There have been some epic rides and awesome destinations. Here we list 21 of them. There have also been many highs and a few lows. So, grab the popcorn and take a tour through The Captain’s memoirs.
Picking favourite boats is like picking your favourite Victoria’s Secret model. You need one for every occasion — and they’ll both get you in deep shit when the missus finds out. Nevertheless, The Captain’s crew has bunkered down in the bilge to come up with their favourite 21. They’re listed from smallest tub to biggest rig….
01 – SAVAGE 12FT PUNT
Captain’s call: Many boaties owe their first boating experience to a 12ft punt. Some of you might have hauled your first barra aboard in one, silently peeing your pants at the thought of a croc climbing aboard to celebrate the catch. We did — and still do — carry our Savage around on the Cruiser roof rack like a pair of Speedos. You never know when you might need to slip in one and go for a glide.
Superpower: You can chuck ‘em on the roof, then screw on a small two-banger and it’ll take you places others fear to wade. You’ll also be surprised how much load they’ll carry – and how far offshore you can venture.
Kryptonite: Stand up at your peril. Doesn’t like sea up the stern.
Apologies to: All the other well-worn punts out there.
02 – HAINES HUNTER 445F
Captain’s call: We’ve lived the highs and lows of project boat ownership through our Haines Hunter 445F, the Nub Tub. It’s a little boat with a big heart that won’t break the budget.
Superpower: Ride, stability, and versatility — all in a compact size with stylish lines. Doesn’t mind big horsepower, either.
Kryptonite: Original models in need of repair. Narrow gunwales and piddly console. You need to pay overs for Formula-built versions. Just watch the overall weight or the boat will struggle to get on the plane.
Apologies to: White Pointer 5m Super Hornet, which is a better boat in almost every respect — except it’s just not as cool. Sorry, Erick.
03 – SEA CRUISER 4.8M BULLDOG
Captain’s call: Just when you thought plate tinnies couldn’t get any tougher, along comes Ed Richardson and his Sea Cruiser Bulldog. It’s built for top-end touring or mooching around bommies in Bass Strait, stocking up on crays while the hookah unit chugs away.
Superpower: 4mm plate armour all around sitting on 14 degrees of deadrise. Swallows three hairy blokes, hookah and gear easily and uses bugger-all fuel. Also has option of a console, enclosed rear transom set-up, underfloor fuel tanks and cast decks.
Kryptonite: Bit light in the nose, so likes the weight forward.
Apologies to: The other Sea Cruisers in the fleet, most notably Zac Cross’ epic 9m rig.
04 – HAINES HUNTER V17 H
Captain’s call: Some models are 50 years old now, but the V17, designed by John Haines has stood the test of time. Some say it’s never been bettered at the 17ft mark, although you could argue other manufacturers build a far more robust boat, especially with a slight hull extension à la the Cootacraft Gun Shot.
Superpower: A deep vee, narrow beam with a soft ride — and easy on the eye. If you want to get to the shelf or spearfishing grounds in a hurry and on a budget, then this is your ride.
Kryptonite: Like it’s little 445 cousin, most originals are in need of repair. Originals also have a lame seat configuration at the transom — with no bait tank. You’ll spend more on the rebuild than the original boat — with a hefty Haines tax thrown in. Known to rock around in big seas.
Apologies to: Its the 565 sister ship, as well as the V17 spawn, the Seydel Craft and Cootacraft Gun Shot.
DYK HOW THE HAINES HUNTER NAME CAME ABOUT? “Haines” is the family name of brothers John and Garry, and “Hunter” is a nod to the original designer, C Raymond Hunt.
05 – HAINES HUNTER V19
Captain’s call: Kicked off by the Haines brothers with lines borrowed from a Bertram 19, this hull is one of the most imitated doing the rounds. The V19 has earned its reputation as a load carrying workhorse thanks to its wide shoulders and generous beam. They were a favourite among abalone divers before Shark Cats came along. Now, they’re a trailerable game and spearfishing mainstay all along the coast.
Superpower: Load-carrying capability, stability, predictability and generally well-behaved hull shape.
Kryptonite: Honest ride, but there’s much softer around. Too much hull weight will hurt the ride.
Apologies to: The Edencraft 6m Offshore and Bass Strait 6m Ocean Pro. Better than the originals, but so goddamn expensive.
06 – SEA DEVIL 620
Captain’s call: Tucked away on the east coast for too long, this cult classic is now much sought-after. Great set-up numbers: 6.2m long, 2.45m wide, 23.5-degree deadrise and 300L of ballast water.
Superpower: Better ride than a V19 and just as stable. Looks better, too.
Kryptonite: Older models have a dated dash and transom set-up.
Apologies to: The new model is a welcome update, but we’d rather not carry the extra 250kg hull weight.
07 – WHITTLEY SEA LEGEND 22
Captain’s call: The Whittley SL22 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It wears a Whittley badge and cruiser spec upstairs, but downstairs it’s a sports car with 23-degree deadrise and a sharp entry point.
Superpower: Sitting deep inside the sharp hull, the all-alloy Volvo 240HP V6 petrol engine with Duo-props brings out the best characteristics of the Sea Legend 22. We likened it to an agile cat — squat, but nimble and spritely. It steers confidently through the slop with a nose-down attitude. Comfort levels for The Captain’s crew were at an all-time high.
Kryptonite: Not the roomiest deck space, but we figured the generous double berth and seating for six would be justified when it came to getting the family seal of approval.
Apologies to: The stern-burnin’ haters. You just might rate this combo.
08 – STABICRAFT 2250 ULTRA CENTRECAB
Captain’s call: By now, you’ll have figured The Captain’s crew are big fans of Stabicraft’s arrow pontoon hull design. Stabi really hit the nail on the head with the 2250 Centrecab, though. She’s a shrunk-down version of the 2750 Centrecab and is super easy to manage — even solo — while offering big boat performance. Aboard a 2250 Ultra Centrecab, we’ve fished for chinook salmon in an Oregon river, chased snapper on soft plastics around the islands off Port Stephens and even bottom bashed Bass Strait in 20-knot winds and a 3m swell. She’s never failed to impress.
Superpower: For as long as we can remember, boat builders have struggled to get the proportions right on small centre cab boats. Stabi got the mix right between spacious walkaround and comfortable cab big enough for all your kit and crew. Oh, there’s also that stability thing and down-sea performance that, er, rocks.
Kryptonite: Like most boats with plenty of flat sections, head-on seas are not a Stabi’s best friend. If you don’t like the bang, you should probably tick the foam-filled option — or quarter up the sea a tad.
Apologies to: The 1850 Frontier — that thing is a heavy-duty slayer with the finesse of a ballerina.
09 – 23 SHARK CAT
Captain’s call: The 23 Cat came with a great rep as a salty workhorse and stable work platform. We test drove a 23 Runabout for kicks, then owned it a week later! Try finding a better game boat for $38,500. Meeting Bruce Harris, the original designer, topped it off.
Superpower: Deck space, carrying capacity, stability and ride in a quartering sea.
Kryptonite: Head-on seas. Turns like a train leaving the tracks. The mass of a Mack Truck. The cost of running dual systems (tanks, motors). Older models now due for rebuild.
Apologies to: Some of the more recent Noosacat models. We’ve ridden a few that rode softer, smoother and dryer than our 6.8m model. Also, we haven’t ridden in any of Wayne Hennig’s latest incarnations. The Shockwave 9m Breaksea was unlucky not to make this list.
10 – EDENCRAFT 233 FORMULA
Captain’s call: The original wave slayer and still a Captain favourite. Best served in a basic package without too much weight and a pair of lightweight 200HP four-strokes. On second thoughts, we wouldn’t say no to a single 350 Suzuki with Duo-props.
Superpower: Fast, soft and smooth. Comes with a blueprinted history.
Kryptonite: Stability at rest. Abalone divers love them for A to B performance. Deckies hate them when chipping away.
Apologies to: The Bass Strait 24 has an epic fishing boat fitout, with a ride not far behind. Apologies also to Cam Strachan. Your Formula was great for its intended purpose — as much as The Captain despises poaching — but it’s no match for the original shape.
11 – SVENSSON NQ FISHER MAXI 7500
Captain’s call: “If you can’t build it to last 100 years, don’t fucking build it,” Col Svensson reckons. Staunch statement, but that’s the kind of attitude The Captain has mad respect for. Col doesn’t just talk-the-talk — we couldn’t believe the attention to detail on Ryan Turner’s NQ Fisher Maxi 7500 when we jumped aboard for a stickbaiting sesh off Mackay.
Superpower: Second helm station on the roof is an absolute gem of a feature. We can’t believe more manufactures aren’t picking up and running with this configuration. Also, rod holders, rod holders and more rod holders. Then there’s the ride. Are you sure this thing is not glass?
Kryptonite: Trying to say NQ Fisher Maxi 7500 after a dozen Bundy and Cokes.
Apologies to: Live-aboard mothership operations. Who needs to go on one when you’ve got this piscatorial processing plant parked in your driveway?
12 – SURTEES 750 GAME FISHER
Captain’s call: We took one of these on a 100nm mission out to one of New Zealand’s most unpredictable patches of water — Ranfurly Banks. We smacked kings, hapuka and trumpeter and didn’t feel unsafe for a minute. Nuff said.
Superpower: Seriously chunky gunwales and a lockable water ballast system that helps with stability at rest and punching into a short, sharp chop.
Kryptonite: Don’t love a following sea and can take a little getting used to when driving. Trim tabs are their friend.
Apologies to: The Surtees 650 Workmate that came third in The Captain’s Alloy Shootout. This thing was equal to any other tinnie for ride — the utilitarian fit out was the only thing that let it down.
13 – COOTACRAFT CHIEF
Captain’s call: Cootacraft’s answer to the Formula 233, but two feet longer with the rocker and built-in trim tabs removed. The hull shape on the Chief is based on a bona fide bluewater classic from the USA and, in our view, is the new benchmark for ride in the mid-20ft category in Australia.
Superpower: Awesome ride matched with great build quality. Comes in a console option. Better-built and better-riding than a Contender 25, with a deeper cockpit.
Kryptonite: Pod doesn’t match svelte looks, but builder Mark says it helps engine positioning and getting clean water at the props. Commercial finish without the furnishings and fittings of a Contender or equivalently priced Yankee boat. Still want one? Take a ticket.
Apologise to: Whitewater Boats in the USA for finally yielding the original 25 Whitewater moulds to Mark.
14 – HAINES SIGNATURE 788SF
Captain’s call: The 788SF is the biggest console ever built by the Signature factory. It’s also the only 7.8m boat we’ve ever been in that had 700HP hanging off the transom. That said, the ride was sublime, soft and predictable.
Superpower: Launching into the stratosphere off waves one minute, then popping for GTs the next.
Kryptonite: Too scared to push the throttle past 4800RPM.
Apologies: We soaked The Captain’s camera crew like never before while behind the wheel of this weapon.
15 – CARIBBEAN 26
Captain’s call: The Caribbean comes from the famous bloodlines of C Raymond Hunt and Bertram. We tested a 20-year-old model fitted with twin V6 Volvo Penta Aquamatics, the impressive 40-knot performance defied its 3m-plus beam and 2.5 tonne hull weight. Just add flybridge to that hull shape and you’ve got yourself a winning game boat. We’ve come close to buying one a few times, but baulked at the basic (boring) fit-out and tired black motors.
Superpower: A great fishing platform with a generous beam and voluminous interior. Great handling thanks to a generous deep vee, smart strake configuration and old-fashioned heavy lay-up. Just don’t expect to break any speed records.
Kryptonite: No points for originality — there’s one parked in every port. Fit-out is no more impressive than a tidy caravan. Servicing and slipping can burn a hole in the wallet.
Apologies: To Black Watch boats that share similar DNA and have earned a better game-fishing reputation.
16 – WHITE POINTER 800 SPORTS CRUISER
Captain’s call: This Kiwi LandCruiser of the ocean can make old salts go weak at the knees. Our pick of the bunch is Bob Schmahl’s 800 Sports Cruiser with rear-facing lounge and D4 260 Volvo Penta duo-prop. It hooks up and climbs in any direction — forwards, backwards, and up and down swell.
Superpower: A great design principle that’s executed exceptionally well. In Rex the builder’s words: “We take a delicate approach to a fairly hostile task. We build the internal structure then stretch 6–8mm skin around it, forming a curvaceous compound shape. This process is labour-intensive, but creates the surface tension that makes White Pointers so rigid.”
Kryptonite: It’s not a high-speed wave slicer in the same way as a glass Formula — but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a comfortable workhorse for white water.
Apologies to: Some of the other custom aluminium craftsmen, including Moda, Rip Tide and Australian Master Marine.
17 – VEITCH 27
Captain’s call: Roger Veitch created an instant classic in the Veitch 27. It’s the sexiest trailer-boat The Captain has ever laid eyes on. The all-new and original shape is built using resin infusion, keeping weight down and strength up. It’s a driver’s boat that behaves more like a 17-footer than a 27-footer. Some might describe that as “flighty”. The Captain calls it responsive and bag-loads of fun.
Superpower: Lightweight, soft-riding, sleek and fast with the finish of a high-end game boat from the USA. Ballast keel compensates for aggressive deadrise.
Kryptonite: It took Roger a few test runs to get the weight displacement bang on. Now he has, the orders are flowing and production is ramping up. Start saving, because it’s gonna cost you.
Apologies to: The haters. The ride is on-point.
18 – SAILFISH 3200 PLATINUM SPORTS
Captain’s call: It’s big, it’s beamy and has more bells and whistles than Thomas the Tank Engine. All the Sailfish rigs we’ve been aboard have been seriously luxe, but the 3200 Platinum Sports’ vibes were off the chart. It screams “long-range fishing trip with the boys” while still having all the creature comforts to get the missus over the line. Win, Win.
Superpower: The ultimate fishing platform. Stable as a brick shithouse with more organised storage space than an OCD pantry.
Kryptonite: You’ll have your brother-in-law asking when he and his buddies can come fishing at every family function. Looks and runs straight like a cheetah, but corners like a sea cucumber.
Apologies to: Jack from The Captain’s crew, who reckons he isn’t a massive fan of cats, yet left drool marks all over the 3200.
19 – ROB KIRBY-BUILT NAIAD 10.5M
Captain’s call: 20 years ago, Rob Kirby was looking for an aluminium boat with an inflatable collar for “hostile boarding” in the Arabian Gulf. The Naiad performed so well, he built another one — then another one. Before long, he discovered Naiads could do things he didn’t think were possible in a boat. We tested the theory in Rottnest Island and came home with a smile from ear to ear.
Superpower: Buckets of fun with a high-quality ride over rough water, as well as interacting with other boats. Naiads carry reserve buoyancy above the waterline. So when they’re up and going, they’re long, skinny boats. The second you come back to displacement, the collars are immersed in the water and you’ve got a very stable fishing platform.
Kryptonite: Doesn’t scream game fishing, but the new foam-cored D-collars (flat on the inside of the freeboard) go some way to helping the fisho’s cause. They don’t come cheap, either.
Apologies to: The crew who originally conceived Naiad. Looks like Rob built a better mousetrap.
20 – RIPTIDE 10.5M ALLY CASS
Captain’s call: Ally Cass is what you get when a fifth-generation pro fisherman orders a boat from a fussy custom boat builder. Ben’s father built fishing trawlers in the 1970s and ’80s. His fingerprints are all over this boat, inspiring the flared bow and forward-raking windscreen. Just add twin 300HP outboards and 1200L of fuel tank, 48 knot performance and extended long-range touring.
Superpower: Builder Dave was conscious to build the strength down low and keep upstairs fabrication to a minimum. It’s an absolute oil rig at rest — with a beam of 3.2m, moderate 16-degree deadrise and two large chines. And the L-shaped saloon is one of our favourite configurations.
Kryptonite: Paint has seen better days. Would love to see this rig with an AMM paint finish. Also, the high sides don’t suit short arms.
Apologies to: The SIC Boats 7.5m rig that was softer and smoother through the water, but didn’t have the same fishing and live-aboard layout.
21 – GRADY-WHITE CANYON 376
Captain’s call: Glass with class and 900 ponies up the arse — that’s the Canyon 376. This behemoth breaks all the rules for traditional console boats. It’s dry, you can sleep on it and it’s an absolute party machine.
Superpower: That classically proportioned C Raymond Hunt hull design in a centre console package that’ll hold its own in any big game-fishing comp.
Kryptonite: You’re burning 300L per hour at 6000RPM, so make sure your mates bring their chequebooks. Also, don’t get any blood on the white leather upholstery, otherwise your other half won’t let you take it game fishing anymore.
Apologies to: The 45ft SeaHunter, that blew our socks off in the USA. It was just a little too much for The Captain and he apologises for any embarrassment his amorous actions may have caused. There, we said it.