Fraser 525 Runabout Review

Issue: December 2000

One of the curiosities of the boating scene is that you can get aluminium boats down to under five metres with self-draining decks, but with fibreglass a self-drainer under about 6.5 metres is a rare exception. I have asked around often enough, without hearing a good reason. And, just to demonstrate that there probably is no reason, Fraser Boats have re-jigged their 5.25 metre runabout with a self-draining deck. At just over 17 feet the Fraser is smack dab in the most popular size range for WA buyers.

Fraser Boats is a well-respected name in WA boat building, and current owner Peter Swinburne is doing a fine job of keeping its products on the front line. In redesigning this model, he produced a total of 23 moulds for all the 525’s parts. This means that practically every surface you look at is off-mould – common enough on a global scale, but a much newer concept in the West.

In some ways runabouts are a compromise between what the single-minded angler wants (a centre console) and what the family-minded person tends towards (a half-cab with room for the toilet). In boats of this size the style makes sense by giving a useful-sized open area, together with shelter from the sea ahead, at least. The Fraser is a pretty good example, offering plenty to the fisherman while keeping more than a taste of good living. Any user would appreciate the general dryness, which is partly due to the high sides, put there mainly to compensate for the tallness of the self-draining deck.

Fraser has installed padding inside the bulwark at exactly the right height to cosset a standing fisherman; at knee level. The gunwale is higher, giving more than fair protection from overbalancing, but the softness is against the bony bits rather than against the thigh. Two people standing against the rail cause surprisingly little roll. A nice balance of hull weight with the beam of 2.3 metres, and the sharpish 21″ deadrise can be thanked. It is a bottom giving a very acceptable ride, and incidentally an almost silent one. Fraser pack the underfloor cavity with closed-cell foam to give infallible flotation in the event of capsize, and also soak up noise.

The low level of hull noise and the very good ride disguised the Fraser’s ability to move very quickly across the ocean. In typical WA style the bow has been designed for good downwind ability, with no concavity in its shape. We were able to give plenty of throttle downhill, with not a suspicion of a nosedive, and with delightfully straight tracking. The test boat had a 90hp Yamaha outboard although, naturally, a buyer can specify anything he wants. No tricky fuel injection with this one, but it started like a thoroughbred, idled like a sewing machine, and gave progressive acceleration. It had a whiff of smoke from time to time, and presumably drank more than a fuel injected job but for the price I was impressed.

It also supplied all the performance most West Coast people would want. Their powering tends towards the conservative, aimed at the kind of cruising speeds you could reasonably expect on the open ocean. For those wanting the versatility of extra horses, the hull is capable of absorbing a lot more power, and a fair bit more weight at the transom. The Yamaha 100hp four stroke would make an interesting partner with the Fraser, adding to the speed and suavity it already has.

As supplied, four people get seats – a pair alongside the motor well, and a couple of swivels at the windscreen. Sitting, the top of the screen is well above your head, standing you get everything the breeze offers, which is just about how it should be. The footrests are well placed for driver and passenger. The centre of the screen hinges and the bit of foredeck ahead of it lifts to allow access to the anchor well. Again, the sensible way of arranging things.

Underfoot are a 90-litre fuel tank and a live tank. The fuel tank has an easily removable section of deck over it – the result of bad past experiences by Peter Swinburne. Aging tanks can need attention, and often the only way to get at them is to break out the jigsaw and destroy the aesthetics of the deck.

The choice of WA-built fibreglass boats is tiny compared with that of plate aluminium boats, and most of those sold come from the eastern States. The 525 Fraser was built to compete with imports and thus had to rival the eastern boats for finish and fashion. It also had to provide the functionality that Sandgropers demand, and do it at the friendly price they expect of local products. Back-loading freight rates almost certainly mean its price will stay attractive on the East Coast, and it is already a most attractive product in its own right.

Story by Mike Brown