When this well-respected fishing boat manufacturer launches some new models, serious fishos tend to take notice. John Willis reports.
VICTORIA’S Streaker Boats is a true icon of the Australian boating scene. The retail boat-building partnership of brothers Leon and Paul Savage dates well back into the 1970s with a terrific range of very popular trailerable outfits, mostly with a sport fishing attitude.
Every new Streaker model has become a success in the Australian boating market and the all-new Commander 635 looks likely to ensure that the company will attract more marketshare, especially if the trend toward large trailerable sports fishing machines continues.
Previously I spent many years gamefishing out of southern NSW in another manufacturer’s 635. Hence I approached this boat test with the attitude that the big new Streaker had huge shoes to fill. More on that later.
Design & layout
The Commander 635 is available in soft-top and, more recently, hard-top versions. The all-new hulls are quite traditional in layout, employing the time honoured and well-proven principles inherent throughout the Streaker range.
The hull has a lovely steep entry to slash through even the most uncomfortable bay chop. There’s a nice flare to the bow and a combination of three planing strakes that extend almost the entire length of the hull. A rather smallish reverse chine at the stern becomes relatively hard through the shoulders of the hull, and the 20 degree hull gives excellent lift and exhilarating performance for the big boat.
I was very pleased to meet the next generation of Savages – Paul Jnr and Sean – for a run in both the soft and hard tops on a rather lumpy Port Phillip Bay. The first thing you notice is the exceptional freeboard designed into the hull. Many sport fishing boats seem to have steered away from high freeboard lately, opting instead for higher floors, sometimes self-draining, and then relying on rod holders and rails for security.
In my opinion, there’s no substitute for nice high freeboard when the proverbial hits the fan and you have a long run home through treacherous seas. The gunwale height in the Streaker is a full metre high (waist height for me) and the lower centre of gravity offers many advantages over higher competitors. Simply, this is a fishing/offshore style of boat. It has terrific deck room, great riding abilities, huge inherent safety and a pleasing layout.
The test packages were both fitted with 225hp Yamaha four-strokes. Streaker is one of Australia’s most awarded Yamaha dealers; there are many advantages of buying a factory pre-rigged package that you know is well fitted and fine-tuned on delivery.
The standard packages include: Bennett’s M20 trim tabs that automatically retract when the ignition is switched off, Solas four-blade HR Triton 14.25″ x 18″ stainless steel propeller, Maxwell anchor winch, SARCA bowsprit and anchor, s/s split bow rails, four retractable bollards, Sea Star hydraulic steering, safety glass windscreens, removable stainless steel snapper racks and moulded fibreglass cutting board, six stainless steel rod holders, large underfloor kill tank, recessed EPIRB, fire extinguisher and drink holders, and a pair of nicely moulded boarding platforms with a stainless steel telescopic boarding ladder.
Cockpit space was a definite objective in the design of the Commander. Streaker has stuck to the tried and proven outboard engine well with removable rear quarter seats, and it works. The seat cushions are easily removable to allow good transom access, and replaceable for a family cruise up the river. The transom layout also houses a plumbed live bait tank to the port and an equivalent size icebox starboard. An optional transom door was also released at the Melbourne International Boat Show.
Many will argue with me but I personally like carpet glued to the floor of the cockpit – as does Streaker. It is warm in winter, cool in summer, gives terrific grip wet or dry and is easily cleaned. The carpet in the cockpit is glued to avoid slippage but is removable from the cabin for easy cleaning.
The cockpit is fully lined with full-length side pockets and rod storage combinations. Offshore experience is also showing through with stainless steel grab handles in all of the right places. The shell type seats are thickly padded, wide and comfortable and the driver’s side incorporates an adjustable seat slide. They are mounted to a pair of combination fibreglass seat boxes. The passenger side module has a flip top that reveals a single burner gas stove with more shelved storage underneath. Also on the passenger side coaming is a recessed sink unit with pressurised water system. The driver side seat box houses a flush mounted tackle locker and even yet more storage.
When you consider the array of electronic features in this boat, the dashboard and helm layout is relatively uncluttered. Streaker has opted for a dash top mount for the range of Lowrance factory fitted electronics. The dashboard presents the triple Yamaha multi function gauges, a Clarion AM/FM/CD/MP3, six-gang switch panel for live bait tank, anchor and navigation lights, cockpit lights, windscreen wiper and pressurised water system. A small flush mounted Ritchie compass is a welcome addition. Other instruments include a GME 27meg radio, anchor winch, trim tab controls and key start.
On the water
I felt snug and comfortable with reasonable vision at the helm in both seated and standing positions and the inclusion of a stainless steel footrest aids the practicality. There’s also a terrific “Jesus” bar across the front of the passenger side dash that can be handy in a big sea.
The cabin is best described as a “cuddy” as the short bunks are for internal seating and storage only – not big enough for sleeping. A bunk infill is available as an option but it would still only be suited to the kids. The fully lined cabin also features big, deep, full-length side pockets for convenient storage and access to the bow area via a large lockable hatch. Streaker has retained full walk-around capability on the outside of the cabin, which is preferable especially when mooring, boarding from the bow or when a big fish runs around the bow. Internal steps in the cockpit are well placed for access to the side decks.
I still don’t know whether I preferred the new hard top or the soft top version. They both have advantages and I would certainly be happy with either. The soft top is a standard combination of fold down stainless rocket launcher with bimini canopy and clears. It is practical, allows great versatility in differing weather conditions and good visibility options.
However, there’s something appealing about the security of a hard top wheelhouse. I think it’s comforting knowing that there’s a solid structure all around you when confronted with a big sea or a cresting bar crossing. The newly designed hard top looks great and is manufactured with a strong, yet reasonably lightweight GRP composite and incorporates all of the features that are demanded by good design. It has a full-length grab bar for standing passengers, a sunroof, interior light, and featured a very good rear canvas sun awning to keep those UV rays at bay.
As with many hard top configurations, there was a small amount of vibration or “humming” through the four-stroke at around 3200rpm; this was minimal in the big Streaker.
Overall, the package felt very solid, predictable and quiet in the steep chop.
This very responsive package steers well in all conditions. The power and manoeuvrability is sensational for a boat of this size and it loves a little bit of nose up attitude even when pounding into head on seas. I was more than comfortable taking the package right up to wide-open throttle of 43.7 knots at 6000rpm, even in a bit of slop. Its optimum operating range is 3500-4000rpm where you will be achieving 22.6-27.5 knots respectively while using only 28-35 litres of fuel per hour.
The hull highlights the characteristics of excellent design and is a pleasure to drive in all conditions. Stability is very good due to the design, low centre of gravity, 20 degree Vee and hull weight. The ride is also very quiet and solid. Streaker has incorporated a full fibreglass, foam-filled stringer system and uses extra non-absorbent fuel resistant foam “noodles” to provide extra buoyancy and noise absorption under the floors.
A very comprehensive “Platinum” package as offered by Streaker is an all-inclusive combination that lacks only your fishing gear. Streaker finishes the packages with two-tone gel coat, attractive hull graphics, outriggers, EPIRB, offshore safety equipment and much, much more for around $100,000 on a Dunbier Supa Rolla Tandem drive-on Trailer with Hydrastar break-away disc brakes.
STREAKER 635 COMMANDER
Length: 6.8m LOA including bowsprit and platforms
Deadrise: 20 degrees
Weight: BMT (Softtop) 2200-2400kgs approx
Fuel: 228 litres
Power: Max. 225HP
Contact: Streaker Boats on (03) 9729 8288; www.streakerboats.com.au