From the wilds of the Southern Ocean comes a new design that harks back to the classics.
As we loaded a variety of rods onto the shiny new Stabicraft 2500 Ultracab, dirty grey clouds descended from the hills surrounding the local boat ramp. Cold, damp and windy, it seemed the perfect setting to test the all-weather warrior from the Land of the Long White Coud. The spacious, fully enclosed cabin with its diesel heater looked like the spot to be.
Sure enough, as we embarked on our 40nm table-fish mission the clouds closed in and the temperature dropped, shortly followed by icy rain. Departing the harbour, shrouded in a fog of grey mist, we were totally dependent on the course laid down in the Lowrance HDS12.
INTO THE CLEAR
A couple miles clear of the hills and on course for “the spot”, the mist and rain cleared to reveal blue skies above the cloudbanks. In this moment the value of the all-glass rear bulkhead was revealed with near-perfect 360 degrees of visibility from the spacious cabin.
From the helm, the boat had a fortress-like feel; in fact, with a top speed in excess of 40 knots, it’s almost a flying fortress! While still at the conservative end of the Ultracab 2500’s recommended horsepower range, the twin Yamaha 150hp four-strokes pushed the hull along at a surprising clip. The sound of the twins singing in unison struck a pleasing chord as we raced to our destination. It would be quite an experience to swap the 150s out for the maximum recommended 200hp outboards.
Soon enough, our skipper made the call that we were close to “the spot”, encouraging the crew to rig up a variety of options for catching the fish we hoped would be waiting below. Space for rigging and storing tackle proved no issue at all and all four anglers found ample room to work in comfort. Within minutes, dinner was hauled over the side in numbers greater than the camera crew could record.
Four anglers hustled around the deck in a fish-catching fever, pulling up one snapper after another while drifting beam to the sea. The Ultracab’s attitude never faltered; you probably wouldn’t expect anything less from a brand with “Stabi” in its name. The airtight, chambered hull does all the leveling work. It’s not just a nice-to-have feature, either – it’s a bona fide safety feature. Should one of the chambers rupture, flooding will be contained to a small area, making it virtually unsinkable.
ANGLES FOR ANGLERS
The focal point of the cockpit is the massive transom fish-box with a split-lid filleting board. The dissected board allows for cut baits to be managed on one side, while keeping open access to the fish-box. It’s a functional set-up with plenty of space for unused lures, tools, sinkers and the like, and comes complete with a wash-down pump close at hand and substantial drains to move the mess away from the knife-man quickly, rather than down the trousers. It’s also at a friendly height, with a built-in knife holder and a flat leading edge to ensure there’s no obstruction when cleaning the catch on the hop.
However, the best features in this boat are inside the cabin – a fully functional galley and dinette. We had the perfect opportunity to test out the internals, with six hungry men and a generous supply of fresh fillets at hand. The cabin filled with the smell of sizzling snapper while four blokes sat comfortably around the foldout dining table, regaling each other with tales of snapper strikes. The other two dined al fresco. It’s a minor niggle, but it would have been nice to have a rear window in the cabin open to the deck, perhaps with a folding slider, improving the airflow and ambience on warmer days.
FLEXIBLE FISHING SPACES
The boat feels big, rather like a launch – an attribute I put down to the forward-raked windscreen, a benefit of which is the distance between your nose and the glass when cruising at 40 knots. There’s no danger of connecting the two with this configuration! Design innovations continue with the seating, sleeping and storage system creating the ultimate adaptable adventure platform.
On a typical fishing trip (where the front berth typically becomes a catch-all for gear), the aft cushions can be folded up 90 degrees to the V-berth and double as a secure storage locker. On overnight adventures, these cushions simply fold back down to offer a double V-berth.
The flexible bedding options extend to the passenger’s seat, which can be either front- or rear-facing during the day, then transforms into an additional single berth at night. Furthermore, the lunch table opens to reveal additional storage for the galley. The aft seat converts into a full-width bench seat or bed. All-up, six adults can be seated; or four adults can sleep in full-length beds.
There are some other clever touches, too, like cup holders large enough to cater for coffee mug handles, storage pockets everywhere and grab rails wherever you need one.
For those familiar with the brand, the angular exterior styling is distinctly Stabicraft. The look has evolved in keeping with the engineering innovations. The hull chambers have been redesigned as Arrow chambers to soften the shoulders and cushion the ride in choppy or tidal conditions. The hull now features a finer entry, cutting efficiently through the sea before the sealed chambers come into play. The overall design works brilliantly to deliver hull lift and a level attitude. There’s been some design changes aft, with a Game Chaser Transom. As its name suggests, the angular design comes into play when the vessel is hard in reverse chasing game fish such as tuna or marlin.
Stabicraft has earned a reputation as a safe, comfortable, ride – and The Captain’s crew has gone on record as saying the 1650 was one of the most fun (yet safe) rides home from the shelf. The 2500 won’t let the team down. In fact it goes one better, with the best internal fit-out and flexibility I’ve seen from the New Zealand builder. We’re yet to find a dissatisfied Stabicraft owner, so it’s probably no surprise that Stabicraft boats feature prominently with coastguards, police and port authorities around the world.
FLICK OF A SWITCH
For snapper slayers, the trip fulfilled fishing expectations; if not our weather ambitions. I’ve never fished six blokes out of a 25ft trailer-boat; in fact, I’d probably dread the thought if I hadn’t been handed the keys to the 2500 Ultracab. If you’ve got the coin, the tow rig and six mates, then don’t hold back. If you do buy one, but have no luck with the fish, you can always flick it into “sleepover” mode and wait for the fish to come to you, or wait for the crowds to disperse from the ramps.
345 Bluff Road, Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand
+64 (3) 211 1828. www.stabicraft.com