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Clipper has broken free of its hireboat shackles to tackle the luxury grey-nomad trawler market. DAVID LOCKWOOD drives the fully loaded Cordova 48 and finds an ideal cruising clip

Clipper Cordova 48

It's the late-1970s at Clipper's Anchorage in Akuna Bay on Coal and Candle Creek, a tributary to the mighty Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney. You park your VB Commodore, step out sporting sideburns and a terry-towelling hat, and toddle to the waterfront. Boating figure Sandy Schofield, now a respected surveyor, has just imported the first two Clippers into Australia, both ketches for local car dealers. The 46 is for Toyota king Bill Buckle, while the 56 is headed to Mercedes man Ross Marshall, who owns the aforesaid marina.

Before long, Clipper's Anchorage is importing powerboats or timeless trawlers, to be exact, bringing in 20-something Clipper 34 displacement cruisers built to ABS standards from the Taiwanese yard. Next they commission a Clipper 30 and the factory gets cracking. The brace of displacement cruisers sets the world on fire. Well, not quite. But they do form the backbone of a Skipper-a-Clipper hireboat business established a few years later at the same marina in Akuna Bay.

Concurrently, industry stalwart Geoff Lovett is importing Ocean 50s and other brands from Taiwan. This, my friends, is the start of Australia's love affair with Asian-made boats. Clipper was there at the beginning, along with several other marques brought to Australia by visionaries. Ocean, incidentally, has gone on to be Ocean Alexander. But for many years Clipper remained unchanged.

Many summers later, those Clipper hireboats become synonymous with Hawkesbury holidays, end-of-football-season parties, and family getaways. Now, as with then, the timeless trawlers are part of the Hawkesbury landscape and found on many other cruising waterways. Only these days, Clipper is keen to shake off its hireboat heritage and tap into the luxury cruiser market, where grey nomads have the time and inclination to cruise to far-flung places in comfort.

In recent years, the structure of Clipper has changed, too. Former Australian importer Darren Berry and Mark Campion (a Brit based in China) now own the moulds. They have four British boatbuilders ex-Sunquest and Ocean Alexander, we're told, performing the quality-control checks - mouldings were nice and fair - in the two Chinese shipyards that make Clippers today.

Consequently, there is a new Australian distributor by way of Brett Thurley (ex-Riviera), who has since appointed Matt Willett in NSW, Jacksons in Victoria, and Boat Sales in Tasmania as Clipper dealers. And, as evidenced here, there's a new range of more contemporary Clippers to appeal to footloose cruising couples and their tagalong clans.

Those Clippers dubbed Cordovas - presumably after the Alaskan riverside town rather than the landlocked Spanish one - flaunt European lines and double-chine, semi-displacement hulls rather than the old plodding full-displacement design, which you can still buy branded the 36 and 40 Heritage. Clipper is also going bigger, with boats to 60ft these days. Needless to say, it's moved from gas galley appliances and 12V systems to the latest luxury fitouts. Indeed, they're a far cry from the old Skipper-a-Clipper days.

The Clipper Cordova 48, hull #2 (although we're told they were up to hull six at the time of writing), is a blend of old-world charm (for example, teak-capped coamings) and new-world technology. Underwater, there's a solid keel that is said to be deep enough to protect the props in case of grounding, and just 1.1m of draft.

Thanks to solid GRP handlaid construction, the boat feels heavy and she's loath to leave the water (more on that later). But with exports to Asia, Europe and America, the Clippers are built to CE, ABY and, they say, Australian electrical standards using such things as trusty BEP switch panels. Then there are the impressive Taiwanese stainless steel deck fittings and abundant rails, the warm Burmese teak back indoors, and the attractive lines.

Wade through the inventory, and fossick about underfloor if you will, and you'll find all big-name gear. Besides the common rail 425hp Cummins engines with SmartCraft monitoring and digital shift and throttle, there were Sidepower bowthruster, 11kVa Onan generator driving three Cruisair air-con units, a trusty Muir windlass with 100m of chain, spare capstan and rope locker, plus stainless steel anchor, and salt and freshwater deckwashes.

The boat had a 2100W Victron inverter/charger, Raymarine E120 combo nav screen and interfaced autopilot, and Smeg appliances as standard. The lighting is Italian, the bilge pumps are Rule, the heads from Tecma, and you get a dual-voltage cockpit fridge-freezer to assist with extended cruising. As you may have seen last issue, Clipper owners are reeling in the sea miles these days. We even hear of a 40 owner who took his boat across the top to WA.

Underway, or at rest, the Cordova 48 is an easy boat to get around. The swim platform isn't particularly deep, but you can lean on the stainless steel safety rails fitted to the test boat and cast a line at anchor, or prop yourself up against the transom and shell the prawns. The teak-topped cockpit could house a small table and chairs, while the wide covered sidedecks with bulwarks and safety rails, which add to the freeboard, will keep the kids and dogs contained. A small detail but the above-deck mounted windlass hasn't a dam to prevent muddy water from spilling back aboard when you weigh anchor, although there are deckwashes. The fender or rope storage is also welcome.

Next, we trounced up the moulded staircase leading from the cockpit to the extended flying bridge. There's a hatch that slides across the aperture for safety when underway. Such is the floor space that the bridge qualifies as the main outdoor living area, as depicted by the impressive amenities centre with electric hot-rock barbecue, sink, and combination fridge/icemaker. Even though there was a 3.1m Caribe tender and 280kg steelhead davit out back, you don't have to lower it to enjoy the flybridge. It's a real flight deck with room to spare.

The flybridge lounges will seat at least six, the small triangular teak table can be ordered to convert to a daybed, we're told, plus there are two Springfield helm chairs under the hardtop, which needs a hatch or two for access and fresh air. But by any measure, it's a super-sized and well-designed bridge and, providing there's not too much wash or wave action, you should be able to hangout up top for hours at your leisure. From the helm, the sight lines are clear over the bow and it is possible to glance the transom through the staircase hatch.

Underfloor, the lazarette has plenty of space for stowing toys and tubs, cleaning gear and a wet-dry vac, plus room to mount a washer/dryer and/or watermaker. There was a battery bank of M200s that was easy to access, along with the charger/inverter where it's nice and cool. We noted the rudder tubes were stainless steel, which should last the distance, and there's all the steering gear.

The engineroom is accessed internally, with no separate outdoor hatch for servicing. Soft patches in the floor are provided, in case you have to remove a block, and sound insulation proved quite effective. With wet exhausts, the boat wasn't noisy while aboard at sea and the four-blade props add to the smooth cruise. Plumbing is par for the course, with the air-con condensation draining into the shower sump, eventually prompting the float switch to pump it overboard.

We also noted that the Racor fuel filters have redundant backups, a Reverso oil-change system was supplied, the fuel is amidships where it has no impact on trim, and there are wing water tanks with sight gauges for water. The sea strainers have glass inspection bowls and you can glance the coolant overflow bottles back outboard of the Cummins. But you will need to lift the stairs leading from the saloon to the accommodation to scamper inside and perform these pre-departure checks. A few more labels for the seacocks wouldn't go astray.

The saloon connects with the cockpit, offering one-level indoor/outdoor living, and there are plenty of picture windows that open for fresh air. In fact, the abundant opening hatches and portlights, with insect screens, help make this boat pleasantly liveable in northerly climes without even calling on the air-con. The forest of teak extends from the teak-and-holly flooring to the cabinet, home to the boat's main AV system, opposite the portside L-shaped lounge/daybed and dinette. Wine fridges, double sofa beds, and so on are all possibilities.

Breaking no ground, the teak lower helm and dash with single seat is reminiscent of many if not most setups on Asian-made trawlers. The door alongside is a useful addition for docking and tending lines when shorthanded.

The U-shaped galley opposite to port is ready to serve breakfast or lunch on the hop. Gourmands get a convection microwave oven and four-burner cooktop that could do with potholders. Like the galley storage space, the Isotherm fridge/freezer might be deemed modest in size. But there's scope to add more of both, say, under the flybridge lounges. Try as I may, I could only find one 240V outlet in the galley.

As with the countless Clippers before it, the Cordova 48's high foredeck conceals an awful lot of volume. A three-cabin layout is available, but the two-cabin/two head accommodation on the test boat, with a convertible dinette in the saloon that can sleep two, is the way to go.

The dayhead/guest en suite to starboard is handy for day trippers, easily found and with plenty of room including a big shower stall, as well as 12V and natural ventilation. Portside, guests get two single berths that can convert to a double, while the forward stateroom boasts an island berth, innerspring mattress, drawers and lockers. The planked teak walls add to the charm. In short, it's all very liveable, especially with more than 1000lt of water in the tanks.

Still, it's the gadding about that is the most fun on trawlers or contemporary takes on them as per this Cordova. We ranged offshore from the Gold Coast and the boat felt determined, but I derived more enjoyment back inshore, feet on the dash, plodding along the estuarine passages to nowhere in particular. Indeed, you get the impression this 'modern' Clipper will be around for many years to come.

Another big hook: the loaded boat is priced below similar-length trawlers from prestigious Asian yards. And don't think about hiring one. The old Clippers aren't a patch on the luxurious new Cordovas such as this neat 48.

Clipper Cordova 48

Fitted with a pair of Cummins QSB 425hp (twin 380hp standard) engines, the fully electronic common rail models, the 48's semi-displacement hull was good for 19kts at 3000rpm during out test (official figures say 21kts). But even at this clip the boat doesn't really get out of the water, like some double-chine hulls we have driven. At displacement speeds, say nine to 10kts, maybe up to 12kts, the boat felt best. It was also a lot drier. Which begs the question: why the rush? And look at the range when you go slow and save. Up to 1000nm at 8kts. That's a decent clip.

2 x 425hp Cummins QSB engines.
Perfect conditions, half fuel and water, two persons on board. Fuel burn is total for both engines, no generator running.

RPM / Consumption / Speed / Range

1200 / 17.5lt/h / 8kts / 1037nm
1500 / 26.8lt/h / 9kts / 762nm
1800 / 36lt/h / 10kts / 630nm
2000 / 60lt/h / 12kts / 453nm
2200 / 78lt/h / 13kts / 378nm
2550 / 98lt/h / 15kts / 347nm
2800 / 130lt/h / 18kts / 314nm
3000 / 170lt/h / 21kts / 280nm

$1,022,060 w/ twin Cummins 425hp QSB5.9 diesel engines, and options

Stainless steel rails on swim platform, roman blinds, rudder indicator, davit and dinghy with 15hp outboard, covers, and flybridge clears

$995,000 w/ 425hp Cummins

Material: Handlaid GRP hull
Type: Semi-displacement, split chine hull
Length overall: 15.60m w/ integrated swim platform and bowroller
Beam: 4.51m
Draft: Approx 1.1m
Deadrise: Flat at stern
Weight: Approx 18,000kg (dry)

Berths: 4 + optional 2
Fuel: 2060lt
Water: 1030lt

Make/model: Cummins QSB5.9
Type: Fully-electronic six-cylinder common rail turbo-diesel
Rated HP: 425 at 3400rpm (max.)
Displacement: 5.9lt
Weight: 612kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): ZF / 1.95:1
Props: Four-blade bronze

Clipper Motor Yachts,
Brett Thurley, Queensland
Phone: (07) 3890 5000; 0419 788 000

The turn of speed of the modern Cordova might come in handy for bar crossings and outrunning the odd angry storm, but we reckon the joy of 'clippering' is taking it slow and steady. The high bow and hull form harks back to the marque's past and the  trawler runs best in displacement mode. That's not necessarily a bad thing for those who have the time and inclination to go places, take in the sights, meet new folk in ports of call, and range north for the winter. You can do all that without burning too much fuel and a hole in your pocket on the Cordova 48. Indoors, the ambience derived from the forest of teak and natural soft furnishings is homely. You'll be in no rush to leave.

Find Clipper Cordova boats for sale.


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