IT’S a bit of a buzz when a boating writer gets a brand-new boat to review before anyone else.
Formosa is a brand that’s foreign to us New South Wales fishos but I’m sure we’ll start to see a lot more of these Queensland-built boats in our local waters.
I had the pleasure of taking a Formosa 5.2-metre centre console for a drive up the Hacking River and out to sea recently, courtesy of her new owner, Glen Massey, from Monterey Seafoods on Botany Bay.
Glen had been excited since placing his order with Formosa and, at the company’s invitation, he travelled to Queensland to see the boat take shape and discuss his customising requirements directly with the builders.
It was a picture-perfect day as we set off from the Royal Motor Yacht Club in Burraneer Bay and headed for the channel markers and the open sea. Our camera boat was driven by local real estate man Rod Woodward, who faithfully followed to enable me to take a few boat-to-boat shots. It was a chilly Winter’s day, sunny but with a cutting sou’-wester sending whitecaps scurrying towards the eastern shore.
The plate bottom and pressed-clinker side concept is not new but is very functional, giving a smooth, dry ride and good stability at rest. The trademark bow of the Formosa is nearly 30cm higher than all the competition – a feature that gave a very dry ride.
The boat is seam-welded with ribs set around 40cm apart, which makes for a rigid vessel that resists twisting or flexing – the main reasons welds start to crack.
A solid marine ply floor, with no springiness whatsoever, completes the sturdy construction. With a guesstimated 15° transom deadrise, the Formosa punched through the chop with no hard ‘tinnie slam’ and only a hint of spray when beam-on to the wind.
Large welded chine lips have a lot to do with keeping water sheeted well away from the boat so the wind doesn’t pick it up and drive it back into the cockpit.
There is a slight tilt when beaming the sea – a factor on most boats – and when stationary, the Formosa passed the lean test with both of us hanging over one gunwale.
The centre-console layout with full walk-around gives heaps of room to play a fish right around the boat. The large, padded-top esky acted as a seat and kill tank but I had no problem standing while driving, with the wheel and throttle within easy reach.
The small tinted screen gives protection from the weather for the driver only and all other hangers-on have to face the prevailing conditions – the joy of the owner-skipper! Side grab rails are solid and well-placed on the centre console for standing passengers. The top section of the console is hinged and can be swung down to lower the height for storage.
Although the standard boat is rated to 90hp, Glenn had organised a special transom rating of 115hp. There was a big, black 115hp Saltwater Mercury (supplied by Onshore Marine), spinning a 20” Laser prop, all set on the Formosa’s fully-floating pod.
This boat/motor set-up gave some phenomenal speeds. Flat stick at 5200rpm we did an alarming 52mph while a more sedate 37mph was achieved at 4000rpm and a very comfortable 27mph cruise showed 3500rpm.
A small bowsprit houses a roller and there is marine carpet in the self-draining anchor well to avoid noise and the paintwork getting scratched with the ground gear. Nice touch.
A heavy, bow-mounted, solidly-welded, split cross bollard will hold the Queen Mary and the standard split bow rails give positive hand holds when working up the sharp end.
A small foredeck provides shelter for PFDs, flares and the like but that’s about all the storage Glen wanted apart from under the centre console.
Side pockets will hold gaffs, nets and fishing rods on clips but the tank breather/filler obstructs the port side pocket. Clips also secure the pole for the removable rear all-round white light.
Clip on/off curtains on the rear face of the console keep cameras and other personal items dry on the two interior shelves.
Underfloor, there’s a larger than standard 115-litre fuel tank – enough for a hard day’s fishing offshore. But for those who wish to venture out deep, I’d still advise that owners with engines over 100hp take a spare 25-litre container to give a decent safety margin if the weather turns foul.
A bimini folds well away from the work area and can be removed if required. Glenn’s boat came complete with all engine gauges, 27MHz radio, CD/cassette player with waterproof speakers, fire extinguisher and a fused four-gang switch panel.
Also included is a water-separating fuel filter, primer bulb, 500gph bilge pump, six gunwale-mounted rod holders and a transom cutting/bait preparation table sporting four extra rod holders.
The battery is easily accessed so checking electrolyte levels (which should be done every time the boat is taken out) is an effortless task with no excuse for neglect. With a huge 3260mm x 1860mm useable cockpit space, this is a boat that’s a full walk-around with little to impinge when chasing a rampaging fish that does 360s around the boat.
Higher than normal coamings (730mm) allow hips to lock in for a secure hold in inclement weather or to fight bigger fish on stand-up gear. The extra gunwale height the Formosa offers is great for stand-up tactics but the height can increase drift in a breeze.
The fully integrated engine pod is extra-strong with 5mm chequerplate on top which extends right through the boat to make the rear battery shelves. The pod also carries triple support plates for the motor mounting area. It is because of this extra strength that Glenn had the transom rated to take the extra horses.
When we hit open water, I trimmed her up a tad and applied the throttle. The boat stayed flat as she climbed on the plane and the brisk wind didn’t deviate the Formosa from her crosswind track one iota.
Powering down the front of swells, the boat behaved beautifully and had no inclination to dig or broach. Into a head sea with a touch of down trim to get the forefoot doing its job, the big, weighty centre console handled the small chop well with no slam or bow lift.
Turning the wheel hard and then accelerating saw a touch of prop ventilation but Glenn reckons this is due to the motor being a touch too low. In full reverse water sheeted off the boarding platforms either side of the pod and the motor pan was kept dry - well above water level.
At cruise the big Merc felt like it could go all day and the ride was extremely comfortable in the sizeable chop. Size is an asset out in the open and the Formosa, although only rated at 5.2 metres, feels and acts like a 5.5-metre-plus boat.
All Formosas are custom built with inclusions individually tailored to satisfy the whims that we fishos have, so beware – there’s a fair amount of lead time from ordering to delivery.
After a few pics, we headed back to the Royal Motor Yacht Club and the boat glided up the Teflon skidded Dunbier trailer with ease. A few cranks of the winch and the boat was ready to tow.
Formosas are striking boats and the price is even more impressive. They’re a very attractive package for those who desire a custom fishing machine that won’t give the wallet a heart attack. I am sure they’ll find a niche as thoroughbred fishing platforms.
Fold-down windscreen; nav lights; four-way switch panel; bilge pump; bimini top; marine carpet; fuel filter; sounder; painted inside and out; graphics and decals; front and rear rails; cleats fore and aft; rod holders; centre console.
Price as tested including a Dunbier drive-on braked, galvanised trailer with all safety gear and registrations (ex-Queensland): $26, 970.
Price with 75hp Mercury two-stroke from $23,500.
Boat supplied by Queensland Power Boat Centre, 3920 Pacific Highway, Loganholme 4129. Phone 07 3801 1733. fax 07 3801 1590, web: [url=http://www.boatsboatsboats.com.au/]; email --e-mail address hidden--Reads: 785