Queensland-based Formosa Marine are quiet achievers. This established manufacturer doesn't advertise in banner headlines but quietly continues to produce some excellent fishing craft for serious anglers.
The new Tomahawk 550-580 series – entry-level craft with terrific potential and ample features – are prime examples of what Formosa are currently doing and after spending some time aboard the 550 centre console I'm pleased to give the craft and its smooth, quiet 115hp Mercury Optimax a lot of ticks on the report card.
The Tomahawk range complements Formosa’s existing range of plate boats. While maintaining the ride and build quality Formosa are famous for, the Tomahawk’s high-tensile hull with aluminium self-draining deck now offers another option for anyone looking for a versatile open-water work horse.
The Tomahawks also feature reverse-chine hulls with fastback-style transom and raised sheer line.
A centre console such as the Tomahawk makes a lot of sense given that it's virtually all fishing area. Anglers see this as one of the main strengths of this style of craft.
Storage can be an issue in centre consoles but the Tomahawk offers storage in various places, as we’ll see later.
Up forward there's a large, carpet-lined anchor well with a split bow rail around the bow sprit.
The Tomahawk is certainly a very high-sided vessel the stylish waist-high sheer up forward means the deckhand on the anchor would be protected against wave action.
Anglers working up front would also appreciate the under-floor storage in the bow work area just ahead of the console, with its own multi-level shelving.
All floors are carpeted.
The good-sized centre console was equipped with a large, one-piece windscreen and overhead fabric T-top, both capable of being folded down to facilitate storage. Lots of ticks there.
A grab rail on the sides of the console plus those on the T-top frame are sensible inclusions, as are the six rod holders at the rear of the top.
Aft of the console is an upholstered storage box with a bolster-style fore/aft backrest to seat two. There was ample room on the front of the console for instruments and gauges – more than most anglers would require.
On the top level was a Navman Fish 4350 sounder with Mercury SmartCraft gauges to port a little lower. A Northstar marine radio was set into the console next to the gauges while there was a bank of switches beside the hydraulic helm.
A rear lounge is an option for the Tomahawk, which has a seven-person rating and I’m sure many buyers would order this.
The cockpit has sufficient room for at least four anglers to work in comfort and the targa is of sufficient height to allow busy anglers to lift their rods without fouling on it.
Between thigh- and waist-height, cockpit depth is ample for safe offshore work.
The cockpit features side pockets, a large under floor floodable fish box, three rod holders on each of the wide gunwales and grab handles in each quarter.
A transom bait station with rod holders and a livewell which can be plumbed has generous cutting boards at just the right height for easy rigging.
There are raised transom lockers for batteries and other items and an inward-opening boarding gate is to port.
A ladder and wide, non-skid boarding platforms are part of the transom treatment.
We tested the Tomahawk in a decent easterly swell and from the outset I felt this a well-balanced rig with plenty of get up and go, courtesy of the 115hp Optimax. The Tomahawk 550 can also be set up with a 90hp outboard and I would be surprised if performance would suffer much, given the ease at which the rig planed and cruised.
The Tomahawk planed at 10 knots (18.8kmh) at 2800 rpm. at 3000rpm hit 14 knots (26.4kmh) on the hand held GPS and at 4000rpm was doing 21.7 knots (40.2kmh). A brief burst to 5000rpm on the near-new engine recorded 31.5 knots (58.5kmh).
There's no question in my mind that the rig would easily exceed 34 knots when the Opti was run in but what impressed me was the easy, quiet, cruising at 4000rpm and 22 knots.
Running over wash and chop was a pleasure: at no stage did the Tomahawk bang or crash off a chop or swell and there's no doubt that the plate hull weight of around 650kg and the foam fill contribute greatly.
The photos show just how cleanly the reversed-chine hull rides.
At 2.45m wide, the Tomahawk 550 is quite beamy, resulting in stability at rest and under way. The hull features a keel plus reversed chines and longitudinal strakes on its 4mm plate bottom and with only a moderate amount of vee aft (15°) I was able to walk around without noting any lean or tilt.
Ride quality in the Seaway's incoming rollers was impressive. The Tomahawk tracked true and kept spray well away from the interior and in general was very easy to drive.
Riding the waves downhill failed to induce broaching or other handling vices and the hydraulic steering felt both light and responsive at all times.
Formosa have promoted the Tomahawk 550 as an entry-level craft yet, as I see it, the finish, capability and general seaworthiness plus ample features don’t reflect any cost cuttings at all.
The paint finish, upholstery and general neatness of fittings was of a much higher standard than I would call entry level.
The 550 Tomahawk is an ideal offshore or bay rig with strong family boating potential yet the price as tested (including a good trailer ) of $42,790 is certainly very sharp.
For your local dealer please visit www.formosamarineboats.com.au
Formosa Tomahawk 550 centre console
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