WARREN STEPTOE finds a solid workhorse with a soft, stable ride.
Cliff Joshua’s unique bow engineering in plate aluminium hulls is regarded as the best in the business. The new 5.5 Walkaround from Joshua Boats takes another step forward with 100 mm higher sides plus a raised deck level.
Opinions differ about what constitutes a self-draining deck, but I prefer the traditional design which requires the deck to be far enough above the waterline (with the boat at rest) for freeing ports to simply drain overboard.
This means the bilge has to be completely sealed. It also means the deck and freeing ports need to be high enough above the waterline that weight shifts inside the boat “like someone walking to an aft corner” don’t cause water to run inboard through the ports.
Hulls that only drain while on the plane aren’t ‘proper’ self-drainers, whereas this particular new Joshua hull owns a true self-drainer. It’s a difficult thing to achieve in a 5.5 m boat, the fact Joshua Boats have done so without the high decks causing the boat to roll excessively is very much to their credit. This is of particular interest to anyone at risk of sudden influxes of water, people who cross bars or have to deal with other similarly nasty water. Others who will find this feature of particular interest are those who like to wash their boat on the water and have whatever they’ve washed down simply disappear off the deck and out through the freeing ports.
The 5.5 Walkaround’s scuppers, located forward of the transom in the aft bulkhead, create an even better set-up. They drain onto a small ‘deck’ formed above the waterline by the extended transom, it’s a lot to say about a pair of scuppers but the improvement will be apparent to anyone with safety or easy cleaning in mind.
I must comment on the overall standard of finish throughout this boat. Since Malcolm and Pauline Joshua took over Joshua Boats they’ve been raising the bar for standards of finish. They’ve shifted these lofty standards even higher in the 5.5 Walkaround.
On the water
Attention is inevitably drawn to the Joshua’s ‘flared’ bows and their effect on the hull’s ability to deal with choppy water. How this works is plain to see if you take a look at the bows while the boat is still on the trailer.
A Joshua forefoot is formed from multiple strips of aluminium welded together; compound curves are impossible to achieve by other means. The result is, instead of flat sheets of unyielding metal banging into the water as the bows penetrate surface chop, there’s a nice, fine entry that flares out to turn water aside more gently than a flat dead-rise.
A Joshua Boat rides softer than ordinary plate aluminium hulls for the same reason fibreglass hulls ride better than run-of-the-mill tin. The only other variable dead-rise aluminium boats I’m aware of are Quintrex’s Millennium hulls, which achieve the same result with some fancy stretch forming (through expensive machinery only a boat builder with Quintrex’s resources can afford).
Our test boat ran a 140 hp Suzuki four-stroke. Suzuki has recently released an all-new 150 hp, a good move, but the 140 is a tried and well-proven power plant.
The 140 on the Joshua 5.5 was a new 2007 spec motor that runs new lower leg gearing, allowing it to turn a bigger pitch propeller (21-inch during our test). This is a big, high-sided and heavy boat with plenty of windage and more drag than average from that flared bow’s increased wetted area. If its performance is anything to go by, Suzuki has made a smart move by changing that gear ratio.
The Joshua 5.5 is a well-balanced package with ample low down grunt to get it up and going at low planing speeds. It doesn’t run out of puff at high speeds either, with a top speed of just over 35 knots.