Talk to most boaties about Western Australian boats and they start prattling on about those big, solid-plate boats, built tough to withstand the incessant afternoon sea breezes that plague these open waters. Boating out of Perth is often an early run out to Rottnest Island; then, scampering back before the afternoon ‘blow’ kicks in. There is also another breed over there in the west. A group that have made the magnificent cruising and fishing grounds of the Abrolhos Islands their Holy Grail.
These islands lie 55.5km west of Geraldton, or 468km north of Perth. Getting there’s a battle, but the rewards far out weigh the hassles. There is no public accommodation on the islands and all recreational visitors need to be well equipped and self-sufficient. Visitors by boat must carry enough food, freshwater and fuel to last the length of the intended visit. Boats must be fitted with communication devices and waste-disposal storage and equipment.
But for boaties getting there’s half the fun. You can trailer or truck your boat to Geraldton and head out from there. For the more adventurous, you can do as the team from Commodore Marine did and build a boat that’s more than capable of making the run from Perth!
If the weather’s fine the trip to Geraldton before refuelling can be made in 10 hours at 25 knots. But if she blows up you can ‘bay hop’ along the coast and really enjoy your boat.
With that decision out of the way, enter the Abrolhos 8000. She’s a fibreglass 7.7m (8m including bowsprit), cuddy cabin with a beam of 2.58m and a healthy 450L fuel tank. Her gunwales are high, her aft cockpit is massive and a hardtop protects the helm station. The cabin sleeps two in comfort on vee-berths; there’s an amidships double cabin. It’s a tad squeezy in there, but it has good ventilation and any others?well, they’ll have to throw their swags on the cockpit floor.
This description may seem a bit agricultural, but the Abrolhos is far from that. Yes, she was designed as a low maintenance fishing boat, but she does have all the mod cons. Waeco fridge; sink unit; freshwater transom shower; top-of-the-line Raymarine colour chartplotter/sounder; Fusion stereo; 27meg and VHF radios; toilet with holding tank, macerator and pump out; port and starboard fish boxes; port helm and removable transom lounges and trim tabs. Throw in a barbecue and the outriggers and you’re cruising in comfort.
Coup de Grace
But the Abrolho’s Coup de Grace is that she’s one of the few Aussie boats to be fitted with the world’s first V8 outboard Yamaha’s brand new 350hp four-stroke. And what an awesome combination this is. Fully loaded and weighing-in at more than 3310kg this boat planes in seconds, has more torque than any outboard I have ever driven and tops out at 47 knots pulling 6100rpm.
Flat out with a full load she burns 131.7L per hour, but drop her back to a comfortable cruise speed of 33 knots at 4500rpm and she uses 66L per hour. If it gets a bit blowy, as it normally is out west, pull the throttle back to 24 knots and she burns only 40L per hour at 3500rpm.
The new Yamaha 350hp V8 is a ‘super quiet’ V8 with power-assisted, hydraulic steering and digital ‘fly-by-wire’ gear and throttle, making her steering an extremely light, one-finger affair. Plus, she’s fitted with a complete set of Yamaha multi-function gauges, so fuel consumption and trip planning become much easier.
Fred Cronin original
The Abrolhos 8000 is built on a ‘tried and true’ Fred Cronin Sundowner 23 hull. But this well-proven offshore hull was lengthened and tweaked, has a new top deck and is a far cry from the original. The extra hull length handles the weight of the big motor beautifully and maintains an extremely level planing attitude. This is partly because the original hull was built to take a sterndrive and you can really load this boat up and it won’t worry her. But if the swell and chop gets too nasty, trim the leg right out to lift the bow further, the big 19-inch prop digs in and the hull’s 23-degree deadrise slices through the swells cleanly and stops any slapping amidships. The result is a softer, quieter ride.
The 8000’s hull also has distinctive strakes and chines. The oversized strakes keep the hull tracking straight in a following sea and her aggressive chines give a soft, dry ride and control lateral stability at rest. But the Abrolhos/Yamaha V8 combination has to be driven to appreciate its superb power-to-weight and handling characteristics.
The Commodore Marine deals directly with the public and each Abrolhos 8000 is custom-built to suit individual customer’s requirements.