THERE IS A GROWING band of anglers who have progressed from bait-soaking or chucking lures in tiny tinnies to fighting big fish from game boats.
The adrenalin buzz of tussling with sharks, marlin and tuna is very addictive but can be very expensive in a 12-metre-plus cruiser. An investment in a large game boat, all the associated mooring fees plus maintenance is not cheap and is ongoing. Finding a crew each time you go fishing is also getting harder as people’s time is so precious these days.
There is now a fairly extensive range of ‘pocket’ game boats that are trailerable, not tough on the wallet and can be fished with minimal crew. When I say small, remember these craft have to be able to get to the 100-fathom mark (the edge of the continental shelf) and back, even when the weather turns pear-shaped. So we are talking of at least six metres to keep that safety margin that must never be eroded.
There’s a newcomer on the market from the Crowther stable that I had the privilege of taking for a whiz around the block a few weeks ago and I came away quite impressed.
All those who are into sailing will know Crowthers are renowned for their high-speed commercial and offshore racing designs. These catamaran-style boats are in great demand because of their design and competitiveness. Crowthers have also made a name for themselves in large offshore power cruisers which are now sold right round the world.
A few of the Crowther staff are right into fishing and were keen for the company to produce a solid fishing platform. The in-house team of professional engineers and naval architects went to work to produce a boat that would stand the rigours of offshore work with the same degree of safety and reliability that Crowthers are famous for. The result is the Crowther 6.7m Centre Console. Although designed as an offshore boat, the Crowther will do well as a ski and recreation vehicle.
The test boat was just a basic configuration but Brett Crowther was at pains to point out that each boat can be customised to satisfy even the most pernickety angler.
We slowly motored up Pittwater, just north of Sydney, mindfully aware of the eight-knot restrictions. After the last marker, I gave the 200hp two-stroke Johnson a kick in the guts and the boat leapt forward, eager to get into blue water. Belting up Pittwater at full throttle, the GPS showed 39 knots and the rev counter just touched 6000rpm.
It was a cloudless day with a fair bit more than a puff from the south-west. Large swells from a persistent blow were crashing on adjacent rocks and the waves were starting to whitecap. I headed out to sea at around half throttle with the GPS showing 21 knots.
The swell wasn’t a problem to this heavy boat and we rode over the waves with no bang or thump on landing. Hitting a wave head on, the boat lifted and came down with a soft whoooosh, the broad shoulders sheeting water wide. Riding abeam the sea, a small amount of spray came in on the wind but I had the throttle hard down and the boat did well to keep water away from its occupants.
Running hard with the sea, the Crowther showed no sign of wanting to broach or bury the nose. A good dose of ‘out’ trim always helps in this situation and allows the ship’s dynamics to cope with the steep drops encountered in a following swell. Wide chines that run from stem to stern and a 20° deadrise made for a very comfortable ride in the choppy conditions and for superb stability at rest.
With three hefty blokes leaning over the gunwales, the boat tilted a few degrees, then held – most important when the crew is all one side attending to a large fish. In reverse (when backing down on fish to retrieve line), the large marlin platform was awash but there was no water intrusion into the cockpit through the scuppers.
With 4mm marine alloy sides, top and bottom, this boat is no lightweight tinny. It is a full plate boat with plenty of stringers and bulkheads and the whole boat is seam-welded for rigidity. Advanced safety features like a self-draining deck, twin sealed batteries, foam buoyancy, hydraulic steering and a non-slip deck make this boat more than ready to explore the blue yonder in search of hard-running fish.
The test boat had as standard a collapsible stainless steel targa tower, nav lights, a full-width aft bench seat and a small two-person upholstered bow seat. The centre console allowed plenty of walk-around room and grab rails were in handy positions for those who prefer to stand when under way. I would have liked to see more room up forward and would do away with the full rear bench but all that can be accommodated in a custom model.
We came back inside Pittwater for few photographs, away from the lump outside that was building by the hour as the wind picked up.
OK, so let’s have a look at this boat in detail. At the bow there is a large anchor hatch that will hold at least two anchors and a mile of warp. A small roller centres the rope and is firmly bolted to the bow.
The test boat had an imitation teak deck but production boats will have a choice of plate with a non skid finish or chequerplate. Under the floor is a massive 230-litre fuel tank surrounded by buoyancy foam. That much fuel will give plenty of sea miles without the skipper being concerned about running short. There are two forward cleats and two aft for mooring lines and the standard four stainless rod holders set in the wide coamings will allow a good spread of lures. The coamings are also foam-filled for extra buoyancy.
Two small, metre-long side pockets will hold knickknacks but there is plenty of dry storage under the console. Two bilge pumps, separating fuel filter and four-way battery switch are all standard issue, as is the switch panel and engine management instrumentation on the console.
Beside the pocket on the dash, there is a mile of room for all the electronics anyone would like to take to sea. Large boarding platforms either side of the engine can be customised for live bait tanks, berley buckets, etc, and an optional boarding ladder makes boat entry and exit easy at sea and on the trailer.
I felt very safe in this boat out on a rising sea and would thoroughly enjoy a full day out chasing billfish or sharks aboard the Crowther. As I said, it is no lightweight – it’s built like a brick outhouse with no compromises. A decent power plant of at least 125hp is needed to push it along.
For those who have a flair for putting things together, the boat can be purchased as a build-yourself ‘flat-pack’ kit, ready to assemble by the home builder.
These vessels can be built to survey for commercial use and, like any plate alloy boat, personalised fit-outs are just part of the construction.
Crowther 6.7m Centre Console
Materialmarine-grade plate aluminium
Under-seat and console hatches , nav lights, buoyancy foam, 230l underfloor tank, mooring cleats, anchor roller, anchor hatch, hydraulic steering, 4 stainless rod holders, 4 stainless cleats, self-draining hull, side pockets.
Options: stainless targa tower with rod holders, transom ladder, aluminium targa tower, premium paint kit, twin-outboard transom, custom trailer, Waterways survey, full upholstery, covers, walk-through transom.
Price including tandem, braked trailer, 140XL Mercury Optimax outboard, all registrations and safety gear
$62,530 Inc GST Drive-away
Boat supplied by Crowther Design PO Box 204 Newport Beach NSW 2106. ph. (02) 9450 0447, fax (02) 9450 0494
Website www.crowther.com.auReads: 695