Although theoretically this is a runabout in configuration, Stessl’s 5.5m Bluewater is so big that it puts a whole new slant on runabouts. It’s a runabout blended into a cuddy cab in terms of shelter from unfriendly weather, because it’s 5.5m long and nearly 1.5m deep. This is a very interesting boat for a family man who wants a serious, offshore fisher that’s tough enough to withstand some hard usage, or a day on the water with the kids. It has ample safe shelter for the children and plenty of room for all of your gear. A dual role, 5.5m fiberglass, offshore fishing/family boat doesn’t often come with a price tag under $35,000. However, with some careful optioning on a Stessl 5.5 Bluewater Platerix, you can keep the asking below $30,000, which is excellent value for money.
Stessl recommend only a 75hp motor for this hull. Considering that we recorded a top speed of some 30 knots with the 90 Mariner four-stroke fitted, if you really wanted to keep the price at a minimum, you should consider a traditional two-stroke. Karee Marine in Brisbane’s Rocklea who put together our test package, are offering 550 Bluewater packages powered by a 75hp Mariner two-stroke at under $28,000. A 90hp two-stroke Mariner, possibly a good idea if you habitually carry loads, adds another $1000 to that. In a big brawny offshore fishing boat like this, it’s good value!
This is a very interesting boat and hardly what you’d expect when saddling up to a 5.5m plate-aluminium runabout. When we did the test, the guys from Karee Marine had their family with them and we didn’t deny them a ride. Having the little girls onboard really highlighted how useful the 550 Bluewater’s sheltered helm area is. The top deck is moulded GRP, yes fibreglass! Which perhaps explains why the 550 Bluewater looks pretty good for a big plate tinny, it’s an attribute not often found in the genre. The Stessl crew have focused on aluminium boats for a long time and have learnt a trick or two along the way.
Stessl is an innovator in aluminium, but lately their innovation has taken on a maturity that sees it producing some of the more interesting fishing boats in the business. Platerix is the result of both this experience and maturity. It’s a system of massive stringers, bulkheads and ribs, with high tensile aluminium sheeting the exterior. It combines the benefits of both plate aluminium construction and a frame and sheet structure into an aluminium hull of outstanding integrity.
Out on the water on a choppy afternoon, this boat was remarkable, none of the bangs and boings you’d expect from an aluminium boat. Having said that, in underwater shape, Platerix remains a plate aluminium hull so expectations of super soft, whisper quiet rides are unrealistic. However, having said that, as aluminium hulls go, the Platerix proved a very good one. Stessl has been fitting what it call Track Rails to their hulls for years. The idea is to trap a certain amount of air/water emulsion beneath the hull to ease some of the sticktion between the hull skin and the water. It makes it easy to power and aids fuel economy measurably; and when combined with the three quarter length spray chines characteristic of Platerix hulls, it all works very well indeed.
Now for a quick tour of the interior. Inside, the 5.5 Bluewater continues its theme of bigness. Or bloody big if you prefer. The interior is Spartan in appointment. There are a pair of pedestal seats behind a (big) three-piece screen that opens in the centre. This has substantial grab bars fitted to its frame. The wheel is set low and vertically in front of the helm seat with plenty of room for instrumentation and extra electronics in the dash behind it. Thanks to the moulded deck, a walkway is set into the dash to shorten the reach to ground tackle. Strangely, the well set into the foredeck, presumably to hold anchor warp, is tiny, miniscule in fact.
Offshore quantities of warp will have to be carried in a crate inside. A low rail and bowsprit complete anchoring arrangements. High rails are an option for those who see the need to go out onto the foredeck should consider. Aft a big engine well separates seats in each corner. The cushion of these lifts easily away for free access to the aft corners while fishing. And there’s a small boarding platform (optional) with helpful grab rail mounted on the starboard side of the transom. Storage is at a premium. The entire deck is absolutely flat from bow to stern, with only a small bulkhead right up in the bows to keep gear stowed under the foredeck in place.
There’s a small, open sided locker under the helm and passenger seats; and side pockets along each side of the cockpit complete the storage arrangements. One of Stessl’s Softail transoms is an option not seen here. These extend the motor further back and include a full width lounge across the aft end of the cockpit. As a fishing boat the cockpit’s high sides and flat deck have much to offer. If anyone wanted to mount a big icebox in the centre, it would have to be a mighty big one to intrude on cockpit space. A Targa-style rocket launcher rod holder to store rods and perhaps to mount a bimini is an option serious offshore fishers would probably regard as essential. And about the only other essential would be some rod holders distributed around the side decks. The 5.5m Bluewater comes in a fairly basic state. Its attractive pricing though leaves room to fit it out.
The Stessl 5.5m Bluewater certainly supplies a solid base from which to put together a rugged top shelf offshore fisher, and unlike many of its type, is similarly amenable to family usage too.
The 90hp Mariner four-stroke fitted to the test boat was literally straight out of a box. It had only been started for a few minutes in a test tank before the rig was towed down to the Gold Coast for the test. We ran it up to flat chat and backed off immediately (after seeing 29.5 knots at 5900 rpm) out of basic respect. We could actually feel the motor freeing up as we ran it for the cameras, it was so new. So there was better performance yet to come. Yet it felt right. One of those matches of hull and power that fits like the proverbial glove. Stessl rate this hull up to 135hp and with that much poke bolted on the back, a 5.5 Bluewater would be something of a flier. Enough so that the towing of wake toys and so on that goes with teenage kids would fit effortlessly into its job description.
Words by Warren Steptoe