BOAT TEST: HIGH SEAS 63
Tassie trawlerman and luxury boatbuilder, Allan Barnett, has turned his attention to making long-range passagemakers from steel, with all the invincibility of his commercial craft, but greater comforts. TONY MACKAY takes the helm
Those who remained awake in geography lessons will recall that Tasmania is located on latitude 42? south, in the famous and somewhat fearfully described Roaring Forties. Huge swells rolling unimpeded from Africa mercilessly pounding the West Coast and Bass Strait is a legend in its own right. Not for the fainthearted or flimsily equipped.
To meet these conditions, Tasmanian fisherman and boatbuilder Allan Barnett has created the High Seas range of trawler-style cruisers, which are actually based on real trawlers. After a life of motoring over 200nm south of Tasmania into sometimes shocking conditions that would have most of us reading the liferaft instructions, Barnett is suitably qualified to built a boat for the true adventurer.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and a judgment of the styling of the High Seas 63 is best left to the observer. What really became apparent during my time aboard was the integrity and capability of the boat, particularly in respect to engineering and sea keeping, and it is here that the years of accumulated experience have been put to the fore.
"We left Bridport, Tasmania and crossed Bass Strait in a 60-knot gale," Barnett says without even a hint that this was outside of a normal day at the office. "We just punched along and it was quite a nice trip actually." While many boats claim to offer all sorts of abilities in ocean travel, some dubious, the High Seas felt every bit capable of engendering a relaxing mood even when Mother Nature is having a fearful tizzy.
TOUGH AS NAILS
The High Seas 63 has a steel hull with aluminium superstructure, built to USL 2B survey and various international standards. There is little doubt that she is 'Tonka tough' and the double-skinned hull has twin bilge keels to protect the props and offer sturdy resilience if running aground. We actually did this on the test and drove her onto the beach at the Gold Coast seaway before a quick squirt of reverse saw us backing into the channel with ease. One could even grab some seashells or perhaps a coconut off a tropical beach without even a speck of sand on the tootsies.
Meanwhile, back in the deep, the power and weight of 68 tonnes surging along at 9kts with the twin Cummins QSB 300hp diesels superbly insulated, inspired real confidence for the intrepid traveller. The engineering is truly impressive and I shall get to that in a minute.
Australians are not really familiar with quality steel boats. They know rusty ferries and fishing boats, and the rough and rather agricultural construction methods which feature ugly welds and slab sheets of steel. Graceful lines and steel are not thought to blend too well, however, this is actually quite wrong with high-quality steel construction, which is quite common in Europe and the US.
The High Seas has been superbly crafted both inside and out, and the paint finish and fairing of the hull gives no hint to the construction used.
"We spent over $350,000 on the internal and external paint systems" explains Barnett. "Awlgrip system right through." And to do this job properly, the hull is framed, welded, sandblasted, zinc coated, filled and faired to 6mm thickness in some sections and then sprayed, inside and out. To achieve a really superior finish without those awful rust stains, the engines and all equipment are installed and then removed for painting so that the finish to all sections of the hull is perfect. You can really see where the money went after a thorough inspection of the engineroom.
Then comes the installation of the stainless steel and, in this regard, Barnett has a world-class finish. Custom-made doors, hatches, portholes, bollards and railings are to the highest possible standard, and I particularly liked the stainless steel gunwale capping which replaces the usual varnished teak. Easy maintenance, tough and highly decorative. The cross bollards and fairleads are huge and everywhere you look, it is massive and strong. Ready to survive the Perfect Storm.
MORE DECK SPACE
The decks are painted non-skid; I would probably option a teak cockpit and swim platform to dress things up aft. The windows are all fixed, 10mm toughened and of tinted safety glass. The reverse sheer windscreens are very smartly fitted using Sikaflex so that the glass sits on the outside with the edges polished and exposed. Anyone who has ever removed a properly sealed window will realise that there is no likelihood of the glass falling out and the method is attractive and practical.
The partial Portuguese bridge has a centre opening which allows easy access to the foredeck which is equipped with a Muir Thor winch and some serious ground tackle, self stowing on the massive bowroller. All of this is as one would expect for the Roaring Forties. And as a semi-custom builder, Barnett can equip your dreamboat with any fittings or interior that you desire, obviously at a price for options, so any of my comments regarding the test boat really apply to that vessel rather than to what you may wish to specify when placing your order.
The swim platform has stainless steel safety rails and a drop-down ladder in the centre. From there it is an easy step up into the cockpit through an opening but without a door, which I found rather odd. The spacious cockpit has a large lazarette hatch, but no other storage cupboards. There are two control stations on either side of the cabin mounted in stainless steel panels, offering rudder, thruster and engine controls for docking purposes. While this is convenient, I would prefer storage cupboards and some bench space or sink, and to operate the engine controls when docking with a handheld remote instead of the levers at the outdoor stations.
Two large doors open to the spacious and comfortable saloon, which features large picture windows and excellent visibility. To port is the dinette and ahead of that is the galley with Caesar-stone bench tops, Smev gas three-burner hobs, Miele oven, Blanco microwave, and Fisher & Paykel fridge and dishwasher. A pullout pantry and various other cupboards offer general galley storage and most nooks and crannies have additional storage spaces for the usual cruising stuff.
The dinette has a large oak and cherrywood table while the rest of the interior fitout is in ash and Tasmanian myrtle, which has a reddish hue. Leather seats lift out to expose more storage opportunities.
Opposite to starboard is the entertainment and bar section, with a large-screen TV which rises out of the cabinet ready to play the latest Blu-ray DVD's through a Yamaha sound system. The bar has two wine-rack fridges and an icemaker. While I do love my wine, I felt that they looked a little gimmicky in the saloon, taking up space which may be better served for guest seating. Again, Barnett can make this suit your individual needs so it is a matter of personal choice.
Equally, the cabin sole was done in a vinyl, which looks like timber flooring, and some may prefer real timber or carpets for more luxury, but less practicality in hard conditions. Forward and to starboard is the main hatch to the engineroom. It allows easy and safe access in all weather and is complemented by the secondary access through the lazarette, which also houses a washer/dryer.
Forward and up to the wheelhouse, with doors either side, is a full-width dash simplistically laid out yet comprehensively equipped, the anti-glare reverse sheer windscreens framing the view, and a large sofa and table for guests to enjoy the voyage with a commentary from the skipper in one of the two leather helm chairs.
The stainless helm spins in your hands but, after a few seconds, you realise that it is not engaged and that for the main part you steer with a joystick for rudder control. This operates through the Raymarine autopilot, which is interfaced with the dual Raymarine E120 chartplotter and depthsounder screens. Of course, you can engage the helm or wheel if you so desire.
The Cummins electronic engine controls are simple, easy to use and duplicated in four stations, the two aft, the wheelhouse and the flying bridge. A multitude of controls are well spaced to avoid confusion and you can operate the 7kVa or 22kVa Onans, triple synchronised wipers, inverter chargers, tank levels, et al. Hydraulic Sidepower bow and sternthrusters require the main Onan to be started as the hydraulic pump is run off that unit. It is all well conceived.
The main electrical panels are simplistic Clipsal units that one would find in a house, and while these lack the wow factor of modern marine installations, the average electrician in a fishing port would make fast and effective repairs without scratching his head and wandering off to the pub. Indeed, the fishing boat heritage has simplified many onboard systems and, while they will not impress guests, they will be reliable and easy to service if required. The Cummins/Onan package also means parts and service from one reliable and reputable global network. The 24V systems are similarly conceived and executed.
Heading forward and below, down a wide companionway, we arrive in a very spacious lower foyer that opens to the guest accommodations. Forward is a queen-sized island bed, his and hers lockers, air-conditioning controls and a TV/DVD/music system. Aft to port is a bathroom, which has shower and basin facilities while opposite is a separate head with Tecma toilet, basin and mirror. The walls in these cabins are in Formica, which is faintly reminiscent of marble and perhaps a little dated compared to the bowl-style basins and high-gloss white cupboards. A little decor tweaking would not go astray.
Aft and to port is a guest cabin with upper and lower bunks transversely installed, and quite roomy and well equipped. From the foyer aft, two sliding doors open to the master suite and its centerline queen bed. If one was alone on board or as a couple, these doors could remain open and this effectively doubles the space of the master suite giving a feeling of great comfort. An en suite head and shower is most comfortable and duplicates the finishes from the other bathrooms. A very large storage/linen cupboard is lined in frontrunner material and will keep a vast quantity of towels, sheets and clothing dry and fresh during a long cruise. The master cabin also has another entertainment selection of TV/DVD and music systems, and there are bedside tables and capacious lockers.
The cabinetry throughout the boat is Tasmanian myrtle, gloss finished, while the interior of all the cupboards and drawers are white Laminex. While all this has been well executed, and marine ply has been used exclusively, the styling and finish were more reminiscent of a modern kitchen rather than some of the other luxury craft that have detailed their interiors to a higher specification. The High Seas has evolved with function over form rather than some of the high-end American models, which, perhaps, have evolved from a stylist's board and may not offer the confidence in extreme weather conditions.
From the wheelhouse, a companionway leads up to the flybridge and boat deck, which houses the tender and an Opacmare 500kg davit. The forward flybridge area is really a fair-weather viewing platform, with only the throttle, joystick, thruster and a Raymarine repeater installed. A long bench seat was forward of another row of cupboards, which look like a kitchen island bench, and there is yet another glass-fronted wine fridge. The hardtop was a tad high to my eye.
The engineroom, however, was beautifully finished and engineered. Clearly, the High Seas crew achieves its greatest work within the engineering department. The twin Cummins QSB 300hp diesels were well installed, smooth, quiet and well supported by the ancillary equipment, such as the impressive bilge pumping systems, fire suppression equipment, fuel filtration and pumping systems.
The fuel tanks are mounted in the double-skin bottom and total 10,500lt, giving an effective range of 2000nm at 7kts. Water tanks are 900lt and are augmented by an 80lt/h watermaker. Blackwater holding tanks are a huge 600lt in case you are stuck in port. The battery systems are simplistic and an Outback 3000W inverter with 85amp charger is fitted. A 22kVa and a 7kVa Onan live behind sound shields and the power requirements of the galley fridge, wheelhouse domestic chest freezer, three wine fridges and icemaker mean one genset will be in constant use (it is for this reason that I usually prefer eutectic refrigeration systems as they allow a silent ship for most of the day with the inverter dealing with momentary power requirements).
Underway, the High Seas 63 was smooth and quiet, the speed rising to 9kts without any fuss or flurry while using a modest 45lt/h. At 7.5kts, it slipped back to 22lt/h and this would seem to be the most logical and cost-effective speed. With 68 tonnes, plus fuel and water, she was not rocked by the wash from passing cruisers and, even without going to sea, I was completely satisfied that her abilities would be unsurpassed.
The hull is equipped with passive stabilisers welded to the chines, which are most effective in roll control at cruising speed, and the twin keels will keep her upright should you be foolish enough to go aground or decide to do a little old fashioned 'careening'.
Tried and tested in the worst conditions, the High Seas 63 has made its mark and I did not need to be dragged to the Southern Ocean to confirm it. But Captain Cook would have been very satisfied to search for the Southern Land aboard this boat and, should the Powerball come your way or you cash in your super, an adventure on the oceans of the world awaits due exploration.
Specifications - High Seas 63
PRICE AS TESTED
$3.45 million w/ twin Cummins QSB 300hp diesels
Material: Steel hull w/ aluminium superstructure
Type: Hard-chine displacement w/ twin bilge keels
Weight: 68 tonnes
Berths: 2 queen and 2 singles
Holding tank: 600lt
Make/model: 2 x Cummins QSB 300hp
Type: Six-cylinder electronic turbo-diesel
Rated HP: 300
Max. RPM: 2600
Gearbox: Twin Disc MG 5065 A
Props: Mikado four-blade 31in
Allan Barnett Motor Yachts,
2 Flinders Lane,
Bridport, Tas, 7262
Phone: 0428 561 733; (03) 6356 1733
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