Over the past few years I’ve noticed the rapid growth of trailer boats under five metres. The big six-metre-plus machines are getting few and far between – in fact, heads turn when one is reversed down a ramp.
Manufacturers have cleverly designed the under-five-metres craft to create more cockpit space for overall length by increasing beam. Automotive designers used the same formula on small cars..
The small-boat market is dominated by aluminium. The many advantages of aluminium include lightness, near-zero maintenance, ease of construction, good value for money and the need for only small engines.
A fairly new player in the field has started to make inroads into the tinnie market. Queensland-based Blue Fin boats are already building an impressive range of craft.
So what’s the Blue Fin story? It really epitomises the adage, ‘from little acorns big oak trees grow’. Alan McDonald and stepson Darryl McMahon built a 3.8-metre dinghy in a backyard shed at Burleigh Heads, on the Gold Coast. Alan, who was a Telstra technical officer, and Darryl, who had worked for another alloy-boat builder on the Gold Coast, then took their product to the 1999 Brisbane Boat Show and waited behind the counter with fingers crossed.
These were scary times as neither had boat sales experience but the venture paid off and they came away with orders for 20 boats. Allan’s wife, Margaret, then came into the business full-time, as did Samantha, Darryl’s wife. Allan set about designing boats up to five metres and moved the whole shebang into larger premises, employing a staff of six full-time workers. They have now moved into a second factory where the boats are painted and prepared for transport.
Since those heady days at the boat show, Blue Fin have made and sold nearly 1500 boats, testament to a quality build. One of their latest is the 4.5-metre, hard-chine Predator, which I took for a test drive on Sydney Harbour.
From an angler’s point of view, this boat has room to burn. From the anchor post to the transom there is more than 3.3 metres and between coamings 1.8 metres.
The starboard console is set well aft, allowing a huge uncluttered foredeck and raised bow casting platform. With raked lines, stylish decals and the folded bimini making a targa-type tower (which can be laid flat to allow the boat to be stored in a standard-height garage), the boat looked pretty schmick.
Blue Fin has digressed from the traditional clinker sides and manufactured this boat from 3mm plate alloy for bottom and sides – very strong stuff. Two Raeline upholstered seats are standard issue and can be plugged in amidships, back towards the transom and there is also a mount on the casting platform.
The test boat had been optioned up with bimini, switch panel, navigation lights, fuel management meter, an SE Sports 200 foil and two extra seats.
Up the sharp end there is a recessed plastic, self-draining well set in the foredeck that would hold a modicum of rope plus an anchor. Before fishing deep water, more space for the extra warp would have to be found. The split bow rails give good handholds for anchor work and the bow roller at the end of a short bowsprit is very solidly supported.
The casting platform is big (1.1m x 1.6m) so feet can be planted wide apart for balance. The whole boat comes with a marine-carpeted plywood floor that feels solid underfoot. There are two hatches in the casting platform catering for all the boating paraphernalia you have to carry by law but all this sits in the bilge. Some form of planking or racking over the ribs would keep stuff dry and up and away from any residual dampness.
Two rod holders near the stern are standard equipment and the extra-wide 18cm coaming will accommodate as many rod holders as you desire. Coaming height, at 62cm, falls comfortably just above the knee so there is no fear for personal safety when clamped in tight fighting a fish.
Short grab rails stop amidships before the bow rails take over at the casting platform. I felt having full-length grab rails would add to the safety factor when fishing rougher waters. Near the stern there are 1400cm long side pockets. They’re not wide enough for large hand casters, nor long enough to hold spin sticks, but they’re big enough for hook boxes, hand gaffs, knives, sinkers etc.
There is a single transom step on the port side with a hand rail to aid entry and Blue Fin have tacked on a bracket for a sounder transducer and bilge pump so you won’t have to drill holes in the hull. A nice feature was the provision of a sealed hole in the transom for the exit of transducer/bilge pump cabling.
Under floor is a 60-litre cruise tank with gunwale-mounted filler and electric sender. The tank has breathers either side of the boat. This extra air expelation allows a quick fill at the service station without fuel bubbling back up the pipe, spilling over and soiling the carpet.
Two hatches in the rear casting deck will house a spare fuel tank and one is home to the single battery. The driver and passenger seats need to be removed to access these hatches.
Visibility from the offset console was excellent, with the throttle quadrant right where it should be. Yamaha’s great engine-management gauges are well-placed on the dash and there is room for a sounder and a GPS. Because of the rear positioning of the console, there is a fair bit of boat in front of you, giving the feeling of piloting a much bigger cruiser.
We launched from Power Marine’s own ramp at Berrys Bay, near North Sydney, within spitting distance of the Harbour Bridge. Paul Bonnici, owner of the establishment, has been operating at the same spot since 1978 and is celebrating 25 years’ service to the marine industry.
Power Marine, who service water taxis and all pleasure craft, is a Yamaha agent and has just taken on the Blue Fin agency to complement its extensive marine repair shop. Berrys Bay is a place that time forgot and I could have spent a day just walking around the yards soaking in what Sydney’s waterfront must have looked like many years ago.
The Predator test boat had the latest Yammy 60hp four-stroke with a standard long shaft. The engine comes standard with a 13” alloy propeller. I edged the Predator out into the main channel and throttled up towards the Harbour Bridge, where there is always a bumpy ride from boat traffic.
The Blue Fin leapt on the plane as the Yammy gave out a quiet gurgle. The rig was overpowered and I’m sure a 40-horse would still do the job admirably. Sitting as far back as you do, the boat had no tendency to rear, partly due to the foil as well as the clever weight-distribution design. It handled the chop well, as a 500kg-plus boat with heavy 3mm plate should.
The large, turned-down chines sheeted water well back and we did not get a drop of spray in the boat throughout the test. The motor had been well-fitted and trimmed, so turns were a breeze without any air sucked in by the prop. Steering was super-light, courtesy of the short cable run with no sharp corners back to the motor.
At rest, with both of us standing and leaning over the gunwales, tilt was only a few degrees and did not compromise safety one iota. The four-stroke could hardly be heard over the hum of harbour traffic but was very responsive to throttle input. Trim made little difference to performance, although it always pays to tuck the motor in, allowing the forefoot to do its work in choppy water.
As usual, rod storage is a dilemma (as in all open boats) but clips around the console would partially alleviate this problem. Standing back from the boat, the craftsmanship and paint job are excellent, with good attention to detail, reflecting the boat builder’s immense pride in workmanship.
The Blue Fin Predator is an ideal sportfishing platform – two people could wave spin sticks or fly rods around all day and not get in each other’s way.
The boat sits very comfortably on a Newcastle-built Marlin trailer, complete with the ‘Big Fish’ package, which means light guards, galvanised walkway, deluxe skids and covered wheels – all in all, a good-looking trailer which compliments the smooth lines of the boat.
Blue Fin Predator 4.5
Weight (hull only)400kg
Standard features: Front casting platform with 2 x integral hatches; rear platform with two hatches; 60-litre under-floor cruise tank; self-draining anchor well; bow sprit and roller; rear cleats and anchor bollard; five seating mounts with two upholstered seats supplied; navigation light brackets; bilge pump/transducer bracket; bow and side rails; transom step with grab rail; fully painted with decals
Marlin trailer with ‘Big Fish’ package
Extras: Fuel management gauge; switch panel; folding bimini; navigation lights; 2 extra seats;
Boat as tested with above extras$22,307.
With 50HP two-stroke and all extras except fuel management gauge$19,807.
Boat supplied by Power Marine, 1 Balls Head Road, Waverton, 2060
Ph (02) 9955 9465Fax (02) 9923 2306
Beefy, high-sided and set up for fishing – the Bluefin 4.5 Predator.
The beam is carried well forward. although the bow entry remains fairly fine. This boat is stable.
A big, flat floor, casting platforms forward and aft and storage galore – very angler-friendly.
The Yamaha 60hp four-stroke provides plenty of go-forward.
The Bluefin 4.5 Predator has ample seating and those pedestal chairs can be moved around.
The casting deck is spacious, although a chair placed in the front spigot would need to be removed to access the deck storage. Note plenty of ribs up there for a strong bow.
Anchoring should be easy with the bow roller and heavy-duty bollard well-positioned. The anchor well is suitable for inshore work, while offshore anchor rope would probably need to be stored in a tub or below decks.
The low-profile sports console is simple but effective. There’s plenty of space on the top right in front of the driver for electronics.
The Bluefin 4.5 Predator has a moderate vee hull for stability and economy. Note the transom step and transducer mounting.
A transom boarding step is not just a handy accessory for a deep-sided boat like the Bluefin 4.5 Predator – it’s a necessity.
Plenty of room on the dash for switches and gauges.Reads: 7859