Issue: October 2003
Cyclone boats are bred in north Queensland where slipping along the coast to fish the next creek is a way of life. And in that part of the world persistent trade winds, and the nasty inshore chop they create, can make life tough for fishos in your average tinnie. Under these conditions this boat issues a serious challenge to the average Aussie fisho’s predilection for aluminium hulls. Its roughwater handling characteristics are so good that few tinnies could even come close to its superb performance.
Then, with one of the new generation electric fishing motors ‘ sometimes called trolling motors ‘ mounted on its bows, the difficulties encounted manoeuvring a 5.4m fibreglass hull in what fishos call ‘tight water’ (around snags, rock bars etc) is also history. The combination of a soft, dry ride and tight water fishability this boat offers is like having your cake and eating it too. It is a prime example of the new age in Australian fishing boats.
The first Cyclone fishing boat ‘ a 6.8m centre console ‘ quickly established itself a reputation as an excellent offshore fishing platform. Then, when their 5.4m hulls were released a few years later it also followed suit. Cyclone’s 5.4 was initially offered in centre console and tiller steer configurations. It has now been released as a side console and a smaller (smaller console that is) centre console version. The test boat was a boat put together to introduce the model around the boat show circuit and as a result, wasn’t fully developed.
Still to be added is a moulded electric motor mount for that beautifully raked bow and some fine-tuning to the hatches you can see in the photographs. As soon as the Modern Boating team saw them we thought that barefoot fishos – is their any other kind ? would not enjoy those protruding hinges. Brisbane Cyclone dealer Lee Kenyon, from Coorparoo Marine, quickly laid our concerns to rest though. Apparently they’d already received enough ‘reaction’ to the hinges at the recent Sanctuary Cove Boat Show to send Cyclone builder Ross Wilson back to Gordonvale in a hurry to change them.
Unfortunately, our test didn’t include any rough water. It was conducted on the lower reaches of the Brisbane River where the biggest waves we could find were the wakes of passing boat. And we didn’t have to worry about rattling any filings lose as we crossed and recrossed the wakes at speed, because Cyclone hulls have a heritage in ski racing and it showed. The hull cleanly sliced through the wakes as if they weren’t there.
When Lee hauled the 540 Side Console back onto its trailer we couldn’t get underneath it quickly enough to inspect in detail the shape Ross had created for this 5.4m hull, because out on the water we found that the trim button for the 90hp Mercury four-stroke powering it was almost out of work. It came out of the water like a ski boat, responded to the wheel like a ski boat and was as sure footed in the tight turns, we threw it into, as any ski boat. Cyclone’s 6.8m hull is unusual to say the least, because it features a pronounced ‘hook’ (a concave curve in the hull bottom) and after finding little need for the trim button, it came as no surprise to find the 540 hull also uses a similar design.
The hook isn’t anywhere near as pronounced, but it’s definitely there. It makes the 540 Cyclone hull a remarkable boat to handle in the best tradition of its predecessor the 680. What a shame we had no rough water to play around in. Besides the unusual ‘hook,’ the Cyclone 540 hull has a wide plank along the keel, small running strakes each side and prominent double reverse chines. With a fairly steep deadrise ‘ 22 degrees ‘ we expected it to lean somewhat when weight was shifted about inside the boat, as it would while fishing and it certainly did that.
However, the movement was gradual and predictable. It was nowhere near as disconcerting as other deep vees we have experienced in the past. Cyclone boats come in two categories. Category 1 boats are the base model economy version, while Category 2 is the upmarket deluxe version. The one seen here is a Category 2, but Cyclone also offers a custom fit-out to individual client specifications. At first we found that some members of the team would have had to pay attention to the positioning of the helm seat if fitting one of these boats out for themselves, because shorter people in the team were forced to lean uncomfortably forward to reach the wheel and controls.
But then I discovered that the seat was mounted on a slide and even a 4′ person could adjust the seat to get comfortable. Actually, it was quite a good set-up. The side console is integrally moulded with the deck mould and is set dead centre on the starboard side. This leaves a good size bow casting deck and enough room to fish behind the seats in what amounts to a cockpit aft. There was a small side pocket along the starboard side behind the helm seat, which Lee assured me didn’t have to be there if it isn’t required. The lower deck level drains through a pair of scuppers aft for easy wash down. No, the deck is not selfdraining.
To set a deck high enough to achieve that in a boat of this size is fraught with problems and would negate any advantage gained from it. There’s an enormous well underneath the lower deck that drains overboard (when the boat is out of the water) and is insulated to serve as an icebox. Under the foredeck at the aft end is another spacious, insulated well. Lee said that this one is often specified with plumbing for use as a big tournament style live well. Sited not too far from the boat’s centre of gravity, the weight of water in this well should have minimal effect on handling. Forward of this is a smaller well for dry storage and forward of that again the anchor well.
The low bow rail and fairlead don’t adversely affect the boat’s lines, as bow rails often do, and are ideally arranged to make anchoring from the foredeck easy and safe. The anchor well is right where it should be in relationship to both. At the aft end, a small engine well offers some security from water slopping inboard beside the motor. A covering board across the transom is wide enough for the battery to tuck away underneath and that’s about the tour.
A simple layout perhaps, but an effective one in a boat that leaves nothing to be desired. The all hand-laid fibreglass and Klegecell Cyclone 540 Side Console hull is rated to a maximum of 115hp. Given its surefooted nature and ski racing heritage, the Modern Boating team agreed that anyone who enjoys wake sports as much as fishing could consider a motor close to the hull’s maximum rating. Our test boat was powered by a 90hp fourstroke Mercury, which gave brisk acceleration to go with the boat’s sporty handling characteristics. With a top speed of 35 plus knots, it was still pretty quick for a fishing boat. This boat has the power, rough-water handling characteristics and low speed manoeuvrability to make it an idea vessel for those fishos running along the coast from one estuary system to another.
A Category 1 Cyclone 540 Side Console comes powered by a 75hp two-stroke outboard, which lowers the asking price substantially, but is still quite a fast fishing boat. Given that the extra cash is available though, the Modern Boating team suggest that the fishing friendly characteristics of a fourstroke like the Mercury powering our test boat are well worth considering. One of these new Cyclones will set you back around $28,600.
Words by Warren Steptoe