Kitted out CrossXCountry Part 3
  |  First Published: June 2012

I have just come in from looking at the finished project. I feel as happy and excited as when I got my first fishing rod, caught my first barra, and found out pork chops actually go with Dianne sauce. I know what you’re thinking – try it.

I am astounded at how well it has turned out. It seems a lot bigger than 4.3m. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so deep, because we’ve squeezed in so much in, or it’s the sleek finish, but it feels a lot bigger than a 4.3m boat.

For our maiden voyage we took my new CrossXCountry to Fraser Island. No paying for the barge any more – we’ve got a boat!

Initially I had to keep checking the boat was still behind my car – it felt like we were towing nothing. The boat, CMC jack plate and 50hp Honda outboard weigh just 250kg. Throw in a filled 60L fuel tank, 85L esky full of ice and refreshments, odds and ends and a bit of spare fuel and water and you have yourself a 400kg fully loaded trailer. The sea-trail trailer may be cheap, but it tows like a gem and will do me fine for bitumen trips. I used the same amount of fuel I would if I wasn’t towing anything.

In no time at all the boat was in the water, the wife and two kids were on board, and we were setting off across the 30km Sandy Strait to Fraser Island.

The morning was probably 8 knots, so we had no dramas getting there. The 50hp 4-stroke Honda has a ton of grunt and was more than adequate. I certainly didn’t need the 60hp and could easily have gotten away with the 40hp, but with the 40 and the 50 weighing the same and no massive jump in price, I’m glad I went with the 50hp. I know 2-strokes are cheaper, but I think it’s well worth the dollars to ensure quiet fishing and boating.

The jacking plate takes some getting used to. They are used a lot in the boat racing world for extra speed and improved hole shot. I’d fit one on the CrossXCountry so I can run this boat in 30cm of water.

I have mounted an up/down switch where my right thumb rests under the gunwale to power the hydraulics for raising and lowering the motor. With so little of the boat and motor in the water I’m hoping I’ll get improved fuel efficiency as well. So next time you’re wondering why the boat ahead is skimming merrily across tidal flats, maybe a jacking plate is the answer.

The interior of the boat is efficient and practical. With four people and plenty of gear on board, the deck is still clean and clutter free. When someone wants something, it’s usually within arm’s reach.

Everything has its own spot, which is really important on a small boat. Safety gear goes in the compartment under the esky. Food and other essentials go in the waterproof hatch between the bow seats. The tackle trays go in the drawers under seat. The pliers and knife go in the winch holder. It keeps everything neat and you never have to search for anything. The simple rule is nothing belongs on the floor or platform.

The boat is great for the family for several reasons. The boat hull design gives that very soft, fibre glass ride. The 60cm high gunwales feel very high making it feel safe and allows you to relax and not worry about the kids. It also helps to know it’s foam-filled and therefore unsinkable. The many rod holders, big esky and plenty of storage makes it a five star experience.

The only thing missing is a bimini. I wasn’t keen on getting one at first because it would have had to lie forward because of the tiller steer, stuffing up the casting platform and cast net tray space. But now that the jacking plate has been fitted, the motor is back another six inches, allowing a bimini to be stored to the stern. It will be fitted this spring.

Another great little feature is the knife sharpener I screwed to the side of the esky.

Some may say that the Fusion 700 stereo is overkill in this boat. However knowing your iPod is properly sealed and not corroding makes it worth every penny. Next time you think “I’d pay $100 not to hear that song again,” buy a remote and put it next to your seat. Bingo.

Back to the maiden voyage. We put the crab pots out, and used the cast net tray to get a few live ones. It’s brilliant because it keeps the boat clean and dry. I did want it plumbed out of the bottom of the tray, but this would have meant putting an elbow in the drain pipe which would have blocked up with leaves. A side drain is fine.

The bait tank could have been a bit smaller though. I was speaking to a mate in the Kimberleys last week who is a live bait guru and he said to make bait tanks in a circular or oval shape as it stresses the fish less.

We caught a couple of fish, had some lunch and a couple of cool drinks before the clouds started to gather and the wind gained traction. Before you know it we were caught in the think of it. By the time jobs were done and everything lashed down, it was blowing nearly 20 knots against the tide. The trip home was far from dry, but the kids thought they were on a ride at Seaworld. Paula wasn’t at all worried as long as the kids held on. That’s saying a lot for a 4.3m open boat in one metre plus swell and waves!

Having the bigger engine suddenly seemed a big bonus. Being able to give it more juice up the wave faces was very nice and made me feel very comfortable. So nice not to face them in a tin boat.

The GPS in the Humminbird sounder let me follow my track out easily, which was good considering I was pretty much riding blind. Instead of the top of the GPS page always facing north, it orientates itself to the direction you’re travelling. Very handy.

I travelled about 70km in the day and only used 25L of fuel. Pretty good if you ask me!

It is great to be able to say I wouldn’t change anything about this boat. But I must stress that this is a custom-built boat which has tested the patience of both the boat builder and purchaser. That being said, I am very, very happy.

All gear fitted to the boat is mentioned by name if your interested, except for my knife sharpener which I found at the Tinnie and Tackle Show. Email Michael at --e-mail address hidden-- to find out more about this product.

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