After putting a lot of thought into buying his new boat, Patrick Brennan reports after a year and plenty of fishing later.  

AROUND 12 months ago I bought myself a new boat and did a piece on it for Boat Fishing in October 2006. If you read that article, you’d know I had some real dramas with trailers and outboard power. Twelve months down the track and quite a few trips under the belt the following is an update on my Blue Fin Estuary Trekker 4.15.

Ironing out the bugs
My original trailer problem was due to it being slightly too narrow at the guards. The issue was resolved with a bit of cutting and welding of the guards so the boat would easily fit in between them; it hasn’t posed any problem since, but as I wrote in the first review, a different trailer would have eliminated the problem altogether. The trailer is an Oceanic and despite the original mismatch with my boat, it’s a well designed, robustly built unit. In fact, the guys who modified it Ð Offshore Boats in Canberra Ð were so impressed they decided to supply Oceanic trailers with the boats they build.

The outboard engine caused the second problem. Due to a series of communication errors (between several parties) I’d bought a 30hp four-stroke Suzuki believing it was the maximum power rating for the hull. It wasn’t until after fitting and running the outboard that I identified that the boat was under-powered, and that the maximum power rating was 40hp. Despite our best efforts to get the 30 to do the job it became clear that it wouldn’t. This is where I have to give a huge rap to the guys at Suzuki Marine and Offshore Boat Builders (Canberra’s Suzuki dealership). These guys went out of their way to resolve my problem. In short, a buyer was found for my 30hp outboard and after a thorough analysis of my boat’s requirements, a Suzuki DF40hp direct injection four-stroke outboard was purchased Ð at a slightly discounted rate.

I have been running the DF40 Suzuki for the past 12 months. To say I’m happy with it is an understatement. It’s a fantastic piece of gear. The instant electric key start (without the need for choke or any mucking around) is awesome. Electric tilt and trim adds a little more luxury to the package. As for the power side of things, I have no complaints there. At 6000rpm it scoots along at about 28 knots (by the GPS) and pops the hull out of the hole in a flash. It may not be up there with a super-duper bass boat but it’s fast enough. The engine is fitted with Suzuki’s standard 13-inch propeller.

I’m unsure of exact fuel consumption figures, but I can say the engine is noticeably more fuel efficient than my old two-stroke 40. For those interested in the engine’s specs, the DF40 is a three-cylinder with bore and stroke of 71.0mm x 68.6mm and delivers a maximum output of 29.4kW (39.43hp) with a full throttle range of 5600 to 6200rpm. The DF40 utilises a single tachometer gauge that incorporates the engine maintenance and warning system. Through a series of audible beeps, tacho needle movements and gauge lamps, it indicates when something is wrong and when a service is due (e.g. 50hr, 100hr, etc.).

The engine’s superb performance does comes at a cost; as well as being the most powerful 40 four-stroke on the market, it’s also the heaviest. Weighing in at 96 kilos, this heavy transom weight can have a significant effect on small boats. The boat initially had a “porpoising” problem which was overcome by repositioning the console’s dual batteries in one of the forward compartments and mounting an outboard fin.

Size matters
I chose a Blue Fin based on the brand’s good reputation and from  experiences I’d had on the water testing other models. The hull I selected is the Estuary Trekker 4.15, mainly due to garage space limitations. The boat’s length proved to be one of the main sources of weight and power problems; I’d specified a helm console (something Blue Fin had only previously included on its 4.3 models), extended casting deck, very heavy outboard and dual batteries for the electric motor plus the cranking battery. At 4.15 metres long with a beam of 1.7 metres it proved a big ask. The Estuary Trekker is essentially a punt and with the extra weight I’d specified the boat displaced too much water for the 30hp to easily pop it out of the hole. And now the DF40 does it easily!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I’d also miscalculated the room in my garage and the 4.3m model would have fitted in. This hull with its extra 150mm length and 100mm beam would have easily accommodated my added weight requirements and avoided the problems I’d had. I’d also opted to purchase my boat/motor/trailer as individual items, while a dealer package would have been ultimately cheaper and provided less problems. Lesson learnt.

With all the dramas behind me, the boat has since been out on trips a lot over the past year or so, on south coast estuaries, freshwater impoundments and Snowy Mountains lakes. The boat is very stable and sits beautifully flat at rest. One thing that concerns me is that the bow sits close to the water at rest, and at low speed. Although it hasn’t come close to happening yet, I have the feeling that when travelling slowly (e.g. trolling), there’s a chance that a big chop could see the taking of water over the bow. This too, may well be a result of the extra weight placed in the boat’s bow to counteract the outboard’s weight, or just the difference between this boat and others I’ve owned with deeper entries and higher bows. As yet I haven’t had the Estuary Trekker out in any horrendous conditions but in some “average” stuff it hasn’t taken on any water. My concerns obviously don’t exist at planing speed and above.

In wind generated chop of 10-20 knots the little boat is surprisingly dry. Being so flat on the bottom, popping it up on the plane gets it riding high and on top of the rough stuff. Its 20mm spray chines contribute significantly to spray deflection. While there’s no such thing as a dry boat, this is the driest small boat I’ve owned.

With a narrow beam of 1.7 metres, it can feel quite cramped when fishing three up. This cramped feeling only comes about when travelling or sitting around having lunch; three anglers can actually cast or troll quite comfortably.

As mentioned, I’d opted for a console on my boat mainly because I’ve become so accustomed to the advantages it offers, I’d find it hard to go without one now. Also, Blue Fin hadn’t fitted a console on a 4.15 model before and (again in hindsight) I believe the 4.15 is better suited to tiller steering and my boat would gain space if I removed the console. So if you really want a console, definitely go with a 4.3m model. I also feel, my boat with an upgrade to a 1.8m beam would be an improvement.

I initially stipulated some customising on my Blue Fin prior to delivery. The makers incorporated port and starboard trailer tie-down lugs, welded to the hull, so the boat is easily secured to the trailer by two short ratchet straps on either side. This system works well and I believe it should be a standard feature on all boats. Well done Blue Fin.

I also had an inspection hole with a screw cap cut into the timber cover on my fuel hatch. This allows me to check fuel levels and open or close the breather without having to remove the timber cover. 

In such a small boat, storage is very important. Extending the casting deck by some 400mm has provided storage for two batteries for my electric motor and a heap of general storage.

While I readily admit the early teething problems I encountered with the boat affected my enthusiasm for the project, now that they’ve been overcome I really enjoy using the boat. It performs very well and looks a million bucks, but more importantly than that, judging by recent catch rates fish seem to like it.

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