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J.B.S. Marine 5.5m Walkaround
  |  First Published: September 2003



A FEW years back we had a close look at the J.B.S. Marine Boats built by Cliff Joshua. At that time they were making major inroads with their classic cutter-style aluminium hull with its flared hull. Have a look around these days at the number of aluminium boats with flared hulls and you’ll appreciate just what Cliff’s boats were all about.

In the aluminium field of boats the ability of to have a flare in the hull below the waterline has a number of benefits. The most obvious is having a finer entry to push the water and ‘roll’ the water away as the boat pushes through the water. A blunt nose, in the extreme example of a punt, pushes the water and well and truly pounds as you travel along. On the other hand, it is very stable. The flare enables a fine entry on contact with the water and has the ability to broaden out into a more moderate vee in the hull, which gives you your stability.

In pressed alloy boats the flared bow is achieved by stretching the aluminium, but in the plate alloy industry this is difficult to achieve. J.B.S. boats create the flare by forming a number of thin strips of alloy and welding them to the desired flare, then strengthening this with an integrated framework inside the hull. If you haven’t seen the process down you’ll be impressed with the ‘before and after’ stages.

Many boats these days are starting to look alike and it can be hard to tell one from the next without looking at the brand on the side, but this is certainly not the case with J.B.S. These days Cliff, along with his two sons Malcolm and Wayne and a team of tradesmen, are continuing to expand J.B.S Boats – so you’ll no doubt start seeing a few more around the place.

LAYOUT

The 5.5m walkaround is a superb boat for the angler who loves a variety of fishing and may well have a family that he likes to take out on the water from time to time.

The key to enjoyable boating is a boat that not just performs well on the water – it needs to be well laid-out and practical for the intended purpose. In the case of a versatile fishing boat you need room – and room is just what this boat offers. The aft deck is not consumed by the cabin and leaves more than enough room for several anglers to comfortably fish. Generous side pockets provide housing for the essentials in any fishing boat, along with a load of other items that just seem to end up there.

There is an underfloor storage area which is drained via the main bung hole out the back of the boat, but it is not a wet tank that can be flooded as you see in some boats – although there is the option to have this built into the boat. With a bit of effort you could soon build this underfloor storage area into a good size ice box. I’ve built underfloor ice boxes in two of my previous boats and you can be assured that you’ll use it. It still doubles up for storage area even if not used as an esky.

When you have a boat built from scratch it’s a good idea to think well ahead of the uses that you will give the boat. Extra storage or underfloor eskies may not seem like a big deal when day-tripping but it does make a big difference when you load up for a few days away.

Centrally located across the transom of the boat is the service shelf which accommodates your batteries and oil bottles, and it’s good to see this raised slightly off the floor away from water that may end up on the deck around these essential areas.

On the port side of this is the transom door which runs out to a tidy full-width boarding platform, which is basically the top side of the full-width pod. I like the practicality of this door for getting in and out of the boat on the trailer or when having a bit of a swim, but I’d have reservations of the safety aspect during a bad sea or if, for some reason, you end up with a lot of water in the boat.

At this point it’s worth mentioning the two lengthwise buoyancy tanks that are fitted below the deck of this boat. Both tanks run the length of the boat either side of the centre fuel and storage tanks. These tanks are fully sealed and pressure tested to ensure they are airtight and offer sufficient buoyancy. It’s a nice peace of mind to have and one that should never be underestimated.

The cab itself is a soft top version, with aluminium front and sides with a soft canopy and targa top overhead. There are many benefits in having a soft top – it keeps the weight and cost down and gives a good clear view around from the helm. The section between the windscreen and the canopy is fitted with clip-on clears which can be left off on hot days and put in position when it’s windy, cold or raining. When not in use the clears just roll up and can be kept in the front bunks.

Storage is made a lot easier by the fact that with the clears removed the targa top folds down to approximately 2.4m, depending on what sort of trailer you have the boat on.

The helm seats swivel and are mounted on storage boxes, the back half of which are lower and provide another two seats under cover. These extra two seats are good for the rest of the crew to sit on while travelling and they are fine to fish from. The also see the weight of the crew located centrally which does help with the ride.

You can use the storage area in these for whatever you like, from eskies to live fish wells or just plain storage. Seats formed in this manner are a great way to use the space around the helm.

The dash itself is pretty straightforward – a big flat-top section for electronics and a flat section around the steering wheel for switches and gauges. There’s a three-quarter grab rail across the front of the dash as well which not only gives the passenger something to hang onto, it gives that third person who often stands in the middle something decent to hang onto.

From an outside look, the internal space inside the cabin is deceiving. Internally the bunks are bigger and the cab deeper as they use the full depth of the boat. The cushions weren’t fitted in this case, but I could see that the room is there for two single bunks.

I mentioned forward thinking earlier on, and the cab offers a couple of classic examples. If you sleep in the cab in summer it can soon get quite stuffy inside. A small hatch on the top side of the cab roof opens up for some good ventilation and fresh air. The entry to the cab is central with a bulkhead either side; an open door if you like. A doorway gives you the option of added privacy and warmth if you’re in a cold climate. In warmer areas you can have, as is the case here, a fly screen. If you have ever camped out in an estuary area you’ll have discovered the joys of trying to sleep with a cabin full of mossies!

If you go outside the cab and move around to the bow of the boat you soon appreciate the width of the walk-around section of the boat. There is more than enough room to move to the front with a rod while fighting a fish and not have to worry about being in an awkward position and unbalancing as you try to regain control of the fish.

Once at the bow the area is not overly big but it’s fine for one person to be up here, maybe two in calm conditions.

The entire layout is more than workable and, as is the case with most custom alloy boats, you can personalise the layout to suit your needs. Everyone is different, but this design is good if you don’t really know what you want and are relying on the experience of previous designs and the builder.

RIDE AND HANDLING

If you’re on the shore and watching one of these boats move through the water it doesn’t take much of an eye to see that flared bow working as it cuts through the water and rolls away. The ride is soft and dry as you cruise along and, due to the ability to provide a moderate vee (in this case 12 degrees at the transom) you have a very stabile platform to fish from.

There was a time when I thought ride was everything. Now, however, with so many people taking to the water with little boating experience, I feel that stability is every bit as important. You just need to look at how much stability you need for your intended use. The lesser vee will also deliver a greater planing surface for the boat, which enables the boat to climb onto the plane with less horsepower and cruise at slower speeds. All of these characteristics are evident in the 5.5m J.B.S – a soft ride, good stability and an economical planning surface on the hull.

I found the ride to be very level as you move through the various speeds with no real problem in driving or handling the boat.

One of Suzuki’s new 115hp four-stroke outboards had little trouble with three adults on board, getting us underway with a top speed of just over 40mph. The fuel tank isn’t a big one at 135L under the floor, but with the fuel economy of the four-stroke you should still be able to enjoy a good day out on the water.

BMT package prices start at approx. $36,900 (prices vary with customisation). For more about the range of J.B.S Boats call (07) 3290 6260.

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model - J.B.S Marine 5.5m walkaround

Length - 5.5m overall

Beam - 2.50m

Weight - 650kg (hull only)

Deadrise - 12 degrees

Fuel - 135L

Height on trailer - 2.4m

Max hp - 130

Buoyancy - two full-length buoyancy tanks

1) The flared bow on the J.B.S softens the ride as the water is deflected away from the hull.

1a) (Inset) A lot of work goes into creating the flare from strips of plate alloy.

2) The new 115hp four stroke from Suzuki has ample power to get this baby on the move.

3) Access in and out of the boat is made easy with a removable transom door.

4) All under cove, seating for four and the ability to fold down the targa and canopy for storage.

5) Service shelf, side pockets and a good size bait board offer the making of a good fishing platform.

6) While the helm area may be straight forward it is very practical. Note the roll up fly screen on the cab entry.

7) Centre cabs and walk around are great but to be practical they need the leg room as seen here to move about.

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