The Captain is cruising the Australian coast, jumping aboard the meanest metal rigs we can find. In this issue, we head to the Sunshine State to pilot Ben Campbell’s 10.5m RipTide.
LET ‘ER RIP
The RipTide vessel wasn’t meant to be part of The Captain’s feature. It was actually the camera boat employed for snapping the SIC boat. But when we spied this beefy platey steaming across Mooloolaba Bay, we knew it deserved its own porthole in The Captain.
Skipper Ben Campbell is no slouch at the helm. He expertly steered the Ally Cass around for the photo shoot, pulling alongside and transferring gear with no fuss at all. Boating is in Ben’s blood as his father built timber trawlers in the 1970s and ’80s down the north coast of NSW. Dad’s fingerprints are on Ben’s boat, inspiring him to add more flare in the bow, as well as the distinctive forward-raking windscreen.
Ben picks up the story. “A lot of the boys stirred me up about the windscreen. They don’t like it, but it maximises the space of the cab, you get less glare when you’re coming into the sun. With my commercial fishing background, I wouldn’t go any other way. It makes the boat, I love it!” The Captain is also a growing fan of pilothouse configurations and this, we reckon, is the best one yet.
Ben is a builder by trade, but sea harvesting is in his blood. He’s a fifth-generation professional fisherman.
“My old man wouldn’t let me become a fisherman until I got my trade,” he says. “The day I finished my trade, I got a job on the trawlers down in northern NSW. I worked there for nearly 10 years, did a season up in the Gulf of Carpentaria and worked out of Mooloolaba a fair bit. I just love being on the ocean and everything to do with boats — working on them, building them, the electronics, the motors — I’m always thinking of different ways to make the boat better.”
He chose a RipTide because of the reputation. “I jumped in one, went for a run and was sold straight away,” Ben says. “This is my second one, the last was 7.8m.” Ben was at a fishing competition in Evans Head when a bloke offered him silly money for it. He took the bucks then ordered the Ally Cass.
“If I went for a third, it would definitely be a RipTide again. Builders Dave Claussen and Tracy are a small family operation, working on quality, not quantity. You couldn’t get a better guy to build your boat. He’s more than happy to sit down with you and nothing is an issue. Dave just gets in and gets it done.” Ben told the RipTide crew he wanted optimum stability — and Dave delivered. The Ally Cass is an absolute oilrig at rest. A beam of 3.2m was a good starting point, and stability was further enhanced with a moderate 16-degree deadrise and two large chines. Dave was also conscious to build the strength down low and keep upstairs fabrication to a minimum.
The name, Ally Cass, is a tribute to Ben’s two eldest daughters, Ally and Cass. Now he’s got a third daughter, Emily. Naturally, Ben told the wife that meant they had to get a new boat. “We’ll see how that goes,” he says, optimistically.
The charade doesn’t fool The Captain, who suspects Ben’s third RipTide is already on order. The cabin on Ally Cass features a saloon with an L-shaped couch. Along the starboard side is a kitchenette with a sink and gas cooker. It’s a great entertaining space and also a handy parenting aid.
“The girls sit in here,” Ben says, pointing to the saloon area. “You can keep an eye on them and they feel nice and safe.” For overnighters, the whole family can fit in the spacious front berth, or the saloon area can convert to bedding.
However, when overnighters turn into weeklong trips, Ben slides the RipTide onto a custom-made, fifth-wheel trailer built by RipTide and hooks it up to his 3500 Ram. So far, he’s been to the bottom of South Australia and up to Gladstone in north-west Queensland — and he has plans for a trip up to Darwin and across the Top End.
Closer to home, pearlies and snapper are Ben’s favourite line fishing. His RipTide is the perfect balance of high sides and a low deck that’s still self-draining. Some of his fishing mates complain they can’t wash their hands in the sea because of the high sides, but there are fresh and saltwater taps down back at the bait board. They don’t complain about the stubby holders and rod holders — there’s 16 and 32, respectively.
Ben’s commercial background is etched all over the RipTide. “Underneath the floor is a 480L refrigeration box similar to what we have set up on the trawlers,” Ben says. “There are two motors powering two plates. You put about six inches of saltwater in there, flick the switch and within three to four hours it’s creating a great slurry. As soon as you catch a fish, you bleed ’em and then it’s straight back into the box.”
That’s if they don’t go straight to the cooker, which usually happens to the first fish hauled aboard, often before the sun comes up. Ben also chases blue swimmer and red spot crabs with his DIY crab hauler, which slides into a fitted stubby holder. “It’s a great little addition that makes life so much easier,” he says, channelling his inner engineer.
As far as the ride and handling goes, Ben is a happy skipper. “I don’t think I’ve been in a boat that performs better,” he says. “In a following sea, she’ll ride down straight through it. She doesn’t broach and punches into the ocean quite well. Full of fuel and water, she still bashes straight through the sharp, short stuff.”
Ally Cass is fitted with twin 300 Suzukis. It’s the fourth set Ben’s attached to his own rigs, after watching all the main brands perform in commercial operations.
“I would’ve fitted the 350 Suzis if they were available, but these have plenty of power. We can get up to 47 or 48 knots on a calm day. They’ve been awesome motors and I wouldn’t go anything else.”
This pair have done 800 hours and burned through 600L of fuel. “With the two motors we’re running about 1.5L–2L per km, doing about 24–25 knots,” Ben says. “With 1200L of fuel, we get great range. We could travel from Mooloolaba to Mackay at 25 knots.”
RipTide is a family affair, David and Tracy Claussen have been at the helm since 1997 and son Lachlan recently joined as a welder. The business isn’t big on marketing and self-promotion — they don’t even have a website and The Captain still can’t find their Facebook page. Nevertheless, they’ve earned kudos toiling in the shadows, their focus firmly on their fussy customers. RipTide only builds eight boats a year, the biggest being 10.5m. RipTide customers are usually tradies with their own businesses. They often already own a RipTide, so they’re prepared to join a queue that is now about three years long.
Over 20 years of building, 99 per cent of the boats have been fitted with Suzuki outboards. Dave’s fit-out man is Luke Carr at Barny’s Suzuki Marine. Once you’ve got your RipTide boat and Suzuki, Dave offers the option of a trailer. Beyond that, the boat internals are left to the owner.
– Looks tough as fug
– Commercial chops
– Dominant saloon configuration
– Dash layout
– Fantastic ride for a big boat
– Freezer system and fridge slider
– Lighting at night
– Bottom-bashing machine
– Pot hauler
– Fridge slider
– Bait board set-up
– Some paint areas lifting
– Paint peeling on “marine-grade” floodlights
– Slight list to starboard as starboard water tank fills first
– High sides for short arms
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