1996, August; Georges River, Sydney: It's tempting to classify this Brooker runabout as an excellent first boat for a young family, as indeed it is, but that really would be too sharp a focus on a craft that has broader appeal. This bright and breezy Brooker Sea-Al Runabout is a smart rig offering good value for money and plenty of fun for cruising, fishing and just lazing around.
I wouldn't be surprised to find some owners who have downsized from a bigger boat - they still want the fun of getting out on the water, but have decided they want to do that in a compact boat that's a real snap to handle in the water and on/off the trailer. It's also a good step-up for those coming from an open dinghy who are looking for either or both of a bit more space or a bit more style. And it's smart enough to attract a young blood who might want a racy speedboat but who doesn't (yet anyway) have the cash to buy and run a bigger boat with a more powerful engine.
The 4.7 metre Brooker is toward the top end of their range which covers a variety of styles from 2.1 metre dinghies through punt-style craft, centre-consoles and simpler runabouts up to their 5-metre cuddy cabin. The company, based in Sydney, exports to a number of countries and consequently has fairly high production volumes, and this helps in its objective to provide cost-effectiveness along with durability.
The driving position kept me happy at the wheel with an easy reach to the throttle. A small bulkhead was positioned such that I could hook my toes under it or brace my feet against it - both of which alternatives were relaxing and gave support when turning tightly. The floor just in front of the seats drops down a bit, and that gives an extra amount of legroom. Vision forward through the screen was clear and unrestricted. I'd have preferred some gauges to monitor engine operations, but at least there's lots of space to have some fitted. We used our hand-held GPS for speed readings.
Mounted on a half pod, the Brooker had a very smooth-running Mariner 40 which gave admirable performance to the hull with lively acceleration up on plane and pleasant cruising at about 40 kph. There was a bit of torque on the steering wheel, but that could be minimised by trimming the Mariner to its optimum position.
Turns in both directions were sharp and clean, with the hull coming around smoothly and with no ventilation on the prop. The Mariner was new and tight, but a short full throttle run had the GPS reading 52 kph which I thought was a good result for a 40 and I'm sure that, when run in, the Mariner would have the Brooker scooting along even faster.
There wasn't much bow rise under initial acceleration, so vision forward remained unimpaired as the Brooker slipped on plane. Using the Mariner's power trim made it easy to get the best performance out of the boat, and the power tilt was useful at the ramp. Trimmed right out at full throttle, there was a bit of porpoising, but a touch on the down trim control and the hull settled to a well-balanced attitude.
Response to the wheel was quick and quite precise. The water was very calm during our run, so we slopped up the surface with quick figure eights and then ran down the middle to find that the hull slipped easily through the turbulence without any dramas at all. Most importantly, the Brooker was good fun to drive.
Starting up the front there's a short foredeck with a good-sized anchor well complete with a solid tie-off for the end of the anchor line. Hand-rails either side of the deck are smaller than some but still big enough to give a secure grip when holding the boat alongside or when getting it on or off a trailer or beach. There is a small bow roller to guide the anchor line, and plates at the aft end of the rails are provided to mount navigation lights if you plan some after-dark running.
The screen has an opening centre panel to aid working the forward lines from inside the boat, but the top of the screen frame is fixed, so you have to duck under it before you can lean forward. I found that a bit tricky, but it's still a handy facility and you'd probably get used to it after a while.
There's quite a broad expanse of dash and, although our boat was bare in this department, there's lots of room to mount gauges and electronics if you want to do so, and you could position them so they'd be well clear of the wheel and in easy line of sight. The panel between the screen and the dash is flat enough to hold small odds and sods while you're out for the day, and a moulding running across the top of the dash forms a lip to help keep things from falling off. A lockable glovebox enables valuables to be kept out of sight.
The skipper and first mate have swivelling and upholstered bucket seats that I found comfortable and that were nicely positioned in relation to the wheel and to the side-mounted throttle and gear shift controls. Under the dash, and forward of it, the mini transverse bulkhead that I mentioned makes a good footrest and creates a storage area in the bow - just right for the lifejackets.
The floor is carpeted which improves appearance, makes it nice and soft under(bare)foot, and which provides a secure grip as you move around. Behind the seats is a big open area to keep things uncluttered, with side pockets to stow emergency paddles and other bits. On either side under the aft decking are two platforms, one each for the battery and oil container. A fuel tank sits neatly in the middle, and there's an optional removable aft lounge if you'd like more seating.
There's a good depth to the cockpit sides, so kids would feel safe (but keep the young ones in lifejackets all the time anyway), and grab rails run along the last metre or two of the gun'ls back to the transom. Both these and the forward rails act as tie-off points for mooring and anchor lines as there are no cleats or bollards. Boarding platforms project aft either side of the engine, and have curved rails to help you climb on board. Construction uses 1.6 mm alloy in the hull sides, and 2.5 mm in the bottom panels.
At rest, drifting and when idling along, the Brooker felt stable and secure. The cockpit is quite big for the size of boat, and gives a feeling of spaciousness. The painted hull looks smart, with the side colour flashes and the blue canopy brightening the appearance too.
Overall length: 4.65 metres
Beam: 1.95 metres
Weight (approx): 225 kgs boat only
Power: Outboard to 50 hp
Power as tested: Mariner 40 hp
Top Speed: 52 kph