Steber Custom 52 Review

Issue: June 2005

Right in the middle of a busy Tuesday I got a call from Alan Steber saying that he and his team were at Darling Harbour waiting to load a new Steber 52 footer onto a ship. We’ve built it for a Sheik, it’s heading for Dubai and she’s a beauty, do you want to come down and have a look at her before she goes?? 

After a quick juggle of an otherwise tedious agenda, I found myself on a headland trying to get shots of what looked like a dayboat on steroids.

This 52 footer was built specifically as a luxury dive boat to cater for the needs of a VIP and his family in the Middle East. The client heard about Stebercraft via its international advertising and now, after a six months production phase, this custom-built dive boat with the “lot” was ready for delivery.

Twin 700hp C12 Caterpillar diesel engines power the Steber 52 to a top speed of 33 knots at 2300rpm. But with the throttles pulled back to 1950rpm, she’ll cruise comfortably all day at 25 knots and cover quite a lot of ground thanks to her 2600lt fuel tanks. The engines are accessed from the cockpit, but substantial engine insulation turns the rumble into a hum when the hatches are closed.

The engine room also houses an 11Kva Caterpillar generator and two large airconditioning units. Alan pointed out that in Qatar, the boat’s final destination, the average temperature is around 40 degrees, so they put in a 16000BTU AC unit for the cabin and another 36000BTU unit for the wheelhouse. To further counteract the hot conditions the windows are tinted, the curtains go into pelmets and there is a large insulated awning covering half of the vast cockpit. Looking at the boat there is little doubt that this Steber, with her trademark high flared bow, is ready to take on anything that is thrown at her.

Her layout makes her the ultimate dayboat. A vast teak-laid aft deck flows seamlessly to an equally impressive hydraulic swim platform that, with the flick of a switch, gently lowers effortlessly into the water.

The cockpit has a side access door and double gate access from the swim platform. Dive facilities include a large ladder that locks into the side access door, a built-in compressor to fill the tanks, aft dive-bottle racks for six double bottles and two outdoor showers. Other features included a large removable cockpit table and a gamefishing chair, this was stowed during the sea trial, and a large functional head that was also accessed from the cockpit. 

A quick wander about the boat reveals that this 52-footer could have been set-up with a flybridge helm, but this was not specified. On this boat “up top” provides little more than a good view, holds some of the air-conditioning systems and gives access to the life raft. 

In keeping with the dayboat theme, the accommodation comprises of only a single forward berth that could be separated from the saloon by a concealed door. The berth has port and starboard hanging lockers, which have plenty of standing area, so it also acts as a changing room.

The saloon/wheelhouse is large and flooded with plenty of natural light. It has a fully functional portside galley with a microwave, two-burner cooker, icemaker and refigerator and the long bench layout that would work well in a catering situation.

A flat-screen TV (linked to DVD player) was sited above the galley area. This had a gas strut bracket that allows the screen to be swung around for viewing from the starboard settee. 

The helm seating consists of a long and low leather bolster-bench seat, designed so that the crew can avoid having there back to the owner, a cultural protocol. Visibility for the skipper from the helm seat, which is almost half as wide as the saloon cabin, is excellent.

Instrumentation includes all the standard Cat gauges and a full Furuno electronics package, featuring weather fax, GPS/chartplotter, sounder, radar and autopilots. There are controls for the windlass and the windscreen wipers, which incorporates a top-notch freshwater spray system.

Surprisingly, this custom-built vessel is not fitted with a bow thruster, a useful tool on a vessel of this size, but without a large cabin to catch the wind, the boat’s twin engines provide enough manoeuvrability to juggle her in the right spot.

This boat is also built to Australian USL Survey, so there is little doubt that it can endure even the worst conditions. 

Sydney Harbour at twilight is not the place to stretch a 52ft seagoing dive vessel to its limits, but let’s just say everything seemed in order. Engine noise is very low and helm-driving position offers great visibility. The flared bow has a decorative knuckle and a double chine knuckle to help reduce spray.

The fine entry at the bow allows the boat to cut through chop with ease.

Customising is the Key
Customisation is the key to the Steber reputation. When you purchase a production boat you have a choice of
options, but that’s where it stops. However, with a Stebercraft , there is so much more scope to create a vessel to suit the customer’s individual requirements.

This 52-foot dive boat demonstrates the essence of customisation. It’s a craft built for a special man with special needs, the result is luxury and functionality in one.

Foot note: Following the delivery of this boat, Alan Steber advised us that they have received more orders from the Middle East. Obviously it’s not only the customer that is more than happy with the boat.

Engine Room
Twin Caterpillar 700 C12 diesels, spinning four-blade 30″ diameter and 36″ pitch props, power the Steber 52.

The Steber 52 cruises effortlessly at 25 knots and has a top speed of 33 knots. Speed to RPM: Idle @ 8rpm, 14.5 knots @ 1500rp, 25 knots @ 1950rpm, 30 knots @ 2100rpm, 33 knots @ 2300rpm

LOA: 17.6m
LWL: 14.45m
BEAM: 4.9m
DRAFT: 1.15m
FUEL: 2600lt
ENGINES:.Twin Caterpillar 700 C12
PRICE: $1.5m

+ Huge aft cockpit. Super strong hull

? No upper helm

A Brief History
Steber International was one of the first companies to pioneer the construction of fibreglass vessels in Australia and has been building boats for more than 55 years. Originally, the family company produced timber clinker-hull boats, but changed to modern fiberglass construction in 1959. 

The operations began in Brookvale, Sydney, but in 1974, relocated to larger, more modern premises on the NSW mid north coast. The development and manufacture of larger vessels in the 70s brought about a business decision to phase out the production of runabouts and produce solely pleasure and commercial vessels ranging from 8.6m to a massive 15.8m. 

In the 1990s, the business diversified even more into the industrial composite industry with a commitment to continual improvement through research and development using the latest technology. 

All work conducted at Steber’s Taree factory is carried out under its Quality Assurance system, ANZ/ISO9002 standard. All laminating is carried out within humidity and temperature parameters with stringent in-house tests performed on all products. 

Steber International’s experience and competencies extend from tooling, plug and mould making (male and female), through to specialised design, manufacturing techniques and construction methods. 

Steber International specialise in sandwich construction, using balsa and foam materials and a range of resin types including fire retardant and anti-ballistic materials.

Words by Andrew Richardson