Issue: Septmber 2001
When the talk turns to boats built in Western Australia most people’s minds turn towards rugged plate aluminium craft the state is renowned for. But it’s not all tough stuff in WA because Thomascraft is one of the many fibreglass boat manufacturers in the Sand Groper State. The firm has been building fibreglass boats out west for more than 40 years, and their latest offering is this Thomascraft 45, a vessel more structurally sound than a Wallaby prop forward. In fact the boat is so strong that Eric and Rodney Thomas have no qualms about building to full marine survey.
Some boats have solid hull bottoms, but you can push the fibreglass sides in with your thumb. That won’t happen with the Thomascraft 45, because she’s as tough as her plate aluminium sisters. This was reinforced when we took the boat out for a run. Even in a bit of a chop there was no hull slap or drumming. Despite this sturdiness, the interior is pure European luxury designed by Sorgiaveni.
These boats are about speed, power, and of course entertaining. which is reflected is their layout. The test boat ‘Portofino’ was commissioned to full survey standards by pharmacist Andrew Guilotta and named after the sun drenched seaside town in Italy 30km from Genoa.
Andrew intends to enjoy plenty of entertaining on Sydney Harbour and had the boat designed to suit his needs. This vessel is also the prototype for the Thomascraft Jaguar series, which like ‘Portofino’, will be powered by twin 480hp Volvo diesel shaftdrives. To cater for a large group of partygoers, the 45 makes excellent use of the available space in thc main saloon, aft cockpit and flybridge. The saloon area covers fully 15m sq, while the aft cockpit has a massive lore sq of open space and lends itself perfectly to outdoor dining for a large group of people. The 45’s sunken galley is large enough to entertain 20 people with adequate bench space and appointments to prepare a feast.
There’s a full size household fridge with freezer. a four clement electric stove with oven and a microwave. Plus there’s ample cupboard space and a double sink. But the most impressive part of this galley is its exquisite teak floor. Step into the main saloon from the aft cockpit and the touches of luxury can’t fail to impress the most exacting guest. There are two beautiful, curved leather lounges on either side of the cabin. On the port side there’s a handcrafted wooden table, while a television sits on a shelf behind the helm station on the starboard side. The saloon floor is covered with deep-pile carpet and draw curtains are fitted to the 360 degrees of glass surrounding the cabin.
For the skipper the lower helm station is a delight. It’s well laid out and has all the goods including engine synch gauge and a colour sounder/GPS plotter. There’s a wooden sports steering wheel and the helm seat accommodates two people comfortably. A walkway with lighted steps leads down to the accommodation. The master stateroom features a large island bed with drawers underneath, two hanging cupboards and subtle lighting.
The adjoining ensuite features a full height shower enclosure, a marine toilet, basin with vanity unit and a medicine cabinet with mirror. Across the walkway to starboard is the guest stateroom, which has a double bed, hanging locker and suitable lighting. The cabins also have opening port holes and in keeping with the rest of the boat, all the joinery is made from cherrywood. All cabins are both roomy and luxurious.
There is plenty of room up on the flybridge with a large curved lounge in front of the helm that seats seven people comfortably, while the skipper’s chair seats three. The upper station also features full instrumentation and another colour sounder/GPS.
Out on the water the Thomascraft performs as good as it looks. The twin 480hp provides more than enough power and has the boat on the plane within five seconds – even after the lag caused by the electronic controls. We were able to flick the boat into high speed figure of eights with ease because the rubbers and throttles react instantly to commands from the helm.
Both the steering and the electronic engine controls are as smooth as silk and there was no cavitation during hard turns. Even though the rudders only come three quarters of the way down the face of the propellers, the boat still turns quickly. Spin the wheel and around she comes, smooth and sweet.
When the boat was being built Andrew insisted that it was fitted with trim tabs, against the advice of Eric who said the boat didn’t need the tabs. And guess what ? Eric was right, Andrew blew $3000 on unnecessary equipment.
The secret to the Thomascraft’s sporty performance is her 17 degree deadrise all the way to the transom and an extended keel running two thirds of the way along the hull. This makes the hull track straight and prevents any tail slippage in turns. The Thomascraft 45 has a hull length of 13.72m and an overall length of 15.25m, or 50′ 6″ in old money; hence the 50 foot designation on the hull of Portofino.
So how much does she cost ? Built to full survey expect to part with around $700,000. It’s a lot of cash, but you get an awful lot of boat and performance for your buck.
The exceptional performance of this 14.5 tonne Thomascraft 45 comes courtesy of twin 480hp Volvo shaftdrives. At wide-open-throttle, Portofino pulled a respectable 30knts at 2800rpm and in a boat of this size no more speed is required. Cruising comfortably at 22knts the Thomascraft 45 has a fuel burn rate of 70It per hour per motor. So with a fuel capacity of 17501t, this gives this big boat a cruising range of around 12 hours, or a good day out with a party of friends.
Another bonus on this boat is the size of the engine room. While the space is kneel height only, it is enormous and there is plenty of room to work around each motor. This makes it easier if major work needs to be carried out and regular servicing is less of a headache. The bay is also insulated so even underway and pushing hard you can still hold a normal conversation in the main saloon. Let the party begin.
Story by Ian Macrae