Orange Roughy on the water
  |  First Published: April 2013

After two years of changed plans, interruptions and other distractions, the Orange Roughy project has finally kissed the water.

For all the frustrations, trials and tribulations this has been extremely well worth it. To see it roll off the trailer and sit pertly on the water waiting for the crew was awesome. Even more awesome was sliding that throttle forward and feeling it pounce onto the plane and into a new era of fishing possibilities.

Last issue I covered the final stages of the incredible work that Penguin Composites had done in taking a clapped out old Caribbean Invader to something resembling a specialist, modern centre console fishing machine. Here we see the final fit out of wiring, steering, fuel and extras to get the boat on the water. The only thing I haven’t finished yet is the carpet – that will have to wait till the bank balance/credit card recovers a bit!

Planning the wiring

I spent a lot of time planning where everything was going to be – the idea was for a minimalist approach with only what was needed rather than wanted. The extra thing was a good radio/MP3 player to ease the quiet times between fish.

At the stern are the fuel tank, bilge, and crank battery. Added to this are the transducer and GPS senders, hydraulic steering and throttle/shift cables for the engine. These are conveyed to the stern from the centre console via a 100mm pipe installed under the floor. Everything goes under the console and up under the hatch at the stern. A rope was slotted through and then everything was taped to it and pulled through. I added a few extra wires in case I fit a live well pump and an electronic fuel gauge down the track.

In the console is the tacho for engine revs, the stereo, a 6 switch panel and that’s about it. There is no trim gauge as I don’t see the point when trim changes all the time. The fuel gauge is on top of the tank – with a good modern four stroke I don’t really need to be glancing at the gauge all the time.

To the bow there is a 30mm conduit for the navigation lights and cables for the bow mount electric. I should have put a bigger diameter conduit here as it was hard yakka pulling the cables through.

And that was pretty much it. Everything was installed either using an angle grinder with a slim cutting wheel, a jigsaw or a variety of hole saws. The best piece of advice was from NSW FM editor Tony Zann, who has also done his own boat. His advice – always vacuum as you go – priceless as fibreglass is messy stuff when it is cut.

Fuel system

This was pretty easy, the main thing being the fitment of a quality fuel filter – don’t save on this as the last thing you need it to have fuel issues on a boat. The tank is 75L, but it can be removed easily after disconnecting the fuel line and the breather. That was there are no issues with tanks or leaks, and if there is a leak it can go straight out the bung underneath it.


The boys at Penguin Composites installed a sump at the rear so the bilge pump can sit under the tank. An 800GPH (gallons per hour) was installed and the outlet fitted to the port side next to the breather.


I bit the bullet and installed the best hydraulic steering I could afford. This means no issues with steering and it makes the whole boat far easier to handle. Tim Latham at Tamar Marine provided some awesome advice here – always listen to those who have seen and done it before.


I picked up a second hand Mercury 115EFI four stroke from a guy I know pretty well, which was very comforting. Local outboard expert Grant Garwood of Specialist Outboard Service fitted the engine – Grant has a travelling workshop, so it was fitted at home while I was doing the school pick up run!

Grant also fitted the hydraulic steering and did a service on the motor as well – easy done!

Bow mount electric

The bow mount is very important for our style of fishing – we do a lot of fishing using the bow mount chasing trout in highland lakes or bream and other species in estuaries. I personally believe that most bow mounts are fitted on the wrong side of a boat. To my way of thinking the engine should be fitted so the shaft lays parallel to the starboard gunwale when stowed. When deployed it matters not a jot, but as most people drift and fish over the port side the last thing you need if fishing with the motor stowed is having the electric shaft in the way.


I started out with carpet-clad skids for the trailer. These were fitted to the trailer without the boat, which in hindsight was an error. When the boat was put onto the trailer they didn’t fit as planned and eventually I gave in and fitted rollers.

This was the best thing I could have done.

It now sits better on the trailer and loads up superbly – it has inadvertently ended up being a dream to drive the boat on the trailer and will also allow for easy winching on shallow ramps.

One the water

Marvellous in a word! This boat wasn’t designed to break the sound barrier, it is intended as a family friendly boat that will handle a slop, be stable and have plenty of fishing room.

The first trip out was in glass-calm conditions, which aren’t the best for the maiden voyage. The boat porpoised a bit initially, but at a steady 40km/h it was wonderful.

Dropping the engine down two holes changed everything. While it does have a tendency to porpoise a bit in the mid range, trimmed out and with full throttle it skips along at 74km/h at 6150rpm with a 16” pitch propeller.

Tight turns are a dream and it just eats rough water and spits the spray out to the side as would be expected with such a flared bow.


Ok, while we were testing out the boat a fishing rod might have fallen in. Unbeknown to me my wife Nicole had also snuck a rod in and a bunch of lures. As we cruised along a few small schools of salmon were flipping about so we pulled up and tossed out a lure. First cast a fish. Good omen that!

The boat, by virtue of the weight all being centred is very stable at rest. Not as stable as the Hornets I used to have when guiding, but not far off.

The big front casting deck allows for plenty of room and the aft area allows a veritable barn dance to take place.

The 24vt 80lb thrust bow mount electric skips it along well and all in all we couldn’t be happier.

In conclusion

This project confirms in my mind that refurbishing the old classic boat models from the 70’s and 80’s is a fantastic way to go. It allows boat owners to those classic-riding models and adapt them for modern equipment and engines. It also highlights how specialist companies like Penguin Composites are onto a real winner with these types of jobs – they understand boats, fibreglass and fishing, and provide awesome advice along the way.

I often think what I’d do differently, and it is probably too early to start to think like that, but at this early stage I wouldn’t change anything, apart from paying more attention to guys that really know what they are talking about.

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