As much as I love boats, I’d hate to be a boat builder. Why? Because unlike cars, which pop off the end of an assembly line with little variation between them, building boats is all about modifying to suit the individual’s needs. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of boats that roll off the workshop floor these days vary in some way from the original model they were based on.
Sure, you can walk into your local dealer and pick up a fully fitted out ‘turn key’ package it you so desire but it seems most of us want more input in the design and final layout of our chosen water craft. Unfortunately for boat builders, this means despite having a set number of plans, they rarely get to build standard models, and must constantly make adjustments through the planning and construction process.
But this is not all bad news. The ability to know what the customer really wants and then to be able to combine that into an efficient and functional boating package is what sorts the wheat from the chaff. To put it bluntly, the good ones stay and the rest go by the way side.
Sea Jay Boats have been quietly going about their business of building aluminium boats in the city of Bundaberg for the last 20 years, so Col and Janelle Glass and the rest of their team must be doing something right. Judging by the look of their latest offering, the 5.3m plate alloy Preda King, the team at Sea Jay are putting quality work into each and every boat they build.
As Sea Jay is a smaller manufacturer, that does everything from the computer-aided design to final fit-out in house, it means their quality control is second to none. In fact, their production process virtually allows for one single person to work on each boat, nearly from start to finish. As Col proudly declares, his team are very much boat builders, rather than just qualified welders.
But that’s the beauty of being a family owned business; you can control the standard of the finished product. If you’re not happy with it, it doesn’t go out the door until you are. While that may limit the number of boats you can make in comparison to some of the bigger corporations, I wouldn’t mind betting that’s a sacrifice Sea Jay have been glad to make in order to keep the quality of their product their top priority.
Even a cursory glance at the new centre console Preda King reveals the attention to detail that has gone into its design and construction. Things like the neatness and finish of the visible welds, the clean lines and uncluttered layout of the interior, as well as the fully self draining floor, cleverly designed folding aluminium canopy and walk through transom.
Then there are other features that you can’t see and can only be appreciated by getting onboard and putting the boat through its paces. These features include the additional stringers and bulkheads, which make this boat about as bullet proof as any plate alloy boat can be. Then there’s the 5mm bottom and transom, the 4mm sides and the 5mm plate floor, all of which gives the Preda King an incredibly solid feel.
The Preda King also has extra safety features that may not be immediately obvious, like the fully contained fuel tank. Sea Jay have built an extra compartment around the 170L under-floor fuel tank, so in the unlikely event of a leak, the fuel is still contained out of harm’s way, rather than sloshing around in under the deck waiting to be ignited.
While all of these extra features create a slight penalty in extra weight; the rig’s weight is something the Sea Jay team are proud of, rather than trying to hide. In fact, Col openly pointed out that the Preda King is up to 250kg heavier than some other styles of plate boat. But, as Col said, the first time you get caught offshore in some serious weather, you will be grateful you have a solid and dependable hull like the Preda King underneath you.
As you would expect from a 5.3m hull weighing almost 800kg, the Preda King delivered a soft and forgiving ride, but at times also slightly damp. However, to be fair to the boat, conditions were pretty ordinary for our test run. The wind was blowing around 20 knots out of the northeast and colliding with a big outgoing tide at the mouth of the Burnett River. But the conditions were perfect for testing out just how solid the nature of the Sea Jay’s construction is. The waves were over a metre high, less than 2m apart and moving in that haphazard fashion that only strong winds against the tide can produce.
We bashed our way out through the washing machine conditions. While we did hit a couple of the lumps a little harder than I would have liked, every time we came down it was with a gentle whumpf of a solid plate boat, rather than the bone rattling slap of a tinny. We threw a bit of spray around and not surprisingly, with over 20 knots of wind gusting directly onto our port side, we managed to get a bit of it onboard. Not enough to be a worry of course, just enough to remind us that unless we were doing a boat test, none of us would have been silly enough to be out there in the first place.
Back inside the river it was obvious that while the Preda King is a solid hull, it’s also a sporty package. Fitted out with the recommended maximum 150hp Honda, the Preda King is capable of speed around 45 knots. It flies out of the hole, without any vices. Putting the boat through some tight turns at high speed also failed to produce any noticeable cavitations; a testament to the Ultimate Edge transom’s design, no doubt.
While the 150hp motor was luxurious, the recommended 115hp motor would no doubt be more than enough grunt for this rig. However, if your budget can be stretched, I think you are always better off going for a little more power than you are likely to need. That way, you put less stress on the engine as it is able to provide the same performance at lower revs. These days, the cost of running the slightly bigger four stroke would be almost negligible anyway.
At rest, the Preda King was pretty much rock solid and the three of us were easily able to move about the boat without any noticeable effect. Of course, that’s to be expected from a big, heavy plate hull but it’s reassuring to know that during those hectic moments when you’re trying to wrestle some giant fish onboard, you don’t have to worry about who stands where.
The Preda King is one serious lump of a plate aluminium boat that not only looks good, but also performs brilliantly. Best of all, you know that it is built to handle just about anything the weather gods are likely to dish out. If you are looking for a boat in the 5m range that is a real step up in class from the average tinny, then I suggest you give the Preda King some serious consideration.
|Depth||2.77m (including canopy)|
|Depth||1.95m (with canopy folded)|
|Engine||150hp maximum (230kg)|
|Fuel||170L under floor tank|
Accessory Pre Rig – dual battery
Battery and oil rack
Bollards x 3
Bow sprit – duel roller
Foldable alloy canopy with 5 rod holders
Centre console with screen
110L dry storage under front deck
Under-floor foam floatation
Rear boarding ladder
Rod holders x 4
Hydraulic steering, trim tabs and transducer brackets
Wide side decks