Northern Exposure


From creek to coast this little plate all-rounder fits the bill nicely. Mark Ward reports from Cape York.

THE mining town of Weipa in Cape York has such a diverse array of fishing options that everything from a tinny to a flybridge cruiser has its place. So finding a hull that will suit most fishing options is vital. A hull of around five metres which can be fitted with an electric motor will get you into all the creeks to cast for barra, but it also has to be able to double as a reef fishing vessel for when mackerel and fingermark are on the chew. A third aspect would have to be range. Getting to some of the more remote rivers requires a vessel that isn’t going to require excessive refuelling and is nimble enough to launch an all out barra attack once you arrive.

The Allison 495 Arafura slots nicely into this category. This is a solid, functional plate alloy hull fitted with a new four-stroke 70hp Yamaha (as featured on Fisho’s new estuary project boat). The centre console configuration makes it ideal for reef fishing and the four-stroke would be happy to be trolling lures all day long. A forward casting deck and seat make the boat ideal for fitting a bow-mount electric, which suits both barra anglers in the north and bream and bass anglers in the south. It looks to be a very functional all-rounder that is solid enough to handle plenty of punishment.

Design & layout
The layout is simple with the forward casting deck housing a slip-in seat. The seat is a much better idea then a lean pole for casting lures at fish while offshore when more balance is required than when flicking around the snags. The extended bowsprit and wide gunwale provides plenty of room to attach an electric motor. The casting deck is elevated which gives added storage under the floor for safety gear and room to house a battery for the electric motor if required. The two forward rod holders are a nice touch for a centre console and make it easy to watch a couple of trolled lines from the helm.

The console itself is nice and narrow, making it simple to walk around.The console is fabricated with a shelf and has plenty of room for electronics and storage below. The sports steering wheel felt a little low for my liking but the control box was well positioned along with the switches and gauges. A smoke tint windshield with a good sized grab rail frames the console and rounds out a very neat package.

The transom has what looks like a small swim platform of chequer plate aluminium, making it ideal if used as a day boat with the family – not that you would want to be climbing into the water at Cape York … Along the floor of the transom is a large storage pocket that extends from the storage located under the gunwales. There is no dry storage for rods but plenty of storage for everything else. A live bait tank, cleats and two more rod holders complete a basic but very functional transom.

Power play
Power wise, the F70 Yamaha four-stroke was very well suited to cruising around with two anglers on board. We loaded the boat with four big blokes and still managed to cruise along at a steady 20 knots. With three on board the hull performed well at around 22 knots where she would rise out of the hole and allow more control from the helm. Top speed three-up was 25 knots, so she wasn’t fast but doesn’t need to be. Apart from being very sensitive to weight distribution, the Arafura performed nicely.

I would have liked to see how it performed with a 100hp Yammie on the transom but for a couple of anglers, 70 ponies offered moderate performance with the bonus of excellent fuel economy. In a place like Cape York, you want to get around without having to lug hundreds of litres of extra fuel.

According to Allison the maximum power rating for the 495 is 90hp with a max transom weight of 176kgs. Unfortunately, at 179kgs and 10hp over max rating, the 100hp Yammie isn’t an option, which is a real shame and something the builders may have overlooked. Even the new F80 is 172kgs so for the sake of a few extra kilograms, the performance could have been improved significantly.

Built to last  
It’s always nice to see good quality welding that extends the entire length of the plate and that is exactly what you get with the Allison Arafura. The boat has a 4mm bottom and 3mm sides. The 2.25m beam with a 700mm freeboard gives the five metre hull the feel of a larger boat but with three or four anglers on board, you will miss the room that a longer hull can offer.

Dry weight is less than 500kgs, so with the 120kg outboard and a full 80 litre tank of fuel on board it can easily be towed by the family car or small 4WD. The deadrise is a moderate 15 degrees, however, on a small plate boat, this will suit the conditions that the hull was designed for without any excess drag. Ride quality was not able to be fully tested on the day due to glorious weather, but I wouldn’t be expecting miracles from a small, light hull but a plate boat with a sharp entry point and a 15 degree deadrise will not be disappointing either.

Underfloor foam gives the hull basic flotation and the usual safety items such as bilge pump (1150 GPH), grab rails and nav lights are all standard.

All in all, this is a very neat little package that would not only suit anglers in the far north, but anyone who wants the option of inshore reef fishing as well as calm water estuary fishing. The review boat dealer, Weipa Auto, has additional freight expenses and still managed to retail the Arafura for $35 990, as tested.

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