Ever since the Battle of the Big Vee, Matt Webb, owner of the Edencraft 233 Formula, has been nagging The Captain because he wants a 15ft boat for his 17-yearold son, Tom. Tom loves his diving and fishing, so Matt wanted something safe and indestructible, but also builtfor fishy business. (Seriously Matt, The Captain knows you just want another awesome rig to sit alongside your sweet Formula Salty Dog.)
Anyway, something recently drifted into The Captain’s waters that could be what Matt and Tom are looking for – the Stabicraft 1550 Fisher, fresh from the factory in New Zealand. We rang Tom and told him to “grab some mates, the dive compressor and fishing rods, and meet us at the local ramp next week. Oh, and better tell your old man to bring Salty Dog as well. We’ll need a fast camera boat to chase down you young blokes.”
DIARY ENTRIES BY TOM WEBB
STABI MISSION IS ON!
Pumped. Just found out I’m testing the latest Stabi 1550 for The Captain. Can’t sleep. Lots of questions on my mind: What will we fish for? Will the little Stabi be capable of hauling in a 100kg bluefin? Can I grow a fully-fledged Captain-style beard in just one week? Will Dad let me drink rum with the boys? Will this bloody video help me pick up chicks? Critical questions to be contemplated…
PICKING A SALTY CREW
Did some research on the Stabicraft. Holds five blokes, butthink I’ll go with three. I’ll invite Big Tom (Brigga) – he slays the fish – and the girls. And my little brother Josh (Shifty) because I’ll need someone to clean the boat. Dad has scored a mint Kane McQuarrie compressor unit so should be interesting to see how the Stabi cops the weight of three guys plus a compressor, dive gear and a box full of scallops.
WEATHER LOOKS A BIT SHIT
Crap. Two days from launch and the weather is forecast to blow 25 knots from the south-west, the worst possible wind pattern to have on my turf, Port Phillip Bay. The Captain’s crew assure me these things are like Sherman tanks, but float much better. They say the 1550 Fisher has almost 1000L of sealed buoyancy and 4mm alloy sides. Mum, stop worrying, your favourite son is in good hands!
NIGHT BEFORE LAUNCH
Night before the shoot and just spotted the little white Stabi filling up at the local BP service station. This shit is getting real now. The boat looks tough as nails, fat from the rear with a lowprofile look. I ask Dad to pull alongside and step up on the trailer guard over the super-wide gunwales to take a sneaky peak at the inside. One of The Captain’s crew is fuelling up, having a bit of a whinge about the twin 25L plastic tanks held down by ratchet straps. Apparently Aussie models now come with an underfloor tank. I’m loving the internal layout – 360 degrees of storage up and off the floor. The windscreen sits forward and the whole thing has more space than a Boeing 747. Think I’ll be bringing every piece of tackle I own! Sounder is a bit small and there’s no stereo. Dang it!!
THEY ARE SEE ME ROLLIN’
Time to roll. The Stabi is loaded up, swallowing all the gear deep inside the side pockets and in the 70L fitted esky. My favourite squid jigs go in the tackle draw that slide into fitted compartments. The rearward-facing seats flip up and the shiny stainless compressor gets dropped in. It fits like a glove. The weather is blowing about 15 knots from the south-west and seas are about one metre with a bit of white stuff on top. Dad says, “Let’s roll”, so we drop the hammer on the little 60HP Honda and tuck in behind the Formula. It gets out of the hole and onto the plane with ease despite carrying about 400kg of payload. We look ahead at the Formula as the gyro stabiliser works to level the 24-degree hull. Meanwhile we’re running dead flat – no heel to speak of. She shoulders up to the moderate sea effortlessly. Despite the 15 knot wind, we’re dry as a chip.
Tie the Stabi behind Dad’s boat and suit up for a dive. The big fat gunwales are awesome to sit on. Even though three blokes are moving around the boat, the Stabi barely rocks or rolls; it’s noticeably more stable than Pa’s Quinnie. It’s also got nice deep internal freeboard – up to my thighs. Big ticks for the Stabi – it’s purpose-built for diving and tough as nails. We had an awesome dive. Scallops were on the move. Most people don’t know, but they flick up and off the sea floor, propelling themselves by opening and closing their shells. We pick up about 100 scallops in 10 minutes, plus spider crabs. Dad even spots a scampi. Never seen one of them skittling through the water before! I mount the Stabi from the rear ladder. Wouldn’t mind a handrail on the left to pull myself into the boat. We sit on the gunwales eating noodles and admiring our handiwork.
PUNCH TO THE FRONT
After polishing off the noodles we punch straight into the sea toward South Channel Fort. It’s a bit bumpy now and the Formula slips away. There’s a grab rail on the windscreen, which also acts as the pivot point for the front hatch. We stand up and hang on tight. It’s bloody good to be able to drive while standing up in a 15ft boat. Admiring the awesome flip-up hatch, which makes beach landings and anchor drops a breeze, I wonder if the Stabi engineers were inspired by Luke Skywalker’s snowspeeder.
PHOTO SHOOT AT THE FORT
We arrive at the fort for a dive around the pier and sea grasses, spotting sponges, coral and all kinds of reef fish. The fort was built in the 1880s to protect Melbourne and Geelong from seaborne invasion, using 14 tonnes of bluestone, concrete and sand to cushion the impact of enemy fire. The main armaments featured a disappearing (recoiling) gun. The fort also had some cool stealth moves, operating as mission control for the minefield that was laid around Port Phillip Bay’s passages. Between 1890 and 1916, about 100 salty troops maintained the fort. However, it didn’t see much action – unless you count the damage caused by boats running aground in the middle of the night after the captain had one too many rums.
We have a drift and pick up a big calamari. They can be monsters down here – and are perfect on the table or for whiting and snapper bait. My best fishing missions always start with a squid fish. A bloke roars past in an 8m, 600HP rig with a 30-degree dead rise. Of all people, it’s the infamous abalone poacher and CamCraft boatbuilder, Cam Strachan. The Captain’s crew demand we give chase. It ends in a few pleasantries and an impromptu photo shoot. Cam seems pretty happy with all the attention.
BOLTING FOR HOME
After the photo shoot, we break left and bolt for home with the sea and wind on our rear quarter. We’re full-noise, doing 60 km/h, riding perfectly flat and landing predictably every time. It doesn’t bang like the tinnies I’m used to. The Stabi loves a following sea and the boys are loving life – except big Tom, who’s been hanging off the bimimi and worked it loose. Dad roars past at 88km/h to remind us who’s boss, then we conk out of fuel within arm’s reach of the jetty – 25 litres in a day ain’t bad, but it’s annoying changing over tanks. Wouldn’t want to do that coming through a bar! We clean up the scallops and Dad cooks them on the BBQ in his favourite garlic sauce while Josh cleans the Stabicraft. We gather around the computer to check out the underwater footage of the scallops and feast on the day’s spoils.
IN THE WASH-UP
The Stabi grew on us the more we drove it. It does pretty much everything better than any other 15ft tinnie I’ve been in. Best of all, it’s stable and purposeful with all-round storage and gunwales that double as seats. It punches well above its weight, staying straight and true in a quartering sea and dominating in a trailing sea. Safety is not an issue with 1000L of sealed buoyancy, and the low running costs fit my budget perfectly. It ticks all the boxes and at under $40K, just might sneak into the garage next to Salty Dog.