Right at the start, perhaps we could concede that a Blackwatch 36 would be a fair all-round cruiser. It certainly has what it takes to be a good one, but for fishing fans the Blackwatch 36 screams gamefisher loud and clear. One look and you start thinking about being be out there, diesels rumbling contentedly underfoot, sun glaring down from behind one of the riggers and all eyes focused on the wake. As daydreams go our test of the Blackwatch 36 was nothing like that. It was more of a grey day ‘ actually it was bordering on black in any one of several rain squalls marching towards us from the south. Every boatie relates to the sea as his partner, but today she had messy hair, mouth set in a straight line, eyes staring over the horizon and she couldn’t sit still.
Although she stopped short of being dangerous, the Southport Seaway was more in a mind your P’s and Q’s kind of mood. A lusty run-out tide was rubbing incoming swells up the wrong way until they stood steep and packed close together between the breakwaters. The 36 made the offshore run look easy, slicing through the pressure waves and dropping easily down the back then recovering in each trough. Once clear of the more purposeful sets on the outer side of the bar, we pulled the motors out of gear to let her swing to the wind.
This placed us at an awkward angle to the sea where many a good hull would set up one of those irregular corkscrewing motions, a sure recipe for mal de mer. But not the Blackwatch 36. At rest in a 1.5m of confused slop, she remained remarkably stable and felt like a much bigger boat. At 8.75 tonnes the Blackwatch 36 is no lightweight for her size and that, at sea, works entirely in her favour. The hull has a variable deadrise tapering out to 18 degrees at the transom and it works, a great compromise between soft ride and stability at rest. Running at speed, like other Blackwatches of our experience, the 36 preferred a few extra knots under her tail to perform at her best. And her best continued to impress, the fine forefoot cutting deep to turn water aside and then lifting with an easy motion to await the next swell.
When changing direction it takes a few moments of tweaking the tabs to adjust the hull’s attitude, and then it settles down to the job again. Heading back towards the Seaway at 20 knots, she tracked straight and true and again the word easy comes to mind to describe the hull’s manner when travelling down-swell. As the bows meet the back of a wave there’s no hesitation, none of that brakes-on pause as she buries before the bows lift. The Blackwatch 36 just glides over that, her engine revs hardly changing. This hull’s transition from a fine entry to where the shoulders widen to provide lift at the bows, combined with the way the deadrise flattens from the forefoot towards the transom, is all nicely balanced.
Deeply flared bows work with all the other features to give exceptional at-sea performance. There will be dividends in fuel efficiency from the way this hull glides instead of bogging, because the motors are not left labouring while the hull gets its act together. Even in the worst of the pressure waves (at the ends of the breakwaters) where the swells were so steep the bows went straight through them and they were packed so close together we dealt with them two at a time, the 36 did not put a foot wrong. We’ve been in quite a few hulls a metre and two longer, which would have found something about that sea to whinge about.
At no time did the Blackwatch 36 hull complain and through it all creaks, groans, rattles and vibrations from her structure were noticeable only by their absence. Our test boat had not been delivered, so some of the expected accoutrements had not yet been fitted, but apart from the lack of a fighting chair, or rocket launcher in the cockpit, everything was in its place. The Blackwatch 36 is one of those boats where you expect a certain thing to be placed… right there… and there it is! Have a look at the rigging station in the port corner of the cockpit. It’s any deckie’s delight, with plenty of tackle storage and a plumbed sink to help clean up.
The cockpit is perhaps the most important part of any gamefisher, and as you would expect it is as good a fishing venue as they come. Down aft and set into the covering board so it doesn’t get in the way is a livewell, which naturally has rounded corners inside to keep the yakkas from getting too stressed. The transom door is big enough and swings back flush onto the outside of the transom. Fish boxes are set into the deck and they have a neat divided hatch so the whole darn thing doesn’t have to be open. Most important of all is the step up into the saloon from cockpit level.
The most enthusiastic skipper won’t be able to back up hard enough to put green water through this door. From the bridge the view down into the cockpit and into the water immediately over the transom is free and clear. The skipper is well-catered-for ergonomically. His status in the game fishing world means that countless hours will be spent here. The Blackwatch folk all fish, especially head sherang, Graham McCloy, who admits to as rabid a case of fishing fever as we’ve ever seen ‘ and it certainly shows. Back where this story started we were discussing the Blackwatch’s cruising abilities. The 36’s amenities are pretty good, particularly for a 36ft gamefisher. In fact, living onboard over the few days of a gamefishing tournament or a few days of cruising around the islands would be perfectly comfortable.
If the lazarette under the galley was not full of fishing gear there would be heaps of room for dive gear and maybe even a rubber duckie. For sleeping there is the usual veeberth in the bows, a small cabin to starboard with double-decker single bunks (although the upper one would be more comfortable for a kid than an a large adult) plus the sofa in the saloon. The head is surprisingly roomy for a 36 footer with a full domestic-sized shower recess, and the toilet is not one of those tiny affairs ladies get so nervous about. The galley has a timber floor (the better for cleaning up inevitable spills) a twoplate hotplate, microwave and reasonable workspace.
A crew of three or four people is well catered for by the Blackwatch 36, although it makes few apologies about the fact that fishing is its main role in life. Our test boat was powered by a pair of 272kW 70B Cummins diesels, one of the most popular series of diesels in the world. Our first impression of the Blackwatch 36’s engines was that we could hardly hear them. At all speeds right up to wide-open throttles, engine noise was remarkably muted, as were vibration and resonance. A gamefisher’s performance at trolling speeds is every bit as critical as it is at higher speeds, so we checked that out first. As speed increased from an in-gear idle, the wake retained the kind of clarity each side of the prop wash necessary for good presentation of lures or baits.
At 1000rpm she was running at a whisker under 9 knots (8.9 to be precise) with the wake still nice and clean ‘ and the wake waves had steepened up to a nice shape for surfing lures. 1500 revs brought 11 knots and wake conditions gradually becoming less ideal for trolling lures as she lifted effortlessly onto the plane to stabilise at 17.7 knots and 2000rpm. 2500rpm brought 26 knots and at 3000 we were flat out, tabs tucked right up, and running at 31.6 knots.
Words and Photos by Warren Steptoe