The Captain heads to Mackay, North Queensland, to take a ride in Ryan Turner’s seriously pimped-out brand new Svensson NQ Fisher Maxi 7500. When The Captain stumbles up to the Mackay boat ramp at 5am, Ryan Turner is showing less enthusiasm than you’d expect from the proud owner of a brand-new Svensson Fisher Maxi. Especially since this boat has been custom-crafted by Col Svensson to meet every one of Ryan’s not inconsiderable list of demands — and it’s the first 7500 model ever.
Ryan’s come across from his home town of Dampier, Western Australia, to test drive his new toy prior to trucking it back to WA. Turns out Ryan is super-excited about his new Svensson, but feeling the pressure of showing The Captain a good time. He’s worried his unfamiliarity with local waters means he won’t be able to spot the fish the way he would in WA. “When I heard The Captain was coming aboard in Mackay, I was a bit gutted I couldn’t take the boys out on my own turf,” Ryan says. “It’s only the second time I’ve fished around here.”
The Captain points out that conditions in North Queensland aren’t really too dissimilar to those in the west. There’s an archipelago on the doorstep and fishing missions usually involve long runs in choppy conditions chasing a diverse range of species. Ryan starts to relax as he talks about his home patch. “Dampier is a mining town and a big port for iron ore and LNG gas. We’ve got 48 islands in the archipelago and the closest is only 5km offshore. Protected by the Monties and Barrow Island, we don’t get much swell roll in, it’s mostly short, sharp chop. There’s good light-tackle bill fishing and barra fishing.”
ON THE PROWL
Ryan’s with his dad, Vaughan, and as they slide Aquatic Hooligan into the drink you can tell this is not their first rodeo. Ryan confirms they’ve got a few fishing missions under their belts. “Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my old man had me out in the tinny fishing for bream and squid. Dad pretty much taught me everything I know.” With The Captain’s crew safely aboard, we head for one of the closer islands. The weather’s looking a bit evil, but it starts to calm down as Ryan applies persuasion to the twin 250HP Suzis and we power offshore. Spotting a promising shoal, we lob a few stickbaits around and eventually score a Spanish mackerel followed soon afterwards by a longtail tuna. Ryan is obviously in lurve with everything about his factory-fresh platey. “That floodable keel at rest is amazing,” he says. “We’re fishing side-on to 18-knot sloppy chop, and it’s rock solid — sitting there like a champion.”
Before he get’s too carried away, Vaughan spots a nasty squall on the horizon, heading our way. To be on the safe side, Ryan pulls us into the beach where he spots a couple of mates on the spear. Over a bite of lunch, he tells us more about his fishing past. “All my mates are born and bred fishos. We went fishing together then got jobs, got some money and bought our own boats.” He’s obviously got a thing for plateys, the new Svensson being his third ally boat. “I fished for years in a tinny and my first real boat was a 6.5m Chivers Meridian centrecab,” Ryan says. “That gave me the opportunity to get out to all these cool spots — the Monties, Barrow and the Rankin Bank. I did a lot of fishing in that boat — racked up 1800 hours over five years.” Ryan upgraded to a 7.5m Noble Super Vee. “It was one of the last Super Vees built in Australia,” he says. “I had it for four years, whacked a Yammie 300HP on the back and it took me anywhere and everywhere. We took it up to Broome and fished out at Scott Reef a couple of times, which was fun — 450km offshore, from a mothership.”
DOING HIS HOMEWORK
By this point, Ryan says he was into fishing tournaments, chasing different species and pushing the limits. This meant he needed a new boat, one set up to fish the way he wanted to fish. Step one was to ask Google. “I did three years of research on the net and talking to people,” he says. “I’ve been out on a lot of ally boats and there are a few Fishers up in Karratha, so the boat was always in my top five.” He put feelers out to a few builders, but as soon as he started bending Col’s ear about his dream boat, he was hooked. “I got a good vibe as soon as I talked to him. He was really open to what I wanted to do.” A trip on a mate’s 6.8m Fisher centrecab sold him on Svensson. “I went for a burn and I was super-impressed,” he says. “It punched hard for its size and I loved the look and design — the floating keel, 23° deadrise, the proven hulls. Col Svensson has been building these hulls for 18 years.”
After lunch, we head back out to try our luck again — straight into a 50-knot squall, which barrels through like a herd of angry buffalo. The wind is howling, a big green swell washing over the bow and waves smashing the windows. The Captain is wringing water out of his beard and scooping baitfish out of his gumboots, but Ryan is grinning like Homer Simpson at an allyou- can-eat seafood buffet. “This is a good way to test the boat,” he yells. “It’s pumping us, but this boat takes it in its stride.”
The storm is gone as quickly as it arrives, but because everyone but Ryan is soaked to the skin, it’s agreed we’ll cut our losses and head back to the ramp. The Captain suggests a few nautical manoeuvres so the cameraman can get some action shots and Ryan is into it, eager to put his new toy through its paces. His dad doesn’t look quite so thrilled. Ryan drops the hammers and throws the Svensson into a few tight turns, Vaughan hanging on for grim death. Trimmed out with 600L of fuel on board, we’re pulling 48 knots and Ryan is still grinning. But after the third or fourth radical manoeuvre, Vaughan finally spits the dummy. “That’s enough, I’ve had it,” he yells. “Any more of that shit and I’ll jump on the other boat!”
Ryan backs the Svensson off, and with yet another serious looking piece of weather on the horizon we head back to the ramp. He’s still smiling, though. “We might get a knot or two more with a bit less fuel, but I thought we’d better back her off at 48,” he says, before mumbling something about old men losing their sea legs after 40 years and deciding they’d rather putter around a bay than go blue bone fishing — all of which Vaughan ignores. Family harmony is restored by the time we’ve got the Svensson back to shore and Ryan settles down on an esky to tell the tale of the build.
COL THE BUILDER
The 7500 is a new size for the Svensson fleet and Ryan worked closely with Col on the build. He admits he was pain in the arse. “Col didn’t have a 7.5m x 2.7m design, the size I wanted, so we had to draw that up and get it architecturally approved,” Ryan says. “He had a standard centrecab configuration, but from bow to stern I probably changed every layup he did. I definitely threw a spanner in the works, but to his credit he was very accommodating. It gave him a few headaches, but the end product is everything I could’ve wished for.” Aquatic Hooligan is all raw power to look at — no bog, no paint. Ryan says it’s about having a functional boat with minimal maintenance. “My previous boats were painted and the Noble was finished with bog, which gave nice edges and curves. But a few years down the track you get oxidisation, the paint starts flaking and then you’re in a world of repainting. This is a fishing boat and I love that raw look.”
Ryan admits he “borrowed” the idea of a tower from the Contender command station. “I wanted the option to be up there and drive when we’re casting for fish or fighting a fish and running it down. I initially designed it so I’d be able to stand on the dash with my upper body through the roof. But with my 19-inch Simrads, that was never going to work.” (Captain’s note: more on Ryan’s electronic disco later.) Col came up a solution — a standing plank that sits behind the dash, which slots in so the driver can either stand on it or sit up top, feet dangling through the hole — Vaughan’s favourite spot when it’s not blowing a gale.
FROM BOW TO STERN
As The Captain discovered when we scattered our camera gear all over the shop, clear decks are an obsession with Ryan. He got rid of the bow rails, enclosed the anchor well and added a fighting cage. “The cage locks into four holes with pins and hugs around your hips so you’re stable when you’re casting. With the type of tournament fishing we do, casting stickbaits or poppers, reaching for leaders, rails just get in the way. So we cleared them off to give a clean fishing platform.”
The walkaround also got some attention. “We dug into the voids that come past the cabin and built waterproof compartments,” Ryan recalls. “When you’re doing long offshore trips, you want to keep stuff dry and off the deck.” The cabin was next on Ryan’s hit list, with fridge slides slotted under both seats. “They sat back about 800mm from the cabin, so we just extended the cabin to enclose them, which gives passengers more weather protection.”
At the stern, they built in an enclosed battery compartment, flanked by twin live bait tanks — and added tuna tubes. “When we’re live tackle bill fishing, we can have four rods ready to pitch with a teaser switch,” he says. “I put a bait station there with a couple of rod holders in it. It’s angled at about 16° and we put a Teflon block a bit lower so when you run your knife along that filleting section it’s not running on ally. It’s a clean spot to rig your baits.”
A THING FOR ROD HOLDERS
Given that the holes for the bow fighting cage do double duty as rod holders, it’s fair to say Ryan’s motto is: “be prepared”. He’s got 32 rod holders on the boat. “A lot of people might go, ‘Oh, Jesus!’ but we fish tournaments in Karratha and down at GameEx in Exmouth, and with three anglers you need a full quiver of line cast rods from 1kg through to 60kg,” he says. “Eleven rods per angler fills them up pretty quickly. We don’t like to have rods in the gunwales or the bait station. We want them up on the hardtop out of the way so we’ve got a clean deck and full 360° fightability. If we’re fishing at 1kg and all of a sudden the bite’s on and we need to go bill fishing, all our 50kg spins are there. If a long top blows out and we need a cast rod, it’s there. We’ve got the options to cover everything we might need.”
With the electronics fit-out, Ryan says he couldn’t go past Simrad, confessing he dropped about $50,000 on the bundle. Twin 19-inch NSOs sit on the dash alongside the AP44 autopilot and Suzuki gauges that interface with the engine data. The NSOs run through an S5100 CHIRP module, which feeds into a CM559 high wide low (3kW/2kW) CHIRP transducer mounted in a faring block underneath the hull. Sitting behind that is an SS175 1kW transducer. “On the tower helm there’s an NSS evo2, so you can see what’s going on down below,” Ryan says. Suffice to say that in the sounds department there is a shitload of boom in the box. “We’ve got a full JL stereo system running four 7.7 splits up in the cabin, and a pair of 6.65 splits on the rear bait station from a 600W six-channel amp,” Ryan says.
“Plus, we’re running two M Series subwoofers fed from a four-channel 400W bridged amp. She pumps, mate!” To hear Ryan tell it, he was the customer from hell and Col Svensson was more mellow than a temple full of incense. “As a sparkie, I was pretty picky about how I wanted it fitted out,” Ryan says. “I drew up schematics so Col could follow how I wanted it wired up. When I went over the boat after the fit-out, I was really nit-picky, but couldn’t fault the job he did.”
GAS & GRUNT
The Svensson is prime for big fishing adventures with 750L of fuel split into two tanks, forward and rear, feeding into a fuel manifold with isolation valves, so if you suck from one tank the gas still goes through separate filters to the twin motors. “I have that option to have either tank full,” Ryan says. “We can also seal those fuel filters so they’re out of the elements and the fuel lines are invisible and out of the sun.” When he talks about performance and ride, Ryan’s eyes take on a slightly glassy look. “This boat is a world apart from my previous boats — it’s an animal, it just loves it. We’re running twin Suzuki 250 DFAPs. The hull was rated for 500HP — so that’s what we whacked on!”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Given the amount of love — and dollars — Ryan has put into making his dream boat a reality, The Captain mentions it’s a bloody good thing he’s got an understanding missus. Ryan’s not phased. “Tiffany and I have been together for 11 years. She’s from Margaret River and loves her fishing and spearing. For eight years, that’s all we did as a couple. Now we’ve got two beautiful little girls and, hopefully this will be our forever boat and we can share our experiences with them.” The Captain salutes you, Ryan.
THE SVENSSON FAMILY – COOL NAME, COOL BOATS
Col Svensson always wanted to build boats. He couldn’t find a boating apprenticeship so did his time building coach and motor bodies, creating trucks and fire engines, which gave him valuable experience. In his own time, he hung around boat builders, picking the old boys for welding tips. In the ’80s, Col landed a gig building aluminium boats for Lloyds, then went on to work for Greg Brown at Aluminium and Steel Boats. He even did a stint on The Other Woman — the biggest alloy motor sailer in the world at the time.
HOT AND COL
For Col, his own gig was always going to be aluminium fabrication. “It’s clean and versatile,” he says. “With alloy, you can change things and move with the times and needs of the customers. It might be noisy and hot work, but it’s a lot cleaner than building fibreglass boats.” Col worked under the Fisher Boats flag before stamping his own name on the hulls. Building fishing boats was a natural fit. “The boys and I just build boats and go fishing around Mackay,” he says. The “boys” are his sons, 26-year-old Jay and 25-year-old Jaret. “We chase everything from big coral trout and red emperor out at the reef, both spearing and line fishing, to barra, grunter, and whiting up the local creeks,” Col says. “When it’s windy, we hit up the dams for barra or soak the pots for some muddies.” That fishing DNA is thick on the range of Svensson boats. The line-up includes 26 different hull shapes — from a 4.3m tiller to an 8m-long/2.8m-beam model. “We know these hulls perform, we won’t go changing them,” Col says. “There are different deadrises for different occasions — usually 23 degrees — with a water ballast keel for offshore stability keeping the hull firmer in the water, such as in Ryan’s boat. We do change the configurations to suit what people want.”
100, NOT OUT
Col’s motto is: “If you can’t build it to last 100 years, don’t fucking build it.” With regular hull maintenance, he reckons a Svensson hull will go the journey. “I give customers a maintenance schedule,” he says. “The key is to keep the salt off with warm soapy water and truck wash, and keep it dry. Service the fuel tank capsule and the fuel lines annually. Where you have stainless fittings, use Tef-Gel and renew it annually.” Like Ryan, Col is not a fan of painting alloy boats. “I’m convinced that paint and alloy just don’t get on and there’s not a lot you can do about it,” he says. To overcome oxidisation on raw alloy, he recommends the method the Water Police use on their boats. “Rub it back with an orbital sander and coat it with Nyalic clear coat.” He estimates he’s built somewhere between 400 and 500 boats. “These days we specialise in custom trailer fishing boats under 3.5 tonne,” he says. “Everyone wants a safe and reliable boat, customised to their needs and that is what we specialise in.”
He rates Ryan’s as his all-time favourite build, “Together, we thought we’d do something pretty special,” Col says. “The level of customisation Ryan put into it is next level. Most people will hold back on budgets and customisation, not Ryan. But he was also obliging and level-headed. The biggest challenge was fitting everything in and keeping it tidy.” Interestingly, Ryan was nowhere to be seen during the build process. “He didn’t come out, but he always knew what was going on,” Col recalls. “We’re good at building long-distance — the phone and internet make it easy. We kept him informed with photos that become part of his album.” This explains why there are Svensson boats all over Australia — but Col’s stronghold is North Queensland. When we contact Col, he’s working on a 6.2m centre console for the local shark contractor, who is stepping out of an old Bruce Harris Shark Cat. So what’s the best part of building a boat? “You start with a bit of concrete on the ground,” he says. “When you see the finished product, you really feel like you’ve achieved something, you’re creating something special.” And Col reckons business is looking pretty good. “It’s been hard work, but the future looks good. The orders are up, but most importantly, so is the quality. The goal is for these guys to do everything without me.”
Svensson Boats is a family business, with wife Nancy looking after the accounts and handling enquiries with the friendliest phone manner The Captain has heard in a long time. “She does alright to put up with us,” Col says. The other employee is 30-year-old James Connel, who’s practically part of the family. Col and the boys have 68 years’ experience between them. “There’s respect there,” he says. “We have our moments, but we’ve grown to know each other so we don’t have many moments.” Col’s boats normally roll out fitted with Suzuki outboards and Mackay trailers. The company builds the odd trailer and does a bit of custom and repair work, but that’s all a distraction from the main game — building tough boats that will last at least 100 years.
24 Ginger St, Paget, Queensland
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