Everyone knows that size is important, and the 550 Sea Sport Tiller certainly fits the bill as one of the biggest open tiller boats I’ve ever been in.
Sea Storm Boats on Brisbane’s south side have been building under this brand for two years now, specialising in boats up to 50ft. They don’t just make mono hulls either, with some smart 40ft cats and even the odd houseboat.
While the Sea Sport 550 Tiller might not sound like it’s all that big, once you jump in it, the sheer room of the boat soon strikes you. As a joke, I asked the owner (who accompanied us for the test-run) if he had 10 kids. As it turned out, he has five and the entire family enjoys fishing and boating, hence the need not only for a big boat with plenty of room, but a boat that can also be used in a number of different applications.
When you have a look around Southeast Queensland, there are many locations for day trips or extended trips and while the boat is built to sleep in, it’s got the space and to load up the tribe and camping gear and head to somewhere like Hervey Bay or Fraser Island. Those offshore fishing trips aren’t out of the question either, with nice high sides and a hull designed to take on a reasonable sort of a sea.
This boat has a couple of important features that help to create more open space and a larger appearance. Firstly, it’s not really a dinghy, but more of a larger trailerboat without the top section or console. It’s a tiller steer and as such, doesn’t have cabins, cabs or consoles. The motor sits on the back with a handle and a seat for the driver to sit on while he drives. It’s a bit of a different concept but it seems to work for the owner I tested the boat with.
The other reason why the boat takes on those bigger dimensions is the profile of the hull, with higher plate sides and swept-up bow. You often see boats of a similar size in a longboat style which tend to be narrow and have low sides. The beam is 2.2m, which opens up that inside area and adds stability to the ride.
So what do you do with a big open boat? Well, you try to keep it open by using the space around the boat and below the deck. On the Sea Sport 550 Tiller, this is achieved by using good, deep side pockets that run most of the way up the sides of the boat. It is surprising just how much you can put in these side pockets while still keeping them manageable. The key storage area is under the front deck and there is a considerable amount of room in here for camping gear or any other equipment you’d like to bring.
While there is no console, there is a small side mount in front of the driver’s seat where the sounders are mounted on top and the gauges and radio around the front. It’s by no means a console, more of a small panel that kicks out.
There are four primary positions for the pedestal seats, all back from the raised forward deck. Kids could also sit on the step that forms the raised area of the deck. The deck wash hose sits in the side pocket and there’s a livebait well in the transom.
When I drove the boat, it took a little while to get used to driving the tiller set-up. At first it’s a bit awkward hanging onto the tiller of a 90hp Yamaha outboard because they do generate a bit of torque, which you can feel in your arms, as you need to keep pulling against the tiller arm to compensate. After a long drive, you might feel it in your shoulders. The torque does reduce as you trim the motor out but it’s still there. In most cases with forward or centre steering you don’t feel as much torque as it’s taken up through the steering helm and with hydraulic steering you don’t feel it at all.
Another factor to keep in mind is that because you’re sitting right towards the stern of the boat, you’re actually in the lowest position. It’s not always possible to see over the bow and where you are going, particularly when moving up onto the plane.
To compensate for this, trim tabs have been fitted to the boat. On larger boats these are normally associated with side-to-side movement, but in this case they have been added to pull the nose of the boat down. This works very well and a quick trim pulls the front down so you can see where you are going. The trim tabs can still be used for side-to-side stability for ride and weight adjustments so it’s certainly a good addition to this particular boat.
As for the engine, the 90hp two-stroke Yamaha pushes the Sea Sport 550 Tiller along, faster and easier than you might expect. It’s quite easy to sit around 20 knots without too much effort. Of course, a big load for that weekend away will slow you down a bit but for everyday use, the 90hp engine is more than sufficient and will also keep the kids happy when the ski tube comes out.
I found the ride of the boat to be very good. It handles well and there’s good stability on the move and at rest, although because it’s an open boat, you’re still going to get wet when the sea comes up. It’s not too bad if you are sitting in the forward seats as the reverse chines and strakes throw down a fair bit of water before the wind gets a chance to grab it and throw it back.
The Sea Storm Sea Sport 550 Tiller has a 160L fuel tank under the floor, which means there’s plenty of scope to travel without fuel tanks on top of the deck. If you know you’re going to regularly travel long distances, there’s the option to place a second fuel tank under the floor as well.
The big open tiller might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but in this case it’s exactly what the customer wanted and he can certainly boast that he has got a big one!
For more information about the Sea Sport 550 Tiller, contact Sea Storm Boats on (07) 5546 1433.
Make/model – Sea Sport 550 Tiller
Style - tiller steer
Length - 5.5m
Beam - 2.2m
Construction - plate aluminum
Bottom - 5mm
Sides - 4mm
Deck - 3mm
Weight - 750kg (hull only)
Deadrise - 14 degrees
Fuel - 160L underfloor
Flotation - No
Price as tested - $28,000