Little big boat
  |  First Published: December 2002

Little big boat
GREG CLARKE takes the Bar Crusher 5.5 through the Sydney Heads washing machine and it comes out sparkling.

About a year ago we had a look at the 6.1 Bar Crusher from Blakes Marine. It is a New Zealand-designed boat and it scrubbed up pretty well in the testing department.

What wasn’t mentioned was this boat has a little sister. Well, at 5.5 metres, she is more like a grown-up little sister. The Bar Crusher 5.5 is slightly smaller for those who don’t have the space to put over six metres of boat where 5.5 will fit just nicely. To make it even more appealing, the top folds down to allow even greater access to most garages – but more on that later.

Let’s take a look at what you get before you actually push it off the trailer and get it wet. The Bar Crusher is one super-strong mono hull with 6mm plate hull and 3mm sides. The floor is self-draining chequerplate aluminium which makes it simple to clean and, best of all, gives the boat even more strength – the floor braces the whole boat.

Under the floor is an 80-litre fuel tank so you will get plenty of range from the 80hp Yamaha four-stroke on thetransom. The vessel is capable of taking up to 115hp, which would make it really scoot along.


With all the fuel stored under the floor, there is plenty of room in the cockpit and there has to be plenty of storage for all the other odds and sods that are necessary for a great day on the water. Lifejackets, safety equipment and fishing tackle all need to stowed away safely and thereno problem in the Bar Crusher 5.5.

There is under-floor storage for bait and the catch, while inside the cabin there is a tonne of storage under the front seats and in the cabin walls for items that need to be kept dry. Gaffs, tag poles and other long items can be safely stored in the side pockets under the gunwales. The live bait tank set into the transom is large enough to keep sufficient livies for a morning’s angling.

There are three flush-mounted rod holders in each of the gunwales, three more on the bait board and six in the rocket launcher over the cabin – so rod storage is not an issue.

Up forward, the anchor hatch is large enough to get to the anchor up and down without copping a few busted ribs if there is a bit of chop about. The urethane bow roller is extra-quiet on the chain.

The skipper and deckie are provided with comfortable, padded adjustable seats that give clear, 360-degree vision. The instruments (clock, trip meter, battery, trim and hour meter) were neatly laid out and easy to see with the digital tacho/speedo a nice touch. The easily accessible switch panel for the navigation, running and cabin lights finishes off the dashboard instrumentation very nicely.

One of the special features of the Bar Crusher is its innovative canopy that has a hard top and soft clears around the sides. The front of the canopy can be opened for better vision and flow-through ventilation simply by releasing a clip and pushing up. The canopy opens with the assistance of two small gas struts, much the same as in a station wagon rear door.

When the boat is cleaned up and finished for the day, two more clips on each side of the canopy make it a simple task to make the whole canopy and windscreen to fold down out of the way so the bar Crusher 5.5 can fit into a normal-sized garage.

The boat tested was white with brown flashing and trim and let’s face it, if you don’t catch any fish you may as well look good. This boat looks great on the water and is well finished in all departments.

It is great if you can get filthy conditions to do a boat test, just to see what a craft will do when the chips are down. I wasn’t disappointed. A 25- to 30-knot blustery southwest wind was whipping up the harbour and outside conditions were nasty. Normally you wouldn’t even think about putting a boat on the water.

Before we hit the rough stuff we put the motor through its paces and it revved out at 5700rpm and 60kmh (32 knots) with a 17” prop. It would fairly bolt if you put the maximum115hp on the back. So it wasn’t long before the Heads were in sight and we headed out of the harbour into the teeth of the wind and chop.

Dry, stable

The boat handled it with ease and we could do 25kmh without any problems and there was not a drop of spray to be seen on the clears. When you look at the boat under way, the high bow is prominent and you get a feeling that it will keep you dry in the rough stuff.

Now came the acid test:: was I going to get drowned when we went across the wind and all the spray blew over us? Running at 90° to the wind in more than a metre of chop, I must say that we only had a few small sprays come onto the clear covers but not a drop in the boat. It was much better than I expected. I have been in plenty of boats that would require you to turn on the bilge pumps to get rid of the water in such conditions.

Then it was time to run down the swells, which were running around three metres..

It is always a bit daunting when you run down the face of a steep wave for the first time in a new boat. Will it broach sideways? Will it dig the nose in and fight you all the way? The fellas from Blakes Marine had no such worries so down the face we went – and it handled beautifully. So we did it again a few more times, only because it is great to throw an empty boat around in a solid swell and have it respond instantly to every command.

I have to give the bar Crusher 5.5 high marks because it did everything asked of it in quite demanding conditions and was smooth in every department. So, too, was the Yamaha 80hp four-stroke, pushing the boat up and onto the plane in an instant.

Travelling around comfortably in a sloppy rough sea is all well and good, but the majority of time when you are out fishing the boat is stationary so it has to comfortable when you are not travelling, too.

The Bar Crusher is fitted with a quick-flow ballast system for added stability. This incorporates a hollow V-section under the hull which fills with water, keeping the boat stable in choppy conditions. Even in calm water it prevents the vessel from listing quickly when weight is transferred from one side to the other.

The system seems to work –we sat steady in the sloppy conditions, able to move about freely without hanging on or being thrown about. And the water must drain out very quickly when moving because there wasn’t any noticeable drag from the extra weight in the hull when getting up on the plane.

All in all, this was a very good test and the boat responded well to everything that was asked of it. You can’t do much better than that. You can find Bar Crusher boats at Blake’s Marine, 1 Railway road Mulgrave (Windsor) phone 02 4577 6699.

The boat set up as tested with all the extras will set you back $39,990 or you can do even better with the basic package of an 85 Yamaha two-stroke for around $31,000. For a 5.5-metre boat with the capabilities of the Bar Crusher, it’s more than good value, it’s a bargain.

If the guys at Blakes are as pleasant to deal with when buying a boat as they are when doing a test, you will be well looked after. Good fishing.

Bar Crusher 5.5










No. 1 & 2

At rest the 5.5 Bar crusher looks stylish and with the high bow, windscreen and clears, it looks very seaworthy.

No. 2

Coming at you the bow is well up out of the water. There is no way a wave is coming over this baby.

No. 3

At speed and in a bit of chop, the bar Crusher 5.5 gets up and over the rough stuff with consummate ease.

No. 4

Travelling along at trolling speed, the bar Crusher 5.5 sits nice and evenly in the water not dragging its backside or dipping the bow.


Up and running at speed, the Bar Crusher 5.5 gives a clean rid,e throwing spray well clear.

No. 6

The bait tank is large enough to keep a good supply of baits all day.

No. 7

The cabin is roomy enough and there is plenty of storage under the bunks. The seats are comfy and placed to give clear vision.

No. 8

There is plenty of storage under the gunwales for rods and gaffs.

No. 9

The bait board is tough nylon and the rod holders are well positioned and just the right height.

No. 10

There is under-floor storage with the added advantage of easy access to the bilge and bait pumps for maintenance.

No. 11

A closer look at the under hull self-draining ballast stabilizer.


The urethane bow roller is extra-quiet and the anchor is held safely in place with a sturdy pin.

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