Issue: January 2002
Seafarer’s newest 5.75m Vega bridges the gap between the popular 5.5m Viking, the larger cabin, smaller cockpit Ventura and the 6m Victory. The release of the new Vega means Seafarer now has vessels to cover the entire 5.5m-6m range. It’s a range where the difference of an old fashioned foot or so in length, makes substantial differences to critical factors like tow vehicle requirement, interior room, handling, ride and most importantly cost.
From any angle there’s no mistaking that the Vega is very much a member of Seafarer’s blue-blooded line of offshore fishing/family day boats. To hide Seafarer’s strong family resemblance a bit more chlorine would need to be thrown into the gene pool. The resemblance is so strong sometimes it takes a hard look at the model name to determine exactly which model is which. But there’s enough room inside the Vega hull for the model to stand alone – unlike the smaller V Sea/Venus, or the larger Viking/Ventura, which offer different ratios of cockpit to cabin space to suit people’s preferences.
In fact, all of these Seafarers are either larger or smaller versions of established and successful boats. So it goes without saying the Vega’s layout is extremely well thought out and it works.
Why are these boats so good ? Well, Seafarers are built by a perfectionist, Lindsay Fry. But being so good also has its drawbacks, because the people who don’t appreciate the subtle differences that make Seafarers stand out in the crowd, would probably never buy a Seafarer. Why ? Because they are normally people who buy on price alone. And you can’t built a boat this good on the cheap.
On the day of the Modern Boating test, one of the Vegas tested was the first of a new line still under development. Even so, the fibreglass work, trimming, fittings and metal work of this prototype were as impeccably presented as ever. In fact, we recently tested this boat for our sister magazine Modern Fishing.
At the time it was fitted with a pair of V4, 90hp Johnsons. But Lindsay wasn’t completely happy with the boat in that configuration. He suggested we wait until a second boat was built, powered by a single outboard before completing Modern Boating’s more rigorous testing process.
Although well within the Vega’s power parameters – to a maximum 200hp – the twin V4s had a total weight of 290kg, which is a lot of weight for a 5.75m boat to carry on it’s blunt end. The hull handled the power effortlessly, but out on the water you could feel the extra weight of the dual motor installation.
On the other hand a single 200hp Johnson Ocean Pro is considerably lighter and weighs only 205kg. So Lindsay replaced the 90s on the first Vega with twin three-cylinder 70hp Johnsons. By the time of our next test a second Vega had rolled off the production line. It was fitted with a 135hp V6 FICHT RAM Injection Evinrude. Both boats were better balanced than the original boat tested. The single 135hp and twin 70hp installations feel right with less weight on the transom.
After zooming around inside the Southport Seaway with Lindsay at the helm to get performance figures, we poked the Vega’s nose outside. Like many people in the boating industry, Lindsay didn’t pull any punches and ran this boat hard. Outside the shelter of the breakwalls a confused chop left over from two days of strong winds, churned its way across a low swell, steepening as it met the shallow water on the bar. If the water looks idyllic in the photos inside the Seaway, it wasn’t outside.
Out wide the boat produced an impressive ride at speeds much higher than we would normally have run in such conditions. But the Vega stuck like glue, cutting through the chop cleanly and producing a soft ride through all the mess.
It wasn’t until Lindsay brought the bow around into the wind, heading back towards the entrance, that the steep side of the swell started launching the Vega off waves, forcing him to ease the throttles back.
Having satisfied ourselves that the new Vega was all we’d come to expect from Seafarer in the handling stakes, we had the opportunity to compare the boats with three different power options – twin 90hp V4s, twin three-cylinder 70hp and a single 135hp FICHT RAM injected Evinrude.
We had already established that the twin V4s weren’t the best set-up, because of the weight involved. But Seafarers are built with a wide, extended transom that’s almost a half pod. This is done intentionally so owners, serious about offshore work can opt for the security of a twin outboard installation.
The twin 70s weigh-in at 226kg, plus the extra oil tank and steering paraphernalia, but this weight would have also been a factor with the twin 90 installation. On the other hand a 135 hp FICHT RAM Injected Evinrude weighs 188kg. Most serious offshore fishers would run two batteries, so the weight ratios are similar.
With the twin 90s fitted during our initial test the Vega ran out to 45 knots at 5800rpm. We’ll get to the advantages and disadvantages of having one or two drive legs in a moment.
With one of the 90s shut down and its leg trimmed clear of the water we still recorded a top speed of 34.2 knots. It took awhile to get there though, which supports Seafarer’s case for recommending a single 115hp as a minimum power option.
The Vega fitted with twin 70s hit a lower top speed of 36.9 knots. But at the time it was fitted with 18″ pitch OMC Raker props that only revved out to 5600rpm. That’s acceptably within OMC’s full throttle operating range of 5000 to 6000rpm. But Lindsay said he’ll be interested to try a pair of 17″ Vipers on the 70s to see if they generate a few more revs and maybe a little more speed.
The 135hp FICHT was running a 17″ Viper, but just to ensure our science didn’t get too precise, the blasted tacho dropped its bundle at 4500rpm. It recorded a top speed of 37.8 knots – revs unknown. At lower speeds it was a completely different story. The twin 70s lifted the Vega quickly onto the plane at 9 knots pulling 2500rpm, while the 135 held back and didn’t plane until the boat hit 11 knots. We figure that the additional thrust of two propellers, coupled with the extra lift from two cavitation plates, help the hull plane quicker. At a 3800rpm the 70s cruised along at 23.4 knots, while at the same rpm the 135 hooted across the water at 27.2 knots. By easing the 135 back to 3500rpm it still maintained 24.2 knots.
It would be interesting to run some comparative fuel consumption tests at these different rev/speed ranges.
People who opt for twin motor installations tend to do so for reasons other than fuel economy. This is just as well, because it’s likely a single FICHT RAM injected motor would be quite a bit more economical than a pair of triples cylinders drinking through carburettors.
Cost – purchase price as opposed to running costs – is the last factor to consider. But with the Johnson/Evinrude situation still somewhat up in the air at the time of writing, accurate pricing was not available. As far as he could tell, Lindsay thought that the two options would work out close to each other in the money stakes.
During this test we were able to compare the performance figures of a single 135hp FICHT Injection outboard, twin 70hp and twin 90hp Evinrudes. The 135’s operating range was 4750-5250rpm, while the 70hp engines pulled between 5000-6000rpm and the twin 90s revved out to 4500-5500rpm. Engine weights were 188kg, 226kg and 290kg respectively.
The 135 was fitted with a 17″ OMC Viper prop, the 70s had OMC Raker 18″ props and the 90s were also spinning 17″ OMC Vipers. WOT speeds: 135hp, 37.8 knots; 70s 36.9 knots and the twin 90s, 45 knots.
Story by Warren Steptoe