BOAT TEST: RUNAWAY BAY 200FB
If you’re looking for super stability in a family fishing boat (and you happen to be taking a football team with you) look no further than the Runaway Bay 200FB pontoon boat, says Rick Huckstepp.
TEST: RUNAWAY BAY 200FB
Well here it is, the most stable fishing platform you could imagine. While it will have its limitations along the coast in sea and swell, when it comes to fishing estuaries, rivers, canals and lakes, this style of boat is hard to beat, especially if you want to fish with half a football team (and who doesn't? - Ed).
Pontoon boats are far from new, their design emanating from the early build-style of river houseboats, a style that has seen little design change over the past 40 years. What has changed is not so much the style of propulsion (they've long had outboards hanging off the back) but how that propulsion is set up. While two engines on a boat that's venturing offshore is a safer option, pontoon boats are unlikely to be too far from help. But more about that in a moment.
Runaway Bay Pontoon Boats has refined a few features, which we checked out recently on a cold gloomy day out of Horizon Shores in south-east Queensland. Several styles are available, including a luxury model that has more bells and whistles than the one that caught our eye on test day, the 200FB ("FB" denotes "fishing boat").
It's a beamy, flat platform mounted on two pontoons that run full length under deck. The diameter of each is 635mm, with a wall construction of 2.5mm, and both are sectioned off into four separate watertight compartments. This should give the crew plenty of confidence should they impale the boat on a sharp object.
Crawling around underneath the boat pre-launch, we were impressed with the welding quality, and the fixing of the pontoons to the superstructure looked solid. The timber deck is marine ply, with a good amount of sealing on the underside, while the topside is carpeted throughout.
The single 90hp Suzuki four-stroke is centrally mounted on the transom, at the aft end of a "splitter" with a very acute entry angle into oncoming water. The void inside this splitter is welded to form the 100lt standard fuel tank. A short bilge in the aft end of the module allows the tank to drain via a bung if required, into the bilge, and out of the boat via another bung.
The 200FB has a short front and rear deck, ostensibly for boarding and alighting, with no sidedeck outside the surrounding "fence" which is gated at each end.
Up to 10 passengers can move around with ease since the console and large forward "north-south" bench seat are mounted midships. The latter has a long stowage locker and all up there's enough room to put any amount of gear for day or overnight boating.
The centre-console features a tall Perspex windscreen that can unlock and fold down to rest on the front bench seat, leaving the base of the console anchored to the deck. The twin-battery kit is installed in the bottom of this console, but if you think you'll need more stowage space, the helm seat opens to expose another massive void.
The manufacturer has obviously been cautious not to over-engineer the fitout due to the inherent weight that would result (the BMT package is sailing close to 2000kg). Therefore, the thickness of the materials used in construction is sufficient without being excessive. However, extra strength for the superstructure was added with corner bulkheads that also serve as stowage compartments, and there's a module midway port and starboard with sidepockets.
We estimate the WOT speed of this boat at around 27kts (50kmh), and with so much planing area the holeshot isn't really noticeable. Rather, it accelerates quickly and remains relatively flat in attitude. While its bow wave is generated right at the forward end of the pontoons there's little spray, but solid water that dissipates.
As can be expected in a boat where the bow and stern ends are the same beam, sharp turns are out of the question, but it's responsive to the helm. On the other hand, manoeuvring in reverse is a direct affair so coming to a jetty or wharf will present no problems.
Horsepower-wise the Suzuki 90 was heaps, but if you wanted to carry the 10 people allowed it might be slightly underpowered. On the other side of the coin, if you want to just cruise around canals and calm waters, a family affair would require fewer horses, making this a more economical purchase. No doubt about this one: it's maximum fishability, with stability!
On the plane...
Massive amounts of storage
Reasonably solid build
Rated for 10 people
Dagging the chain...
No sharp turning
Limited coastal range
Specifications: Runaway Bay Pontoon Boats 200FB
Price as tested: $48,817
Options fitted: Motor (Suzuki DF90),
instruments, galvanised trailer
Priced from: $26,013
Type: Pontoon boat
Length: 7.4m Beam: 2.5m
Weight: 1230kg (boat and motor)
People (day): 10
Max. rec. HP: 140
Min. rec. HP: 60
Max transom weight: 200kg
Make/model: Suzuki DF90
Type: Four-stroke, four-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC
Gear ratio: 2.59:1
MANUFACTURED & SUPPLIED BY
Runaway Bay Pontoon Boats
155 Ford Road,
Rochedale, Qld, 4123
Phone: (07) 3440 9000
Originally published in TrailerBoat 261.
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