THE CHOICE between fibreglass and aluminium (and now rotomoulded plastic) is getting harder and harder: Open runabout, cuddy cab, centre console, twin hulls or mono – it really is a fantastic range, making the decision of where to invest a challenge.
After a boat is selected – the next choice is the engine. Mercury, Mariner, Yamaha, Tohatsu, Suzuki, Johnson or Evinrude?
Boats are like clothes, TV programs and food. It’s a matter of personal choice. Look at what you want and then get a boat that will do it all, or nearly. There is no such thing as an ‘all-round’ boat that will sneak up estuaries and be comfortable 10km offshore; compromise is something a boat buyer has to get used to – fact of life.
After saying all that, for the dyed-in-the-wool blue water angler who gets a buzz from catching big fish from small boats, I recently tested a 6.1-metre aluminium plate boat that fits the bill. The Seatamer Rampage emanates from Newcastle. This boat is designed for offshore work and will get you safely home when things go a bit pear-shaped weatherwise.
Seatamer Marine has been in operation for nearly 10 years. They specialise in hulls for commercial and recreational use from five metres right through to 15 metres, although bigger boats are on the drawing board.
Joe Vella, owner and co-director with wife Teresa, served his apprenticeship at Cockatoo Island Naval Dockyards, honing his skills in aluminium welding. Joe soon realised that strong was good and he has carried on that tradition by building boats that are exceptionally tough in material and construction.
With computerised router cutting machines and fully automated hydraulic folders, Seatamer boats are assembled with precision. All components are seam-welded, such as the inner and outer gunwales, thus preventing salt water build-up which can lead to paintwork lifting down the track. The only downside is that production boats have a fair bit of weight and an appropriate tow vehicle, such as a large 4WD or six cylinder saloon is needed to lug it around.
It was a glorious day with a slight westerly wind when I arrived at the boat ramp in the Swansea Channel. I met Joe and we prepared the Seatamer Rampage for launch. The first thing I noticed was the very stylish lines and the standard outrigger poles which made it look like a boat that was there to do business.
The painted hull with its striped decals made it very ‘blue-water fishy’ and would definitely turn heads at the boat ramp. We set off for the entrance round Moon Island and headed out to sea.
With a heap of room in the cockpit, self-draining decks and large, high coamings, it felt a very safe boat and I would have no qualms about running to the shelf in search of big game.
The test boat had one of the latest ultra-long 150hp Suzuki four strokes spinning a 17” stainless steel propeller. This motor is right up there, with exceptional grunt out of the hole. It has the same characteristics as an equivalent two-stroke, being very receptive down the torque end on acceleration. Noise factor is low on cruise but winds up a tad when close to full power is applied.
The fully floating pod sporting a platform either side is complemented by a boarding ladder which makes climbing in and out of the boat, whether at sea or on the trailer, a breeze.
The test boat had a flat, carpeted aluminium floor and was destined for the Northern Territory (where heat is a factor) but a chequerplate floor can be ordered. In fact Joe boasts that no two identical craft have ever left his factory, as each one is made to customer specifications.
A fully plumbed live bait tank is nestled in the transom - big enough for around a dozen yellowtail and maybe half a dozen slimies. The test boat had as standard an extra pump that provides a saltwater deck wash, keeping work areas clean and tidy.
Two batteries (each in its own box) ensure the boat is fully supplied with power for starting and running all the electronics, pumps and lighting. All wiring is double-insulated and soldered to prevent corrosion creep. Fuel-separating filter, bilge pump and four-way battery switch are also included as standard and are easily accessible.
An underfloor 250-litre tank, with sender, allows plenty of sea miles without the worry of low fuel reserves. A large cutting board, complete with two rod holders, is at a nice working height and can be removed when the boat is used for social outings.
Nearly 700mm coaming height gives security when the hips have to lock in for fighting big fish on stand-up tackle. The 200mm coaming width allows easy installation of extra rod holders, although six are provided, as well as acting for somewhere to park the bum when things get a bit slow.
Three-quarter length side pockets run off the floor and are wide enough to take gaffs (on gaff/rod racks) and much of the hardware needed when grappling with sharks, tuna and marlin.
The Raeline bucket seating was very comfortable and vision for the helmsman through the toughened glass windscreen was excellent. Hydraulic steering made manoeuvring the boat a breeze and the large steering wheel was comfortable and well-placed.
A six-way switch panel is standard, as are navigation lights and cabin light. A VHF radio for safety as well as a CD radio/stereo system is provided for entertainment. The hardtop was strong enough for a spotter to stand on if looking for schooling fish and it carried the compulsory rocket launcher.
There was dry storage under the console where a small child could curl up and sleep on the supplied cushion. Up forward, the bowsprit sported a roller and large bollard plus a huge anchor well for those who like to drop the pick in deep water. The small casting deck is a great place to throw lures from or work the ground gear.
The Seatamer Rampage has a full walk-around configuration but is a bit squeezy when passing by the console.
We headed out past the island to where the westerly whitecapped the waters. There was a bit of a lump in the sea but the large forefoot and the 19° deadrise kept the boat on the plane and smoothed out the peaks and troughs. As expected, the boat was bone dry when plying beam to the wind and the large keel made tracking down a following sea child’s play.
The bug Suzuki had plenty of grunt for the hull weight, even with a couple of blokes, all tackle and a bellyful of fuel on board. In full reverse, the scuppers closed and the boat backed up with no sign of engine or deck swamping.
It was hard to get the boat airborne off the back of a wave at speed to see how she landed, thanks to the weight and hull shape. When drifting beam on, there was a bit of rock and roll – but that is something you would expect from a deep-V blue-water boat.
In the heel test, with both of us hanging over the side, the Rampage tilted just a little, then settled, partly due to the extra-wide chines.
All in all, this is a very safe, seaworthy machine that will cope with the rough stuff and be a joy to fish from.
Motoring back to the ramp, we talked about what people want in boats and Joe told me he spends a lot of time with his clients to ensure he fashions a craft to fit their particular needs.
The standard Marlin trailer, complete with Teflon slides, override brakes, 13” wheels with plastic guards, spare wheel and fully galvanised springs and axles is very robust, a dream to launch and retrieve and will cart the rig over long distances without complaint.
|Length (with bowsprit & pod)||6.6m|
(on test boat)
Full flotation, self-draining cockpit, 250L tank, bilge pump, bowsprit, 5 bollards, 6 rod holders, 4 gaff racks, plumbed live bait tank, cutting board with rod holders, rocket launcher, Reelax outriggers, transom ladder, deck wash pump, hydraulic steering, cockpit rails, bow rails, hardtop, toughed glass windscreen, bucket seats on storage boxes, VHF radio & aerial, CD/radio player, 6-gang switch panel, nav lights, cabin light, 2 speakers & aerial, 1kg fire extinguisher, bunk cushion.
Price including Marlin trailer, flares, V sheet, EPIRB, compass, paddle, anchor, rope, chain, Boatcode, all registrations and on-water instruction - $63,990.
Boat supplied by Seatamer Marine, 14 Pendlebury Road, Cardiff NSW 2285. Phone 02 4954 9819.Reads: 1997