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1996 Spacecraft 520 Review
Graham Lloyd
Deckee Pro  Posted June 14 2018

1996, August; Lake Macquarie: I've had the pleasure of testing several of Larry Wiltshire's Spacecraft fishing boats over the last couple of years, and have always come away impressed with their strength and practical design. Larry makes a point of understanding the use to which his boats are being put, and invests extra effort to accommodate the everyday, real-world demands of those uses in each boat.

Spacecraft boats are good looking in a serious sort of way, with a high quality (but not overly flash) finish. The hulls are built up to their gun'ls in a jig for accuracy, and then Larry finishes the cabin and interior as required for the owner's purpose. Larry designs all his own boats, and construction is carried out in his factory at Toronto south of Newcastle.

On a grey and rainy day, Larry took me for a test run in this 5.2 metre Spacecraft and, despite the weather (or even perhaps because of it), we had a great time as I put the boat through its paces and waited in vain for the sun to emerge so that the photos could do justice.

Spacecraft boats are built more strongly than most, and Larry used very solid 5 mm plate for the undersides of this 5.2, with 4 mm in the hull sides and 3 mm for the cabin. That helps explain what at first appears to be a quite heavy bare-hull weight of 650 kilograms, and it also explains the rock-steady stability of the boat in the water. For even further stability, Larry can build the boat with a centre tunnel that floods at rest. The bottom carries a constant 17 degree deadrise over the aft third or so of the hull, with a 650 mm wide planing plank to help get the craft quickly running over the surface.

On board, the cuddy cabin has a recessed footwell for extra leg room, and is fitted with upholstered seats and storage to each side. The helm position is reasonably forward to make possible a larger cockpit area, and is covered by a very well secured hardtop. Clears bridge the gap between the hardtop and the screen, and that was just as well on the day, as they kept us quite dry despite the rain all around. Two swivelling chairs with arm rests and pleasantly padded upholstery made Larry and I feel securely comfortable, and were positioned so that driving was just as good whether standing or seated.

The cockpit featured a huge insulated kill tank (or a monstrous cooler if you wanted to cater for a party on board) with a padded seat on top. Under the floor in front of the transom was a big live bait tank, and storage pockets ran down each side of the boat. Also under the aft floor were the oil containers for the two Evinrude 70s, while the batteries were properly mounted in their own boxes to either side at the transom. Not to waste any of that underfloor area, forward of the kill tank were two 150 litre fuel tanks.

The self-draining cockpit is quite deep so you'd feel secure even when lifting a big one over the side, and there are hand rails down each sidedeck along with rod holders and, in each stern quarter, good-sized bollards. Vertical grab rails come down from the back of the hardtop, and they are just where you'd want them to hang on whilst running offshore through lumpy waters. An eight-pack rocket launcher runs across the back of the hardtop, so there's no shortage of spots to keep the rods.

A baitboard is mounted at a practical working height above the transom. There is a boarding platform on the starboard side of the transom and a burley bucket to port. Between these were mounted the two Evinrude 70 outboards looking, like all twin-rigs, very serious and offering safety through resilience. Up front, the foredeck has its own rails and a nicely sized anchor locker in the forepeak.

The helm position suited me, with gauges clearly displayed to starboard of the wheel, and a very workmanlike relationship between the latter, the seat, and the throttle/shift controls on the side of the boat. There's a big flat area behind the screen where you can put all your electronics, with this boat having a Raytheon EchoStar 790 GPS Navigator Echo Sounder. This, together with a GME 27 Mhz radio and a Codan 8121 marine transceiver that were mounted in the side of the companionway into the cabin, showed the owner of the Spacecraft was quite serious about his navigation and communication facilities. It was pleasing, but not surprising in one of Larry's boats, to find a strong grab rail across the port side of the cabin top so the first mate could get a good grip.

At the wheel, you have the classic alternative of looking through the screen while sitting, or over the top of it when standing. The screen itself has a substantial frame, with toughened glass in the front panels and acrylic in the sides.

The owner had just re-rigged his Spacecraft with the two Evinrudes, replacing a pair of 50 hp engines. Larry recommends a minimum of a single 90 on the boat, but the design can take up to twin 90s if you want the extra grunt to haul big loads back home after each fishing expedition. The Evinrudes were still tight and running standard 17 inch props, but they quickly ran the 5.2 metre boat on plane and cruised with relaxed style. The Spacecraft swept through the wind-blown chop with a soft and predictable ride. Turns were smooth and as quick as you like, and the twins as usual made low speed twisting and backing very easy. Top speeds range from around 56 kph with a single 90 through 70 kph with twin 70s up to around 74 kph with two 90s on the back.

The only thing I didn't like at the helm was the trim button for the starboard Evinrude which, in the top of its throttle arm, was too close to the side of the boat for easy operation. Actually, I'd suggest wiring both trims through the port button so using it alone would get the outboards to the angle you want, then the starboard button could be used only if needed to correct any slight trim misalignment between the two engines.

Larry has a range of Spacecraft from 2.9 through 8 metres, and he can supply each craft at any stage from bare unpainted hull through to a fully finished, rigged, sea-trialed and ready-to-go boat. The 5.2 is more or less mid-range and typifies the style of boat that Larry produces. Strong and practical with sweet-handling performance, the 5.2 gave me a pleasurable run and that big kill tank in the cockpit personified the great fishing you could have on board.

SPECIFICATIONS

Length: 5.2 metres

Beam: 2.1 metres

Weight (approx): 650 kilograms boat only

Power as tested: Twin Evinrude 70 hp

Top Speed: 74 kph

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Was this helpful?Thank Graham Lloyd
Vintage boat review: Quintrex 690 Trident
Graham Lloyd
Deckee Pro  Posted May 17 2018

2014, December; Broken Bay: This is a top line offshore fishing mini-battlewagon with all the experience that long-time builder Quintrex (since 1945) can pack into it. Matched with a potent new-release 250-hp Evinrude on the transom, it delivers impressive features and performance.

From the visual-appeal angle, it’s a personal thing of course, but I do like to see a bit of colour on a boat and this Quintrex 690 Trident not only offers some brilliant green graphics on its topsides, but they are matched by the exchangeable colour panels on the side of the mighty 250 hp Evinrude G2 outboard that dominates the view from astern.

A quick summary of the G2 will help position the engine in the context of this review of the Quinnie itself. Evinrude started the G2 program some five years ago and developed a totally new design. It retains only the V6 configuration and the basic injectors of the advanced direct-injection fuel delivery system that gave the first-generation E-Tec outboards such a revolutionary balance of performance, economy and environmental friendliness.

Essentially, only recently developed computer simulation programs enabled more precise evaluation of how the fuel-air mixture ignited inside the cylinder, and that led to new porting and ignition design for higher efficiency. The new injection/combustion design is called ‘PurePower Combustion’ and offers claimed improvements of up to 20% in torque and up to 15% in fuel economy over rival four-stroke outboards.

Practical aspects of owning the G2 Evinrudes have been considered too, with the first service not required until after 500 hours or 5 years operation; other neat touches are an integral oil tank that gives about 100 hours running and a tube running up from the gearbox into the engine area that allows easy checking of the gear oil.

Apart from these powerhead developments, the G2 outboards offer a stronger, simpler, cleaner mounting and rigging system, an hydrodynamically superior gearcase shape (it’s asymmetrical to offset engine/prop torque), lower-level water pickups for improved cooling, and integral hydraulic or power steering.

With initial G2 models offering power levels at 200, 225, 250 and 300 hp in a 3.4 litre 74-degree V6 configuration, the new Evinrudes also carry a striking external appearance that looks both aggressive and contemporary. The quite tall powerhead side panels are exchangeable and come in a variety of colours so you can match them for blending or contrast with your boat. Custom colours or graphics are possible too.

And that was done on this Quintrex with the green graphics of the hull extended and complemented by the green side panels of the outboard. The overall effect was quite an eye-catcher and typically draws admiration anywhere the boat goes. Of course, if you prefer a more traditional look for your boat, other panels will tone down the visual impact.

Spinning a four-blade 18-inch pitch prop, the 250-hp G2 fairly hurled the big Quintrex on plane and ran it out to an impressive 78.4 kph at 5,440 rpm. From an on-plane 37.8 kph at 3,000 rpm, the Evinrude gave particularly strong mid-range acceleration as the improved torque of the new powerhead design showed its mettle. Fast cruising at 65.8 kph and 4,500 rpm would run you home or out of trouble real quick, and at all speeds the steering was light and responsive.

The G2 comes with standard integrated hydraulic steering (about a $1,500 option for an add-on after-market equivalent) and is also available with optional power-assist for the hydraulics at about $500 (an after-market version could be around $4,000). This 250-hp G2 had the power-assist and it certainly made steering light and easy for such a high level of power. It still had a good level of ‘feel’ though, so you could sense the 690’s reaction as you carved through turns or just cruised along.

Swooshing through turns was the most fun though, and it was remarkable how well the hull, engine and prop partnered for turns that were far cleaner and tighter than I’d expected. There was no slipping or lurching even when I had the wheel held for exceptionally close turns; the prop held on perfectly with no ventilation and the hull retained its grip in quite extreme situations. That’s all and well for having fun, but it also means the overall rigging and set-up are excellent and give full confidence that the Quintrex would behave itself in just about any conditions. It’s one of those sought-for combinations where adverse circumstances would have the crew crying for mercy long before the boat.

The power-assist can be turned on and off and, even with it off, the ‘native’ hydraulic steering remained relaxed to use. On long days at the wheel, it would stay pleasurable to steer the Quinnie. The overall driving position was good too; the seat is adjustable fore/aft and has a flip-up bolster. Sliding the seat forward allowed me to sit back with my spine supported by the backrest whilst retaining a relaxed reach to the wheel. The throttle/shift controls were also well placed – and that remained true when I slipped the seat aft a bit and stood to drive for a while.

I prefer standing to drive in many conditions and, especially with a boat like the 690 that’s designed for offshore work in rougher waters, you can better brace yourself with your feet apart and your posterior firmly planted against the bolster when the boat is moving around as it reacts to swell and chop. Having all that power at my fingertips was re-assuring and would mean in coastal waters you could position the boat at any instant exactly where you wanted on a wave or when running a bar.

There was a pleasing response also to use of the G2’s trim; it wasn’t finicky at all and the hull would behave at just about any prop-thrust angle, but equally it wasn’t difficult to sense the angle that gave the best performance at various speeds. Helping to trim the boat, the 690 had a set of Volvo trim tabs fitted.

These work differently to most tabs in that they do not have the usual plates that extend laterally aft from the transom to form an extended running surface and that trim the boat by angling up and down. Instead, Volvo uses much smaller plates that extend vertically downward to deflect the water streaming back along the hull’s running surfaces. The deflection of each tab provides added lift that raises that side of the back of the boat, and pushes down the opposite bow side.

With either approach to trim tabs, you can quickly trim the boat side-to-side by lowering either tab. The Volvo tabs did the job well on the 690 and it quickly became an automatic reaction to use them to keep the boat level as the crew moved around or as the boat was affected by cross-winds. In combination with the G2 trim, you can keep the hull perfectly balanced in all conditions – and change it as often and as rapidly as required.

Visibility all round was good and the helm position was well protected behind a screen on top of the cuddy cabin. The dash panel was well laid out and featured a Lowrance HDS12 colour display which combined a GPS chart plotter and a fish-finder sonar - with optional (not fitted in this case) radar. It’s NMEA 2000 compatible and so can be integrated with other similar standard onboard systems.

To the right of that was a smaller Evinrude digital display which is also to NMEA 2000 standards. Evinrude offer these displays at various sizes – 3 inch (as on the 690), 4.3 inch and seven inch – and they can present either digital or analogue readings such as rpm, speed, engine water temperature and/or pressure, oil level, fuel consumption, engine trim, external air temperature, and even more including onboard engine diagnostics.

Both the skipper and first mate get comfortable seats that swivel and which are mounted on top of lockers that have recesses on their inner sides for items such as a fire extinguisher or EPIRB, and with drop-down hatches facing aft that reveal tackle storage drawers. Behind the seats, a large open cockpit has a non-slip patterned alloy sole with spacious storage side pockets and a large kill tank underneath a hatch at the rear of the floor.

Across the back is a clever arrangement that makes great use of the space. There’s a fold-away three-quarter-width lounge behind which is a large hatch to storage under the aft deck including access to the battery; above that is another useful open storage slot and then to starboard is an entry passage from the boarding platform that’s equipped with a drop-down swim ladder and grab rail.

Centrally above the aft deck is a bait prep workstation with five rod holders, and there are more holders in the side decks along with strong bollards in the transom quarters. A hatch in the port aft deck is for a live bait tank which features a clear viewing panel so you can readily check the condition of the bait from the cockpit. Throughout the 690 were plenty of storage spots including large compartments under the cabin floor where carpeted panels lift out for easy access.

The cabin on this 690 was bare although neatly finished with side storage pockets. There’s enough room for camping overnight or for shelter in bad weather – or for kids to rest or play. Long side ports admit plenty of light. A bimini above the front of the cockpit provided welcome shade, and a tubular targa arch carried a set of rocket launcher rod holders.

A centre screen section folds forward on top of a large hatch in the cabin roof that in turn hinges to starboard so you can quickly and safely move forward and handle mooring duties that were assisted on this 690 by a power anchor winch. The anchor locker is big enough for serious chain and rope lengths and the deck hardware upfront is strong and intelligently located.

The hull itself is made of serious stuff too with 5-mm plate for the bottomsides and 3-mm for the topsides. The stem carries a quite sharp entry to cut through the swells and pressed-in strakes and pronounced chines are key factors in the good handling. This is a big boat at just on seven metres and has high topsides with plenty of forward buoyancy for a safe, dry ride in most conditions.

Anglers will quickly identify and appreciate all the thoughtful touches that are either standard or available as options. To obtain the full details you really need to see the boat, so contact your nearest Quintrex dealer and discover how this famous Aussie boat builder really does live up to its tag line of ‘Boating Made Easy’.

SPECIFICATIONS: QUINTREX 690 TRIDENT

Length: 6.96 metres

Beam: 2.48 metres

Weight (boat only): 1,030 kgs

Capacity: 8 persons

Fuel capacity: 200 litres

Power: Evinrude G2 E-Tec 3 250 hp

Top Speed: 78.4 kph

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1 person found this helpful. Do you?Thank Graham Lloyd
Vintage boat review: Lewis Outback
Graham Lloyd
Deckee Pro  Posted May 31 2018

1999, June; Parramatta River: Combining a modified version of one of the best Australian ski boat hulls with the extra versatility of a bowrider layout, the Lewis Outback makes good sense for family skiing.

If you’ve been into skiing or boarding for a while, you’ll no doubt have heard about Lewis boats. With a long tradition of proven performance and quality construction, the Lewis fleet covers quite a few different models so you can choose the one that best suits your own needs. I recently had rather a super morning on the river testing three of the models from the Lewis range, and this one is the bowrider-style Outback.

The “classic, top-of-the line” Lewis design is the Prestige with which I’ve always been impressed. It’s a very attractive ski boat with unique undersurfaces that work exceptionally well to deliver a super wake, soft ride and marvellous handling. Many of the other Lewis models retain the Prestige running surfaces (as they work so well) and combine them with different decks and interiors.

The Outback takes this general approach too, although it has a wider beam (at 2.32 metres versus 2.03 metres for the Prestige and Millennium) for extra room onboard. The underneath of the hull is still essentially Prestige with a fine forward entry leading back to a quite complex combination of a moderate vee centre, aft planing pad and tunnels either side effectively formed by angled chines. For the Outback, the tunnels are more rounded as the design is “spread” to provide the extra width. The modification works well with retention of a soft ride, a good wake shape and virtually flawless handling.

Whilst other Lewis hulls have a single turn fin, experience has shown that the Outback can get loaded aft to kick up a bigger wake for boarding, and that can result in the fin lifting partially out of the water with the potential to reduce tracking precision. To ensure that this doesn’t affect the boat’s handling, a second fin has been fitted.

The very noticeable difference with the Outback compared with other Lewis models (and with most other ski/wake boats) is the transom, and the way the rear of the cockpit has been set up. The external shape at the back of the boat is quite sensual with a smoothly rounded transition from the sides to the transom rather than the more common sharp-edged angular look. A quite large boarding platform gives plenty of room for boards, and it can be taken off if the extra length makes stowing the boat a challenge.

Perhaps to match the transom shape, on the inside the rear section of the cockpit doesn’t have the usual full width lounge, but instead has two curved quarter lounges that can be easily removed if you’d rather have more floor space and an uncluttered area to work with skis or boards.

A clever idea is the provision of an aft-facing seat on the back of the engine hatch. It gives somewhere different to sit and you can stretch out your legs in comfort, have a great view aft as you’re cruising along and, so long as you’re towing your water sports enthusiasts from the transom and not from the forward mounted ski pole, you could sit there and watch all the action back on the wake.

The effect of the extra beam is quite obvious with more room to move around than in most ski boats. The passages beside the engine hatch are roomy, emphasised even more by the absence of any sidepockets, although there’s plenty of space to lay items along the hull sides under the gun’l.

Opposite the helm position is a comfortable observer’s lounge that, like the back of the boat, is sweetly curved. The lounge base lifts to show storage below, and the back of the lounge hinges inwards for access into a large storage locker under the portside screen console. The flat area in front of the lounge under the screen could hold a few casual items, and there’s a convenient couple of drink holders there too.

The screen has a flowing curve and rake with a centre-opening panel across the passageway leading to the forward cockpit. Braces either side keep everything nice and taut. Up front, the seats are beautifully upholstered, and all three seat squabs lift out for carpeted storage below. Bearing in mind that the Outback is very much a “true” ski boat, the forward cockpit is surprisingly roomy and matches most “social runabout” bowriders in this regard. There are grab handles either side so you can keep a safe hold while enjoying the ride up front, while drink holders in the seat bases just in front of the screen will keep the liquid refreshments handy at all times.

Standard power for the Outback is the trusty 5.7 litre MerCruiser Competition Ski V8, but we had the extra 40 ponies (300 hp vs 260) of a 350 Magnum MPI in our test boat. Neatly installed under the hatch, the Merc V8 sang its usual song of easy power, with loads of torque to sweep the boat out of the hole and haul a couple of heavyweights on lines astern. Driving through a Borg Warner FNR 1:1 transmission, the Merc was spinning a custom built 3-bladed 12.25 by 12.625 (diameter by pitch in inches) LT2 prop that the Lewis crew had developed in conjunction with Dave Porter. Over a six month trials period, it was found that a prop with more diameter and blade area, but with a bit less pitch, gave the best results. The props are made from bronze manganese and each is blueprinted with an emphasis on performance rather than show - it being felt better to spend money on the blueprinting process rather than on polishing which tends to last only for the first couple of runs in the water anyway.

This power train combination had the Outback rocking along in fine style and well established on plane at 2,500 rpm with 45 kph on the speedo. The latter was a bit optimistic, as our Garmin GPS 48 was using data streams from multiple satellites to more accurately record our velocity at 41 kph. Mid-range acceleration was hefty and we quickly saw intermediate speeds of 48 and 56 kph at 3,000 and 3,500 rpms before opening the throttle further sped us up to 62 kph at 4,000 and 70 kph at 4,500 rpm. Wide open throttle had the Merc correctly in its optimum power band at 4,800 rpm with the GPS digits settling at 72.9 kph for a quite handy top speed.

Because of its extra beam, and the impression of additional length from the big boarding platform, the Outback looks as though it would carve a larger wake. Whilst the wash did in fact look to have a good shape and height for boarding, those modified-Prestige undersides were leaving a wave pattern that would be fine for just about any skiing style - with the usual variances at different speeds.

From a driving perspective, the Outback displayed the same traits I’ve come to expect from Lewis with precise placement and impeccable response. Through a few wakes, the ride was gentle and stable, and the tightest of turns and full-reverse-lock figure-eights failed to unsettle either prop or hull. Low speed manoeuvering was just as pleasing, whilst more usual curves and turns were faultless. Lateral balance was good, and forward visibility was retained as the bow came up over the hump from rest on to plane. The Outback accelerated in a straight line with no noticeable torque on the wheel, and hauling off the throttle produced the same result as the boat rapidly slowed.

The driving position proved to be a winner with an excellent layout of gauges and controls. The seat held me firmly and comfortably (it would be good for long sessions I reckon), and I could slide it fore and aft to get the right distance for me from the wheel. The screen gave thorough protection from the slipstream yet did not restrict my all-round vision.

The gauges were contained in a carbon-fibre style panel that looked rather high-tech and positioned all the dials so that they could be easily sighted above the wheel rim (which had a smart carbon-fibre finish too). The gauges, by Faria, were attractive and very easy to read with white markings and pointers on a black background. A GME stereo radio-cassette unit was mounted behind a splash-proof panel to the right of the wheel, with a small bank of turn-style (rather than click up/down) switches to the right for the bilge pump, blower, navigation lights (there’s a combined unit at the stem), and so on. A padded arm-rest helped me feel even more comfortable.

All the interior was very nicely finished with quality materials and good workmanship. Hull and deck construction uses bi-axial sewn cloth for strength with encapsulated timber stringers and floor.

Like every Lewis I’ve driven, the Outback was perfectly behaved and good fun. It’s a first class social ski/board boat with the added space and flexibility of a good-sized forward cockpit.

SPECIFICATIONS

Length: 6.71 metres

Beam: 2.32 metres

Fuel: 112 litres

Power as tested: MerCruiser 350 MPI V8 300 hp

Price as tested: $34,000 on trailer, ready to go.

Top Speed: 72.9 kph

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Was this helpful?Thank Graham Lloyd
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