Maritimo 550 Review

The Aussie Battler

Maritimo’s Bill Barry-Cotter bounces back with this true blue game fishing battlewagon.

Not content with the success his Maritimo cruising stable is presently enjoying, the irrepressible Bill Barry-Cotter has introduced a brand new boat to the Australian market.

The new boat was unveiled at the Sydney International Boat Show and is an real battleship designed to hunt the ‘granders’ (the giant black marlin that weigh in at more than 1000lb) roaming the Coral Sea off the North Queensland coast.

The Maritimo 550 is based on the Maritimo 52 hull and incorporates much of the technology the Maritmo team has gained from their offshore racing experience. In Australia, Bill Barry-Cotter is the unchallenged leader in applying offshore powerboat racing technology to the luxury craft he builds for the recreational market

“There are so many little things, for example the way we mount the steering rack on the new 550 model. Just the way we bolt that down is important because the pressures on a rudder and the hydraulic lines are enormous. On the race boat it has to be super light and unbreakable.”

Bill Barry-Cotter is the first to admit that designing the hull of a boat is a black science. Take a little thing like the engine water pickups in the race boat, if they are mounted in the wrong place in the hull it can represent a loss of about four to five knots in speed and five per cent propeller slip. 

“So suddenly you have a very inefficient propeller,” he said. “In a pleasure boat, once you realise how critical that is, the fuel consumption can be reduced by some five per cent, which over a year is a big saving.”

Race technology
Another example of racing technology is the mounting of the transducer for the sounder on the new 550. It is a big 3kW version that is 120mm deep. Having that protrude from the hull can represent another five per cent drop in performance. But using race boat technology the transducer is moulded in and now only protrudes 2mm from the hull, just enough to give it the water flow it needs to operate properly.

“We have only learnt this recently from experimenting with the race boat,” Bill said. “All the skin fittings and bolts are now flush and after what we learnt from the transducers, and by taking a bit more effort, we have another 10 per cent in performance.”

Bill paused at this point. “I don’t want to give too much away though.”  Positioning of weight is also important and the 550 is different to comparable boats built around the world. The engines and the fuel tanks are as close to the centre of gravity and centre of buoyancy as possible. Although, being a boat designed for serious fishing, which needs to be backed up when a fish strikes, the centres have been moved further forward than normal. And again, like the race boat the angle on the propeller shaft is just seven degrees. This means that the propellers are not going to drag the stern of the boat down when it’s backed up at speed. 

On the other Maritimo models the angle of the shaft is still only nine degrees and that has been achieved without using tunnels, which Bill will not even consider in his boats. On a race boat the ideal angle is between four to six degrees and Maritimo have come very close to that in the 550.

A second fuel tank is provided aft to balance the fuel for fishing. If traveling in a head sea, the fuel can be moved forward to bring the bow down. In a following sea the bow can be raised by transferring the fuel aft.

Hull construction
The hull also owes much to race technology. The stiffening is transverse rather than longitudinal and exotic fabrics replace conventional fiberglass with vinyl esters instead of polyesters. Even the engine mounts are designed to take the stresses and loads of a race boat.

One of the features of the new 550 is the mezzanine deck at the back of the cockpit. It’s an area where guests can watch the action without getting in the way of the crew in the cockpit when there’s a hook-up. The freezer, the bait preparation area (a removable stainless steel table) and the lures are kept out of sight until needed, hidden under the seats. Everything can be stowed out of sight so that when the boat comes into port it can be cleaned up and not look like a typical game fishing boat.

All the underwater electronic gear, including the big transducer for the 3kW-sounder, is recessed in the hull. 

There has not been any scrimping on the fighting chair either. It’s an American Release that will set you back about $25,000. However, the footrest is too close to the bulge of the live-bait tank in the transom and could create problems for a deckie if he/she is being waltzed around the deck by a big fish on the end of the trace. The bait storage freezer is also not quite big enough to store the size of bait needed for the big ones and there’s no permanent bait preparation station. 

The gunwales are also unusual for a game boat. They are 700mm high and 400mm wide, despite this they don’t restrict a deckie with a tag pole. They do however make it difficult to get onboard off a pontoon. It’s a case of sitting on the gunwale and swinging your legs onboard.

But coupled with the Black Marlin tower, Release rod holders and the Lees triple-spreader outriggers this 550 means business. Another design feature that gives the 550 an advantage is the positioning of the integral fuel tanks. There are two, one across the beam amidships and the other aft of the engines. Fuel can be transferred from one tank to the other to balance the boat when fishing. The tanks hold 5700lt of fuel, enough to get you from the Gold Coast to Sydney and back and then turn around a head down south again. There are not many game boats with that range.

As most people know, Bill Barry-Cotter won’t have a bar of propeller tunnels or underwater exhaust systems. He says that tunnels set up vibration and underwater exhausts, as well as creating backpressure, can develop a harmonic that scares game fish off. Despite this he has managed a seven-degree angle on the shafts by positioning the engines well forward.

The interior of the boat is typically Maritimo with a luxurious saloon that includes the interior staircase to the flybridge that has proved so popular with Maritimo owners, and a very efficient galley complete with pantry. They have also managed to squeeze in a combination washer/dryer

A lined rod storage locker is provided at the rear of the saloon, but the overhead handrail is missing – a necessary item when rolling around the ocean trolling. 

The accommodation is on the same plan as the Maritimo 48 Cruising Flybridge: a double berth and en-suite to port, another double up front and a third cabin with crossover bunks.

Performance & handling
The first 550 is powered by a couple of 1000hp Caterpillar diesels, mounted well forward in the hull, which push the boat along at 37.5 knots. That’s pretty quick for a game boat and there are not too many that will beat her out to the fishing grounds when she’s at full song.

A lazy 700rpm will see the boat trolling at around 7-8 knots and best cruising speed is 1500rpm and 20 knots with 171lt per hour total fuel usage. Drop the speed drown to 1100rpm, 11.8 knots and the fuel flow drops to 89lt per hour and that is good enough to get from the Gold Coast to Sydney and back with 10 per cent fuel left in the tanks. At an 8-knot troll speed she uses only 25lt per hour in total. The boat planed in 8.6 seconds at 30 knots. 

All the driving is done from the forwarded-mounted helm station on the enclosed flybridge. It doesn’t have the best view of the cockpit so a second station has been positioned on the overhang above the mezzanine. 

For it’s size the boat is very nimble and backs up hard, so hard that in a swell it will take water over the transom, but there is no danger of filling the cockpit. There is a big drain right across the back, which drains the water away in seconds.

Although the 550 was first intended to be a battlewagon to chase the big fish, it has proved so popular that many prospective owners just like the look of it – and it’s performance – so they have placed orders for the convertible version without all the fishing gear. There’s a rumour that a waiting list of some 20 buyers exists after the Sydney boats show. 

And now the big wake up call for the industry, the base boat comes in at around $1.6m and as tested $1.9m. That’s way under what you would pay for one of its rivals – local or imported.