour instead of stripes, though the latter is an option. You get stainless steel cup holders and fittings instead of the plastic of previous models.

UNDERSTRESSED

The MerCruiser is a 3lt with carburettors that produces 135hp (101kW), which means it is not highly stressed. To the hoons among us that may not sound like a lot of power, but I thought the engine matched the boat beautifully, and its modest size means it has minimal intrusion on cockpit space. The engine box, in particular, is a beautifully-styled moulding. In fact, come to think of it, all Maxums have great mouldings.

And so we set off down the Parramatta River, Sydney’s most overlooked waterway. For a century or so it was an industrial wasteland. By the ’90s, the industry had gone and left only the waste. Now the former factory sites are being developed into massive housing estates. Not all are tasteless, and some are downright attractive. Many are still in the process of being built.

One of Sydney’s underrated excursions is the high-speed Rivercat service to Parramatta – fast, quiet cats that run at almost five-minute intervals, or so it seemed to us as we dodged them constantly during our low-speed sightseeing tour.

The cats are perhaps too fast and too quiet; only a few weeks later one collided with a tinnie and the fisho was badly injured. There are tales of the tinnies vanishing down the tunnels of the cats, then being spat out the back unharmed, leaving the fishos both shaken and stirred. But they may be waterborne myths…

It was a good day to try out the 1800 MX as the southerly chopped up the river and, later, the western end of the Harbour.

The boat snaps onto the plane instantly. An easy cruise is 3000rpm and 25mph; 3300rpm is 30mph. Top is 4500rpm and 40mph.

The power steering is excellent, the boat rides well and the hull feels nice and tight, so it is sports car-responsive. Alan (from Berowra Waters Wholesale’s Avante Marine) reckons he has been aboard when full lock was applied at top speed, and while it scared the hell out of him, the boat simply did a U-turn, no fuss. We decide not to try this. However, we did do enough doughnuts to establish that the hull hangs on tight and corners on rails, as the cliché would have it.

The Maxum it is not meant for extreme conditions, but it easily handled the nasty swell and chop that resulted when the wind kicked in.

Heading downriver and back up again, we dodged the river cats, occasional workboats and slowed for the cable ferry at Putney; an anachronism I hope is never allowed to disappear.

We saw beautiful buildings, including the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital at Concord. This is in the grounds of the Edmund Blacket-designed Yaralla, an Italianate Victorian mansion built for Thomas Walker, who later built the hospital at the bottom of his garden, on the riverbank at Rocky Point. It helps if you do your homework when you go out for a day on the water – or at least when you get home…

The 1800 MX is a nice boat. The engine is well-matched to the hull, so the performance is responsive, the steering is perfect and so is the handling. This is, indeed, a sports boat, worthy of the name, and great fun to toss about.

It also seems well put together, with those quality mouldings and classy, cream-colouredvinyl seats. There is plenty of stowage, plus a tow hook, swim ladder and plenty of grabhandles.

It strikes me as an eminently sensible boat, with a good compromise between seating capacity, towing weight, power, economy and performance. And price – this is a lot of boat for a tenner less than $36,000. In this age of excess, a good compromise like this is hard to find.

SPECIFICATIONS

TROPHY 2352 WA

Overall length: 7.14m

Beam: 2.59m

Weight (boat only): 2200kg

Draught (max): 0.94m

Fuel: 382lt

Power: 200hp

Price: Base boat, $91,790 As tested, $116,790

MAXUM 1800 MX

Overall length: 5.36m

Beam: 2.13m

Weight (approx.): 903kg

Weight on trailer (approx.): 1141kg

Draught (max): 0.89m

Power: 135hp

Price (with 3lt MerCruiser): $35,990

More information from Berowra Waters Wholesale, Berowra Waters, Sydney.

Phone 1800 802 444.


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