Issue: April 2004
What’s red, made of aluminium and flies across the water at more than 32 knots ? The Stabicraft 609HT, that’s what. Recently, I took time away from my Modern Fishing computer and spent a day on the water at Batemans Bay putting Stabicraft’s latest offering, the 609HT (hard top) through its paces with Modern Boating’s Ian Macrae, and Rob Hooke from Adventure Marine. The test boat was a beast of a machine with a towing weight of approximately 1300kg. It was powered by a 1.7lt turbo-charged diesel Cummins/Mercury that generated 120hp driving through a MerCruiser Alpha I leg and spinning a 20″ prop.
The turbo diesel had more than enough grunt to push the 609 along at a fair pace and the power delivery through the whole rev range was good. The inboard’s engine box did intrude into the cockpit and certainly cuts down on floor space. But there was still plenty of room on either side of the motor to fish, even if you would have to climb over the engine box if a fish was to dive at the transom and try to cut you off. But even with big outboards you’d still have a problem getting around the engines.
The 120hp turbo diesel was a little loud when it was working hard, but not unbearable and the fuel economy that the motor provides more than makes up for this. Incidentally, the new owners of the boat we tested have reported an average of 5.5lt per hour after 15 hours of use. Sound proofing the motor cover was another option not included on the test boat, but from what Rob told us, it makes all the difference in the sound department. Out on the water the Modern Fishing GPS clocked the big 609HT at 11.6 knots at 2500rpm, 17.8 knots at 3000 rpm, 22 knots at 3500rpm, 27 knots at 4000 rpm and just under 32 knots flat out. These speeds were recorded on flat water, but the Stabicraft also handled well when we took it out over the bar.
I was expecting a tinnie this size to bash and crash it’s way through the chop, but the Stabicraft hull really does surprise you with the way it cushions every landing. The Stabicraft’s rigid pontoon-style hull design offers positive buoyancy, excellent stability and makes the hull virtually unsinkable. The pontoon has five sealed chambers. Starting from the portside transom, the first sealed chamber runs to just forward of the helm. The next sealed chamber runs to about a metre short of the bowsprit. The third chamber curves around the bow to the same position on the opposite side. Then, the two chambers mirror the spacing on the port side.
The design of the pontoon hull creates a cushion of water and air under the hull and when we crossed the bar it really showed. The soft landings and easy handling of the boat was truly impressive. And it really dug in on the turns with no cavitation. Not that I recommend it, but we actually stopped the boat in the middle of the bar and just let it float through into the calm of the river. The hull’s positive buoyancy makes this boat virtually unsinkable, even when it’s flooded. But even though one of these hulls, undamaged, won’t sink, it can still be rolled in a big sea and its occupants can be thrown out. And that’s when the trouble starts.
So, no matter how much faith you have in a boat’s handling, all river bars including calm ones, demand your respect. The heavy-duty welding and general finish of the boat were consistent with the kind of quality and tough-as-nails build that we have come to expect from Stabicraft. Looking around the boat, access to the bow is via a hatch in the cabin, or via the gunwale around the cabin. The gunwale had non-slip grip matting fixed to it, which gave you a sure footing. There is a grab rail on the cabin roof that assists in making this journey and it gives you the confidence that you are not going for an unexpected swim.
The easy (and safest) way is to go through the cabin hatch. Reaching from the hatch to handle the anchor is a bit of a stretch and your back would probably be better off if you left the anchor resting on the bowsprit instead of wrestling from the anchor locker every time you want to drop the pick. Better still, let your mate to do the anchor duties. The cabin has a reasonable amount of room for storage, or if you want to curl up (literally) for a nap, you could. But if there were two tired anglers in there at the same time, things would be very cosy though.
There is room to add a marine toilet for the ladies, but it could get a bit cramped by the time you put a big icebox and a few other bits and pieces in the cabin. Access to the cabin is through the helm area. The windscreen and side windows offer excellent shelter from the elements in the helm area. This is an extremely dry boat. If you get wet in the helm area, then you must have spilt your drink. The large windscreen is tinted and has a wiper for clear vision in ordinary weather. The side windows slide open to let the breeze in. The roof above the helm is high and provides more than enough headroom for the skipper. Plus, there are enough grab bars where you need them.
As you would expect, the helm has a full set of instruments, a 27-meg radio and a CD stereo. The dash also has plenty of room for a full electronics suite. Helm seating in the Stabicraft 609HT is entirely up to the purchaser. The test boat had one pedestal seat and a king/queen seat for the navigator. The position of the skipper’s seat allowed the driver to stand while underway if they wished. There was also a footrest for added comfort while sitting. As an option, it would be worth considering changing the king and queen passenger seat for a split-lid icebox with a short pedestal seat mounted on top. Now for the important stuff – how would the 609HT fish ?
The Stabicraft 609HT’s selfdraining deck is a very workable space for .fishing. Despite the inboard set-up sacrificing floor space there is still plenty of room for a small group to spread out and bottom bounce the night away. Plus, the sides were high enough to get some purchase against when you’re slugging it out with a monster fish. You could mount a suitable bait board, or something similar on the engine cover to utilise it as a workspace for preparing baits, rigs, berley, etc. There was enough storage in the side pockets to store a gaff, tag pole and the other odds and ends that we like to have at our fingertips when fishing. The test boat had a spotlight, cockpit and cabin light and a LED soft light, which would all aid fishing at night.
The only thing I thought was missing was an under floor fish box. For rod storage I would attach a set of rocket launchers on the cabin roof. There were no outriggers fitted, but these could be easily attached. The rear swim ladder and grab rail make access via the transom easy for swimmers and adds another dimension to this boat, because it can double as a family cruising boat. The Stabicraft 609HT comes at a price. But for a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails fishing boat that rides like a dream and loves a bit of rough water, you get what you pay for.
Words by Daniel Tillack