The 5.6 Bluewater by Gardner Marine is a very interesting craft. Darryl Gardner is the man behind the boat, and his long involvement within the marine industry has culminated in a range of superior plate boats, from 5.0m to 7.5m, designed to meet the standards of the most discerning angler.
A keen fisherman himself, Darryl set out to provide boats that had the ride and seaworthiness necessary for offshore trips, as well as plenty of seating. Moreover, he wanted ample storage areas plus the sort of features serious anglers demand in their boats – and that’s exactly what he’s achieved.
In the 5.6 Bluewater 500 Pro, Darryl has come up with a strongly built plate hull that’s packed with goodies, from the self-draining hull through to a ride that will impress with its smoothness. And with the silky smooth and powerful 115hp Suzuki providing strong throttle response, the rig has terrific seaworthiness as well, confirmed during runs at Bribie Island in a stiff northerly.
The Bluewater, as its name indicates, is built for offshore fishing. It has high sides with a transom height to match, plus a full bow with a fine enough entry to be effective without being overdone – something that can cause annoying constant course corrections.
The ride of the Gardner is as good, if not better, than anything in its class I’ve so far reviewed. The 20-degree deep V hull with 5mm bottom sports the same sort of deadrise as better fibreglass boats of today, and complimenting the V section are very pronounced bottom strakes to assist in directional stability and to provide lift. Substantial reversed chines that start at the bow and run aft also help provide the stability so essential in an offshore craft.
Darryl Gardner and I did our test runs with Craig, a prospective buyer, on board and two of us on the one side while underway didn’t affect the craft’s attitude one iota. Craig and I walked all around and there was no way we could upset the hull’s level attitude while running along. And at rest it was the same story – the Bluewater just doesn’t want to lean.
The ride was particularly good. With a hull weight of around 500kg the hull sits in the water, similar to the way a fibreglass boat does. The ride is soft enough to enable the skipper to drive quickly in less than perfect conditions without jarring too much.
And I found that the high bow (assisted by the reversed outer chine) did a darned good job of keeping water well away from us at the centre console. Even a run with the wind quartering surprised me with the dryness of the ride. I fully expected some spray to come in but it was a non-event.
I also noted that the Bluewater corrected to an upright position very rapidly after snappy full lock figure-of-eight turns. Trim response from the punchy Suzuki 115hp four-stroke was also very good, and with just a small amount of positive trim the hull took on some serious chop without any fuss whatsoever.
The Suzuki 115 was medium power for the craft. The 5.6 is rated for outboards from 90-150hp, but with a planing speed of 14.4km/h at 3000rpm and a top speed of around 49km/h at 5000rpm, I was more than happy with the engine’s performance given that we had three aboard and a near-full 150-litre fuel tank. When full power was applied the willing Suzuki popped the hull up onto the plane very smartly, and while it was always very easy on the ear I was particularly impressed with its quietness at 4000 for 36.2km/h, which I saw as a great cruising speed.
If you’re after maximum fishing room a centre console has always been the traditional choice, but in many cases this fishing room often comes at the expense of storage space. This isn’t the case with the 5.6m Bluewater, however.
The Bluewater has no less than three large storage bins below the self draining floor – a couple for the catch and one for the cold drinks. There’s also a 60-litre (can be up to 125-litre) ice chest built in up front below the raised non-skid casting deck. And the cavernous side pockets are some of the best I’ve seen in an alloy craft, running almost the full length of the boat. There’s a storage shelf in the console plus storage space for quite large items within the large padded seat box (also available as an ice box) aft of the console.
Weather protection is provided by a strongly braced bimini which is fixed to the top of the windscreen, and which can be folded forward into a sock if need be.
The Bluewater’s instruments were set up centrally on a vertical face of the console. There’s an array of switches to starboard near the Suzuki’s forward controls and the steering wheel linked to hydraulic steering is central. A radio and CD player are below the wheel. The grabrails on the console were also handy.
On the topic of rails there’s a split bowrail up front, and boarding rails on the transom with its wide entry door to port. Also on the transom is a good-sized bait station with four additional rod holders to compliment the four on the gunwales.
Features abound in this boat. First of all there’s a livewell in the transom and eight rod holders in all, including the four on the bait station. There are four spigots for pedestal seats, two aft and two forward. The floor of the thigh-deep cockpit and raised forward casting deck is non-skid chequerplate finish, as are the wide gunwales.
All interior corners within the hull are nicely rounded for comfort, something which costs more to make but it sure looks good! Below the floor there are two full-length sealed flotation compartments, and the 150-litre fuel tank is also in a third sealed compartment.
The elevated, interior, transom shelf has additional storage space with twin batteries and isolator switch to starboard. A pressure deck wash is provided to clean up the transom bait station, which is set up with tackle drawers. There is also a wide swim platform and boarding ladder to port.
Last but not least is the standard of finish. The build quality of the 5.6 Bluewater reflects a lot of attention to detail; welds and the like are very neat, even in tucked away areas. And the sensational paint job of the 500 Pro Edition really catches the eye as well.
This is a well finished, very functional offshore craft with considerable potential. Performance is great, ride is about as good as it can get, and the host of standard features provides a virtual wish list of items for the angler. And if that’s not sufficient, the team at Gardner Marine are happy to offer further customisation.
On top of all this, at a starting price of around $38,000 this craft is excellent value for money. If you are in the market for a quality plate alloy craft, the 5.6 Bluewater is well worth checking out. For more information give Gardner Marine Sales a call on (07) 3888 9441 or visit their website at www.gardnermarine.com.au.
Make/model -Gardner Marine 5.6 Bluewater
Length - 5.6m
Beam - 2.2m
Deadrise - 20 degrees
Hull weight - 500kg
Bottom - 5mm plate
Sides - 4mm plate
Fuel - 150L
Power rating - 90-150hp
Motor on test boat - 115 Suzuki four-stroke
Price - from $38,500
1) Well designed strakes and a big reversed outer chine combine to throw spray well away from the Bluewater’s occupants.
2) Craig, a prospective buyer, at the wheel of the Bluewater. Bimini head room is ample. The centre console sports solid grab points plus an easily monitored dash layout.
3) A full height-transom means that the Bluewater is quite suited to offshore work. That boarding gate can lift right out to help you boat a big one, or go diving.
4) The longest side pockets in the business are part of the 5.6 Bluewater story.
5) The Bluewater has two storage compartments below the self-draining floor, and one forward as well.
6) A good sized ice box, with storage area behind it, is set up in the bow area of the Bluewater.