WARREN STEPTOE takes a smooth ride in a poly hull.
Just when we’d become used to categorising fishing boats as either tinnies or fibreglass, along came rotational moulded (or ‘rotomoulded’) plastic. Rotomoulded hulls have been comparatively slow to proliferate despite the genre having something to offer, particularly to people who fish. And particularly to people who, by inclination or circumstance, are unable to treat their boat with due care.
Although tinnies have somehow established a reputation for being ‘tough’, the fact is, the aluminium they’re made from is pretty delicate stuff compared to rotomoulded polyethylene. Aluminium dents easily, has a tendency to crack where it’s welded, and if it’s painted to look good, doesn’t take much rough treatment to start looking second-hand.
Polyethylene, on the other hand, neither dents easily nor tends to crack because it’s not welded but moulded in one piece. Neither does it need painting because colour is integral to the material itself. And it takes heaps of scratching before that second-hand look sets in.
I don’t think rotomoulded polyethylene hulls look as good as either ‘glass or tin to start with though, and that certainly applies to our test boat. It looks inescapably ‘plastic’. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is another matter.
However, polyethylene hulls have a tendency to be ‘loose skinned’, their somewhat saggy lines are likely to look progressively more saggy with age and mistreatment. Ensign boats, like our test boat, reduce that significantly by filling the hulls with foam, giving them a much more robust feel than non-foam-filled rotomoulded boats.
The looseness in hollow rotomoulded hulls does offer an advantage: while it might not please aesthetically, it improves the rough water ride significantly since the hull flexes during impact with surface chop. However, compared to hollow polyethylene hulls, our foam-filled 570 Ensign felt noticeably more rigid underfoot and certainly more robust when travelling at speed, and retained enough flexibility to still have a positive effect on its rough water ride.
At the bow, this hull’s forefoot is formed into a moderate deadrise, which is interesting because one advantage rotomoulding has over welded sheet metal boats is the ability to be formed into more complex shapes. Having a ‘pontoon’ style hull, where the sides are moulded into sponsons, makes the 570 Ensign notably stable at rest too, and that wouldn’t be compromised by a steeper deadrise. Nonetheless, the ride was somewhere between what you’d expect from the average tinnie of similar size, and a glass hull with a more sophisticated underwater shape with good static stability. And about as much spray blowing inboard as you’d expect from any completely open boat, I must add.
Inside, the sponson type configuration isn’t so user friendly. As is a sponson style hull’s tendency, the hands-free leg support that is available isn’t the best. Your toes hit the side of the boat first, making it awkward to brace your legs against the sides and while it’s okay for smooth water conditions, it won’t be so good offshore. Which is a shame because this boat is big enough and comfortable enough otherwise for the wide blue briny.
Stowage is always an issue in centre consoles, and the 570 Ensign offers a mixed bag. There’s only a simple bulkhead in the bows to stow and control the anchor and rope. Amidships, the console and seat boxes all provide stowage inside.
I can only describe aft the arrangement as ‘different’ a central lidded stowage locker is soon filled with batteries and an oil reservoir if you need one. The simple bench seat each side of that is in the way but it provides extra seating.
Moulded pods extending aft each side of the motor again contribute to an odd feel about living with the 570 Ensign. They do, however, make it a very safe boat to enter and exit, whether onto a beach or into the water. With those short bench seats removed from inside the transom, the aft end would probably leave little to complain about?although some people may like it as is.
The console is a large one, and a spray-tight hatch keeps stowage dry. Helm ergonomics is good regardless of whether you’re seated or standing, and the big acrylic screen provides as much spray protection as you’re going to get in an open boat.
Operating this boat on rough water will require retro fitting appropriate grab bars on the console. There’s little to hang onto or brace yourself with.
A 90hp Suzuki four-stroke powered the boat to a top speed of more than 30 knots, which is ample for a simple fishing boat. The 570 Ensign Centre Console was nippy, sure-footed, and fun to drive.
It’s not everyone’s boat but its hard-working simplicity is appealing. People looking for exactly that will find it hard to beat.