Issue: January 2003
There are plenty of Kiwi jokes doing the rounds, but this latest boat to hail from the land of the long white cloud is no joking matter. The 6m No Limits takes hull design to a new level. The last time I was on the other side of the Tasman I went for a burl on an high speed aluminium (50mph +) 60 passenger craft powered by twin 1200hp diesels powering surface drives. Her main job was as a spectator craft chasing America’s Cup boats around the Hauraki Gulf and boy did she go. I was impressed, but I was even more impressed by the photos I was shown of this new boat. There was one shot in particular that caught my attention. It was of a firefighting helicopter dumping a couple of tonnes of water from a bucket into the stocky 6m No Limit’s hull.
I guess this demonstration was to test how well the cockpit would self-drain after a dump from a hefty wave. And she handled it with ease, because this No Limits boat was designed to withstand flooding. Even the boat’s electrics are housed above floodwater level in sealed compartments. Plus, the vessel’s large scuppers allow water to quickly drain from the cockpit. Perhaps some boat builders are getting a bit loopy when it comes to testing the limits of boats. I can remember the Americans shooting 1000 rounds of ammunition through a Boston Whaler hull to check that it wouldn’t sink. But all these experiments are really only attempts to simulate a fraction of what a big sea can inflict on your boat. Three New Zealand divers conceived the No Limit’s design.
They were attempting to come up with a boat capable of handling the rough seas they often encountered offshore. Kim Ellett and John Ross ‘ two of the divers ‘ joined forces with a well-known New Zealand naval architect Scott Robson to create No Limits. John Ross has a wealth of experience building big aluminium boats. So together they carved out an aluminium rig that combined innovative design, exceptional hull strength and good looks that stretched the definition of a utility boat beyond all limits; hence the brand name No Limits. Peter Fields, the Australian distributor of these hulls, had his first experience with one of these rigs when he was in Auckland returning from a Bay Of Islands adventure.
A few years ago Peter began distributing Aqua Pro inflatables in Australia, so he is familiar with the innate stability of inflatables and the benefits they offer for dive work. But when he went out on the No Limits boat he was an instant convert. The craft caught his attention, because it utilises air cocoon compartments, massive reversed chines and a flood chamber to steady the boat at rest. Combine these with a deep-Vee 21 degrees deadrise and you get a hull that can take just about anything you throw at it. There are other utility aluminium boats with sealed topsides on the market, but they have the clumsy look of an aluminium inflatable. The No Limits design incorporates an air cocoon over the wide reversed chines. This maintains the good looks of a traditional runabout with what appears to be conventional topsides.
Under this facade, the sealed compartments create a rig that is supposed to be unsinkable. But wasn’t that what they said about the Titanic ? Strength was a priority in the hull design. With a 5mm thick bottom, 4mm thick sides, reinforced with six full-length floor-to-hull bearers, these boats can take a beating. This strength of construction is backed by an eightyear weld and hull guarantee. Stability was the next category tackled by the design team. But I have the feeling that the air cocoons are really there for buoyancy should the hull be swamped, not to aid stability in normal driving conditions. The wide 5′ reversed chines combined with the flooding deep-Vee hull are the key elements contributing to the boat’s excellent overall stability. You wouldn’t want a flooding keel without the security of sealed topsides, so essentially these three elements work together to produce a very stable hull at rest that can handle the rough stuff when up and running.
Not only does the test craft’s design make it stand out, because she was built using three different construction materials. The hull is aluminium, the cabin is fibreglass and the combings are made from teak. I haven’t seen this combination before, but it seems to work well and it looked great. I am a bit of a sucker for woodwork on boats and the teak option really added a touch of class of this craft. The layout could be described as functional. There were only two seats, but plenty of well positioned, stainless steel grabhandles, which are needed, because in rough conditions you are going to be standing. The wide combings also make comfy places to sit when fishing and at slow speeds. There was plenty of storage in the boat.
There were lockers in the bow, several lockers, open storage areas under each gunwale and sealed compartments to port and starboard near the seats. These can be used to mount speakers if you wanted a stereo. There was also a large underfloor, floodable storage compartment that can be used to keep live bait, or long items in. Moving around the boat was easy for a craft of this size. The 20cm walkway with solid aluminium rails made access to the bow from the main cockpit easy, even with a load of camera gear. On the other hand, if you wanted to drop the pick, it can all be accessed via the forward cabin hatch. For divers, getting into the water would be straightforward, simply slide backwards over the wide combings, while the big aluminium steps on the transom make getting back on board just as easy.
The test boat was set up for diving more than anything else. Air tanks are stored using shock cord along the inside of the transom. For this test we took the boat out for an afternoon run on Port Jackson, starting at Rose Bay, then out towards the heads. As the afternoon progressed the wind picked up producing a bit of chop and slush. The hull planned comfortably anywhere above 3000rpm, but seemed to have a natural tendency to want to cruise around 23 knots at 3500rpm. She could go a lot faster, but cruising any faster through the chop would be hard on the back after a while. The rig’s maximum speed was 37 knots at 5200rpm, spinning a 17′ prop. I felt that she could have benefited from a slightly smaller prop, maybe a 16′, to get the revs to around 5500rpm. This would make the fairly heavy hull ‘ with all that water ballast ‘ plane a bit quicker.
Although 5500rpm was at the top of the rev range specified for the Yamaha 150hp, but this is a unique hull in that, once it’s on the plane it loses weight! The deep-Vee softened the ride in the mixed conditions and at rest the flooding bilge didn’t affect the boat’s manoeuvrability. If anything the hull was less effected by the breeze. Overall, she was a dry boat, but like any open planning boat some spray will come over the bow if the wind’s blowing from the wrong quarter in rough conditions. The boat as tested was loaded with optional extras. Peter realises that each new owner would want a variety of options to suit their own needs. So you start with the basic boat, which costs around $28,000 and build it up from there. Some of the options that stood out on the test boat included the exterior blue paint, reversed windscreen, rocket launchers, teak deck, bimini cover, painted interior and hydraulic steering. At the helm were all the standard Yamaha instruments including speedo, tacho, fuel gauge and a 12v outlet. The boat was also well equipped with electronics with the Lowrance GPS aerial resting neatly on the dash in a spot originally designed for a compass.
The rig we tested cost around $58,000 with the 150hp two-stroke Yamaha and trailer. The Lowrance electronics are not included in that price, but Peter could wangle a good deal on them for you. Essentially, No Limits was a well-built boat that utilises some innovative approaches to stability. The basic set-up is just that, basic, but it is a top performer. All the extras help make the boat and produce a package that would last the test of time and the challenges of the sea.
Words and Photos by Andrew Richardson