Mighty McLay Fortress 5.0
  |  First Published: September 2012

New Zealand is the land of big fish and tough sea conditions, so aluminium boat builders can’t afford to skimp on quality.

Kiwi boat builders, McLay boats have brought their quality and tough boat designs to Australian shores and the feedback has been unreal. The well shaped McLay hull offers a design that minimizes wave impact yet can extract maximum performance from modest engine power.

General layout

As a side console boat, the McLay 5.00 Fortress is virtually all fishing room and certain to win the Australian angler nod of approval. It features a high and unobstructed front cast deck, 640mm interior freeboard, seven seating positions, plus a ride and handling that is smooth and controlled.

Starting at the bow there’s a solid bow sprit, low but strong bow rail, plus a pad to port for an electric motor. A drained forward hatch in the cast deck offers ground tackle storage, and a strong cross bar right up front provides a spot to tie off ground tackle. Aft within the deck was another compartment that was ideal for general storage with the craft’s 70L fuel tank set cross-ways at the rear of the high deck. A seat position up front is also standard.

Down within the craft’s main work area is a 4mm thick fully welded tread plate floor that provided an excellent non-skid surface for either wet or dry conditions.

The McLay features full length, wide, rod holder equipped side decks with easily accessed side storage compartments in lieu of traditional side pockets set into the aft sections of the otherwise sealed decks. The compartments were quite large and would be handy for storage of rods, tackle and other fishing equipment.

The McLay’s side console was constructed from the same 3mm plate alloy, used for the 640mm high interior sides of the hull. Functional more than fancy was how I’d describe the console with it’s pair of Mercury multi-function gauges, twelve volt outlet on the upper section, switches down lower, and the steering wheel central. There was plenty of room for nav aids or big sounder screens.

The almost two metre wide area aft of the console and well shaped pedestal skipper’s seat was ideal for two or three anglers to work without being in each other’s way. Main features to make fishing a pleasure were a perspex fronted live well and a large bait station. Also featured on the inside shelf of the full height transom were a pair of storage compartments.

The McLay’s 4mm thick tread plate floor is designed to be hosed out after fishing with water draining into a sump with bilge pump. This is very convenient – when the fishing is done and the catch cleaned the less time spent cleaning up the boat the better.

Other items of interest within the 5.00 Fortress transom area were paired grab rails on the upper side decks plus a boarding ladder set to port. Note that both swim platforms each side of the 60hp 4-stroke Mercury offered check plate surfaces to assist boarding by divers or swimmers.

Ride and handling

Ride quality is always governed by hull design and I’m pleased to report that the McLay was blessed with a hull that really delivered the goods in terms of performance, softness of ride, and stability.

Weighing in at around 380kg, the hull is constructed of 4mm plate on the bottom and 3mm topsides and decks. Note that all welds were fully formed, not merely tacked. Very rigid.

Assisting in breaking the water surface were two under-hull strakes each side of the keel plus 350mm wide reversed outer chines. There was also a very large spray chine commencing at the bow and extending aft for around one third of the hull’s length.

Taking the McLay for a run in the Brisbane River couldn’t effectively test the spray chines because conditions were too good. The well-designed bow hardly had to work, but I think that should the conditions become very bad, there’s no doubt those spray chines would be useful in deflecting water.

Powering over wash from other larger craft at speeds of up to 60km/h hardly produced a bump and I was impressed that there was no banging or pounding, even after deliberately hitting some wash quite hard to test the ride.

At rest the McLay’s hull, with it’s 16 Vee formation astern, was hard to put off level, so I gave the craft full marks for stability, ride and handling.

PLenty of power

Recommended engines for the 5.0 Fortress ranged from 50-75hp, so the equipped 60hp 4-stroke EFI Mercury Big Foot was quite modest. I was impressed with the powerful Big Foot and its laid back performance. It started first turn of the key and made easy work of pushing the beefy McLay onto the plane in no time.

The McLay was a pleasure to drive; the non-feedback steering was extremely light and I noticed the hull was very responsive to trim and any driver input. The way it dug into fast turns was impressive.

Speed runs on the Brisbane River with two aboard saw the rig on the plane at 12.8km/h and 2,600rpm. 3,000rpm saw 15.8km/h, 4,000rpm 28.6km/h and 5,000rpm 36.4km/h. Full throttle at 5,800rpm punched us along at an impressive 61.8km/h. It was very impressive and made me dream of what it would be like with a 75hp on the back.

Summing Up

The reviewed 5.00 McLay Fortress on an Oceanic braked trailer came in at a price of $31,975 with safety gear and registrations thrown in. This has got to be considered great value for money for what is a very well-designed boat.

Its heavy duty construction, impressive Nyalic finish, and useful fishing area matches seamlessly to great ride, handling and performance. I see it as an ideal three or four person bay/estuary rig with runs offshore certainly on the agenda in suitable conditions. As a boat for a total novice to boating it would be ideal – it’s easily managed, tough and practical.

The test craft was supplied by Coorparoo Marine. Contact details are phone (07) 33974141 or fax (07) 33976339 or by email --e-mail address hidden--


Length on trailer:6.4m
Height on trailer:1.6m
Hull weight:380kg
Fuel capacity:70L
Engines capacity:50-60hp
Engine fitted;60hp 4-stroke Mercury Big Foot
Towing:Family sedan or wagon, larger SUV.
Reads: 7220

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