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Sparkling new Opal
  |  First Published: December 2004



The introduction of Opal Boats at the recent Cairns Boat Show saw a new player enter the northern boat building market: the all new Opal CC 5400. This new arrival comes in both tiller steer and centre console configurations, and for this review Boat Scene in Cairns supplied a centre console version.

The lines of the Opal 5400 are very pleasing, with a high bow and fine entry fading back to a fairly flat transom. The eye-catching lines are matched with excellent workmanship throughout the fully hand-laid hull. Rod Lacco, the builder of Opal Boats, has been working in the boating industry for 42 years and his knowledge and experience is evident in the quality finish and fisher-friendly design.

LAYOUT

The layout is basic yet functional, with rear quarter moulded seats, a centre console with a front seat, and a raised foredeck with storage underneath. The moulded top deck gives a quality finish to the Opal and incorporates the rear seats, forward casting platform and anchor well. The fully self-draining hull is ideal for northern conditions where a sudden downpour can fill and sink a moored boat in a matter of hours.

The Opal reviewed in the test is a base model which the owner can have fitted out to their specifications. Owners can have a big say in the fit-out of these boats; options such as helm seat, grabrails, bowrail, under-seat storage, helm seat style, and canopy can be negotiated on order, which is what many boaties are looking for.

The centre console has a large lockable double door, which gives access to a stack of storage area. The Perspex screen needs a wraparound grabrail for passenger comfort and screen protection, and I imagine this will be a standard feature in production models. The moulded seat in front of the console can be left as is, or converted into a storage or icebox.

The test boat was fitted with standard Suzuki instrumentation, which has some notable features. The multi-function meter provides readouts on revs, has temperature warning, oil light and hour meter. It ingeniously also stops the tacho on 500rpm when the outboard needs its 50hr service, and on 1000rpm when it is up for its 100hr service. This is an excellent idea as these two services are the most important in an engine's service schedule. There is also a trim and tilt gauge and a six-switch panel to run electronics.

The front casting platform doubles as a seat and has a large underfloor storage area accessed via a twin-lock hatch. The self-draining anchor well is large enough to hold deep water ground tackle. There is a small stainless steel bow roller with lock pin and a nifty stainless pop up horn cleat, to tie off on. The same cleats are fitted in the rear quarters and are an excellent idea for keeping fittings out of the way when not in use.

By the time you read this, all new Opal 5400 series boats will have positive flotation foam under the gunwales as standard.

ON-WATER TEST

We headed out of Cairns Inlet into a rapidly freshening southeasterly change that came through as we left the ramp. This produced a very confused sea, which was a great test arena for the Opal. It handled the difficult conditions with ease and was surprisingly dry, especially considering the deteriorating conditions. The beam quarter saw a bit of spray catch Murray Clink, the Sales Manager at Boat Scene, who was sitting in the windward rear quarter seat. I was at the helm and never got a drop of spray. The Opal felt sure and safe underfoot and handled the seas at all angles with ease.

The relatively flat transom banged a little when it lifted its tail out, but not enough to be a bother. The length to beam ratio means the boat has a great ride but the flip side is slightly sensitive to weight distribution, more so at rest than underway. Once again, it is not an issue though. Hull design is always a compromise between ride and stability.

The Opal CC was tested with a 60hp Suzuki four-stroke, which really impressed me. It got the Opal out of the hole with ease and was very responsive and extra quiet underway. The Suzuki four-stroke range is rapidly building an enviable reputation in a very competitive market, and I can see why.

The Suzuki produced 28km/h (17mph, 15kts) at 3500rpm, 34km/h (21mph, 18kts) at 4000rpm, 40km/h (25mph, 22kts) at 4500rpm, 44km/h (27mph, 24kts) at 5000rpm, 48km/h (30mph, 26kts) at 5500rpm and topped out doing 51km/h (32mph, 28kts) at 5900rpm.

The Opal 5400 is going to gain a place in the northern boating market and orders are already being filled from customers who took to the Opal at the Cairns Boat Show. For further information on the range of Opal Boats, contact Boat Scene in Cairns on (07) 4051 4922.

Facts

SPECIFICATIONS

Length overall - 5.4m

Weight (hull only) - 390kg

Beam - 1.95m

Max hp - 75

Fuel - 100 litres underfloor

Base package price - $31,850

[CAPTIONS]

1) The Opal 5400 has pleasing lines.

2) The profile shows the centre console layout with forward casting platform and rear quarter seats.

3) The moulded top deck has built in rear quarter seats with plenty of storage area beneath them and across the transom.

4) The centre console has lockable twin doors giving access to a heap of storage inside.

5) The anchoring system consists of a large self draining anchor well, a pop up horn cleat and a small bow roller with lock pin.

6) The forward casting platform has a twin lock hatch to access the large storage area inside.

7a & 7b) The pop-up horn cleats fitted to the Opal are a great idea for keeping fittings out of the way when not in use.

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