Entry level fibreglass craft are hard to find these days but if you look carefully enough, one will occasionally turn up.
Take the Coastal 480 with its 50hp Mercury 2-stroke as a case in point. It’s a no frills craft manufactured by Cox Craft, so the buyer is getting a top quality, foam-filled hull that comes with a 5 year structural warranty. There’s also enough freeboard within the 480 to allow offshore fishing in the right conditions as well. This is a huge bonus given that the rig comes with multi-roller trailer, registration and safety gear for less than $22,000.
Up front there’s a bow roller and bollard, a bow rail, an anchor locker with hinged lid and ample non-skid fore deck. Straight behind is an elevated casting deck with a huge in-built kill tank/storage compartment.
I noticed there was enough room to easily move between the casting deck and the front of the centre console. There is nothing worse than a poor layout that makes following a fish difficult.
The centre console was set up amidships and had some interesting features.
The console came with a flat section behind the small windscreen plus a lower, sloping, section fitted with a Navman marine radio plus the Coastal 480’s wheel linked to non-feed back steering. A switch panel was set onto the lower area, to starboard of the wheel, and within easy reach.
The test rig was equipped with a Navman 4431 fish finder but there was plenty of room for other nav aids if required. The flat, upper section of the console lifted upwards to allow access to an extra out of weather storage space. Forward controls for the Mercury were mounted on the side of the console while the standard 45L fuel (tote) tank was mounted within the base of the console. Side grab rails on the console were standard fare.
In keeping with its role as a budget priced fishing rig, the Coastal 480 features a flow-coated interior although all other surfaces are finished in a sleek white gel coat. The flow coat is easy to clean and not at all slippery.
A large seat box (storage) was set up in just the right position aft of the console to make driving from either a seated or standing position possible. It’s a one-size-fits-all sort of arrangement but worked fine. There are other seating options too, including paired pedestal seats for skipper and mate or a big Eva Kool ice box with a padded lid.
Other cockpit features include four rod holders on the gunwales, 3m long side storage pockets, paired aft cleats, an underfloor bilge pump and a full height transom, which does offer great sea keeping capability to a craft of this size. Gunwale height, incidentally, was somewhere between the knee and the thigh.
The transom was also set up with a live well (plumbing an extra) in each corner. A drop down bench seat is another option in the Coastal 480. Aft of the transom there’s a swim platform each side of the engine on its pod.
Although rated for outboards to 75hp, the 50hp Mercury mounted on the stern of the 480 had plenty of get up and go. I was a little sceptical that the 50 might have done it hard but the very well designed hull of the Coastal 480 features a design that is easily powered. The underwater lines incorporate an 18 Vee, a central planing plank, large longitudinal strakes, plus very large reversed outer chines. The end result is that the Coastal 480 just slipped straight up onto the plane, at 15km/h, without any degree of bow lift with two adults plus a full fuel tank aboard.
Humming along easily with the Mercury a mere buzz astern saw us moving smoothly at 35km/h which was as a great cruising speed. For good measure a snappy near-full throttle burst on the new engine saw 48km/h on the hand held GPS. I thought that this was a good performance from a craft of this size with such modest power. What I did like was the response from the 50hp Mercury 2-stroke. It had a lot of mid-range power, something useful in any outboard engine, especially for offshore craft. I would fit a larger engine only if the family had plans to water ski in between fishing trips with a 60hp or 70hp engine likely to provide really outstanding results.
The Coastal range is manufactured by Cox Craft from their plant at Beenleigh. Cox Craft boats are known for their good rides and exceptional handling, so it came as no surprise that the Coastal 480 shared these same traits. In the test runs in the Broadwater the neat centre console could take any amount of chop or wash from other craft in its stride. We purposely charged across an impressive wash produced by a big Riviera up on the plane – all turbo whine and diesel smoke – and the impact on the 480 was absolutely minimal, just a soft bump and a slap of displaced water.
The ride remained dry too when crossing chop straight on. I think that some spray would come aboard in a quartering chop with breeze behind it.
I found the 480 handled well, the non-feed back steering was quite direct and easy to use. Stability at rest was excellent thanks to the hull’s underwater lines; an angler could move about with confidence in the boat when struggling with a fish.
The Coastal 480 is a budget-based craft but features, ride, and handling put in a class well out of its modest price range. An angler looking for a fibreglass fishing boat that could handle a huge range of situations, including some offshore work, would be hard pressed to find a better one at $21,990 with multi-roller trailer, registration and safety pack.
All enquiries can be directed to Coastal Power Boats on (07) 5571 2960 or visit www.coastalpowerboats.com.au.
Engine fitted:50hp Mercury 2-stroke
Passenger rating:to 300kg