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Trailcraft 5.3m Deluxe Half Cab
  |  First Published: June 2003



I can think of nearly 10 pressed aluminium boat builders and another half dozen plate alloy boat builders in Southeast Queensland. All are reputable brands and have a strong place in the market, so why is it that an aluminium boat building company from Western Australia is doing so well along the east coast?

My guess is that they are just that bit different from the rest, tending to do their own thing rather than follow trends. With 20 years of boat building behind them, the crew at Trailcraft have the experience and the credibility to stand on their own with their own design, and they’re doing it well.

Construction

In WA there are often long distances to be travelled between many fishing spots, and over roads that can be harsh, and once you’re out on the water you’re likely to encounter harsh conditions there too. With fishing and diving the main water leisure sports in Western Australia, the boats are built to take the knocks and ofter a high degree of safety and durability.

My best description of the actual construction of Trailcraft boats is that they appear to be a pressed alloy hull following the lines of plate alloy hulls. There’s a mix of properties, so to speak.

Our latest test was in the 5.3m Deluxe Half Cab, a boat that attracts a variety of uses. It’s a great family boat, a top fishing boat and just at home with a bit of diving and swimming.

Layout

The half cab gives that cover and dry storage from a wet sea, and with twin vee berths in it there’s the capacity to sleep on the boat with a reasonable amount of comfort. The open access to the cab area from the helm gives it that roomy feeling as the height also allows you to sit upright once in the cabin.

Storage space is pretty important in the cab too, and it’s good to see a fair area dedicated to storage under the cushions where you can keep a bit of food and clothing for an extra day or so on the water. With a hatch in the top side of the cab you can let some fresh air in along with a few mozzies to drown out the snoring of your mate.

Looking at the dash itself you have a full-width flat section with ample room for a good spread of electronics or to spread out lunch. Likewise, a good solid grab rail runs from the passenger’s side almost to the driver’s side, so there’s plenty to hang onto in a rough sea.

The two swivel helm seats are box mounted, which I believe is a great idea – using the space under the seat as storage. There are plenty of ways for this space to be used, from simple openings for tool lockers, to opening hatches and tackle trays.

The room between the driver’s chair and the steering wheel is fine, with plenty of standing room between the two but not so far away that you have to lean forward to reach the wheel when seated.

The view from either position is pretty good, though at times I found that strip of alloy across the top of the windscreen right in my line of view while standing and driving. I should probably grow a few more inches and that’d fix the problem (at least that’s what they tell me)!

An optional canopy and an overhead rocket launcher have been added to this cab, which delivers good shade from the sun, protection from cold winds and keeps rain and spray off you while in the cab or driving. As the rocket launcher can be folded down it offers the opportunity to still keep the boat under cover, depending on the height in the garage or shed.

When it comes to the work area in the back you’ll be pretty happy with the amount of room that you’ll find in here. With a fishing boat, just a little bit of work in here and you could keep the back deck clear to keep all fishers more than happy.

For other activities the room’s there to keep the gear that you need, whether it’s a few tanks, rubber tube or just a few more people. Good, deep side pockets give that essential storage for all those bits and pieces, and a central storage box with a cushioned lid is fixed against the inside transom.

This bench seat is a really good idea as it offers seating for two in the centre while travelling or at rest. The advantage of being central is that if you have only one person sitting at the back their weight isn’t off to one side, causing a bit of a lean in the ride. In the centre there is no such problem.

The transom build uses some of that hard-to-get-to space as the storage area. In this case the storage inside is just that, with the battery fitted in here. Being a keen fisho my obvious thoughts were it would be a great esky for your fish. It wouldn’t be hard to convert this area to be ideal for fishing.

The battery can soon be placed elsewhere, and with a bit of foam and fibreglass added you have a permanent ice box that won’t slip and slide. And being placed right against the transom, the bung hole can run right out the back. As a sealed unit this box can also quickly become a big live fish well or a live bait tank as the boat is certainly capable of handling the added weight of the water in it.

For bait cutting and preparations a small bait board is mounted on the transom. If you’re not fishing it soon becomes a place to prepare lunch – just don’t get the two mixed up!

One very notable point in the transom area is the walk-through transom door and fold-down ladder. The door makes it easy to get in and out of the boat from the duck board into the back deck, and the ladder itself is superb with a couple of flat steps and a frame that’s angled out. With the ladder unit dropping well down into the water you’ll find it a breeze to get in and out for swimming, and just as easy when you’re loading the boat at home and need to get in and out. All you have to do is use this once and you soon appreciate the beauty of it.

The hull itself has a fully sealed floor which prevents water (say, from a wave dumping on board) getting into the hull below and vice versa. Trailcraft state that this airtight chamber is a superb safety feature.

Closing scuppers are located in either corner of the boat to let any water out that finds its way into the boat, and they allow the deck to drain when washing it down.

Test run

The hull has a maximum horsepower ratting of 115hp. After being for a run in the demo boat, which had a 90hp Mercury four-stroke on it, I’d suggest that if you’re going to have a bit of a load you should consider using the maximum hp of 115. The 90hp pushed it along fine, but that was with only two on board and no load. It wasn’t slow out of the water, but it certainly wasn’t quick and we ran around at high 4000 to 5000 rpm for just average cruising speeds. Four strokes do rev out higher – in this case 6200rpm – so a little propping may see better speeds.

The hull itself preformed nicely, though with the helm position for’ard you do feel the bumps in a bit of a chop. It’s not bone-jarring stuff though, and I dare say this would be reduced further once the boat gets loaded up with all the usual gear that you tend to throw in.

What was very good was the stability of the boat. A 14-degree deadrise and a 2.25-metre wide beam delivers superb stability to move around in. It’s nice to have a secure feeling below when a few of you are leaning over to one side while fishing, or the kids are running about.

Overall, it’s not hard to see why Trailcraft has made major inroads since it moved its efforts to the East Coast. These are well built boats and they handle well. And, when you see that this package with quite a few extras falls under $39,000, it’s a very well positioned price point in the market place.

Test boat supplied by Cunningham’s Marine (ph. (07) 3284 2342).

Facts

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model – Trailcraft 5.3m Deluxe Half Cab

Length – 5.30m (5.60m overall)

Beam – 2.25m

Weight – 555kg ( hull only)

Deadrise – 14 degrees

Fuel – 120 litres underfloor

Max hp – 115

Construction – aluminium

Bottom – 4.0mm

Sides – 3.0mm

1) During the test run the Trailcraft’s hull performed well.

2) The Deluxe Half Cab is both a great family boat and a top fishing boat.

3) There’s a good amount of work area in the back of the Trailcraft.

4) The dash provides a full-width flat section with ample room for a good spread of electronics.

5) The open access to the cab area from the helm gives it a roomy feeling, and with twin vee berths you can sleep there in comfort.

6) The storage under the bench seat can be adapted for use as an esky or live fish well.

7) The two swivel helm seats are box mounted to provide extra storage space.

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