Not yet widely known in Australia, Surtees boats are a household name in New Zealand, where they have established a solid reputation as top-shelf plate alloy craft for many years. And they build them to last.
They need to, in a country where beach launching is often the only option and sea conditions we’d baulk at regarded as the norm. The big Surtees Gamefisher comes with six fully welded stringers under the floor, inbuilt buoyancy chambers and fully welded treadplate floor throughout.
As with all long-time boat manufacturers, Surtees 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 born for blue water.
Everything about this boat seems to be big, starting with a capacious anchor well up forward, accessed via a cabin hatch. There’s a massive bowsprit and bollard ahead of it, with a solid bow rail each side.
In the 5.8 Gamefisher’s cuddy cabin a pair of 1.7m well-upholstered bunks offer stretch-out potential. Roomy compartments below combine with overhead shelving to provide useful storage. Cabin access is via a zip-close fabric door large enough to allow easy entry.
The helm area was well set up for prolonged cruising to offshore fishing destinations. I sat in comfort on a very supportive and richly upholstered pedestal helm seat and was pleased to note all-round visibility, including through the tall, five-piece windscreen of toughened glass.
A very wide, carpeted, shelf extends between the screen and rear dash lip, offering a lot of storage for personal items, as well as room for as many 10” sounder or GPS screens as one might wish to install.
Standing up to drive was a simple matter of sliding the skipper’s seat aft.
The first mate is pampered with a full handrail in front, a handrail to port and a well-positioned footrest. A big rear-opening storage box, with seat squab at the rear, was located under the mate’s seat. This would be a good spot to store tackle boxes.
The helm area is set up for easy and efficient use, with a sports-style wheel and the engine gauges above. Switches are set to starboard, engine controls are side-mounted and there is a deep side shelf right by the skipper’s elbow. The first mate also has one of these shelves.
Six rod holders were built into the rear of the hard top. Although they are quite high above the cockpit, I found I could reach them easily enough, assisted by the several hand holds up there.
Aft of the Gamefisher’s helm seating there is 3m x3m of fishing area. Side decks are 33cm wide and feature a rubberised non-skid surface plus three rod holders per side. There are another three on the transom bait station, which also has tackle drawers and an upper cutting board.
Side pockets in this craft are truly massive. Dive bottles or a large amount of fishing equipment could be stored in them and the wide off-floor shelf at the transom (which was actually an extension of the cockpit side pockets) offers cockpit storage space seldom seen in a craft of this size.
A plumbed underfloor kill tank is towards the stern and aft under the floor is a sump and bilge pump.
With a cockpit depth of 71cm and external freeboard of 90cm, there is sufficient room for four anglers to work reassured by plenty of cockpit freeboard.
There are twin boarding platforms aft with solid grab rails extending down over the transom. The starboard platform had engine cables across it plus a berley muncher in the centre.
The platform to port is for boarding, with a reduced height treadplate transom step and a solid ladder.
After years of experience building plate alloy rigs, Surtees use a 23º deep vee hull without strakes to provide a high standard of ride and handling in the 5.8 Gamefisher. A large outer spray chine deflects water efficiently. A self flooding chamber for water ballast at rest is also a standard feature.
The ballast water can be retained via a flap operated by a cable at the transom. It can be closed to retain about 320L of water in the chamber when under way, or left open to allow it to escape.
This system definitely works; while the Gamefisher was quite steady at rest without water ballast aboard, opening the ballast chamber flap lowered the hull just a little more to give it excellent stahbility.
Conducting trial runs with and without the water ballast was interesting. With two aboard and without ballast, the hull planed at 18.2 knots (5.3kmh) at 2800rpm; with a load of water under her she planed at 10.8 knots (20.1kmh) at 3200rpm yet, surprisingly, higher revs produced negligible variation to speeds with or without water ballast.
Most water ballast systems usually involve water exiting the hull as power is applied. With the Surtees system the skipper can, if they wish, retain the water if travelling over short, sharp, chop with the craft lightly loaded. There is almost 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. 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 seakeeping ability, and I would have enjoyed taking it offshore. However, circumstances dictated a day on the Bay.
Handling was sharp and for a large craft, the Surtees could be thrown into astonishingly tight turns, generating some interesting G forces. While anglers might not see the necessity for such manoeuvres, they do point to very good balance between hull and motor and indicate that the hull will track well.
With the 130hp outboard it certainly performed well. At 4000rpm the hand-held GPS recorded 20 knots (37.3kmh), at 5000rpm we saw 26 knots (48.5kmh) and at 5800rpm 36 knots (66.8kmh).
The Surtees 5.8 Gamefisher is an offshore craft yet the family boater/angler would enjoy its excellent seakeeping ability, thanks to the deep hull’s great ride and all-round angler-friendly features. Although a bait tank was not fitted to the test rig, it certainly is an option, as are extra seats, electric anchor winch and a shade extension for the hardtop.
Ride quality, performance and seakeeping are all right up there with the best plate boats. Finish was top shelf; although welds were visible they were also nicely smoothed and neat. This boat looks good, has high levels of comfort and will fulfill a lot of angling or cruising tasks.
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|
Watersports Marine at Kings Park in Sydney can supply the Surtees 5.8 Gamefisher Hardtop with battery, battery box, battery isolation switch, switch panel, bilge pump, cable steering, anchor, rope and chain, Lowrance HDS-5 20-200KHz sonar/GPS combo, Lowrance LVR-250 marine VHF radio, Dunbier braked trailer, warranty, boat and trailer registration and a direct-injected Mercury OptiMax115hp for $52,990 drive away. Add $1000 for the Mercury 115hp EFI four-stroke or $4000 more for the 150hp OptiMax.Reads: 1528