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Boat Test: Trailcraft 500 Pro Fisherman with 75 Mercury 2-Stroke
  |  First Published: December 2013



Trailcraft Boats have earned a name as very seaworthy and tough craft. Who could forget the exploits of the late, great Malcolm Douglas and his trusty Trailcraft? He’d park the boat on a reef overnight on a remote beach and wait for the tide to lift it next morning so he could continue his adventures. Stirring stuff!

In 2011 Trailcraft manufacturing moved offshore, having been purchased by the giant Jiangyin Marine Equipment Manufacturing Company based in Jiangyin City, approximately 3 hours’ drive inland of Shanghai in China. Trailcraft hulls are now totally manufactured in China, shipped to our country 2 per container for smaller craft and then fitted with engines and instruments and set up on trailers at a dealer’s premises.

Structural warranty has now been increased from 3 to 5 years, and the team report that prices have been reduced considerably as well.

Layout

The 500 Pro Fisherman with its 75 Mercury 2-stroke outboard had a 20-degree rear deadrise, 3mm sides, 4mm bottom, and a strong plate alloy hull with full welds all round. The 5m long craft, with a beam of 2.15m and a dry hull weight of 495kg was mighty solid, both when on its Oceanic trailer and on the water. The plate hull has a fully welded, fully sealed floor with airtight and foam-filled compartments under it for maximum buoyancy and ultimate safety.

Up front, a wide bowsprit and roller sat in close proximity to an open but quite deep anchor well and a large bollard. A long but low bowrail extended aft. Up front, a 250mm high casting deck came equipped with a seat spigot. A large multi-use storage hatch was also within the carpeted deck, suitable for storing equipment, clothing, or even ice to store the day’s catch.

Aft of the cast deck a further two in-floor seat spigots sat ahead of the Pro Fisherman’s grab rail equipped side console, which featured an open, carpeted shelf up top. While set up with a compass there was also ample room for a large sounder to be mounted. A shelf for smaller personal items – a phone, wallet and suchlike – sat just under the top, and there was another shelf mid way down for storing larger items such as tackle boxes.

The Trailcraft’s dash layout saw switches uppermost (to starboard) on a dedicated section of the console, tacho and speedo lower, the wheel central, and lower down there were gauges for fuel, trim and elapsed engine hours.

Seating at the helm area consisted of pedestal-style seats with arm rests, with two floor spigots on hand for the skipper and mate. The skipper’s swivel seat, equipped with arm rest, quite comfortable and entirely in the right position. With the forward controls for the Mercury within easy reach, the craft was very easy to drive. At speed, some slight slipstream protection was provided by the reasonably large console, but because it had no windscreen things were somewhat breezy during test runs. Still, there’s no escaping the fact that the Trailcraft had a very comfortable and soft ride.

Self draining cockpit

Within the main cockpit work area the floor was carpeted, and big scuppers in each aft quarter were designed to drain out cockpit water rapidly, once opened. The 1750mm long side pockets each side (that to starboard being somewhat compromised by the console’s location) were handy for fishing gear, plus a gaff or other longish items. Two rod holders set into 35cm wide decks were also standard.

At the rear of the cockpit a drained bait station came set up with rod holders and a cutting board. A wide transom storage area stretching across to the Trailcraft’s boarding gate came with a vertical hatch cover for ease of battery and isolator switch access, while a plumbed bait tank sat next to the boarding area where a wide cockpit gate, with lock, was set to port. A strong boarding ladder adjoined a large non-skid hand rail equipped full-width platform aft, the 75 Mercury 2-stroke being mounted on a central lip within the pod.

Performance, Ride and Handling

With engine ratings from 60-100hp the 75 Mercury 2-stroke was middle range power but the Trailcraft certainly didn’t lack get up and go. The engine purred into life quite willingly, a tad smoky on double oil mix as it was entirely new, but easily pushed the solid Pro Fisherman’s hull onto the plane at 21.8km/h at 3000rpm. At 4000rpm the speed was 41.5km/h, and at 5000 it was 54.8km/h. The 3-cylinder Mercury had ample grunt, with easy power right through the entire engine rev range, and was surprisingly quiet. Whatever happened to noisy 2-strokes?

At the helm (and with plenty of leg room under the console) I found the craft’s cable steering so light I at first thought it was linked to a hydraulic system.

Ride and handling of the solid Trailcraft was enhanced by the 20 degree V hull which featured a fine entry. Although devoid of under-hull strakes, a wide lip on the hull’s extremity formed a reversed chine that deflected water well away from the hull, helped to dig into turns, and assisted stability at rest.

In the calm conditions experienced out from Redcliffe, I was able to assess the ride only by charging hard over our own wash. However, even crossing 0.5m high waves (caused by turning deliberately slowly) the Trailcraft’s plate hull rode extremely well, without any significant amounts of spray or displaced water and without any banging or pounding. In short, a very satisfactory and quiet ride.

Fishability

With an exterior freeboard of 700mm mated to an interior freeboard of some 600mm – which extends to the full height transom astern – the Trailcraft 500 PF is a quite high sided craft, making it suited to all manner of fishing pursuits. Offshore fishing would not be any real issue in sensible conditions, while bay and estuary work would be very much par for the course.

One of the things I liked about the rig was the smoothly rounded fore deck area at the extremity of the forward cast platform, which ensured there’d be no bumping into sharp corners. Similarly, in the vicinity of the bait station and aft boarding gate, all edges were rounded in a comfortable manner.

Stability at rest was excellent, as we’d expect from such a solid hull almost 500kg in weight. With 2 people on one side there was little difference to lateral stability.

Finish and presentation

The finish was excellent in most respects in that all welds were smoothed and appeared to be full, while upholstery and painted surfaces appeared to be of a high standard.

On the other hand, the carpeted floor up front did not appear to have been fitted evenly, but that may have been just an irregularity with the test boat. The carpet also looked a bit thin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it wouldn’t wear well.

The floor spigots for seats were somewhat unusual in that they looked like sections of pipe mounted into the floor rather than the circular based style of spigot normally seen. The seats sat rigidly, nonetheless and didn’t feel any different from other seats in similar style boats.

Summing Up

Trailcraft boats have gained a wide acceptance in our country and if the reviewed craft is an indicator, nothing much will change. Note that hull warranty has been extended and prices reduced, according to Trailcraft. The ride and general sea-keeping ability of the reviewed craft point to it being an excellent all-round fishing craft for up to 5 people to enjoy. The freeboard, general layout and overall style are matched by a quality ride, easy handling and plenty of room to work.

On an Oceanic trailer the rig as reviewed, with registrations and all safety gear supplied by Cunningham Marine of Redcliffe, would come home for $30,900. Cunningham Marine can be contacted on (07) 3284 8805 or at --e-mail address hidden-- .

Facts

Specifications

Length of Hull5.0m
Beam2.15m
Length on trailer6.30m
Height on trailer2.15m
Weight of hull495 kg
Fuel120L
Engines60-100hp
Engine fitted75 Mercury 2-stroke.
Towingfamily 6/large 4 sedan
Persons5

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