When you’ve been building boats for 60 years, you learn a thing or two along the way. And inevitably the boats you build reflect that accumulated knowledge and experience. Especially so in the case of Bruce and Alan Steber, the father and son team that heads iconic Australian company, Stebercraft.
Based midway between Sydney and Brisbane in the NSW coastal town of Taree, Stebercraft has a reputation for building boats to their own style and rugged specification. The company is recognised for producing dependable, sound and solid craft designed to take the sort of punishment meted out by Australian boaters and fishos.
And none of their boats epitomise this practical and thoughtful approach to boat building more than the company’s new 3800 Flybridge Sports Fisher. In fact, practicality is at the heart of this new vessel, which showcases the six decades of experience that have contributed to its design and manufacture.
With the Stebers having focused very much on the commercial and charter markets in recent years, racking up an impressive list of export clients in the process, this latest boat exhibits the versatility to allow it to be easily converted from charter to private use. It is built very much with practicality and servicing in mind, while still incorporating plenty of comfort and liveability where it counts.
Stepping aboard, the first impression is of the sheer space and simplicity of the cockpit. It’s huge for a boat of this size and displays all of the features needed for a serious fishing platform. The gunwales are low, around knee height, and topped with a sturdy grab rail. They also boast plenty of storage room to pack gear away when the fight is on. Speaking of which, I can certainly vouch for the cockpit’s ‘fishability’, having used most of it during the 45 minutes it took me to bring a feisty striped marlin to the back of the boat. I made good use of the non-skid moulded decking as the fish took me all over the cockpit and if I’d been so-inclined, we could have boated it relatively easily through the central transom door. The fight was further biased in my favour courtesy of the handy toe hold that runs the full perimeter of the cockpit. There is also provision for generously proportioned live bait and kill tanks in the cockpit decking.
Mechanics would appreciate the fuss-free access to the twin 420hp Yanmar diesels, which is via two flush-mounted hatches in the cockpit floor. Even if major work is required, the engines can be removed relatively easily without need to go indoors. Alan emphasised that the Yanmars are quite up to the task, but that other engine options are available on request.
Another utilitarian touch is the shower/head, which is handily placed at the portside front of the cockpit so that guests can wash off the grime and dirt of a day’s fishing without dragging it all through the saloon. On the opposite side of the cockpit is a decent-sized freezer/fridge, tucked in behind the flybridge ladder.
With Alan aiming for a roughly one third equal ratio between the cockpit, saloon and forward cabin, the interior is equally spacious for a 12-metre craft. The layout is simple and designed to allow people to move about with ease. That said, this boat still offers levels of comfort and finish that would see it compare well with larger, more luxurious craft. The starboard galley is well proportioned and laid out, with everything easily accessed, and it’s simply a matter of reaching across the saloon to serve guests seated for dining on the L-shaped lounge. The lounge also folds out to offer extra sleeping space for overnighters. With the large cockpit door and plenty of natural lighting courtesy of the wraparound windows, visibility in all directions is excellent.
The forward master is accessed via a small central stairwell in the forward bulkhead and on our boat is set up as a double-deck V-berth, although Alan says the layout can be varied to an island berth if required. Likewise, the saloon is available in a different layout that accommodates the shower/head on the lower level in the master.
Throughout the interior spaces, there is plenty of storage, and highly polished timber surfaces add a measure of elegance and style. And with the cockpit and saloon on one level, getting around is easy and safe.
EYE ON THE ACTION
Up the flybridge stairs, the skipper’s lair offers generous 360-degree views, with protection from the elements afforded by the hardtop and clears. The centrally-located helm is especially good when fighting fish as the skipper can keep his eye on the action and direct crew with a straight line of sight into the cockpit. Guests can keep him company on a wraparound lounge at the front of the bridge, while there are plenty of handholds if the going gets rough. Placement of instrumentation and controls is good as everything is close at hand and easily monitored without taking your eyes off the surroundings. The upper deck extends well back over the cockpit, offering some protection from the sun when needed.
Access forward from the cockpit is a breeze, via moulded steps and generous walkways skirted by solid and well-placed bow rails.
The most notable aspect of the 3800 underway was its soft, dry ride. Spending a full day on a sports fisher, including doing a bit of stand-up work with an energetic marlin, certainly helps give an accurate assessment of any boat. It was a little bow-high on the plane, but turning at a moderate to medium clip saw the 3800 maintain a surprisingly flat attitude.
The Steber showed itself to be a good all-round performer, with superior stability at rest, while offering a good turn of speed from its twin Yanmars, with 33 knots available flat-out and a comfortable cruising pace of around 21-22 knots. At a slightly more sedate 16-18 knots, the Yanmars drink around 21 litres each per hour, which, with 1400-litre tanks, works out to a total range of around 500 nautical miles – more than enough for most fishing excursions.
Whether for charter or private use, the 3800 Steber Sports Fisher is a worthy contender, offering excellent practicality and serviceability, with a good measure of comfort and amenity thrown in. It is certainly a worthy craft to mark the company’s landmark 60th anniversary and I’m not the only one to think so – judges awarded the 3800 winner of the Fishing Non-Trailerable Over 10 Metre category in the 2007 AMIF Australian Marine Awards. Based on my own experiences, I’m sure this crafty craft will find plenty of friends in the fishing, sports and charter fraternities.
As Alan Steber readily admits, his boats are not the cheapest around – and at $630,000 as tested there are certainly some cheaper, equivalent-sized flybridge boats on the market.
But the clever use of space, overall build quality, ruggedness, durability and Steber’s commitment to after-sales support make a compelling case for purchase.
For more information, call (02) 6552 2577 or try: www.steber.com.au.
SPECIFICATIONS: STEBER 3800 SPORTS FISHER
Length overall: 12.2m
Moulded length: 11.5m
Draft: 1.0m approx
Engines as tested: 2 × 420hp Yanmar
Fuel capacity: 1400lt
Water capacity: 300lt
Base price: $513,000
As tested: $630,000