5.30 Zulu time
  |  First Published: December 2004

Col Buckley goes over his new boat, warts and all

SECTION: boat test

At the end of last year I decided to sell my Cruise Craft (which I bought over 25 years ago!) and invest in a platform that would complement my style of fishing, mainly working baits offshore, a bit of estuary work and trolling out wide.

My wife asked what type of boat I would get – not a stupid question. She knows I’m in and out of new boats most weeks doing reviews for fishing mags. At that stage I didn’t have a clue what boat I wanted.

My heart cried out for a big offshore thumper with twin outboards, tennis-court deck space and all the electrics ever invented spread across the dash. Logic then reared its ugly head and reminded me that I often fish on my own, have restricted driveway space for parking and limited resources.

OK, I thought. Let’s look at this project logically. First was the choice of construction – fibreglass, aluminium or polyethylene? Then size. Then whether to go mono or twin hull, and then decide on deck configuration. When I had made those decisions, I had to think about what donk to hang off the back? Jeez, all these choices, very confusing – and I’m in the boating business!!

What chance has poor, ordinary Joe Blow got of getting what he wants?

Buying a boat is probably among the top three investments you will make in your lifetime (house and car foremost) so you should devote a fair lump of time to the project.

I decided to go plate aluminium and thought about getting a boat custom built. This way I would get as close as possible to the ideal configuration. However, after a couple of quotes, price was the restricting factor. Maybe next time.

So it was back looking at packages. Having tested fishing boats for a number of years, I have a fair idea how various hulls perform in the water so it was not long before my choice came down to three boats. I suggest that when you eventually narrow the options down to a few models, go out for a water-test in each to get a feel of how they perform. Take the family or some mates with you, as boats behave differently under a payload. Take along the fishing gear and check for room.

After a few months of heavy thinking, the final choice came down to the Melbourne-built, Kiwi-designed Bar Crusher. Although I would have loved the bigger 560C, I settled on the 530C as it would fit in the driveway, could be handled solo and would be cheaper to run long-term.

Added extras were minimal. Two strong cross-bollards on the stern for anchor retrieval, VHF radio (I have a radio operator’s licence) plus Navman’s 5500 GPS and Fish 4500 colour sounder with a fuel transducer to monitor usage. All the above electrics talk to each other through Navbus.

I also went with the latest technology in outboards – Evinrude’s new 90hp E-TEC – to minimise servicing time and for overall economy.

At the time of writing I have had my boat, carrying on the Zulu name from its predecessor, for five weeks and have put around 10 hours on the clock.

So what are the minuses and plusses of the rig? I’m going in here warts ’n’ all so please note these are just my personal observations.


The deep-vee hull works brilliantly against the persistent chop we experience on the eastern seaboard, giving a soft, cushioned ride with no hard slam.

When at rest, the under-hull chamber fills with water, sinking the boat to the chines for stability. Down the track I will block off the channel and see what difference this makes. I’ll keep you posted.

Abeam, following, on the quarter and nose on – whatever the seas – the boat has shown no nasty vices whatsoever and keeps well under control aided by the non-feedback steering.

Deck space is big with virtually nothing protruding to stub toes or hang up fishing line.

Fishability is nearly 100%. Rod holders are everywhere on the wide, sit-on coamings, allowing a spread of baits. Apart from being a bit too tall, the six-stacker rocket launcher is strong and I sometimes hang on to it with one hand when driving in rough water.

The ergonomically-placed rear cutting board and rigging station with three extra rod holders and drain pipe going back into the berley bucket keeps mess to a minimum.

Set in the starboard transom is something that all offshore fishos need – a large, fully-plumbed live-bait tank that reticulates water when both moving and anchored.

Full-length, wide side pockets are for rod storage when travelling on the bitumen.

The swivelling, fore-and-aft adjustable passenger and helm seats are very comfortable.

Boat access via a strong, fold away transom ladder and walk-through transom is easy.

Stringers and ribs, plus a fully welded chequerplate deck, make for a very strong boat. In fact, the owners of the Bar Crusher company said they would replace the boat and give me $10,000 if I ever cracked one!

A full-length, fold-up transom seat hides the twin batteries and four-way isolating switch. This is great for those social days on Pittwater or the Harbour and folds out of the way when the action starts offshore.

Access to the SARCA anchor system through the forward hatch is easy. Up forward, two strong cross-bollards secure the ground gear. The open anchor well holds miles of rope and drains fast into the centre channel.

In a year’s time, ask me again how the boat is going. Maybe I’ll have more to add in both departments.

It takes a while to set up a boat the way you want. I have added rubber floor matting so eskies, fish boxes, etc, don’t skate on the chequerplate. I have a painter rope from the bow so I can anchor and retrieve from the cockpit via the buoy method.

I have mounted a fluoro light on the launcher for night sorties and wired it into the 12-volt outlet on the dash. Where metal touches metal when launcher and screen are in the down position, I have included padding.

Two fish boxes sit under the transom. One holds anchor rope and chain and the other my berley bomb, sinkers, hook box and general fishing paraphernalia.

As I said earlier, this boat suits the way I like to fish. Remember, there is no perfect boat on the market that will do everything. Make sure you get into a boat that closely compliments your particular style of fishing.


The boat sits up high on the trailer and care has to be taken when towing due to this high centre of gravity.

Because of this height, the trailer has to be submerged up to the top of the mudguards for launching and retrieval so I have to be prepared to get a bit wet.

The D-shackle on the bow where the tow hook clips on rattles on the water. Using stainless steel washers, I have now secured it.

There is only a small carpeted dash area, so choose electronics carefully to make sure they fit under the windscreen.

The throttle quadrant is set low. Either seated or standing, I have to bend my back to operate.

The fuel filler is deck-mounted, centre front. This can be a pain as you need someone to hand you the filler and then be careful not to spill fuel on the deck. However, I now can trap the filler in a gap on the back of the passenger seat, allowing me to climb in the boat and fill solo. I have fashioned up a wooden dipstick, just to confirm what the fuel gauge/GPS/sounder tells me.

I opted just for the rocket launcher, not the clip-down roof. I am 1.8 metres (5’11”) tall but have to stand on tiptoe to insert rods into the launcher. Having the rack about 15cm lower would be nice.

When entering the boat via the transom ladder, be careful, as someone my size tips the boat backwards if the trailer is not connected to a tow ball. I now chock under the trailer with a log.

The thick top edge of the windshield is just below eye line when standing to drive the boat. Viewing is slightly restricted on the port side.

The deep-vee hull is sensitive to occupant movement and heels slightly into the wind when on the plane. Not a problem but be mindful that this is a characteristic of most boats with a deep vee.

It will be interesting to do another report


Hull length5.3m
Length overall5.7m
ConstructionPlate aluminium
Fuel capacity120 litres
Hull weight580kg
Tow weight (BMT)1250kg
Max power115hp
O/all length on trailer6.7m
O/all width on trailer2.15m
O/all height on trailer (roof up)3.1m
O/all height on trailer (roof down)2.1m
Standard inclusions: Step-through transom; safety glass screen; folding screen; in-floor kill tank; bow sprit and roller; fast-drain anchor well; swim platforms; transducer brackets; plumbed live-bait tank; dive/swim ladder; berley bucket and muncher; non-feedback steering; nav lights; 6 rod holders; twin battery system; four-way battery switch; water-separating fuel filter; illuminated switch panel; bilge pump;12-volt power outlet; folding rear seat; compass; bait/rigging table; 27MHz radio; fire extinguisher; fish finder; split bow rails; rear boarding rails.

Options: Gas strut roof with clears; ski pole; GPS; searchlight.

Price of basic package (with above inclusions), 90HP Yamaha two-stroke outboard on a multi roller, 13” white alloy wheels Sea Link trailer with spare wheel, fold-away jockey wheel, multi-roller trailer with supporting Teflon skids, safety gear for six people, tie-downs, flares, V sheet and on-water instruction - $38,990.00 Inc GST.

Boat supplied by Blakes Marine, 1 Railway Road, Mulgrave (near Windsor) NSW 2756. Ph (02) 4577 6699. Fax (02) 4577 2696. Email: --e-mail address hidden-- Web: www.blakesmarine.com.au

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