Anyone who grew up around offshore fishing boats any time over the past 40 years would have encountered one of the stalwarts of fishing trailer boats, the outstanding Caribbean Reef Runner 6.3 Offshore.
Built strong for Aussie conditions, these boats have taken generations of anglers to and from their favourite fishing grounds and, as they say, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.
Originally popped out of the mould back in 1970s, the legendary reliability and fishability of this famous hull still attracts new converts, thanks to regular redesigns.
Some of the changes include stylish cuddy cabin topsides, a non-slip moulded fibreglass cockpit and clip-in carpet.
The hull itself has also been modified from 24° deadrise original to 21° to create better stability and balance at rest, while finer strakes reduce surface chop impact.
A lower cockpit gunwale height permits easier angler access to the water and a larger fuel tank allows for longer runs.
Add modern marine electronics and you have a fishing boat that is seriously proven, well equipped and attractive to the budget conscious.
Greeting the Reef Runner at the ramp on test day was like seeing an old friend. Its familiar lines were as good-looking as ever.
As with all of the Reef Runners the test boat was fitted with a hardtop providing enough headspace for anyone up to about 190cm or6’3”, although even at 186cm I found the height under the front a little claustrophobic. I could imagine pumping my head in rough seas when the boat was driven hard.
The glass windscreen with electric wipers comes standard and makes for a dry and cosy ride in any conditions you’re likely to want to venture out in.
The addition of clears along the sides would indeed ‘Winter-proof’ the cabin enough for keen anglers.
At the bow, the split stainless railings flank the large bowsprit, roller and anchor well housing the CQR plough anchor. Easiest access is via the hatch in the cuddy (securely fastened by two rubber catches) or if you prefer, the walk-around footway is wide enough to use.
Just take care and hold onto the grab rails on the hardtop because the foot space has been compromised for more cabin interior room, rather than for getting around the outside.
Manufacturers of imported boats always seem to neglect proper bow-sprits, bow rollers and anchor wells designed for anchoring in swell, reasonable seas and considerable water depth, as all serious offshore anglers do in Australia.
You can tell this boat has been built for catching fish.
The optional stainless rocket launcher can six rods out of the way but isn’t so high to make retrieving them in a rush to cast at that busting school of pelagics difficult.
The cockpit provides space for up to four anglers to comfortably fish side by side.
The underfloor kill tank is well placed and has two access hatches, but strangely the divider is not removable, rendering the aft kill tank useless if you get into a patch of large kings, mackerel, mahi mahi, wahoo or jew. I’d suggest inquiring about a removable divide when ordering.
You might be able to keep drinks and food separate from blood and guts but if you’re out there to catch fish you definitely want to store them properly.
The hatch covers could also be sturdier, but these are my only criticisms of the cockpit.
The standard four gunwale-mounted rod holders are ample but two more wouldn’t go astray.
The bait board fits snugly into the mounting brackets in front of the engine well. It’s sturdy and definitely a must for any fishing boat worth its salt.
Large carpeted side pockets run the full length of the cockpit and house two horizontal rod racks per side, as well as space for safety equipment, handlines, bait nets, sinkers, gaffs and a host of other gear.
There is space below the side pockets to allow a stable toehold in rough conditions.
At upholstered transom seats can be removed to access the live-bait tank at the starboard transom corner or the bait box to port, and to provide a good place to brace yourself when battling it out with a denizen of the deep.
An optional port boarding platform with fold-down stainless ladder will be welcome when boarding or leaving the boat when it’s afloat or on the trailer.
The pedestal seats for skipper and mate are tough and footrests are below for travel in comfort when it’s calm.
The skipper’s chair is on an adjustable pedestal while the mate’s sits on a heavy swivel on a king-queen combo box with storage compartments. This is the perfect place for storing a first aid kit, waterproof torches, V sheet and flare container.
The rear-facing upholstered seat has storage below.
The moulded dash will accommodate a selection of marine electronics and there’s space for the all gauges, switch panels, marine radios and a compass.
It still amazes me that anyone would flush-mount sounder/GPS units into the dash.
The bracket mounts make so much more sense because the unit is clear and high, and the screen angle and direction are adjustable to be visible from anywhere in the cockpit. Check out the Johnny Ray mounts.
Under the dash the large cuddy provides enough space for two grown adults to lie down on thick, upholstered cushions, with carpeted shelves providing more storage.
Under the bunks is ample storage but if planning on overnighting it would be well worth purchasing the optional bunk infill.
There’s a small LED lamp just inside the cabin and small windows to allow in natural light. The fire extinguisher is mounted in the cabin and, given their propensity to rust, this seems a sensible location.
The test boat had an optional is a portable toilet tucked neatly away under the centre cushion.
The test Reef Runner was powered by a Mercury 150hp OptiMax that sure got the boat up and going very quickly, despite the hull weight of 1020kg.
The standard hydraulic steering tracks true and straight and is easy to manoeuvre from idle to top speed.
At full pace I put the boat into almost full lock and while the speed came down, the hull stuck in without throwing us hard against the gunwales and there was very little prop slip coming out of the turn. I then went full lock in the other direction and she never missed a beat.
From dead still to a wide-open 43 knots took about 10 seconds in the calm conditions – pretty impressive. Clean plane was achieved around 3500rpm.
Sadly, on the test day we were restricted to inshore waters but the seakeeping qualities and stability at rest of this hull down the years speak for themselves. Reef Runners they have been fished to their limits from Cape York to Tasmania.
The standard package comes on a Dunbier dual axle trailer with mechanical brakes on the forward axle but fully laden and with a full 255L of fuel, the total BMT weight gets very close to the two tonne mark. So if you were planning long trips it would be worth considering upgrading to electric hydraulic brakes for safety’s sake.
In current boating landscape it can be hard to decide what to buy, what with all the glossy imports, new local manufacturers and established brands revamping classic models. In a market overflowing with choice, it is worth stepping back and looking at what has worked for years.
One thing is for sure: The Caribbean Reef runner has been delivering fishers out and back for generations so it’s worth calling the team at A&J Outboards for a test run of this well-priced Aussie classic.
|Beam||2.41m max, transom 2.19m|
|Total weight BMT||1850kg|
|Height BMT||2.8m to top of hardtop|
|Test power||Mercury OptiMax 150hp XL|
Approx delivery lead time: 8-10 weeks
Hull warranty: 1 year
Options fitted: Fibreglass boarding platform with stainless ladder; stainless rocket launcher; Humminbird 858 CX combo; VHF radio & aerial; live bait tank & deckwash; portable toilet; offshore safety equipment
Priced from $67,585 with 150hp XL Mercury OptiMax on braked Dunbier Supa Rolla tandem trailer.
Price as tested with fitted options $72,959.
Test boat from A&J Outboards, 1/ 66 Hassall Street, Wetherill Park, NSW 2164. Phone 02 9609 1027, website www.ajoutboards..com.au.