Boat tests in most mags too often tend to concentrate on the latest, biggest and best fishing machines bristling with extra features, big engines and big price tags. It’s forgivable, because we all have dreams and dream boats.
In these uncertain economic times, high fuel costs and low credit availability might deter many people from fulfilling these dreams – but that doesn’t mean they should be left high and dry without a capable fishing platform.
And those families interested in dipping their toes into the fun-filled waters of the fishing and boating world need reminding that the whole experience doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
Most boat builders produce basic, small and inexpensive craft to appeal to boating novices or to the budget-conscious, and many leading manufacturers produce ‘entry level’ boat-motor-trailer packages designed to take all the hassles out of selecting the various components. The result is an optimum standard of performance and safety at an attractive price point.
For many years Gold Coast giant Stacer has been among the leaders in assembling these packages and have aptly named their series with Mariner outboards ‘Ready 2 Go’.
However, tried and proven packages are available through Stacer dealers featuring other engines, including the Mercury outboard on the test boat supplied by Disco Marine at Grafton.
The Stacer 449 Seahawk is a classic example of a balanced, versatile and economical entry-level runabout.
The conventional runabout format has been around for half a century and even with all the bow riders, centre and side consoles and various cabin layouts available, it remains a very popular and versatile design.
The format allows for extensive cockpit space and sheltered seating for the skipper and at least one passenger, with the aft bench seat accommodating the rest of the crew.
It’s a basic plan but it does lend itself to all sorts of storage options and there’s plenty of space to play with.
At 4.6m long with a beam of 2.05m, there’s plenty of room aboard the 449 Seahawk for four or five adults or a small family.
Up forward, the skipper and co-pilot have comfortable, vinyl-upholstered 360°-swivelling seats with plenty of leg room, thanks to the slight step down to the flat, carpeted foot well.
The aft bench in the test model was painted alloy but any amount of cushioning or whatever could be added to make it comfy for others on board.
The entire cockpit, including the rack behind the aft thwart, is neatly carpeted to the hull edges.
The standard canopy is well made and features a zip-away section to allow the skipper and mate to stand up and peek over the windscreen.
The latched centre section of the screen hinges out to access the foredeck and there’s a sturdy grab rail all the way around. I’m not sure the windscreen would close were an anchor line to be brought through from one of the tie-off grab handles on the foredeck, so maybe the rope might have to come around the side and be fastened off on the side rail.
The generous freeboard and ample gunwale-to-floor height mean most smaller children would require relatively little supervision to remain safe.
That same freeboard also produces a fair degree of dryness in a chop, while the wide chines of Stacer’s proven EVO hull design supply excellent stability at rest and easy planing with relatively few horses on the transom.
There’s a reasonably moderate deadrise inboard to help iron out chop once the vessel is up and running, and the chine design deflects normal hull wash downwards.
The only options on the Disco Marine test boat were the painted hull and a very useful rear boarding step with long grab rail.
The Mercury Lightning XR 40hp, oil-injected, three-cylinder two-stroke easily planed our lightly-laden Seahawk with two aboard and, with all the weight forward, there wasn’t a hint of stern squat during the hole shot.
It’s a smooth, quiet engine for a two-stroke and provides quite reasonable zip, although the maximum-rated 50hp would be more suitable for heavier loads or for towing kids around on water toys.
The EVO hull could be trimmed out quite well, something you can’t always say about small runabouts with the crew so far forward.
As befitting a budget package, there were no instruments but the boat easily achieved a clean plane at 11 knots (20kmh) and wound out to 26 knots (48kmh) on a hand-held GPS.
Cornering was tight with not a hint of hull slip or prop aeration, which the Stacer people got right a long time ago and it’s now a given.
Fuel consumption should be around a nautical mile to the litre at cruise speeds so you could expect to get a fair way on the standard 25L tote tank, although it would be prudent to carry at least a smaller reserve tank.
Like many runabouts, especially in this price range, storage in the Seahawk is basically what you make of it.
The low partition under the foredeck can accommodate safety gear or ground tackle (the partition top doubles as a footrest) and the glovebox in front of the passenger has two drink holders. That’s about it.
I’d opt for large, inexpensive plastic tubs with secure lids to accommodate dry clothing, towels, rain gear, fishing tackle and maybe even another for the anchor and rode. These tubs can be stacked, stored and moved about anywhere in the cockpit or on the level shelf behind the aft thwart. There’s quite a large amount of free space, even with the fuel tank and battery.
With no gunwales on this model, rod storage under way and while fishing poses some minor obstacles easily overcome. Horizontal racks could be mounted on the ribs for rod storage while travelling and if you order the optional side rails, rail-mount holders wherever you need them for fishing are a snack.
As befits a factory package, the 449 Seahawk comes on a tailor-made Stacer galvanised trailer. Poly rollers and skids in all the right places make launching and retrieving easy.
Towing with a smallish four-cylinder vehicle would be a safe operation although drivers of cars with smaller engines can expect higher fuel consumption.
With a package like the Stacer 449 Seahawk, you could say ‘when the economic going gets tough, the tough can still go fishing economically!’
Length on Trailer: 5.40m
Height on Trailer: 1.85m
Top, sides: 1.6mm
Transom: Long shaft
Hull only weight: 276kg
Rec power: 40hp
Max power: 50hp
Max engine weight: 114kg
Max adults: 5
Standard features: Canopy; fuel tank rack; bow handles; carpeted floor; underfloor flotation; anchor gusset; transom handles; transducer bracket; EVO hull; windscreen with grab rail; rear bench seat flotation; pedestal seats; mechanical steering.
Options as tested: Painted hull, rear boarding step with long rail.
Price as tested with Stacer trailer with 13” wheels and Mercury Lightning XR40, all regos, safety gear: $17590.
Test boat from Disco Marine, 160 North Street, Grafton NSW 2460. Phone 02 6643 1199, email --e-mail address hidden--