The Australian boating industry has seen many highs and lows over the decades. Being able to thrive, let alone survive, through the turbulence takes a particular brand of determination and perseverance – as well as outstanding ability and service. So I was privileged to see how two Aussie family companies have overcome the challenges to be at the top of the game after nearly 70 years in the marine trade.
In 1946 Roy Nichols began building timber boats and continues today at a site in the Brisbane suburb of Hemmant that it has occupied since the early 1960s. The Nichols Bros family company thrives under the CruiseCraft brand with a third generation now at the helm. Also in 1946, Edwin Hunt established a showroom in southern Sydney’s Blakehurst with a range of wooden launches and dinghies. Hunts Marine continues there today under the guidance of the third generation of the family.
Since 2007, the two companies have worked together, with Hunts Marine being the Sydney and NSW South Coast dealer for CruiseCraft.
The CruiseCraft Explorer 595 HT (Hard Top) is one of the latest models to carry the famous brand, which has become synonymous for top-quality fishing boats that are strongly built and well designed to handle Australia’s demanding offshore angling conditions.
The 595 designation refers to the 5.95m hull length, although the integral bowsprit takes it out to 6.35m overall. Rated for outboards to 200hp, our review 595 HT was graced with a Suzuki 175 four-stroke on the transom and, with a number of options, was priced by Hunts at a tow-away package price of $99,784.
It’s a good-looking boat carrying graceful lines that embody a typically serious fishing rig, with higher topsides forward and with a lower gunwale aft. A sturdy guardrail protects the side decks and extends into a pulpit around the bowsprit, with a good-size anchor locker and efficient deck hardware.
Construction is to Australian AS1799 Standards and carries a seven-year warranty. A below-floor girder system and fully moulded one-piece cockpit liner add strength and longevity, and safety is enhanced with moisture and fuel-resistant two-pack foam filling in the cavity beneath the floor, with foam sheeting up the sides to the gunwales. This foam filling also makes the boat quieter.
The hardtop is a double moulding for strength and a smooth finish inside and out; a stainless frame across the back carries six rodholders in rocket-launcher fashion, as well as LED lights for the cockpit and a riding light. The glass screen and side windows reach right up to the hardtop so there are no gaps to admit spray or wind, while the side windows slide open.
Open or closed, the tall glass panels admit plenty of light, and visibility in all directions is nigh on perfect. An optional Perspex lockable sliding door can secure the forward cockpit.
I found the helm seat comfortable, with a rubber-rimmed stainless-spoked wheel and recessed footrest. The gauges are on a secondary angled panel in front of a much larger primary panel above the wheel, where electronic navigation aids could be mounted.
At virtually six metres, it’s quite a big boat, but good hull design means that not a lot of throttle is needed to lift it on plane and bowrise was minimal with the Suzuki trimmed right in. I found the outboard’s trim angle is not critical and it doesn’t need to be constantly adjusted.
The SeaStar hydraulic steering mostly needed just a light touch on the wheel, although five turns lock-to-lock is a bit more than I prefer. Directional response was very good and the hull banked only moderately through quite tight turns, while retaining a solid grip on the water and avoiding any slip or shudder.
FUN AND EASY
The hull carries a fairly deep vee with 20-degrees deadrise at the transom, so the ride was soft through a chop or swell. A set of polished stainless Lenco hydraulic trim tabs did a great job of balancing the boat laterally and gave an added dimension to the control available to the skipper. There was plenty of forward buoyancy and absolutely no tendency to vary off the chosen course. Driving the boat was easy and great fun.
From a planing speed around 3200rpm and 25km/h (13.5 knots) through to cruising around 4000rpm at 41km/h (22 knots) and on to a top speed of 71.5km/h (38.6 knots) at 6100rpm, both the 595 and the Suzuki were unstressed. At rest, the boat was stable as the waterline beam is wider than most in this class – another attribute in favour of added comfort.
The first mate benefits from a supportive seat the same as the skipper’s and both seats swivel on stainless frames beneath which optional coolers can be kept. Behind the seats, the cockpit is spacious, with a clip-out carpet, rodholders in the side pockets, and toe recesses for better grip when working larger piscatorial prey.
Across the back of the cockpit, a three-quarter lounge lifts up and folds out to provide comfy extra seating. There’s a walk-through door in the transom to a port-side boarding platform with a drop-down swimladder.
Dominating the back of this 595 was an optional large baitboard assembly mounted on a stainless steel rail. A three-quarter-width lid lifted up with a shallow storage recess below, while across the back was a knife rack with two rodholders on the sides. Two removable bait tubs can be attached to the stainless rail. Also attached to the board was a flexible hose with a nozzle that can be used for saltwater and there’s an optional freshwater bladder, too.
The side decks are quite wide and have a non-slip surface; aft grabrails are inset so they don’t protrude, allowing the decks beside the cockpit to be comfortable to rest against. More rodholders are in those aft side decks.
Up front, a good-sized cuddy cabin provides seating on quality upholstered seat cushions with stowage beneath, while an infill panel converts it into a double berth. A step-down from the cockpit gives added room in the cabin, and a ledge in front of that can be used to install an optional toilet. Then there’s another, slightly higher panel with a non-slip surface to stand on and work the foredeck through an opening hatch in the flow-coated overhead. There’s provision for an optional lockable sliding door for the cabin, too.
CruiseCraft’s fleet of Explorers ranges from the 485 up to the 685, with HT versions on the 595, 625 and 685. Interestingly, at present the three largest Explorers are CruiseCraft’s top sellers. The majority of boats are fully factory-rigged with outboards and electronics, and are shipped with CruiseCraft-branded trailers.
Overall, this is a top-class fishing boat with family appeal; it shows the experience and high reputation of CruiseCraft in its design, construction, fitout and attention to detail.
CRUISECRAFT EXPLORER 595 HT
Hull length: 5.95m
Length overall: 6.35m
Deadrise at transom: 20 degrees
Weight: 1600kg (boat and outboard with fuel)
Weight (BMT): 2250kg
Capacity: 6 persons
Fuel capacity: 190lt
Power: Outboard to 200hp
Power as tested: Suzuki four-stroke 175hp
Price from: $88,990 tow-away with Evinrude ETEC 150 (Hunts Marine)
Price as tested: $99,784 tow-away (Hunts Marine)
For more information, contact CruiseCraft, tel: (07) 3390 4877. Web: cruisecraft.com.au. Hunts Marine, tel: (02) 9546 1324. Web: huntsmarine.com.au.