Alan Steber and the team at Stebercraft have won many awards and had numerous accolades piled on them over the years and with good reason.
They have been at the forefront of the Aussie boating export market for years, while back home they are renowned for building bloody tough boats. In fact, you could say that dive boats, police launches, commercial fishing boats and the likes, are a specialty of this Taree-based boat builder. Many of the boats they build are built under survey, but even those that aren’t are still built to survey standards.
In other words add a life raft and the likes and their build quality would get them passed. Steber boats are strong boats. A fact obviously recognised by numerous government departments, because so many different government bodies use Stebers. At the Sydney International Boat Show, Alan and his crew launched the new Steber 28, a boat aimed primarily at the commercial market, but the interest shown by the general boating public indicate this boat is also going to be a winner on all fronts. The Modern Boating team had the opportunity to test this latest Steber after the show on a day when other buyers were being given a demo run.
And while representatives from various government departments would trial the boat in the afternoon, the two gentlemen interested in buying this boat that morning were looking at it from a purely recreational perspective. They were both looking for a solid, no fuss, no frills boat that would be easy to maintain, had plenty of room for fishing and was capable of taming big seas on long coastal runs without scaring the pants of its passengers. And as it turned out the Steber 28 fitted the bill perfectly. Sure, this prototype was a relatively bare boat, but add the cockpit shower and toilet, positioned against the rear cabin bulkhead on the portside, and fit a convertible dinette and you end up with a comfortable cruiser that sleeps four, albeit without the flash/ expensive finish. For a 28 footer, this boat had more useable cockpit space than boats double its size, 4.5m x 3m to be exact and that’s big.
Adding the cockpit shower and toilet barely alters this usable space, although it would create a small blind spot on the port side. The forward cabin has twin berths and a large hatch, for access to the ground tackle. A shower and toilet can be fitted here, but this will obviously limit the sleeping quarters to one bunk, the aft cockpit option is the better choice. The main cabin is Spartan with minimal instrumentation a bucket seat mounted on a pedestal, the optional hydraulically dampened seat would be the Modern Boating team’s choice – to starboard, a dinette to port and a sink/cabinet unit against the rear cabin bulkhead. There was also plenty of bench space and room to mount a two-burner stove to be fitted.
However, while the boat was fitted with all the instrumentation required, including a sounder, 27 meg radio, compass and relevant engine gauges, her new owner will probably fit a more comprehensive electronics package. And the big plus is there is a stack of open dash space on which these can be mounted. The foredeck is compact and the optional anchor windlass was not fitted to the test boat, but the bowrail was thigh high, so the crew can brace against it for security while retrieving the anchor.
Out in the rear cockpit there is a massive underfloor locker towards the cabin wall and a large hatch to access the engine bay down near the transom. Speaking of engine bays, this one could do with a bit more soundproofing, because the big Volvo power plant pushing this workboat does get a bit loud when you open her up and somebody is working in the rear cockpit. However, close the cabin door and it isn’t a problem, if you’re going to stay in the cabin that is.
I saw a new soundproofing product at the Sydney boat show that would be ideal in this situation. I can’t think of its name, but it consists of two layers of what looks like a space-blanket type material with a foam core. The demo at the show indicated if the engine bay was lined with this material it would eliminate almost 90 per cent of all engine noise. Without it engine noise tends to resonate through the fibreglass hull. But, moving right along, the gunwales and transom are high and offer good support for anglers to brace against while playing a good fish, plus the side pockets are up off the floor, so you can get your toes in under.
You won’t get wet feet either, because the cockpit is selfdraining. To keep the sun at bay there is a fibreglass hardtop covering the forward half of the cockpit, leaving the aft cockpit open, so working a fishing rod won’t be impeded. Now for the fun part, this 28 footer has the grunt and performance of a runabout. Powered by a Volvo KAD 43 Kompressor, the Steber 28 had a top speed of 32 knots, which isn’t bad for a boat of this size and layout, plus she’ll cruise around effortlessly all day at Volvo’s recommended cruise of 200rpm under WOT. This equates to 28 knots at 3600rpm, not bad. Cruising at 28 knots the 28’s hull was a spritely performer for a workboat and handled tight turns and figure-of-eights with distain.
The water through the Heads was reasonably calm on the day of the test, but there was a 2m swell rolling across the front of SouthHead. Head on, side on and in a following sea, the hull was not fazed by anything we could find at sea on the day. With the swell at our back, even at slow speed, the 28 tracked straight and couldn’t be pushed off line by the swell. This is a solid hull, which was confirmed by the boat’s soft and quiet ride across broken water. There was no banging and crashing; it was smooth sailing all the way. Being a sterndrive, trimming the boat was done at the push of a switch to lift the bow and sap every knot of speed out of the hull.
Underway lateral stability was slightly affected if two or more people all move to one side of the boat. The optional set of trim tabs will quickly sort that out. The Steber 28 was designed and built as a utility workboat, but the flexibility of her layout, the addition of the cockpit shower/ toilet and the convertible dinette mean she will also perform quite admirably as a family cruiser/fishing boat.
She’s an excellent sea boat, more than capable of making long passages up the coast. The 28 would be just at home out around Brown’s Mountain chasing game fish, as it would be on a leisurely cruise up the Hawkesbury River. So, what’s it going to cost you to become the proud owner of a new Steber 28 ? The price of a standard boat powered by a 230hp Volvo sterndrive is $174,913. The fully optioned test boat has a recommended retail price of $185,000.
Words by Ian Macrae
Issue: October 2003