Issue: January 1996
In the not too distant past, boat ownership for Aussies normally followed a tried and true path, depending on your style of boating that is and leaving aside those involved with specialised fields such as skiing, wakeboarding and the likes.
Most of us started out with a secondhand boat that we modified to suit our specific needs, normally because that boat’s initially purchased before we had any true idea of what our boating needs actually were.
In my case, disregarding my early boating experiences with a family fishing dory used on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay and a brief flutter with skiing, my first boat was an 18′ Mustang half cabin. It was basically a bare boat and its only true attribute was its sea-keeping ability.
Back then I was a young soldier based in Townsville. Being a fisherman this was heaven for me, so it wasn’t long before I was looking for a vessel capable of getting me out to the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
The 18′ Mustang proved to be an ideal vessel for two anglers who didn’t mind roughing it for a weekend out on the reef. Two bunks, an Esky, a bucket for a dunny and a gas BBQ to cook on, what more could a couple of fishos ask for ?
For the next few years many modifications were added until in the end I built up a half decent fishing vessel boasting long range fuel tanks, live bait wells, VHF radio, mini outriggers, even a basic sounder.
But eventually I outgrew that boat, but it started me on a lifelong journey that would take me through numerous boats and eventually even land this job as editor of Modern Boating. But according to statistics boat buying trends are changing and many greenhorn boaties are now buying new boats straight off the bat. Be it a 6m fishing boat or mid-sized cruiser.
To meet this growing tendency many Aussies boat builders are now producing genuine allrounder vessels. And one new boat to hit the water that fits that category perfectly is the Brisbane-built Sea Quest Horizon. The Horizon is an extremely functional 9.26m sportsbridge cruiser that at only $185,770 on water, represent pretty good value for money.
Being a sportsbridge cruiser, the Horizon has only one helm station, but still offers all the features of a flybridge cruiser coupled with roomy accommodation for six, a galley, bathroom and a spacious aft cockpit in a compact 30 foot vessel.
Cruising, diving, fishing or simply overnighting in luxury, the Horizon can handle it all. From a fishing perspective, the elevated driving position offers unimpeded 360 degree views to all points and the ability to allow the skipper to stand facing aft, so he can back down on a hard running fish.
The woodgrain dash features comprehensive instrumentation, but as standard, the Horizon doesn’t come with an electronics package. Plenty of dash space has been allocated for this equipment, but the new owner gets to choose to what level of fit-out they require and the brands they wish to fit.
The helm station takes up two thirds of the sportsbridge. There’s a two-seater lounge to the portside of the skipper’s chair and a lockable cabin door that accesses the main saloon to starboard. A hard top extends from the Targa arch and clears, with an opening front section, protecting the skipper from the elements.
A removable sunshade covers the aft cockpit and while this doesn’t block the skipper’s view into the rear cockpit, it does impede his view further aft. In full fishing mode I’d remove this cover, or fit a retractable version.
The aft cockpit features two rear lounges and a table that’s large enough to accommodate four diners in comfort without people continually sticking their elbows in their partner’s soup.
The lounges and table in the cockpit also covert into a sun lounge. This can act as a third double bed if the optional aft cockpit boat covers are fitted, or if weather permits, for those wishing to sleep under the stars.
Both lounges and the table are removable leaving a clean, uncluttered area with high flat gunwales that are just the right height to brace against when fighting a fish.
The only drawback is the wide marlin board covering the sterndrive leg. It’s great for divers, but it makes it a bit of a stretch if a fish lunges for the deep at the rear of the boat.
However, this can be overcome by standing on the marlin board and bracing against the sturdy stainless steel grab rail that protects the centre section of this platform. There’s also a rack for two fenders on the rear of the transom wall.
There are storage lockers in the cockpit walls and access to the engine bay via a hatch in the cockpit floor. To wash the slime off your hands after landing a fish there’s a tap/sink unit in the portside corner of the cockpit up against the sportsbridge bulkhead.
Out on the foredeck is a great place for the sun worshippers to soak up a few rays secure behind the high, stainless steel bow rail. Below decks in the main cabin, clever use of a relatively compact area has enabled Sea Quest to deliver a useful cabin layout.
Amidships is the galley, there’s a sink/tap unit and a two-burner stove to port and a microwave oven and fridge to starboard.
Next to the galley is the head. It features full standing head height, a vanity unit with sink and a handheld shower. The aft double cabin is located under the sportsbridge sole and features a privacy curtain and an opening window.
In the cabin roof in front of the aft cabin is a hatch that gives easy access to the wiring harness. This certainly makes adding new instrumentation a breeze. The main cabin also features clip-in carpet, which is extremely functional and allows for easy cleaning. And cleaning is one of this boat’s big selling points.
Most of us have kids and any boat I buy has to be kid proof. I get to go out on many beautiful and luxurious boats and to be quite frank I would be in a constant state panic if my kids were on board. What if they spill something on the beige carpet, or scratched the beautiful cherrywood joinery ?
It’s not that they are bad kids, but kids will be kids and things just seem to happen. But because the Horizon’s entire interior is made from moulded fibreglass, there’s nothing to get scratched and everything wipes clean. I am sure some readers will be thinking this boat sounds like a workboat, but that’s not the case at all. All the cupboard doors, shelving and instrument panels have a burlwood finish. The carpets and upholstery are all of the highest quality and all the fixtures and fittings are first class.
The Modern Boating team agree this is an excellent all round family boat that’s capable of taking its family on a long weekend cruise in complete comfort.
But it’s out on the water that the Sea Quest Horizon really produced the goods in the cruising stakes. She’s powered by a single 300hp 350 Magnum Horizon sterndrive. But even though this boat has a dry weight of 3600kg this engine is capable of supplying more than enough power to snap the hull onto the plane quickly and cruise along effortlessly at 28mph pulling 3800rpm. Flat chat she topped 38mph at 4900rpm, but back her off and she’ll hold the plane down to 15mph. At cruising speed the boat uses 30lt per hour giving her a range of around 365 miles.
Even though this is not sportboat-like performance, her cruising speed is ideal for most offshore applications; leaving plenty in the tank if more power and speed are required.
The boat’s sharp entry and wide down-turned chines keep the ride smooth and stable over chop and you can keep the bow up by trimming out the sterndrive leg. Trim tabs aid lateral stability no matter what load you are carrying, or from what quarter the wind is blowing.
To put the boat’s performance as a top allrounder in a clearer perspective consider this. During offshore trails, in a 1m to 1.5m swell with its associated wind chop, this boat was able to maintain a comfortable 20mph without crashing or banging, which is a clear indication of the hull’s sea-keeping abilities.
The boat’s sharp bow entry and deep-vee hull, deliver a soft, dry and stable ride; normally associated with much larger vessels. Engine noise was acceptable throughout the boat when travelling at cruising speed, and even flat out it wasn’t excessive.
At just under 30 feet the Sea Quest Horizon isn’t a large vessel, but clever use of available space, the right power-to-weight ratio and a good sea-keeping hull make this vessel an ideal all round family cruiser. Her standard of finish is extremely good and her design ensures she’ll deliver many years of low maintenance operation.
Whether it’s fishing, diving, or simply exploring our myriad of waterways, the Sea Quest Horizon is an ideal platform for the task at a price that is surprisingly affordable for those in the market for a vessel of this size.
The Sea Quest Horizon is powered by a 300hp MerCruiser V8 350 Magnum Horizon sterndrive. The hull is rated to a maximum of 400hp, but the 350 Magnum produces a comfortable cruising speed of 28mph at 3800rpm, with a top speed of 38mph at 4900rpm.
With a fuel capacity of 400lt, the Sea Quest Horizon has a cruising range of around 365 mile. The engine bay is fully insulated and noise levels when underway are well within acceptable limits, allowing for easy conversation without the need to raise your voice to be heard above the motor.
Story by Ian Macrae