“If you have to ask the missus for one of these game-fishing beasts, don’t bother calling back,” says old-school boat builder Erick Hyland.
Erick’s sales pitch for his Whitepointer 263 boats is pretty damn compelling. The Haines Hunter crew trained him back in the 1980s then Erick took those skills to Edencraft.
The Haines Hunter moulds had travelled south to Eden, NSW, under the stewardship of Ron Doyle, who was operating a marine and motorcycle dealership/service centre at the time. As Ron’s right-hand man, Erick built Edencraft Formula 233s, 2400 cats, 243s, V19s, V17s, V16s, 445s and Sea Wasps. Their customers were mainly commercial fishos, divers and snail catchers. When they broke, Erick fixed ‘em. Then he built them tougher. Some of the innovations during the Edencraft era included wave breakers, glass stringer systems, kill tanks and dive doors.
MOULDS ON THE MOVE
When the moulds were sold by Ron and moved on to Bairnsdale in Victoria, Erick got his paws on a few — the 28ft mould, the 243, V16, 488 and 445. He rented a factory in Bairnsdale and built the 243 and 488 (now known as the Super Hornet) under the Whitepointer banner.
The Whitepointer name came about after a local abalone diver from Eden, Eric Nerhus, was chomped headfirst by a white pointer shark in 9m of murky water off Cape Howe. Miraculously, he survived, experts saying his lead-lined weight vest probably saved his life. Eric was also super-fit and a black belt in karate, poking the shark about the head with an abalone iron. He made it to the surface and was dragged aboard by his son, Mark. Bleeding profusely, he was transferred to a Haines Hunter 600R skippered by Reece Warren, then transported 30m north to Eden commercial wharf.
Erick Hyland takes up the story. “The paramedics were working out how to remove his abalone wetsuit, but in the state he was in it would have torn his arm off. I cut the suit away with a pair of sharp scissors.” The wetsuit was punctured with 14 teeth marks — as was Eric Nerhus, who needed 75 stitches from his right shoulder to his left armpit.“The name Whitepointer was pretty topical at the time and they’ve got a fearsome reputation, so that’s what I decided to call my boats,” Erick continues.
The fundamental hull shapes on Whitepointers, as designed by John Haines, haven’t changed much; the length and construction technique have. The 243 was extended 2ft to 26ft 3in (8m), and a hardtop designed to tie in with a new deck featuring wider gunwale tops. The dash was redesigned at the same time. Incidentally, Erick has built several hardtops for owners of older model Haines Hunter 243s.
The guts of the boat have been modified extensively. Timber transoms have been replaced with 40 layers of “bulletproof” glass (he upped it from 37). The laminate is built over four days and rated to 700HP by naval architect Paul Bury. The floors in recent builds feature Thermo-Lite composite board. Erick also designed a flooded keel for stability, which ensures the boat complies with 2C survey standards. And he recently modified the rear vee, flattening it off to accommodate big, fuck-off transducers.
A certified tank builder crafts the fuel tanks from 4mm marine-grade alloy. These are then wrapped in fibreglass. “Every conceivable inch under the floor is foam-filled, including the box section stringer system, as per survey requirements,” Erick says.
The man has now built more than 20 263s. Testament to the build quality is the absence of any flogged-out boats for sale on Gumtree. These vessels are built to meticulous standards — perhaps even overbuilt, The Captain has been heard to grumble, after watching the tedious process of watching his 445F Nub-Tub rebuilt, layer-by-layer, from the inside out.
Each step on the Whitepointer build is painstakingly slow, but equally important, including measuring, cutting, mixing, spraying and hand-laying a concoction of glass materials such as rovings, biaxial, chop strand and woven materials. Plus application of fillers, gel coats, flecks and flow coats. Yep, The Captain has come to appreciate the skills of a modern boat builder, which combine the trades of carpenter, painter, glasser and window fitter with a smattering of engineer. Maybe all Erick’s bullshit is actually true.
Erick doesn’t have any apprentices at Whitepointer — just Brendan Van Dam, aka “Wally”. The name doesn’t fit the persona, as he’s a genuine Mr Nice Guy with a steady pair of (rather large) hands. He doesn’t work for the pay, not Whitepointer dollars, anyway. He actually earns more cleaning boat ramps, which he does with a trailer fitted with scrubbing brushes that clean below the low tide mark.
He built the trailer himself, which makes him a handy bloke to have around a boat building factory. Wally works for Erick because he loves building boats. And owning them — at last count, he owned: a 33ft Vickers houseboat cruiser, 23 Huntsman, 19ft Troycraft Mod VP racing boat, 18.5ft Allison Tennessee, 17ft Coronet day cruiser, 13ft Ally Craft, 12ft air boat, and a 10ft jet boat. He owns a few more, but for the sake of his marriage, we’ve agreed not to mention more than eight of them.
Erick and Wally build their Whitepointer boats in Cann River, on the Princes Highway slap-bang between Sydney and Melbourne. If you weren’t having a boat built — or, like The Captain, visiting one of the many bakeries dotted along the main street to stuff your arteries with cholesterol — you wouldn’t bother stopping. Erick’s factory is a former sawmill, sprawling over 3ha of cattle country.
In the morning, as the mist lifts, the boys are visited by mobs of kangaroos. In the evening, the cackles of cockatoos screech through the eucalypts. Two huge sheds cover 5000sq m — far more than two blokes really need to build a boat. Nevertheless, Erick is doing his best to fill the gaps with moulds, motorcycles, tractors, forklifts, aeroplane engines and XXXL trawler propellers.
WHITEPOINTER HIT LIST
Whitepointer has a list of well-credentialed customers, including a growing band of Lebanese-Australian game fishermen competing for the biggest horsepower sticker out back. They also compete for big fish on the high seas, and a Whitepointer is never far away from the hot bite. Early starts aren’t a problem, their religious avoidance of alcohol giving them a head start over their bacon and egg-eating brethren still sleeping off hangovers.
Like many of their owners, Whitepointer hulls have a no-fucks attitude on the water, moving the stuff sideways with a bow-down attitude. They don’t dance across the surface like a flighty winger, they smash through like Jonah Lomu. They have a growing reputation for mowing down Formulas on offshore charges, but they’re sure-footed and your grandma could steer one. Low-speed manoeuvrability is surprisingly good for an 8m boat, leaning right over and pinning the driver downwards in tight turns.
GREG RYZY (ABOVE)
Occupation: Owner Waterfront Cafe, barista, abalone diver
Boat name: Anarchy
Engines: 2 x 2018 300 HP Yamahas
Favourite fishing: Abalone, occasional marlin
Custom bits: Concealed 200-bar, high-pressure air bottles, saltwater-plumbed kill tank
Tow rig: 2500 RAM
Erick Says: “It’s probably my favourite boat to drive. I’m no marlin fisherman, but with no hardtop, radars or anchor winches, and 600 HP to play with, it turns into a sports car that can travel more than 100km/h, pretty swift for an abalone boat. It’s hard tonnes of abs through it and still looks new.”
GRAHAM WHITE (BOAT ABOVE)
Occupation: Kiwifruit farmer
Engines: 2 x 2016 225HP Mercury Verados
Favourite fishing: Marlin from Nelson Bay, tuna from Portland
Custom bits: Garmin displays and autopilot, stainless fit-out by Reel Appeal, toilet, Travel Buddy pie warmer, seat boxes with embroidered seats, Form A Sign wrap, Deck Armour flooring, GPS-tracked alarm system, 6kW open-scan radar, AIS
Tow rig: GMC Sierra Denali
Erick Says: “A well-balanced machine that goes perfectly well with 450HP. Graham’s boat has an exceptional stainless fit-out by Reel Appeal and neat-as-a-pin electronic fit-out by Davey Marine.”
KHALED (ABOVE LEFT)
Engines: 2 x 2015 model 250HP Suzukis
Favourite fishing: Game fishing, bay fishing
Custom bits: Simrad NSS12 Evo2, Furuno 295, autopilot, seat boxes, stainless by McQuarries, tuna tubes, Reelax outriggers, trimming by Bayside Boat Covers in Williamstown, Deck Armour flooring, fitting by TRE Motorsports in Heidelberg, Form A Sign Tow rig: 200 Series Toyota LandCruiser.
Erick Says: “Whitepointer’s first Lebanese customer — an absolute gentleman. A great-looking rig with a full vinyl wrap, dripping in stainless steel.”
SALIM EL-HASSAN (FLYING AT 30,000ft, ABOVE)
Occupation: Owner Chatterbox Café, barista
Boat name: Notorious
Engines: 2 x 2018 350HP Suzukis
Favourite fishing: Bait balls on the south coast, tuna on the west coast
Custom bits: Deck Armour flooring, stainless steel by McQuarries, Furuno displays wired by Seatek Marine
Tow rig: 2500 RAM
Erick Says: “It’s big, mean, nasty and a great thing to drive. Power is unbelievable out of the hole with the duo props — neck-breaking! Unfortunately, if you’ve got an old Haines Hunter, this thing will annihilate you. It uses no more fuel than the other boats and with the Suzuki Precision Control steering system, wherever you point the props is where it goes.”
FIT & FINISH
Whitepointers have a basic, hull-only commercial finish, but that’s what customers want. They have acres of flat sections for fitting rod holders, leaning posts, outriggers, seat boxes, kill boxes and the like. The full glass stringer and transom construction makes it easier to custom-fit gear without compromising hull integrity. “They take between five and nine years to build,” Erick says with a grin. He’s bullshitting — in truth, the wait time is about 12 months, “I admit a few of the builds dragged out when we moved the factory, but when they pick up their rigs and I see the smiles on their faces, it’s all worth it. Forming great relationships with the customer is one of the highlights.”
Erick tells anyone interested in a Whitepointer they’ll need, “a shitload of money and a lot of patience”. It’s not that he’s lazy or slow, it’s just that Erick likes doing other shit — like shooting, motorbike riding, opal mining and sharing yarns in outback pubs. In his words: “rootin’, shootin’ and electrocutin’.” One word of warning — if you have to check with your missus before committing, don’t bother ringing back.
For our mega test, we recruit four boat owners from across two states. They arrive with their respective posses at Quarantine Boat ramp in Eden, where it all started back when Erick wore an Edencraft cap. The flotilla of 263s shimmering in the morning sun is worth well over $1m. The tow rigs — including two black Rams and a GMC — are worth $500k on their own. The Captain makes a mental note to learn more about these owners and their ability to fund cool rigs.
Several of the eager skippers and their crew-members wear black hoodies to complement their black beards. (Captain’s note: a big shout-out to Grant Shorland who supplied the guys with Cubin’ hoodies — The Captain assumes no responsibility for spelling mistakes in said garments.)
We mingle around the 2000-odd horsepower as The Captain lays down the grand plan for the day plus operating procedures, cunningly absolving himself of any responsibility should things go turtle.
From Quarantine boat ramp, we duck around to Snug Cove to pick up 20kg of mussels from the floating farm known as Eden Mussels. They’re destined for a steaming broth later in the day. Erick co-owns Eden Mussels with his son, Dan, Chris Boyton and Greg Ryzy. Greg also owns the dark grey wave-breaker version of the Whitepointer 263 in our shootout.
Our next destination is the Waterfront Cafe in Merimbula, also under Greg’s rule. Instead of trundling up the Princes Highway towing trailers, we steam out across Twofold Bay then stick our bows out around North Head into what Erick describes as “a pissing 30-knot nor’easter”.
“Fortunately, this is what these boats are built for,” he yells to anyone who will listen. Mooring up at Merimbula Wharf, our black-clad “Mallacoota Mafia” struts down the jetty to the cafe.
Greg isn’t the only Whitepointer owner who also owns a cafe. Salim El-Hassan owns the Chatterbox Cafe in Werribee, Victoria. His rig is the grey Whitepointer hardtop, which boasts the highest power output of any boat Erick has built — twin 350HP Suzukis delivering a total 700HP.
The boys compare notes on the finer points of coffee grinding, culminating in a coffee shootout judged by Erick, which Greg loses. Erick picks up the tab, and we head back to the wharf, dodging the admiring onlookers now mingling around our flotilla.
After punching back home and doing some drone and formation runs in the harbour, the crews head to Eden Beachfront Caravan Park to feast on multicultural cuisine. Erick puts on mussels and chops while the Lebanese lads share some traditional dishes including wagyu steaks and kebabs smoked over hot coals. Many beers are drunk (mainly by Grant Shorland, none by the Lebanese). The Captain even smokes (and inhales) the traditional Middle Eastern shisha pipe, or hookah. Ron Doyle, the father of Edencraft, pops down, adding a nice touch of history as he joins the dots between the Edencraft and the Whitepointers they spawned.
The Whitepointer crews and their posse stayed at the Eden Beachfront Holiday Park, just south of Eden. It’s boat-friendly with enough room to swing a Whitepointer and neat cabins that look over Twofold Bay. If you want impress other guests with your culinary skills the park has a fully-serviced kitchen with multiple ovens and cooktops where you can whip up a mussel broth, grill a lobby or bake a marlin.
Park operator Jason Ferguson is on the briny side of things, too. He runs a Barcrusher and with son, Jubba, is refurbishing a 565 Edencraft. Incidentally, it was built by Erick for the Eden Sailing Club in the early ‘90s.
Eden Beachfront Holiday Park
+61 (02) 6496 1651
441 Princes Highway, Eden NSW, Australia