I HAD never had the pleasure of testing a Stabi-Craft before getting a call from Neil Heinemann at Bill's Marine in Cairns. I had seen the 609 XR, the cuddy cab version of the test boat, in their yard for some time and its unique design had grabbed my attention.
The first thing that struck me was the massive internal area in the Frontier, the centre console version of the 609. It was developed through extensive consultation with boaties and fishermen in the Northern Territory for use in their unique environment, which requires travelling very long distances over rough water to fish the isolated rivers for barra.
The Stabi-Craft has the deserved reputation of being the Volvo of the boat world. If your priorities are safety and security, look no further than a Stabi-Craft. The pontoons, which make up the perimeter of the boat, have eight sealed compartments, four on each side, which offer incredible positive buoyancy and make the boat virtually unsinkable. During the flooding test conducted to gain 2C Survey they could only sink the boat to halfway up the sides, with the pump on full bore and the equivalent weight of 10 people. Consequently the Stabi-Craft 609 Frontier passed 2C Survey for 10 people stock standard, off the shelf. Stabi-Craft has such a huge safety record they are the boat of choice for numerous rescue organizations, water taxis, safety boats and anywhere that a boat must be able to go to sea in all conditions. Of the dozen Stabi-Craft Bill's Marine has sold since obtaining the dealership 12 months ago, half have gone into service situations.
These New Zealand boats were designed in response to demand from professional fishermen who wanted a super-safe boat that could be used in all weather in the treacherous waters of the Tasman. The factory is state-of-the-art, with the drawing and cut-out of the alloy sheeting totally computer controlled. The craft are then put together on an assembly line like a giant jigsaw with every boat being identical. This guarantees quality control, and a close look at the welding shows a uniformity and precision that’s second to none.
Once on the water the whole look and feel is security. The sides are so high and the gunwale so wide, with a massive beam of 2.38m, that the greatest land lubber would feel safe. The checkerplate floor can be fully self-draining if desired, simply by releasing the duck bills, which then drain the floor. When the duck bills are closed the floor is conventional, with water draining back into the pod. Most pods are designed to add buoyancy, but because this isn’t needed with Stabi-Craft the pod acts as the bilge, with a pump fitted for draining when required. This keeps water totally off the floor.
Storage capacity in the 609 is the most I have ever seen in a boat of this length thanks to the all-round under-gunwale shelf, which is like a giant side pocket. In the rear half it has closed rod storage compartments on each side. Two large compartments under the transom have drop down hatches. A livebait tank with through-hull circulation is fitted into the bottom of the walk through transom, which has a slide-in gate for backing into serious seas. The boarding ladder, specifically built for divers to get in and out while wearing flippers, is the best design I have seen. Instead of being the industry standard ‘H’ section, it is a ‘T’ section construction so feet, or flippers, can slide in from the side. It is super comfortable and easy to use. A duck board style configuration across the stern gives excellent access to the motor.
The centre console is small for the size of the boat and is designed simply as a steering station, with two shelves and a dash tray. Standard Yamaha electronics are fitted with heaps of room for all the gadgetry the heart desires and the pocket can handle.
The forward casting platform is designed for lure flicking and has huge storage capacity underneath. The support strut for the hatch has a screw lock so the lid can be kept up when required. There are three spigot positions for the two passenger seats, with two on the main floor and one on the forward casting platform.
The anchoring system is simple and functional, with a split bow rail feeding the anchor rope directly onto the bow roller. The cross bollard is situated on the front side of the biggest anchor well I have ever seen. It would hold a few hundred metres of rope and a massive anchor.
The extra wide gunwale is plenty big enough to use as a walkway around the boat and the stability is incredible, so moving around is an easy feat even in rough water. The two of us moving to one side and leaning out at rest and on the plane had no perceivable impact on the boat's stability. The Stabi's design is such that it will take half a dozen people all on the one side. It leans as far as the large reverse chine created by the underside of the pontoon, and then its buoyancy stops any further healing.
We headed out of Trinity Inlet into 15 to 20 knots of south-easterly and very choppy seas, hitting some serious boat wakes on the way, and it was at this stage that I became incredibly impressed with the Stabi-Craft. The underside of the pontoons act as a cushion in rough seas. As the water comes up off the vee it hits the chine and is driven out to the side, so when the hull comes down off a wave, instead of the expected bang on re-entry, the chines cushion the impact to create an incredibly smooth ride.
The ride and handling is the best I have ever experienced in an alloy boat. We flew across the chop, which was up to a metre high, at 57 km/h and for long periods (up to a couple of hundred metres at a time) Neil let go of the steering wheel. The Stabi-Craft ran dead straight, with the swell having no impact on the boat's stability and direction. Neil repeated this at all angles to the swell and the result was the same. He was hoping for rougher water but what we found more than impressed me. It just gives you the desire to head east. The grab rails on the console and the gunwale are perfectly positioned for two-handed security when on the fly.
The Stabi turns like a conventional mono hull, with a slight lean in. There is no uneasy feeling when turning hard, which can happen with some unconventional hull designs.
The Yamaha 115hp four-stroke is the perfect power unit for this craft. It provided heaps of grunt and made the Stabi fly. At 3500rpm it reached 33km/h (21mph, 18kt), at 4000rpm it did 40km/h (25mph, 22kt), at 4500rpm it reached 45km/h (28mph, 24kt), at 5000rpm it reached 52km/h (32mph, 27kt), at 5500rpm it reached 58km/h (36mph, 31kt) and topped out doing 6000rpm at 64km/h (40mph, 35kt).
With 200 litres of fuel under the floor, the 609 Frontier is ready to go serious distances and the handling is such that sea conditions are of little concern. If you’re looking for a boat that will take you offshore in complete safety and comfort, but which is just as much at home chasing estuary species, you should take a serious look – or better still, a ride – in the Stabi-Craft 609 Frontier.
Complete BMT package price: $50,675. For more information contact Bill’s Marine in Cairns on (07) 4051 6733.
Length overall - 6.2m
External beam - 2.38m
Internal beam - 1.70m
Deadrise - 20 degrees
Tube thickness - 3mm
Hull thickness - 5mm
Approx. towing weight - 1200kg
Max hp - 150
Recommended hp - 115
Max safe loading - 6 adults
Cockpit space - 4.93m2
Length on trailer - 7m
Reserve buoyancy - 20,000L
1) The Yamaha 115 four-stroke really got the Stabi-Craft 609 Frontier flying. The unique hull design makes for an incredibly soft landing.
2) The underside of the pontoons act as a large down chine, using the rising water as a cushion. This results in a super-soft ride for an alloy boat.
3) The profile shot shows the massive internal space (4.93 square metres) in the Frontier.
4) The simple and functional anchoring system has the largest anchor well I have seen. There is also a shelf inside to store spare anchors.
5) The hatch on the forward casting platform has a screw-tight support strut so the lid can be kept open when getting gear in and out. To give an idea of size, that’s a 20L drum inside the compartment.
6) The large fully-plumbed livebait tank is situated in the base of the walk-through transom. Two large under-transom storage hatches add to the massive storage area available in the Stabi-Craft 609 Frontier.
7) The fold down T section boarding ladder is the best design I have seen. It is so comfortable and easy to use.