While tested and photographed on location off Whakatane on New Zealand’s North Island, this particular Surtees 8.5 Game Fisher has been built for an Australian owner and is destined for the Murray River. The new owner has specified a lot of custom extras but, for the large part, the standard features and design of Surtees’ big 8.5 ticked all his boxes.
The 8.5 Game Fisher is designed as an all-rounder with all the amenities of a very comfortable day boat and everything needed for adequate overnighting capabilities, plus a host of other features and plenty of working space for fishing and whatever other activities the owner should choose to pursue.
From the outside, the boat is visually well balanced with a good split between cockpit and cabin size compared to the boat’s overall length. And, with the extra-wide 2.8m beam, it certainly is roomy. The layout configuration of this example is fairly standard.
Forward, the very large cabin has a traditional V-berth and converts to a large and comfortable double with the addition of two in-fills. There is plenty of storage underneath, with a toilet under the squab forward of the helm bulkhead. For added privacy, a drop-down curtain can be lowered across the cabin door.
To the port side of the main saloon area is an L-shaped dinette. This table can drop down and, with the addition of an infill, forms another bunk for sleeping accommodation. Plenty of storage is available underneath, accessible via two lockers. Opposite, there’s a small kitchenette with a sink and two-burner gas stove, with drawer storage underneath. Forward of that and underneath the helm seat is a 75lt fridge unit.
EXPANSIVE WORK SPACE
Stepping out into the cockpit through the double cabin doors, you are greeted by an open and roomy work area. The spacious cockpit has high gunwales that give a safe feeling when moving around. Very large cockpit shelving takes care of storage for rods and other items on both sides, while a rocket launcher is located above.
The aft starboard corner features a walk-through onto the boarding platform and underneath is a good-sized livebait tank with viewing window. Across the transom is a large storage locker, which houses batteries and onboard systems, and a sizeable bait station is located above.
A washdown hose is in the port aft corner of the cockpit, while in the forward corner is a storage locker and housing for the water heater (fed by the 100lt onboard water tank) and a seat for passengers. A drop-down seat resides opposite and can be moved to wherever in the cockpit it’s needed.
At the helm, everything is well-appointed and positioned for easy viewing and access. The helm seat is elevated and offers excellent viewing forward when steering. The seat has a built-in bolster which can lift up, allowing the skipper to stand while helming.
Sliding windows on both sides are a great feature, as is a sliding window at the aft part of the main cabin area. With all the windows and doors open, it will be a nice airy and cool environment on hot summer days. Triple wipers keep the view through the three-piece windscreen clear in rougher conditions – a feature we frequently used in the mixed conditions off the Whakatane coast – and the trim tab controls are down to the left within easy reach.
One of the neat features at the helm is the Ultraflex power steering, which is not to be mistaken for the standard hydraulic steering. Essentially, the steering can be adjusted on the fly to three different settings and three different levels of feel, ranging from light steering through to heavier if the helmsman prefers to have more of a feel for the boat while underway.
The owner of this 8.5 Game Fisher specified a bowthruster as an optional extra as the boat will be housed on a cradle and to better manoeuvre some tight spots at its home base. He also specified a solar power system to ensure onboard systems are kept powered consistently, most importantly the onboard fridge, during extended trips away. And with an adjustable flatscreen television mounted over to the port side, fed entertainment via the onboard satellite system, there certainly won’t be any dull moments aboard.
This 8.5 Game Fisher is powered by the throaty and powerful Yamaha F350 V8 outboard and it is a good match, providing plenty of grunt and punch out of the hole. The hull is rated from 250hp upwards, but I feel you need a minimum of 300hp to get the best out of it. A diesel sterndrive option is available, with at least one of the new 8.5 Game Fishers in production due to have a diesel powerplant. Twin four-stroke outboards are another option worth considering.
On the water, the big 8.5 Game Fisher achieved 64km/h (34.8 knots) with the Yamaha F350 V8 outboard. The throttle was responsive and the big, wide 8.5 ate up anything we threw at it. The overall ride was very, very good and this boat would certainly handle whatever conditions are thrown at it. On the day, the conditions were rough and changeable but the hull did nothing unexpected.
The 8.5 Game Fisher also features Surtees’ flooding keel system that allows 200lt of water ballast to be taken into a chamber built into the keel, adding extra stability to the boat when at rest. Though it wasn’t fitted at the time of our test, a hydraulic gate system was scheduled to be fitted to this 8.5 to hold that water in when underway, adding extra performance for rough water handling – though given my experience on the day, I don’t think it really needs it.
ON THE TRAILER
Back at the ramp, the 8.5 Game Fisher is certainly trailerable, though it is close to the limit of what can be comfortably towed. It weighs in at 3250kg including the boat, motor and trailer, but without a load of fuel, which would put it at 3500kg.
The 8.5 comes with a heavy-duty tandem trailer featuring Carlisle brakes with stainless steel calipers on all four wheels, springs, LED lights, dual jockey wheel, dynamic winch rope and Surtees’ quick-hitch trailer catch system. The quick-hitch system is something Surtees has had for years – it’s a catch system that allows the boat to be loaded on and off the trailer without having to use the winch.
As tested, this rig was priced at NZ$315,000 (nearly AUS$300k). Yes, that’s a sizeable amount of change for a trailerboat, but keep in mind that some of the options specified by the owner include a Yamaha F350 outboard, bow thruster, four large solar panels and regulator, upgraded Garmin CHIRP sounder, triple batteries, satellite television, Ultraflex power steering and Garmin autopilot. Add that up and you’ll soon see where the dollars have gone.
Packages in Australia start from $225,000 with trailer and, with the extensive list of standard features, you are getting an incredible amount of boat for your money. For those in the market for a large semi-custom trailerboat with a fantastic ride and excellent stability, the new Surtees 8.5 Game Fisher should be on their wishlist.
SURTEES 8.5 GAME FISHER
Hull length (LOA): 8.65m
Trailerable weight: 3250kg (dry)
Height on trailer: 3.21m
Recommended power: 250hp – 350hp
Power as tested: Yamaha F350 V8
Fuel capacity: 450lt
Priced from: NZ$285,000 AUS$225,000
Price as tested: NZ$315,000
(AUS$ price provided by MY Marine, Vic. Web: mymarine.com.au)
Contact: Surtees Boats, New Zealand. Tel: +64 7 322 8461. Web: surteesboats.com.