|  First Published: November 2006

Getting into boating is a daunting task for some people, but the temptation of catching fish that are further than casting distance from shore is simply too much for some. Boats give you access to less pressured waterways and offer a great family experience away from the big smoke.

In fact, according to some manufacturers’ market research, 90% of boat buyers have had boating experience before they were 14 years old, so getting the family onto the water early will only help the kids’ experiences later in life.

With that in mind, we took a couple of Ally Craft/Mercury packages for a spin. Both have been designed for newcomers to boating – a simple tiller-steer model at the $10,000 price point and a more runabout with a higher level of comfort around the $25,000 mark.

The rationale behind these packages is that are both big movers for first-time customers. When putting packages together for first-time boaties, it pays to be aware that there’s a balance between price and comfort. Too cheap or basic and the family won’t like the experience. If you get too fancy, these rigs can easily escalate above a modest family budget. These packages offer the biggest, widest and safest packages for the dollars.

Also on the radar is ease of launch/retrieve and towing, which needs to be done with the average family car. The bigger rigs also need the grunt to tow the kids around on a tube when the fish aren’t biting.

So let’s look at what bang you get for your buck in these rigs.


Fitted with a 2-stroke tiller drive Mercury 30hp, the Ally Craft Top-Ender 4.10 is plenty of boat for the $10,000 price tag.

The beam and depth of this rig give it a lower centre of gravity and couple this with the relatively high sides and you have a boat that’s safe for the kids.

It also has as many extras as you can fit into a ‘basic tinny’ package, with a fully painted hull, side pockets, drop-in floor, bimini top, fuel tank racks and side rails as well as a rear step and boarding rail so that Mum and the kids can get on and off without having to climb over the bow.

Launching and retrieving the boat is easy, but you will get your feet wet. It’s a light weight boat, so there is no problem winching it up onto the trailer.

On the water, it’s definitely not the fastest rig around, hitting 40km/h at full throttle, but what you lack in top end speed, you definitely recoup at the petrol pump. The Mercury 30 doesn’t drink that much gas, but the beamy hull can plane with plenty of people or camping gear on board.

In a foot of chop, the ride’s dry, but anything more than this will see a bit of bounce and side spray blowing across – especially in a quartering sea. It’s the compromise that spending an extra $15,000 on the larger entry-level rig can easily solve!

Naturally, in this open layout, there’s plenty of room for the whole family to wet a line and catch a feed of winter whiting.


For those wanting to enter the market at a higher level of comfort, take a look at the Ally Craft 4.8m Bar Raider coupled with a 75HP 2-stroke Mercury outboard. For around $25,000, aspiring boaties can expect a rig that they can still tow behind the family car, but use it for some more serious fishing trips and even overnighting.

Again, the reason for this combo’s popularity is the width and depth of this boat for the money. In a lot of people’s eyes, this equates to safety and comfort – and they’re not too far off the mark.

With a 2.25m beam, this rig was as stable on the water as it appeared on paper and the 75hp Mercury pushed it along at 65km/h at full speed. It planed economically at 4000rpm. There would be no problem pulling a skier up and around with this rig.

From the bow, there’s a rotomoulded anchor well that’s accessible through the door in the windscreen. The extensive canopies on this boat give the impression that there’s plenty of sheltered room – and there is. The helm is comfortable and there’s a glove-box of the passenger side to keep keys, wallets and phones secure.

On the test rig, fishing rods are kept up and out of the way in the Targa-style rod holders at the end of the canopy. There’s also an optional bait board/workstation aft that’ll help you keep any mess localised. Side pockets will help you store your tackle and keep it out from under your feet.

Mum and the kids will love the fold-out rear lounge, which can be stowed when the rear cock-pit space is needed for fishing, they’ll also like the shade offered by the large canopies.

The rig as tested had plenty of options, which meant that it weighed in at around $26,000. Base models start from $22,790.

Both rigs were supplied by Cunningham’s Marine. You can contact them on (07) 3284 2342 for more information.


Top-Ender 4.10m/30hp Mercury Tiller


Length Overall4.35m
Weight (boat only)190kg
Max hp40hp
Bottom Thickness2.0mm
Side Thickness1.6mm
Max. Motor Weight110kg
Max. Persons4


Min. planing17
3/4 Throttle27
Full Throttle40


Bar Raider 4.8m/75hp Mercury


Length Overall4.90m
Weight (boat only)365kg
Max hp80hp
Bottom Thickness3.0mm
Side Thickness2.0mm
Max. Motor Weight178kg
Max. Persons5




Anchor access and storage is easy.

Mum and the kids will love the rear fold-out lounge.

The 75 Mercury pushed this rig over the 60km/h mark.

If you have the skills, driving on the trailer is no problems.

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