Ugly duckling becomes a swan
  |  First Published: February 2004

The latest Stabicraft cuddy gains good looks to go with its legendary safety and ride

SECTION: boat tests




WHEN THE New Zealand built Stabicraft boats first hit the Aussie market, they looked more like an aluminium inflatable, with their big, bulbous sides.

The stylists soon went to work and produced a boat that’s far from an ugly duckling and now looks more like a regal swan. This transformation was primarily achieved by the inclusion of fibreglass ‘bonnets’ which house the cabin area. This new design has retained the two sealed chambers per side and a sealed sub-floor to maintain the positive buoyancy Stabicraft has become famous for.

I visited Adventure Marine at Batemans Bay to take the 5.6-metre cuddy out for a spin. There is a version called the 559 Fish’r, but it was the 559 XR (luxury pack) model that I wanted to look at, as it has creature comforts that would suit Mum and the family. Both hull designs and weight patterns are the same – it is just the onboard inclusions that differ slightly.

It was a perfect, cloudless day as we motored along the Clyde River. A stiff westerly had the inshore flat as a tack but the building tide gave plenty of rough water at the shallow, sandy river mouth.

The 559 XR has a lot to offer. The test boat had a 115hp two-stroke Johnson which gave heaps of power with plenty in reserve. The fully-floating pod engine arrangement allows plenty of cockpit room for a family of four as well as the cuddy cab, where even I could curl up and have forty winks. The boat is rated to 130hp, which would give a wild ride, but for the frugal, a 90hp would do a magnificent job on a much lower fuel budget.

A standard 100-litre underfloor tank is monitored by a flush-mounted, magnetic in-floor gauge. For larger motors this fuel load is only just adequate for a day out on blue water. I would like to see greater fuel capacity to give a wider safety margin when unexpected weather makes for lower, less economical throttle settings.


The strongly-fixed bowsprit has a bow roller and split bow rails for a handhold and also for holding the boat retrieving it back onto the trailer. A 460mm x 600mm smoke-tinted hatch opens to give easy access to the smallish anchor well that is also covered by a hatch. Suitable anchor rope and the tried and tested SARCA anchor is standard issue with the 559XR.

The three-piece windscreen is strongly anchored and has an all-round grab rail which I found excellent for a secure hold when we bounced over rough water. The test boat had an optional, collapsible bimini top, a nice inclusion for the hot Summer.

The dash has a mile of room to fit electronics to your heart’s content. Standard gauges include tacho (which has ‘System Check’ lights that monitor low oil, overheating, completes an engine check on start-up and no-oil warning), speed, hour meter and trim. If there is a shortage of oil or the engine overheats due to restriction around the water intake, the engine goes into ‘limp mode’ on reduced revs to get you home.

A four way switch panel controls navigation lights and the standard pod-mounted bilge pump, giving two free switches for ancillaries. A compass and a 27MHz radio are standard – something all boats that are capable of offshore work should have.

The carpet-lined cuddy has side pockets to hold those nicknacks that must be kept dry. An optional bunk infill will make it a complete V-berth so two people can sleep comfortably. The padded cushions lift to reveal heaps of storage space beneath.

The floor of the cuddy is slightly lower than the cockpit floor. This stops articles like eskies, bags and so on from sliding into the cockpit when under way. The driving and passenger positions are very comfortable, aided by foot bars across the bottom of each bunk.

The sporty wheel is nicely placed, making driving relaxing and ergonomic. Both seats have small arm rests that also act as grab bars. The windscreen is low enough not to block vision when seated and there is plenty of room to steer standing up and the throttle falls nicely to hand from either position.

On the passenger side there is a king/queen seat with internal storage. Although the passenger seat arrangement eats up a bit of cockpit space, the single helm pedestal gives back some of the room lost.

Full, internal, off-floor side pockets run from the seat backs to the transom. Although they’re not, wide they are tube matted to keep objects like hooks from rusting and discolouring the aluminium.

The fully removable rear lounge lets the angler get right into the transom corners to fight fish. The lounge also covers the battery, oil container, water-separating filter, primer bulb and the isolating switch, all mounted on a shelf around 30cm from the floor. All this is kept well away from any water intrusion.

A removable ski pole is supplied and the same fitting can also accommodate a bait and cutting table. Two plastic cleats are provided for tying off. Although they were mounted on the side and away from any loose fishing line, I felt they could have been a tad stronger. Two rod holders come as standard.

A guillotine-style transom door allows ease of boarding as well as a place to haul in trophy fish. The plate or guillotine is stored in a fitting on the starboard side when the door’s in the open position. The petrol filler is located in the transom and can be easily accessed at a garage or marina. There is a breather fitting closer to the filler.

Another useful feature is the port boarding platform with two-step ladder that makes entry and exit a breeze on the trailer or the water. A single grab handle is there for those who need a handhold. Three bungs seal the two sides and the underfloor positive buoyancy tanks. A raised plate is tacked on the lower transom for mounting transducers, submersible bilge pumps, water scoop and the like without having to pierce the hull.

At full bore, the boat leapt at the sea like a dog on a lead. The inverse chines and the 16° deadrise made light work of the rough water at the bar. In turns the boat stayed upright with no intention of wanting to heel over.

In full reverse the water shed around the pod, so backing down on game fish should not be a problem. Stability was the No 1 factor with this New Zealand thoroughbred. Even with three blokes sitting on one coaming, the boat just listed to the chines and sat there.

The cavernous hull pushed water out almost parallel so there was no spray intrusion. If water does enter the cockpit, it drains through a grate into the pod, where the bilge pump quickly sucks it out and fires it back into the ocean through a skin fitting.

The Stabicraft provided one of the softest rides I have experienced from an aluminium boat. Fitted with all those extras that we fishers must have, the 559 XR will make an excellent boat for those who look for a platform that will be in concert with the whole family’s needs.


Length overall5.6m

ConstructionAluminium hull, fibreglass cabin

External beam2.15m

Internal beam1.62m


Tube (side) thickness3mm

Hull thickness4mm

Hull weight670kg

Approx towing weight1090kg

Max power130hp

Max loading6 adults

Overall height on trailer2.2m (no bimini)

Overall length on trailer6.6m

Transom length25”

Standard Inclusions

Fused battery switch; Full upholstered seats; 4-gang switch panel; king and queen seat; navigation lights; 27MHz radio; compass; paint and graphics; rear boarding step; fold-down bench seat; self-draining anchor well; transom door; rear boarding platform; water separating fuel filter; carpeted cuddy cab; padded bunk cushions; SARCA anchor, warp and chain; full instrumentation

Price as tested on a braked Dunbier Rollamatic trailer – $42,490 drive away.

Boat supplied by Adventure Marine, 1/14 Cranbrook Road, Batemans Bay, NSW. Proprietors Rod and Renee Hooke. Ph 02 4472 2612 or 1800 1 STABI. Email --e-mail address hidden--

Web address www.adventuremarine.com.au

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