When I cast my eye over a boat I look at it almost entirely from a fishing angler and the new Aquamaster 5.5 Abalone fitted the bill almost exactly.
This bare-bones centre console has no mums/kid concessions features at all – it’s designed to fish out from and that what it does best.
Our test boat had been sold to a diver and, because divers require room for scuba gear and the rest, this boat had just the basics. However, I was gobsmacked at the cockpit room in this 5.5m tinnie. Four could easily fish out of it with plenty of elbow room in between.
Aquamasters hail from the Queensland stable of Paul Baker, who has been in the boat building game for over 35 years. As well as centre consoles, Aquamaster manufactures small tinnies, runabouts, side consoles, bass boats, cuddy cabs and bow riders.
On a perfect day as we pushed off from Middle Harbour’s Roseville ramp with me was Jon Wiltshire, the boss of Northern Beaches Marine in Brookvale and one of nature’s gentlemen, and my mate, Bob Flint, a Qantas pilot who is a boating fanatic.
Northern Beaches Marine started out 15 years ago with Jon as a boat fitter. Many clients wanted to invest in boats so Jon and his wife Karen (in the boat industry for 11 years, that’s how they met) have grown the burgeoning business into a full dealership selling new and used boats, motors and carrying a service department with trained technicians.
Bob drove the boat and Jon and I went over the details.
Up forward is an open, drained anchor well, a big crucifix bollard, a small bowsprit and roller. Not much room for anchors so I suggest a plumber’s downpipe circlipped to the split bow rails to hold sand and rock picks.
In front of the console, flush-mounted in the deck, is a small access hatch with the bottom of the boat below.
On top of the sturdy handrail ringing the console is the all-round anchor light. If you have height restrictions in your garage, no problems with the console – the windscreen unclips and swings down easily.
Set up as a dive boat, there were no rocket launchers, T-top or the like but all these can be supplied and fitted – just have a chat with Jon. Basic instruments for the 90hp four-stroke Suzuki plus a Lowrance sounder come as standard issue but there’s a mile of room on the dash to accommodate large-screen electronics.
No seats were supplied so everyone including the skipper stood up. That suits me because seats take up a lot of room and we didn’t miss them one iota. The wide coamings made for comfortable seats and a great way to work tackle.
Four plastic rod holders are supplied but I would upgrade them to metal to withstand big hits on the troll. The fuel filler for the 80-litre underfloor tank is amidships on the port side.
There’s no underfloor kill tank but the whole floor is carpeted, giving a comfortable feel underfoot.
Also underfloor is an 1100GPH bilge pump on an auto float switch with a manual override. I loved the battery position, very easy to get to for maintenance. The single battery isolating switch under the transom sits next to the water separating fuel filter.
Although the flush-mounted live bait well in the transom comes plumbed, it will hold only around half a dozen yellowtail or a couple of slimy mackerel.
There was no springiness in the floor because the ribs are only 300mm apart at the stern, graduating to around 400mm apart at the pointy end.
With 650mm coaming height, there would be no sensation of falling overboard when fighting a fish. With all three of us on one side, the boat dipped but still around 800mm of freeboard showed.
Two alloy side pockets run down the cockpit. Rigidity comes from full seam welds, not just tacks prone to popping. Inside is a painted flowcoat-type of finish and underfloor is foam flotation to give a ‘basic flotation’ builder’s plate.
Welds were excellent and neatly finished and the exterior paint job looked pretty, with eye-catching decals.
Pushing down hard on the throttle from a standing start, the Suzuki immediately leapt out of the hole, something you expect only from two strokes, and we were on the plane in an instant with minimal bow lift.
A multitude of strakes under the hull aid planing and assist hull integrity. Seam-welded underneath is a thick keel, nice to know if you hit something hard!
After trimming, the load came off the wheel and the boat, even though it was only cable steering, could be directed with one hand.
With its 17° and sharp bow entry, there was no ‘tinny slam’ over chop; it was more of a fibreglass ‘thump’, which my back sure appreciated.
With the tacho showing 5300rpm, Bob’s mobile phone with built-in GPS (typical pilot!) showed a top speed of 29.6 knots (55kmh).
Our boat showed no sign of ventilation in tight turns under power and on sudden wheel inputs at speed, the boat tracked true with no slip. In reverse, the swim platforms did force the stern down a bit but still well within safety limits.
If you want a fishing thoroughbred, go and see Northern Beaches Marine at Brookvale and state what You want in a boat and they will happily oblige with a few suggested options that you might not have thought of.
|Fuel capacity||80 litres|
Max occupants 6 adults
Standard Inclusions: Painted inside and out; deluxe graphics; fully carpeted; deluxe centre console; folding windscreen; side pockets; split bow rails; bowsprit and roller; rear side rails; underfloor fuel tank; navigation lights; transducer bracket; plumbed live bait well; transom door; inshore safety gear; X126DF Lowrance sounder; 4 rod holders; bilge pump; coloured metallic sides.
Price as tested including Redco braked trailer with walkway and LED lights, all registrations and safety gear: $32,990. Boat supplied by Northern Beaches Marine, 12/122-126 Old Pittwater Road, Brookvale, NSW 2100, phone 0414 285 155, email --e-mail address hidden-- website www.nbmarine.com.auReads: 4136