The fish-rich waters of Foveaux Strait off the southernmost tip of New Zealand are renowned for rough and treacherous sea conditions. During the 1800s, there were at least 13 recorded wrecks of sizeable ships. Even today, the strait still claims its victims. In May last year, a trawler sank in heavy seas and of the nine people on board, only three survived.
These dangerous waters are the very birthplace of the Stabi-Craft range of vessels. According to the company’s mission statement: “It was in 1986 that two local Foveaux Strait fishermen approached the fledgling Stabi-Craft Marine with a brief to design and build a small, rugged, unsinkable pontoon-style boat. The key criterion was it would have to allow them to fish these waters in almost any conditions and always bring them and their catch safely back to their mother boat.”
Well, in this writer’s opinion, it’s ‘Mission Accomplished’. Of course, as an owner of an earlier version of the 609, I may be a tad biased, although I believe the hundreds of hours I’ve spent aboard in all types of sea conditions gives my opinion some serious credibility.
Stabi-Craft Marine has not rested on its laurels with the 609SC. The changes made to the model have significantly improved the craft from earlier versions. These changes include an all-aluminium hull and superstructure, whereas earlier versions combined GRP and aluminium, plus a redesign of the side-decks, resulting in significantly more room for both helmsman and passenger.
Stabi-Craft boats are super-strong vessels and use advanced metal extrusion technology to create continuous pontoons that provide a life-ring on the upper-outer extremities of the craft. Each life-ring contains three air-tight chambers.
But the safety doesn’t stop there. The addition of an air-tight chamber between the floor and hull creates a virtually unsinkable vessel. And when the hull thickness of 5mm is taken into consideration, I doubt there is a stronger, safer boat to be found anywhere in the marketplace.
The pontoons have significant benefits in other ways, too. When underway, they form very wide reversed chines, which throw water not only away from the vessel, but back down toward the sea surface, giving not only a smooth ride, but also a very dry one. At anchor, the positive buoyancy created by these outboard pontoons creates a very stable craft, even when a person of significant weight moves from side to side or sits on a gunwale.
The third obvious benefit of the pontoons is that the vessel is much less sensitive to load placement; a real boon to those carrying heavy gear such as serious fishos and scuba divers. Speaking of scuba divers, the T-bar design of the reboarding ladder is brilliant, with no need to try and feed fins through a normal ladder-type unit with side-rails – a difficult task at any time, particularly in a boisterous seaway.
The centre section of the hull is described as a variable deadrise unit, with 20 degrees at the transom. Thanks to the all-aluminium construction, the hull itself only runs to 800kg – impressive for a craft with a length of 6.2 metres and a beam of 2.5 metres – and it offers a lot of tow vehicle flexibility. Stabi-Craft lists the approximate towing weight at 1370kg.
The power rating of the 609SC is from 130 to 175 horsepower. Our test boat was fitted with a 150hp Mercury Verado four-stroke unit, which is a supercharged straight four-cylinder of 1.7 litre capacity. A digital throttle and shift unit provides superb light control of acceleration and speed adjustments. The test craft runs a stainless steel Revolution 4 propeller with a diameter of 14 inches and a pitch of 15 inches, and it seemed well suited to the power unit.
Certainly, significant savings would result from choosing a 130 horsepower unit. In my opinion, a smaller unit would power the craft more than adequately, although the 150 did appeal to the boy racer in me – the craft leapt on to the plane like a greyhound leaving the starting gate.
A 200-litre underfloor fuel tank should provide more than adequate range. Adelaide Shores Marine, the Adelaide dealer for Stabi-Craft, says that at cruising speeds this 609 returns around 1.1 nautical miles per litre of fuel.
LIFE ON BOARD
Wide, flat gunwales make it easy to board from the side, although the safest and easiest way is via the rear boarding step to port and the walk-through transom. A self-draining floor adds to the peace of mind afforded by all the aforementioned safety features.
There is good storage space for rods or even skis down either side of the cockpit, a bilge pump and well have been incorporated into the hull and there is a raised battery and oil tank shelf, which keep both items well clear of any stray water that may make its way aboard.
The view through the large glass screen is superb and creature comforts are well taken care of by the hardtop, which protects from the sun’s burning rays. Although I didn’t take an exact measurement, I’m sure that even the taller among us would find it provides sufficient headroom. Sliding glass windows provide adequate ventilation for the hot summer days and the sturdy pedestal seats provided both room and comfort for this 100kg-plus tester.
Either sitting or standing, the controls fall well to hand and unlike many other craft, the superbly soft riding qualities of the Stabi-Craft make driving from a seated position a truly practical proposition. The sightlines to both the instruments and through the very generous windscreen are excellent, indeed, making driving a pleasure, regardless of whether you are upright or seated.
In the cabin there is a watertight access hatch of generous proportions, which can be used to work the ground tackle. The test craft is fitted with an anchor winch, which allows anchoring and retrieving to be carried out effortlessly from the helm. There is a step-down between the vee berth set-up, while the berths themselves are best described as ‘adequate’ for the average-sized bloke to take a snooze between tides or spend a night or two afloat. There are storage shelves both to port and starboard and the cabin is carpet-lined, as is the hard top.
Now I wanted the photographs to demonstrate the superb rough water capabilities of this craft, so we waited for a day where the Gulf of Saint Vincent sea breeze was stiff to the point that a strong wind warning was current. I asked Adelaide Shores Sales and Marketing Manager, Shane Schwarz to charge around at somewhat exaggerated speeds in order to get some spectacular shots, while I tried to keep my balance on the camera boat which, fortunately, was another Stabi-Craft.
On the following morning, for the speed runs, we launched the craft on a relatively flat sea. I took the helm and the big Verado snicked into gear silently. A gentle push on the throttle had the craft leaping on to plane and tracking across the light chop. Steering effort was minimal and the craft leaned into turns in the same way as a deep vee hull, with none of the outward lean found with some twin- or tri-hull configurations.
The power-to-weight ratio of this craft made driving it seem more like a ski boat than a fishing boat. When the throttle was given a quick push, the craft leapt forward with impressive speed. At all running angles, the vessel felt stable, yet agile, and was a joy to throw around.
Now, with this hull there is not a clear demarcation between travelling at displacement or planing speed. However, a seat-of-the-pants estimate is that it can be said to be planing at around 7-8 knots.
Extras fitted to the 609 Super Cab include an anchor winch, a rocket launcher, a live bait tank, a rear bench seat and the T-bar boarding ladder. The test craft was also fitted with a Lowrance Global Map 5200, Lowrance X-510 sonar and a GME VHF radio, although owners can choose whichever electronics they prefer.
There is a 3-year warranty on the boat, a 2-year warranty on the trailer plus a 3+2 engine warranty and a 3-year warranty against corrosion. As tested, the 609 Super Cab comes in at $84,500 which, given the fact it will handle rough sea conditions better than many significantly larger craft, has to be real value for money. And what price peace of mind?
SPECIFICATIONS: STABI-CRAFT 609 SUPER CAB
Hull length: 6.2m
Deadrise at transom: 20 degrees
Trailering weight: 1370kg (approx)
Fuel capacity: 200lt
Power ratings: 130-175hp. Factory recommended 130hp
Stabi-Craft 609 Super Cab/Mercury Verado 150hp four-stroke outboard
Propeller: Revolution 4 propeller, 14 inch diameter, 15 inch pitch
Location: West Beach, SA
Conditions: Day 1, 20+ knot onshore wind, Day 2, 8 knot offshore wind
Load: 2 adults, full fuel load
RPM Speed (Knots)
For more information, contact: Adelaide Shores Marine, West Beach, SA. Tel: (08) 8295 8000 or cruise to: www.stabicraft.com.