BOAT TEST: CROSSXCOUNTRY 4.1
Scott Amon is surprised, and not a little delighted, by the many benefits inherent in foam-sandwich construction.
TEST: CROSSXCOUNTRY 4.1
Most folk think that the conventional solid fibreglass boat is the only real option in 'glass, but I'm happy to report that this is not the case.
Back in the early '90s I purchased an interesting secondhand 15ft centre-console trailerboat that I was told had been built somewhere in North Queensland. The design was plain but neat, but what was most unconventional about it was its foam-sandwich construction. The limited information that I got at the time indicated that it was basically formed from a high-density closed-cell foam and then 'glassed over.
It proved to be a sweet little hull that went like a rocket, even with an old two-stroke. The most striking benefits were its light weight (obvious both on-water and when trailering) as well as its outstanding buoyancy. These attributes, combined with an intelligently designed hull, allowed it to skip across rather rough water with a high degree of comfort and dryness.
When I eventually decided to up-size, I was quite reluctant to let this boat go, but as always, finances had the final word and this special boat moved on.
FANTASTIC FOAM RETURNS
Only 12 months or so later I got word on the boating/fishing grapevine that Qld-based boatbuilder Tyson Dethridge was making small boats in this foam-sandwich style construction. Not long after that, fishing and boating journo Steve "Starlo" Starling dropped into my place one afternoon with one of Tyson's creations in tow - and let me tell you I was mightily impressed (I'll get into the reasons why it was so appealing a little later).
At the time, Tyson had made only a few of these 4.1m creations. He'd established a company called CrossXCountry boats, which was a great name for these ultra-light boats that could be car-topped or trailered across the country. I was in the market for a small estuary fishing rig, and I reckoned these would be spot-on for the task. I quickly called Tyson and ordered one and I have to say, some eight months down the track I'm still enthralled.
Before I go into the many benefits of this special design, allow me to explain the impressive technology that is employed in the foam-sandwich construction process.
Basically, sheets of hi-tech structural foam and fibreglass are laid up in a mould which is then infused with a precise volume of resin. The resin is a Vinylester product from Fibreglass International that provides greater strength and durability than conventional resins.
The resin is applied through Tyson's E-LITE system, developed over eight years. The infusion draws the resin through a vacuum bag under near 100 per cent vacuum. The method delivers highly accurate fibre/resin ratios, producing the best mechanical properties possible from these materials. It's also a greener method than conventional fibreglass boatbuilding since it creates minimal wastage with significantly reduced emissions.
As a result of the advanced manufacturing method these 4.1m boats can weigh as little as 55-85kg for the CT (car-topper version) and around 90kg for the TE (trailer version).
When I ordered my CrossXCountry 4.1 I opted for the trailerable version rather than the car-topper. I preferred the luxury of being able to leave the boat fully loaded for fishing and simply drop it in the drink when it was time for a fish. A fully galvanised Oceanic trailer was therefore part of my order.
The fitout I opted for saw the standard port side rodlocker fully boxed in rather than open-sided. Tyson fitted and plumbed a 70lt livewell, fitted a Minn Kota Riptide 55lb-thrust electric motor on the bow, and put a deep-cycle battery in the massive storage compartment under the front casting deck. He also wired up a switch panel on the little starboard console where my Lowrance HDS is perched. A second battery (for engine starting, nav lights and electronics) is fitted under the stern bench seat where the 25lt fuel tank is also secured out of the way.
BRP then added a 25hp tiller-steer, power trim/tilt, electric-start outboard. To thank a few sponsors I had a fancy wrap designed and put on the hull. It's a bit loud, but hey, you can't see it from inside the boat.
THE NEW TOY ARRIVES. PLAYTIME ENSUES
My first impressions were good when my new toy arrived in late November 2009. While it's only a 4.1m hull, its impressive 1.75m beam carries a long way forward and gives the occupant(s) the feeling of being in a much larger boat.
The width is coupled with a very neat hull design that incorporates full-length reverse chines and a variable deadrise hull that flattens right out at the stern. This delivers outstanding stability at rest and on the move and a very dry ride even in quite choppy conditions. Transom and side heights are 0.5m, which is exceptional freeboard for a boat of this length.
My son fishes with me a lot - all 6ft3in of him - and we were amazed at the stability and limited roll this little boat had when both of us were on the same side. Our estuary season was in full swing and we fished two or three times a week in our new toy, chasing flathead, bream and whiting. It wasn't long before we fell in love with this rig for this style of fishing.
Its combination of exceptional buoyancy and bow-mounted electric motor had us sneaking up into really skinny water (30cm) right on the top of the tide. We found a lot of quality fish up on the flooding flats, and as the tide dropped away we would stealthily work the channels with the silent electric.
Having had manual tilt tiller-steer outboards before, I cannot emphasise highly enough the convenience of the electric start and power trim and tilt. For the loads of shallow-water work we do, the ability to infinitely and quickly adjust trim level is essential. Also, the luxury of trimming the hull in or out to the most desirable attitude when on the plane is nothing short of a blessing. And of course a push-button start makes life very cosy indeed.
The 25 horses pushed the boat along at a very respectable 22kts (almost 41kmh). I've not calculated exact fuel economy but I can assure you it's miserly. We've regularly travelled 10-15km on each trip and fished 4-6 hour sessions, only filling the 20lt tank every fourth or fifth trip.
We've since upgraded the 25hp Evinrude E-TEC to a 30hp version and now get a top speed of 25kts. Three-quarter throttle cruising speed has come up to about 20kts now and there's power to burn, even with the whole family (four people) onboard.
We've had the boat for some eight months or so now and have used it a great deal. Along with lots of fishing, we've even loaded her up with masses of gear and the whole family has had some great camping weekends on the banks of our northern NSW waterways. We've established that there's something quite special about this hull, which I'm sure is closely related to the masses of space, stability and comfort delivered in such a little package. For a small boat, our fantastic foam machine sure does a big job.
I see a huge future in the foam-sandwich construction method. It certainly delivers a much lighter, softer-riding and quieter boat than hulls made from other manufacturing processes. This equates to less horsepower required to push the boat, easier towing/car-topping, better economy, and a whole host of other benefits.
CrossXCountry boats now makes a smaller 3.7m, along with a 4.5m model. Rumour has it that a 5m offshore-oriented centre-console will arrive later in the year. We'll let you know.
Specifications: CrossXCountry 4.1
Price as tested: $15,186 BMT
Options fitted: 30hp E-TEC, Oceanic trailer, rodlocker, casting deck, livewell, Lowrance HDS8, 55lb thrust Minn Kota Riptide bow-mounted electric motor, navigation lights
Priced from: $3300 (basic car-topper hull only)
Freeboard (floor to gunwale): 500mm
Weight (boat only): 90kg
Max HP: 40
Make/model: Evinrude E-TEC 30hp
Type: In-line two-cylinder E-TEC direct-injection
Gear ratio: 2.15:1
Starting system: Electric IDI Fast Rise Inductive Ignition
SUPPLIED & MADE BY
55/36 Barku Crt
Hemmant, Qld, 4174
Contact: Jason Browne
Phone: 0406 192 222
Originally published in TrailerBoat 258.