On the prowl

Rick Huckstepp | VOLUME 24, ISSUE 6

In either stern-or shaft-drive configurations, and across commercial or recreational applications, Markham Marine’s new 9800 cat is one versatile vessel.

There’s another big cat prowling our coast in the shape of Markham Marine’s 9800. Club Marine checked its pedigree just after the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show.

As well as a shaft-drive model, another version was available fitted with Volvo Penta Duo Prop stern-drives, and both make for interesting boating.

The Markham 9800 is one of the largest boats manufactured in Australia using the resin infusion system, in which all foam and fibreglass is dry-fitted to the mould and a vacuum is created inside a plastic liner. Resin is then drawn in by the vacuum, creating a strong, solid bond with uniform thickness. Another advantage over the traditional ‘lay-up’ construction method is that the end result is generally lighter, with obvious benefits in terms of fuel economy.

Markham is probably the oldest multi-hull manufacturer in this country, with 35 years of experience culminating in the 9800; a model featuring asymmetrical hulls that produce distinct handling characteristics, of which we will speak later.

A 4.0m beam results in a roomy 14sqm cockpit, making it an ideal contender as a charter, commercial fishing or dive vessel. However, the test boat was destined for private ownership in Western Australia and had been fitted with a cray-pot gypsy operated by a foot switch, and a swinging boom to keep the pot away from the gelcoat when it is lifted aboard. To assist with close-quarter manoeuvring when working the pots, a set of engine controls was installed on the fascia of the corner sink module, which forms part of the superstructure.

The top of this module features a large lid with gas struts for easy lifting, and when opened reveals a good-sized sink flush-mounted underneath. The plumbing is on a flexible hose under another flush-mounted lid. In the fascia of this unit is a smart, stainless-steel freezer in the form of a pull-out drawer, which is handy for servicing partygoers with drinks and ice or for stowing baits that can be thawed in the sink above.

BAIT PREP OR BARBIE

In the opposite corner, flush up against the saloon’s rear bulkhead, is another module, which also forms part of the superstructure. This hosts the bait station, when it’s not installed on the transom. This is a handy feature, which allows the bait station to be used as a table or bait-rigging bench. In addition, a stainless steel gas BBQ, which is normally installed inside the module, can be swapped with the bait station either on the module or transom.

The ladder leading to the flybridge is installed at the aft end of the top deck and offers a comfortable climbing angle. It is also aft enough to allow access to the port-side module and does not encroach into the cockpit.

The stern-drive version of the 9800 has a starboard transom door, with a large marlin board, while the shaft-drive version has a centrally-located transom door and was decked out with a smart Reelax game chair, with a bait-rigging station at its back rest. This version also featured a large live-bait tank, with viewing window, whereas the stern-drive model had more stowage pockets across the transom bulkhead. With regard to cockpit layouts and fittings, Markham says it can accommodate individual buyer preferences.

Under the cockpit sole, the shaft-drive model was fitted with a pair of Volvo diesel D4 300hp engines, while the stern-drive came with a pair of D6 diesel 330hp engines and Duo Prop legs.

With the D6s tucked right back against the transom, there is a stack of work space below deck. The strainers were easily accessible and the oil filters were close to hand, provided the engines were cool so one could reach across the top covers. The dipstick was handy and there was full access to the belt system.

The battery and switch system is installed at the forward end of the starboard engine room and a bench provides for a small work station. Its hinged lid opens to reveal a stowage area for tools that may be kept handy all of the time rather than getting in and out of the bilge to find the right spanner. The matching space in the port-side engine room hosts the Onan genset.

Access to the foredeck of the 9800 is via a step near the fore-corners of the cockpit that leads onto a wide gunwale. There are solid hand rails along the side of the superstructure and the bow rails begin about half way along the saloon wall. Once there, the bulbous cabin roof has a reasonably flat area interrupted with a pair of tinted sky vents. In fact, the owner of one of the rigs has installed tie-down rings around the top to secure a mattress for sunbaking.

Climbing onto the flybridge reveals the helm station tucked away on the starboard side. It is a low-profile affair so vision forward will never be an issue, even for the vertically-challenged. The rear brow of the helm module hosts sounders and a GPS as well as a brace of instrumentation for both engines, while the binnacle engine controls are in one cluster on the table top. The helm wheel is installed very low on the face of the station, which might be uncomfortable for many – especially if you prefer to stand at the helm. This issue is being addressed, with an ewraised section being designed on which to mount the helm. In the meantime, a multi-tilt helm unit would address the problem.

The rest of the forward and port side of the bridge was taken up with an L-shaped lounge with backrest. The stainless steel work holding up the hardtop provides enough hand holds when seated or moving about the bridge in rough weather.

The communications centre is installed across the forward edge of the hard top, within easy reach of the helm.

FUNCTIONAL INTERIOR

The saloon is fitted with an L-shaped lounge with comfortably high back-rests. Stowage is available below the cushions and the swivel table featured a fiddle rail to stop items sliding off.

Directly opposite, the bathroom is roomy considering the LOA of this vessel and the vanity basin has plenty of bench space, which is a nice change from many we see. The pull-out rose from the basin serves as the shower and the head against the aft wall sits on a high ledge, while a hatch with a rubber seal in the portside wall conceals enough storage to hold necessary toiletries.

Back out in the saloon, the galley is located forward of the head. It is a compact affair, with removable tops covering the cooker and sink, with a short ledge to prevent gear sliding off and ending up down the port stairwell. There is a refrigerator installed in its fascia as well as a pair of deep drawers for cutlery, crockery and pans. Midships is the entertainment suite, which boasts a stereo system and low-set cupboards for stowage. A microwave cooker is placed handily close to the galley.

A short step leads down into the double-berth sleeping quarters, which are found behind the privacy of heavy curtains on the port side. Headroom is limited, but there is plenty of room for sleeping. Shallow stowage is available under the berth up against the tunnel. A cavity extends under the saloon deck and there is a stack of usable space here to stow supplies when on a long journey.

There are options to have fold-down bunks installed here and, in fact, on the shaft-drive version the starboard-side void was fitted out as a tackle room, while still having room for a hinged single bunk.

CAT-LIKE AGILITY

Markhams make for interesting driving if you’re a cat fancier. For a start, unlike most multi-hulls, they lean into rather than out of corners. This is due to the asymmetrical hulls, which are configured with rounded entries in the forequarters that blend into asymmetrical tapers rearwards. The outboard sides of the hulls remain rounded, while the inboard sections are sharper, resulting in lift on the outboard side when turning, which causes the boat to lean into turns.

Markhams are also very manoeuvrable under power. With power applied to lift the forefoot of the hulls, a full lock of the helm will see it spin about effortlessly and in a tight circle. Acceleration on both models was good, with neither displaying any grunt or groan during hole-shot. These hulls simply move forward and glide onto the plane, with no noticeable staging in between.

Both boats maintained their agility when powering rearward and I’d predict would back down on fish nicely and be capable of some smart manoeuvring when trying to dock in big side winds. Speaking of manoeuvring, we did observe a much-reduced level of vibration and rumbling from aeration at the propellers in the stern-drive model compared to the shaft-driven boat.

According to Markham, both boats were brought from Port Macquarie to the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in less than kind seas. The skipper of the stern-drive 9800 was pushing swell 4m to 4.5m, and reportedly doing it easy at 20kt with fuel consumption on each motor of about 25lt/hr. You would have to be happy with that.

Whether you choose the stern-or shaft-drive versions of the Markham 9800, this boat is a fuel miser, which is a nice attribute in these economic times. Coupled with the practicalities it has built into it, you are looking at a smart all-rounder for commercial or recreational fishing and boating.

SPECIFICATIONS: MARKHAM 9800

Lengthoverall: 9.76m

Beam: 4.0m

Draft: 0.7m stern drive (1.15m shaft drive)

Fuel: 1300lt in two tanks

Water: 650lt

Blackwater: 250lt

Price: $411,900 (shaft-drive model) $430,600 (stern-drive model)

For more information, contact Markham tel (02) 6581 1034.


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