Small Boat, Big Ambitions

Sami Omari is attempting to cover all bases with his smick new plate alloy rig.

My fishing comprises an eclectic mix of styles and target species – a very difficult task for a single boat to cover. This was my dilemma when it came time to search for a new boat. I was also limited by storage space so owning two boats – one big, the other small – was quickly ruled out. The challenge was how to shoehorn big boat capability into a small boat to cover my diverse fishing styles. Shallow water estuary luring, jigging for kings, flicking for reef snapper and marlin fishing – I wanted a boat that could do it all!

Narrowing the field
My list of requirements was long and varied. I didn’t want a big boat as it had to be towed by my six-cylinder sedan. As mentioned, it had to capably fish both estuaries and offshore, be manageable solo, and, finally, be cheap to run. I figured a 5m boat would offer reasonable seaworthiness and still be able to fish estuaries. I ruled out a cabin because I wanted a raised bow section and a bow-mount electric, so I opted for a centre console. I also wanted an aluminium hull due to a somewhat irrational aversion to damaging fibreglass. If it’s blowing 25 knots and I’m on my own, a mishap at the ramp when launching or retrieving solo – especially at some sub standard ramps I’ve used – I can more readily accept a scratch or scrape in alloy than chipped or gouged gelcoat.

Keeping the hull size down meant I could use a single axle trailer, and avoid the pain a dual axle model would be to spin in my driveway. Final thought went into the engine – I earmarked a few models and HP ratings I liked from a power to weight/performance perspective. At 5m I figured 90hp would be ideal, and I liked a couple of four-strokes in that market.

With a completed shopping list I visited as many boat builders as I could to see what they  had to offer. Some builders were helpful, others were somewhat dismissive and lost their potential sale within minutes due to poor customer service – unfortunately this was common.

After much deliberation I handed over my cash for a 4.8m (5.1m LOA) Australian Master Marine (AMM) centre console, a 90hp Suzuki four-stroke outboard and a 5m Dunbier Supa Rolla trailer – upgraded to 14in alloy wheels and heavier towing capacity.

The basic layout
The boat features a 20 degree deadrise with a wide chine running the length of the hull, 630mm internal side height and foam filled self draining decks. The transom has plumbed livebait tanks in each corner and a berley bucket built into the starboard side duckboard. The transom layout was modified to maximise internal space. I also modified the standard scupper layout in an attempt to avoid water coming back onto the deck. Ten rod holders are positioned along the gunwales and the hull’s bow casting deck has a portside bow mount electric bracket. The foredeck is finished with anti-slip paint and the anchor locker has a hinged lid allowing practical use of the foredeck as another casting platform. I designed the console with a wider than standard shelf to house a large sounder and a rocket launcher setup for overhead storage of light rods or outriggers. A removable seat box aft rounds out the basic hull layout – I’d initially sketched about 15 pages on how I wanted the hull built and fitted out and the majority of these requirements have so far been met.

I flush mounted GME 27meg and VHF radios in the console and a Garmin GPSmap 5012 sounder/GPS, prominent at the helm.

The hull
Overall I rate the hull highly – AMM boats come in at a higher than average price point so my expectation was deservedly high. The hull needs to be driven to prevailing conditions, however, initial impressions were of an impressive – for a 16-footer – plate hull. It’s responsive to trim and rides brilliantly when the vee hits waves square on. The deep vee slices through waves and lands softly, however, it will typically bang if you land on a chine – a characteristic of most deep vee plate and pontoon style hulls. The wide chines do a superb job of deflecting spray, you can still get wet if wind and sea are opposed but for an open boat it’s quite a “dry” hull. The scuppers don’t leak and drain reasonably quickly, although I plan to trial some different seals over the coming months.

The overall finish on the hull is generally good; there were issues initially with the live bait tanks leaking into the hull as the top of the tanks weren’t sealed and a communication mix-up meant there was a 3/4 inch hole for a spray head left at the top of one tank that I had to plug up. The amount of foam needed for buoyancy standards meant I lost a kill tank and some underfloor storage part way through the build.

The hydraulic steering has a slight leak and after a couple of attempts to fix it I suspect an imperfection in the cylinder is to blame. These typical new boat “teething” problems are simple enough to rectify and AMM has been very helpful whenever I’ve needed to discuss anything associated with my boat’s design or build – one of my primary reasons for choosing AMM was the exemplary presales service provided by Matt Thomas prior to my signing on the dotted line.

The engine
The new 90hp Suzuki four-stroke is a very nice engine. It looks smart, is compact, quiet and relatively lightweight. Performance on the water has been solid – a DFI two-stroke would likely have better low rev throttle response, however the Suzy responds promptly and has a noticeable high rev response that gives the engine an additional burst of power in the upper 4000 or lower 5000rpm range. The engine initially spun a factory 20-inch stainless prop and delivered 32 knots @ 5850rpm. Adjusting the trim limiting sensor on the engine to give more negative trim for optimal performance and fitting a borrowed cupped 19-inch prop has since provided improved performance and  cavitation characteristics. I can’t comment on fuel economy just yet, although it seems quite good – I’m waiting for cables to interface the engine with the Garmin display for fuel flow and engine readouts. 

The trailer
I opted for a 5m Dunbier Supa Rolla model with 14in alloy wheels, upgraded suspension package and extra towing capacity. I also went for a spare tyre carrier, which is in the perfect spot for use as a step when launching/retrieving solo. Time will tell how the trailer holds up to saltwater, however, the galvanising appears sound. Overall, the trailer looks smart and works well. I was initially hesitant to go for a production model but the after sales service provided has made the decision a wise one. I took the boat and trailer to Dunbier HQ in Sydney to arrange registration and to the company’s credit the boat wasn’t allowed to leave the workshop until the trailer rollers were re-aligned so the boat sat dead centre, the axle was moved to reduce weight on the coupling and some overall tinkering was done to optimise the setup. The trailer is a breeze to use and I’ve launched and retrieved it solo under adverse conditions without problem.

As a fishing boat the rig ticks the necessary boxes. Most fishing trips to date have involved jigging kings offshore of Sydney and estuary lure fishing inside the Harbour. As an offshore boat there’s ample thigh support from the gunwale coamings and the side pockets are the right height for slipping feet underneath for a sure footing – I can readily tuck into a corner and jig in most weather conditions safely and comfortably. Two people can fish off the one side without the boat listing much; add a third person, however, and it will lean over a reasonable way – it is a small deep vee hull, remember! The compact transom layout makes it easy to fish around the engine and the live bait tanks seem to work fine, although  I’m yet to give them a thorough test. The rod holders mostly work well apart from two angled rod holders externally welded amidships along the gunwales; the angle is too close to water level for what I’d envisaged so I’ll cut and reweld them at a later date. I also need to figure out where to store excess rods out of the way; the rocket launcher above the console is fine for light outfits but I’m fearful heavier outfits will eventually crack the welds. I’m currently thinking about a rod rack closer to deck level.

As I take the odd fish for the table, in hindsight I should have opted for an easy clean deck finish rather than carpet. The seat box slots into deck mounted sockets and provides plenty of dry storage .

These are my initial thoughts after a couple of months of ownership – I’ll report further on the boat’s progress after I’ve hopefully spent many more hours on board catching plenty of fish!

Stay tuned.


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