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Boat Test: MorningStar 460 AS side console
  |  First Published: December 2013



The MorningStar 460-AS side console is a breath of fresh air – a true revolution in aluminium boat design and manufacture!

Tinnies or Aluminium boats are part of the Australian way of life, for over 60 years we have been discovering our great waterways on and off the beaten track in them. And over the years the design and manufacturer of these boats has gone from strength to strength with better hull designs, advancements in welding and materials technology, greater understanding of fluid dynamics, plus improved layouts, all of which have combined to deliver boats that are smoother riding and offer superior handling and performance.

Yet, all of these improvements have been based on essentially the same concept of keel welded pressed aluminium or plate aluminium sheets, often comprising 10 individual pieces and just as many welds to create a complete hull.

Now for the very first time a brand new revolutionary design coupled with state-of-the-art manufacturing process has changed the way tinnies are made and with it the way they ride, handle, feel, perform and look. Morningstar’s patented hull and stiffener design and the stretch forming manufacture process has delivered what many in the industry consider to be the largest advance in aluminium boat building the industry has ever seen. And this company is just getting started!

“The MorningStar design and manufacture process is truly revolutionary. Now I know this word get’s used a lot, but what a lot of companies put into their advertising, we have to put into the product. What the MorningStar team has achieved through 3 years of dedication is truly innovative. This technology and approach has allowed us to build a boat that has the smooth appearance, ride, and repeatability of a fibreglass hull with the strength, toughness and lightweight of aluminium. That’s a unique combination, that is innovation. Seeing and riding is believing, check it out,” said Troy Munnery, MorningStar boat builder.

Now I can picture boat builders, owners, dealers and other writers the country over wondering what can truly be so different about the MorningStar hulls that they can be called revolutionary.

Basically the process started 3 years ago in 2010 when Taiwanese-based company CadCam approached Australian boat builder Troy Munnery with plans to use their experience, knowledge and plant equipment to build an aluminium boat unlike any seen before.

The basic concept behind the design was to take the lessons learned from 20 years of metal working in the automobile industry and build a boat hull stronger, tougher and smarter. Instead of pressing aluminium-like traditional processes and then welding multiple pieces to create the hull. The manufacture of the MorningStar boats uses 5083 alloy, which is stretch formed and work hardened, to deliver a hull that is tougher than the original sheets it was formed from.

By stretch forming the bottom of the hull from one 3mm sheet using a 150 tonne press, the need for a keel weld removed from the hull (and therefore the key weakness), thereby increasing the overall strength and durability.

Similarly the two sides and transom are stretch formed thus creating a boat hull from 4 pieces.

And this is not the only major advancement! Using the plant equipment employed for manufacturing car bodies the company have also completely innovated the so-called ‘stiffener’ system used in small craft. The patented Origrid design of the internal framework is created by cutting a single 5083 sheet and then pressing pieces of the sheet to form the frame. This minimises the number of welds and creates a repeatable perfectly fitting frame each time.

The combination of the 4-piece stretch formed hull and the Origrid frame deliver a boat that looks great, is lightweight, super strong, tough and robust and rides and performs almost like a fibreglass boat.

RIDE and PERFORMANCE

Having read the usual marketing blurb, and taken a physical tour of the hull inside and out with the engineer behind the manufacturing process, I was keen to get this hull off the trailer and into the water for the test.

Met with perfect fishing conditions of an almost windless morning and a glassed off sea I was perhaps a little disappointed that the conditions were not a little rougher to get a true sense of the handling capabilities.

Once out of the no wash zone, I quickly pushed the boat up onto the plane, noticing immediately the lack of drag the smooth keel delivered. Taking the boat through hard turns at pace I was impressed by the how the reverse chines dug into the water, causing the hull to pop up on the opposite side and delivering that trademark fibreglass feeling in the turn.

In full lock the boat has a tight turning circle and actually turns inside its own wake, great for water sports and manoeuvrability in tight terrain.

As we pushed further up Pittwater towards Broken Bay we were met with a rolling swell and boat wash, which provided an indication of how the boat would handle in rougher conditions. Pleasingly the reverse chines, which run all the way to the bow, deflected the spray outwards and downwards keeping us dry in what was by now a building breeze.

The addition of a sharp forefoot on the keel (the impact point with the water’s surface) delivers a smooth entry into chop and waves. The flare near the bow and the variable deadrise at and towards the transom slows the downwards movement by creating lift of the hull and allowing forward momentum to be continuous.

We even managed to find a swell or two to get airborne off, and pleasingly the MorningStar landed butt-first with an almost Haines-like attitude. I am impressed.

At WOT the hull with two adult males on board delivered a pleasing 32.4 knots powered by a 60hp 4-stroke Honda with a 15” stainless prop. At 4000rpm a cruising speed of 22.5 knots was achieved, and at 4500rpm 24.5knots. The Honda 4-Stroke did an excellent job, was quiet underway and from what I am told delivers great fuel efficiency. In tight turns there was noticeable cavitation, but being a brand new prototype this would be due to the rigging height the engine was set at.

LAYOUT and SPACE

The 460 AS is a clean open boat, ready for the customisation. A decent anchor well at the bow will provide just enough space for 7mm silver rope, 5m+ of chain and a reef anchor. The bow rails are solid and provide a space for forward riding passengers to hold on and the navigation lights to be attached.

The internal bow floor of the boat is beamy, almost beyond belief for a tinnie, delivering a wide uncluttered fishing space with a carpeted floor constructed from marine grade 15 layered ply.

The gunwales, which are an extension of the hull sides, are just wide enough to house rod holders and taper downwards nicely towards the transom.

The console is simple with the steering wheel in just the right position for seated or standing use, and all the gauges and switches are within easy reach. The horizontal dash provides a great space to attach pedestal-mounted electronics and there is also space below the steering wheel for a marine radio and a stereo or iPod dock should you decide to install one.

Under the dash, simple storage is provided by a shelf and the floor. The addition of netting or ocky straps will help keep items in place.

The clear windscreen is not Perspex, which is fragile and can crack, but rather a clear see-through nylon sheeting used in the aviation industry for plane windows. It won’t crack, shatter or glaze from use or sun exposure. A solid grab rail finishes the exterior of console off.

Two comfortable pedestal seats can be placed in three different locations, and a small storage compartment is housed under the floor between the seats and can be accessed by a removable hatch.

Under the transom provides space for a battery and cables and an isolation switch is neatly placed out of the way. Under the floor towards the transom a 60L alloy fuel tank with twin breathers is housed and the fuel filler cap is to be relocated in future models directly above. Down in the bilge a manually operated bilge pump is optimally positioned to keep the hull dry.

Over the back of the transom are two boarding platforms with grip tape located either side of the outboard well.

FISHABILITY

I believe trailer boats are built for fishing, in my mind that’s what their sole purpose is for. Sure you can cruise on them and tow watersports toys, but when it comes down to it, if you can’t fish from a small boat then its purpose is lost on me.

The MorningStar has real potential as a die-hard fishing boat; after all it was developed to meet the market demand for Australian sports-fishers around the country. And it is almost there, by the time you are reading this, the second set of modifications will have been made and the resulting improvements will make all the difference.

The prototype by its very nature was delivered stripped back and relatively bare, ready for critique and comment by some of the countries leading anglers and writers.

So with that in mind here is what will be amended in the new models:

Starting from the bow a solid bow roller and heavier duty bollard will be added to cater for those that like to anchor. A forward casting deck, which doubles as a seat, will also be an option for anglers keen on the concept. This will also provide additional storage under the carpeted casting deck floor.

The existing four-rod holders will be replaced with heavier duty versions and additional rod holders can be added. In the rear transom corner a plumbed live bait well will be an optional extra and in front of the outboard well brackets for an optional bait board will also be on offer.

What is missing from this basic layout is storage and the designers are working on a number of designs to add in side pockets and under gunwale rod storage. Forward of the console an upright rod rack is attached providing storage for three rigged outfits.

There are also plans afoot to add an electric motor mounting bracket on the bow to allow keen lure fishers the option to add their favourite brand to the package.

Once the changes have been implemented the MorningStar 460 will be a fishing platform to be reckoned with and will compete with the best boats on the market in the same size range.

A final word on trailer options; due to the light weight of the entire package, the decision rests with the purchaser to select either a braked of unbraked single axel trailer. The prototype was delivered to the water’s edge on a Dunbier single axel braked trailer and, for those considering long distance towing, this completes a great all round package.

If you are in the market for great aluminium boat, that will deliver the best ride available, go to www.morningstarboats.com and locate your local dealer, you won’t be disappointed.

Test boat was supplied by Enterprise Marine, 77 Bassett St, Mona Vale, NSW (02) 9999 5558. It is priced from $25,000 with 50hp 2-Stroke Tohatsu and a SeaTrail Single axel braked trailer with boat and trailer rego, and inshore safety kit. The test boat is priced at $28,990 with Honda 60hp 4-stroke on Dunbier single axel braked trailer, with boat and trailer rego, and inshore safety kit.

General Specifications

Length:4.6m
Beam:2m
Depth:0.98m at Mid-ships
Variable deadrise:transom 12-18°
Hull weight:380kg
Total weight BMT:720kg
Total length BMT:5.80m
Total height BMT:1.75m (approx.)
Maximum hp: 60hp
Persons capacity:5
Fuel capacity:60L
Reads: 4892

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