Refining the art of the longboat
IT HAD been that long since I’d jumped into a longboat I’d forgotten just how versatile they can be. After having a close look at Stinger’s new 580 Rampage, keen anglers will be quite impressed with what this new model has to offer.
First, there’s the hull, and at 5.8m there’s scope to work the estuaries, bays and inshore waters. While the boat is quite possibly capable of handing a bit of ocean swell, we must remember what the design was originally intended for.
Longboats started out as workhorses, offering the ability to carry big loads over long distances with minimal horsepower, thus not requiring the need for a big fuel capacity to get anywhere. Longboats are very much at home cruising long rivers and along coastal areas.
These days barges have filled part of the work of the longboats but the fishing market has expanded and the many facets of the longboat as a workhorse have been adapted into fishing boats.
The layout may have changed a lot but that long, narrow hull – which has good stability, rides well and requires minimal horsepower – has remained. Because we don’t have much patience these days and are always in a hurry to get anywhere, the smaller engines have been replaced with larger outboards to get from A to B much faster. Even so, the likes of the 70hp four-stroke Suzuki outboard fitted to the test boat is still a relatively small engine for a 5.8-metre boat.
The first time I rode in a Stinger longboat, a few years ago, I was impressed with the stability and this feature remains on the 5.8m Rampage. We had two adults right on the gunwale and 170kg right on the edge in a boat that’s only 1.9 metres wide, side-on to a decent chop, is a fair test of a boat’s stability.
Many longboats can be a bit light in the bow and tend to bounce or porpoise when head-on or quartering into a sea. This is one of the reasons many such boats have a big esky up front or skippers try to put as much weight as possible up towards the bow. It’s also not uncommon to see various foils fitted onto the outboards to provide more lift and planing surface in the stern to help keep the nose down.
The team at Stinger has done quite a bit of work with the hull to try to overcome this inherent feature of the longboat. Firstly, the transom now has more negative trim to keep the nose down. This has been achieved by forming the necessary wedge shape into the transom. Basically, this allows the prop to be tucked closer in to the hull, pushing the nose down.
Stinger has also fitted trim tabs to this boat. You might think that’s unusual for a light, narrow boat which doesn’t lack lateral stability but you soon appreciate what you can achieve with the ride of a boat with trim tabs.
The most obvious benefit is the weight adjustment from one side to the other. A quick push on one of the dash-mounted switches and you can correct the ride left or right. This adds a significant amount of trim, both negative and positive, to the ride of the boat. You could also really push that bow down if you wanted to, or lift the bow quite high.
If you’re running into a sea and have the nose too high or porpoising problems, or don’t have much weight up forward, the trim tabs allow you to pull the nose down to the desired angle. When it comes to running with the sea, pull the nose up and you end up with a better ride.
We were out in about 15 to 20 knots of short, sharp chop, typical of Moreton Bay, and I went through the process that I’ve just described. The more I played around and got used to the boat, the better I could adjust the ride.
Once you get the hang of it, you can set the tabs with the twin gauges telling you what angle or percent of trim the tabs are running, giving you a quick and reliable reference of the desired angle. From there you just use the trim of the motor for the minor adjustments.
As long as you don’t drive like a maniac, you’ll be more than happy with the ride that you can achieve in the 580 Rampage. Like any boat, however, it will take a few trips for you to get used to how to drive it – and when you’re quartering into the sea you’ll cop wind-blown spray, the same as with any centre console.
As far as getting the boat up onto the plane goes, the 70hp Suzuki four-stroke never struggled. Even when using lower revs we eased up onto the plane with no trouble and held there around 3000rpm with no bow-high problems.
When it comes to interior layout, this would have to be one of the best that I’ve seen in a longboat. Not only is it well laid out, Stinger has done a very good job with attention to detail and quality fittings – something you often don’t find in other boats.
You could call this one the deluxe finish, with a load of extras included. The for’ard and aft raised decks are modules that are added according to the buyer’s specifications, so you can have one, both or none. Once they are in, though, they are there to stay.
The forward section has four hatches, although these can be adjusted to suit the customer’s needs. Their primary purpose in the test boat was storage but you can opt to have more specialised requirements such as livewells and ice boxes built in.
At the very bow there’s a great anchor well. The hatch on the well has notched sections in the lid so the anchor can be out but there’s no rope exposed, which means you’re not going to trip over it or have lines catch on it while fishing. Even the big heavy-duty bollard for tying off the anchor rope is concealed out of the way.
Once you start looking closely around the Stinger 580 you soon notice the quality of the fittings – things like the stainless steel cleats which flush-mount when not in use, the smart, low-profile stainless navigation lights, and even little things like bungie cords on the side locker doors instead of the usual latches that rattle and usually end up coming loose. All these little points add up to trouble-free use over the life of the boat.
The centre console has good, sturdy side grabrails and an enclosed fibreglass box on top of the console to keep the electronics out of the weather. On top of these there’s a low profile windscreen to block the wind. It’s smart, tidy and practical.
Under the centre console, but above deck level, is the 100-litre fuel tank which has a clear display strip down the front so you can see at a glance how much fuel is in the tank.
The hydraulic steering was a bit of a surprise. I know it adds another thousand or so dollars to the price of the boat but it sure is a pleasure to drive. There’s no fighting the torque of the engine or worrying about the wheel spinning out of your hand and at the end of the day it makes a big difference to the enjoyment of being out on the water.
The aft platform has two big storage wells and in front of this there’s a raised centre section that forms a single bench seat for the driver with an ice box below. I found it very comfortable to lean back against with plenty of room between the seat and the wheel. On a calm day you could prop yourself up on here and cruise away to your heart’s content.
In the aft corners there are two good-sized wells, one plumbed for a live-bait tank and the other in standard format. Between them is the engine well.
More storage space is provided by the rod lockers that run down the sides. These have taken the place of the traditional side pockets, with mounts and straps to hold rods. Gaffs and nets in place. Hinged lids allow good, safe storage of the rods with the recess extending forward to hold longer rods.
It’s a self-draining deck with scuppers in the corners. Below deck, the hull has an extensive stringer set-up and is completely foam-filled, as are sections along the sides under the gunwales. Hence the boat can be easily put into survey.
These boats are made in Brisbane with the fit-up all done in-house. Trailers are custom-made to suit the boat to ensure easy launching and proper cradling of the hull while travelling.
You can see that a lot of work has gone into getting the ride of this hull right and into delivering a first-class fit-out. The beauty of it is that it’s all done under the one roof, so there’s quite a scope to have the boat fitted out to your requirements.
Test boat supplied curtesy of Stinger Boats, phone 07 3200 0272.
Make/model - Stinger 580 Rampage
Style - Centre console
Construction - Fibreglass
Length - 5.80m
Beam - 1.90m
Weight - 530kg (hull only)
Load capacity - 850kg
Max hp - 100
Draft - 0.18m (7")
Fuel - 100 litres
Height on trailer - 2.3m
Flotation - foam filled
Price as tested - all options $37,950
1) Stinger’s new 580 Rampage has plenty to offer keen anglers.
2) There’s very little wasted space in this boat. All is well fitted with quality fixtures. Here we see corner live wells, hydraulic steering and tidy cable entry.
3) Side pockets have been replaced with rod lockers which extend up under the gunwales for longer rods. Sections in here are also foam-filled for added buoyancy.
4) The raised forward casting platform has plenty of storage below. Note the anchor well hatch which completely covers the rope and bollard, even when the pick is out.
[INSERT] 4a) Anchor hatch open.
5) A part of the aft platform is the raised section which forms a seat and ice box.
6) A bird’s-eye view gives a better idea of the overall layout. The centre console has added features like the semi-enclosed box for better protection of electronics.
7) Here’s something you don’t see often on a boat like this – trim tabs. The benefits achieved are well worth the expense..