Even though they may not be well known in Australia, Surtees are a household name in New Zealand. They have established a solid reputation for producing top shelf plate alloy craft in the Shaky Isles for many years. And they build them to last.
Well, they need to in a country where beach launching is often the only option with sea conditions we’d baulk at regarded as the norm. The big Gamefisher comes with six fully welded stringers under the floor, inbuilt buoyancy chambers, and fully welded tread floor plate throughout.
Like all long time boat manufacturers their craft have evolved from one model to the next and offer more features, more comfort and more performance for your dollar. Today’s Surtees 5.8 Gamefisher Hardtop is a veritable treasure trove of performance and features for the angler to enjoy.
It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s got what it takes to make a great offshore craft. Forget the estuary and bay, this rig is blue water biased.
Everything about this craft seems to be big, starting with a very big anchor well up front, accessed via a cabin hatch, which has a massive bow sprit and bollard ahead of it, with a solid bow rail each side.
Within the 5.8 Gamefisher’s cuddy cabin a pair of 1.7m long well-padded bunks offered stretch out potential, roomy compartments underneath combining with overhead shelving to provide useful storage areas. Cabin access was via a zip close fabric door large enough to allow easy entry.
Aft of the cuddy the helm area was well set up for prolonged cruising to offshore fishing destinations. At the helm, comfortable on the craft’s very supportive and amply padded pedestal bucket style helm seat, I noted full visibility all round through the tall five piece toughened glass windscreen. A very wide, carpeted, shelf extended between the screen and rear dash lip offered a lot of storage area for personal items, as well as room for as many 10” sounder or GPS screens as one might wish to install.
The option of standing to drive was as easy as sliding aft the skipper’s seat. First mate was pampered with a full bar handrail in front, a side handrail to port plus a well-positioned foot rest. A big rear opening storage box, with seat squab at the rear, was located under the mate’s seat, which would be a good spot to store tackle boxes.
The helm area of the Surtees was efficiently set up for ease of use with an insert featured sports style wheel lower, paired I-Command dials for the 130 E-Tec astern up top. Switches were set to starboard, engine controls mounted on the side of the hull, and there was a deep side shelf right by the skipper’s elbow, the same as for the first mate.
Six rod holders were built into the rear of the hard top giving protection for those in the helm area. Although quite high above the cockpit’s checker plate floor I found I could reach them easily enough assisted by the several hand holds up there.
The work space aft of the Gamefisher’s helm seating offered 3x3m of fishing area. Decks each side were 33cm wide and featured a rubberized non-skid surface plus three rod holders per side to complement another three set up on the aft transom bait station with its tackle drawers and upper cutting board.
Side pockets in this craft were truly massive. Dive bottles or a large amount of fishing equipment could be stored within them and the wide off floor shelf at the transom (which was actually an extension of the cockpit side pockets) offered cockpit storage space seldom seen in a craft of this size.
A plumbed under floor kill tank was located aft within the cockpit floor, handy for the catch. Also aft under floor was a sump and bilge pump.
With a cockpit depth of 71cm, external freeboard of 90cm I saw sufficient room for four anglers to work reassured by plenty of cockpit freeboard.
The big Surtees featured twin boarding platforms aft with solid grab rails extending down over the transom. The starboard platform had cables from the motor across it plus a berley muncher in the centre. The platform to port was dedicated for boarding use, thanks to a reduced height tread plate transom step, with a solid ladder built onto the transom for a diver’s or swimmer’s use.
After years of experience building plate alloy rigs, Surtees use a 23º deep vee configuration without strakes on the bottom of the hull, to provide a high standard of ride and handling in the 5.8 Gamefisher. A large outer spray chine deflects displaced water quite efficiently. A self flooding chamber for water ballast at rest is also a standard feature of the rig.
The ballast water can be retained via a smart open/shut chamber system that sees a flap, operated by a cable at the transom, closing to retain about 320L of water within the tunnel, or alternatively opened to allow it to escape. This system definitely works; while the craft was quite steady at rest without water ballast aboard, opening the ballast chamber flap lowered the hull just a little more to give it a raft like position in the water without any chance of it leaning.
Conducting trial runs with and then without the water ballast in place was interesting. With two aboard and without ballast the hull planed at 15.3km/h at 2800rpm; with a load of water under her she planed at 20.1km/h at 3,200rpm yet, surprisingly, higher revs saw virtually no change in speeds with or without water ballast.
Given that most water ballast systems usually involve water exiting the hull as power is applied, my assessment of the Surtees system is that the skipper might wish to retain the water if travelling over short, sharp, chop with the craft lightly loaded. The trade off being virtually no change in speed but possibly a softer ride.
At 550kg hull weight the Surtees 5.8 Gamefisher is not a particularly heavy craft for an all plate alloy rig.
Ride was quite good all round with and without the water aboard. There was no impact from the bay chop and no water found its way into the cockpit or helm areas. I have no doubt that this would make a great offshore craft, such was its stability and general sea keeping ability, and I would have enjoyed taking it offshore but circumstances dictated it would be a day in the Bay.
Handling was pin sharp and for a large craft, the Surtees could be thrown into astonishingly sharp turns generating some interesting G forces. While anglers might not see the merit in this aspect of the craft’s performance it does point to very good balance between hull and motor, plus it’s an indicator that the hull will track well.
The 130 Evinrude E-Tec was top power (ratings are from 100-130hp) and it certainly performed well. Starting first turn of the key, entirely smokeless and surprisingly quiet, the E-Tec made effortless work of powering the deep vee hull.
I’ve mentioned respective planing speeds as 20.1km/h at 3300rpm (ballasted) and 15.3km/h at 2800rpm unballasted but from that point on the E-Tec prevailed. 4,000rpm provided 37.3km/h, 5,000rpm saw 48.6km/h and 5,800rpm saw 66.8km/h on the hand held GPS unit.
The Surtees 5.8 Gamefisher is an offshore craft yet the family boater/angler would enjoy its qualities of excellent sea keeping ability thanks to the high design of the hull and its great ride and all round angler friendly features. While a bait tank was not fitted to the test rig it certainly is an option as are extra seats, anchor winch, a PVC shade extension for the hard top.
Ride quality, performance and sea keeping ability are hallmarks of this well built plate alloy craft. Finish was top shelf; while welds were visible they were also nicely smoothed in a neat, orderly manner. The craft looks good, has high levels of comfort and will fulfill a lot of angling or cruising tasks.
From Russell Cairns Marine the craft would come home for $59,000 as reviewed. For more information phone 03 5561 4354 or visit their website at www.russellcairnsmarine.com.au.
Quoted performance figures have been supplied by the writer in good faith. Performance of individual boat/motor/trailer packages may differ due to variations in engine installations, propellers, hull configurations, options, hull loading and trailer specifications.
|Hull construction:||4mm plate bottom and sides|
|Engine fitted:||130hp Evinrude E-Tec|
|Overall length:||6.9m on trailer|
|Overall height:||3.05m on trailer|