Power game

Rick Huckstepp | VOLUME 25, ISSUE 1

CruiseCraft has upped the ante for large offshore fishing craft with the launch of its V8-powered Explorer 685.

When a manufacturer decides to up the power rating of a particular hull design, it’s not just a matter of changing the numbers on a specifications sheet. All sorts of issues need to be taken into consideration, such as public liability, which may impact on a manufacturer if the new engine doesn’t match the power figure on the builder’s plate. Apart from increasing the cost of a particular craft, adding more power can also have critical effects on hull stress and structures. So the decision to bolt more power to the back of a boat is not taken lightly.

The advent of Yamaha’s F350 V8 outboard in early 2007, and the similar spec F300 engine more recently, has had an impact on boat builders across the world, and certainly here in Australia. The huge power and torque generated by the 5.3lt four-strokes has drawn a lot of serious fishing people to the V8 stable, requiring boat builders to respond. Brisbane-based trailer boat builder, CruiseCraft is one of the first local companies to respond to demand, but has not simply bolted one of the behemoths onto an existing boat in its range.

Already a tough bluewater fishing platform, the Explorer 685 has been put through rigorous testing in order to meet the stringent CE certification requirements for fitting the large displacement F300 Yamaha. To come up with the green flag, some minor re-engineering and development testing was undertaken and, as of October last year, all CruiseCraft 685 Explorers are approved for fitment of the big 300hp Yamahas.

At 378kg, the F300 actually comes in 62kg lighter than a pair of Yamaha F150s.

Rather than a leisurely cruise around Moreton Bay, we took the repowered Explorer south between the southern bay islands and out through the notorious Jumpinpin Bar, which was cranking with large sloppy chop coming from all directions. The engine’s gutsy torque and the smoothness of the electronic throttle made chewing through this mess effortless and the performance was further complimented by a power steering system that offered single-finger effort to keep the Explorer on course.

GROWL ON THE PROWL

I immediately noticed that the tone of ambient engine noise is entirely different from the smaller four-strokes in Yamaha’s range. While we were half expecting to hear the throbbing, guttural tones of a typical large V8, the big Yamaha produced more of a low-decibel growl when it was given some stick. At idle, it proved comfortable to fish with as we drifted in 70 metres of water, 10km off North Stradbroke Island. Aboard a camera boat within shooting range, the telltale had to be sighted to be certain that the motor was, in fact, running. Nice and quiet.

The circumnavigation of North Stradbroke encompassed another bar crossing at South Passage, near Point Lookout, which the CruiseCraft again took in its stride. With a total distance for the day of over 140km, the average fuel use at a cruising speed of about 3500rpm was in the vicinity of a litre for every 1.3km. That equates to 37.45lt/h at a speed of around 26 knots (48km/h). If you’re interested in outright performance, WOT (Wide Open Throttle) is equivalent to 6000rpm, which is supposed to produce a top speed of just over 45 knots (84km/h) at 107.8 lt/h, according to Yamaha’s performance bulletin. On the day, we saw a top speed of 42.6 knots (79km/h) as per the GPS, but we did have an extra adult on board compared to the factory’s test specs. Oh, and a kill tank full of fish.

Well, being out on a thoroughbred bluewater fishing platform was simply too good an opportunity to waste. With a few liveys adrift, I can certainly attest to the fact that the V8-powered Explorer proved to be a stable and ‘fishable’ platform, while the underfloor kill tanks did their job on the day.

DEEP COCKPIT

Speaking of fishing, the cockpit offers high gunwales, with high thigh contact for the best balance possible when feet are tucked under the side pockets. The drop-down rear lounge is positioned just high enough off the cockpit floor to act as a good toehold and also offers easy battery access when removed. The cockpit deck carpet stops short of a surrounding gutter that takes water and rubbish astern to the bilge to be jettisoned.

Handy small tackle drawers are located at the aft end of the side pockets, which, on our test rig, were used to store baskets holding various lead sinkers.

CruiseCraft’s Kevin Nichols is the owner of this boat and is a pretty serious and successful angler. He has installed big ice boxes under each seat frame at the helm. They can be removed for cleaning, while the hinged split lids allow them to be accessed easily while in place.

Kevin’s dedication to his sport is reflected in other areas of the boat, including the state-ofthe-art Furuno electronics and the bait rigging table, under which he has installed bins that hold messy baits ready for use, thus avoiding clutter on the cutting table. The deck wash hose is handy and plugged into a port in the top of the gunwale, while the live bait tank is ample and close by in the starboard corner of the transom. The opposite port corner has a walk-through door and boarding ladder recessed into the boarding platform. When deployed, the ladder rests on a brace fitted to the stern, ensuring that the ladder is angled for ease of use when needed.

As well as the twin kill tanks in the cockpit deck, there is another handy storage compartment under a hatch between the helm seats.

HANDY HOLDS

Stainless steel work throughout the boat is impeccable and there is plenty of it. A full grab rail behind the screen is handy and the heavy-duty bimini framework offers more hand holds for those standing when underway. Spray and wind protection is provided by a set of quality clears.

The aft end of the bimini features an awning that pulls out to shade more of the cockpit and a sturdy rocket launcher for rods is easily accessed by a person of average height standing on the deck.

When the fishing wears you out, there is room for two on the V-berths in the lock-up cabin and a portable toilet occupies part of the legwell. The obligatory surrounding pockets extend right back to the helm bulkhead and are wide enough to stash plenty of gear up off the berths.

Although fitted with trim tabs, we had no need to use them on the day, with the boat showing no bad traits whatsoever when traversing the two shallow bars.

The 685 is a nice match of horsepower to hull, with heaps of power left over in the big Yamaha for when you need to get yourself out of difficulty in big seas. Overall, I’d have to rate the performance, handling, fitout and abilities of the V8-powered Explorer as impeccable. Well worth a look if you’re in the market for a larger trailerable craft and you spend plenty of time offshore.

SPECIFICATIONS: EXPLORER 685

Length overall: 7.2m

Hull length: 6.85m

Beam: 2.5m

Deadrise: 20 degrees

Weight: 3200kg on trailer, fuelled and watered

Freshwater: 50lt

Fuel: 310lt unleaded

Capacity: seven persons

Price as tested: $150,000 approx.

Packages from: $115,000

For more information, contact CruiseCraft, tel (07) 3390 4877, web: www.cruisecraft.com.au.


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