BOAT TEST: COOPERSLOOP 745
What better boat to stake your life and life savings on than a lifeboat? DAVID LOCKWOOD heads upriver on the Coopersloop 745 for a change-of-life experience
Although a lifeboat is usually the last thing you want to set foot aboard, the Coopersloop 745 promises salvation from something other than just a sinking ship. Based on a Dutch design but built by a Chinese factory that makes some 3000 lifeboats each year, this agreeable launch has been reconfigured to rescue your sanity in the fast-paced modern world.
Bundled as a ready-to-go package with everything including bowthruster, comfortable clip-in cushions, and clever fast-fit fenders for sidling up to a waterfront eatery, the Coopersloop is the kind of boat more would-be skippers are looking to command these days. Simplicity is its virtue and the boat is eminently suitable for slow-lane boating about the Broadwater, Sydney Harbour, and big bays.
Another virtue, that of seaworthiness, ensures that the sloop can handle open waters and those that are enclosed yet rocked by wind and weekend wake. You might wear a lick of spray but nothing more. And so it was for us in the upper reaches of Middle Harbour on a blustery day perhaps best spent flying a kit.
But despite the wind we found our just-add-water fix while gadding the verdant shores and otherwise quiet bends of the backwaters. A quiet Yanmar diesel engine installation, the gentle play of water on fibreglass, and a warm sun beaming down on our backs - as I said, satisfaction so often comes from the simple pleasures.
A SLOEP OF THE TONGUE
As we moseyed down Middle Harbour, the story of the Coopersloop 745 came to life. Local importer Duncan Stewart says he first fell in love with the traditional "sloeps" after spotting them in Holland. But while those fetching Dutch craft are considered mainstream (day)boats for cruising the canals and inland seas, "sloeps" have been slower to catch on here. So his Australian version attempts to be more appealing by having greater comfort levels, more practicality but a keen price.
Marketed as a lifestyle investment, rather than just a boat, the Coopersloops arrived as a pigeon pair. Dressed in stealth colours and upholstery, the Pro model called Nina was the basic (boyish) version propelled by a freshwater-cooled, common rail 29hp (22hp in future) three-cylinder Yanmar diesel inboard engine spinning a three-blade 14.5in propeller. Incidentally, the shaft is German-made, while the steering is hydraulic for fingertip and (as we found) foot control.
The upgraded Plus model called Lily had a traditional blue hull colour and greater eye candy by way of teak gunwales and a matching swimplatform. There was also a 40lt water tank and deck shower to rinse off the salt at the end of the day. But the supplied 12V fridge will become an icebox on future models. Both boats were fitted with a chemical toilet.
Of course, a single-shaft driven boat suffers terribly from something called prop walk, whereby the boat goes in only one direct (usually to port) in reverse. So Stewart adds a Sidepower bowthruster as standard to his Coopersloops. This way, even newbie skippers will be able to park with aplomb. And with the big rubber rubrail reputedly weighing 160kg, you won't do too much damage if you get offline. The oversized rudder and purposeful stock add to the sense of control.
LIFEBOAT TO THE RESCUE
The Chinese factory, apparently run by a general, works with solid handlaid fibreglass without much concern for weight savings (or its worker's health, I'm told). But the overbuilt hull with substantial displacement of 1650kg has a headstrong motion through the water much like, well, a lifeboat heading for land ahoy.
A sweeping sheerline adds to the seaworthiness by boosting freeboard up front while, below the water, a small keel protects the prop and rudder in the event of going aground. Although not self-righting, the Coopersloop has a Rule bilge pump in the event of taking a "greenie" aboard. But due to the blunt stem with stainless steel cutwater, it's more likely to be a lick of spray than a wave.
A pull-up canopy with stainless steel frame, Sunbrella 'canvas' and zip-out clear curtain infill panels offers reprieve from the summer sun and ambient spray when underway. Of course, the boat feels a lot bigger when the canopy is stowed in the dedicated moulded recess forward. At the same time, vision at the helm improves.
As with all good launches, the Coopersloops have a social seating layout so you can shoot the breeze while kicking back. There's a sunpad on the bow for grabbing some rays, whose cushion is best stowed when cruising, and opposing long lounges that double as daybeds. These have loose armrests with drinkholders. But such is the extent of the teak flat floor that you could unfurl a couple of swags and sleep over.
Marked by a purposeful stainless steel wheel, the helm features a spread of engine gauges, compass, and handheld spotlight for picking your way through the moorings after a long summer's day aboard. There's a cushion that raises the height of the U-shaped skipper's seat at the transom, though we found it more commanding driving while sitting on the aft-most poop deck.
Thankfully, the boat has plenty of dry storage under its seats. Navigation lights are fitted for that romantic twilight cruise, however, an anchor well and bowsprit are future projects for Coopersloops. As it is, you'll need to carry the ground tackle in a tub. Being a double-ended boat, you may as well deploy it off the stern.
Stewart says he had visions of selling 20 or 30 of his Coopersloops when they debuted at the Sydney International Boat Show in late July. Although these are early days, and there's room for fine tuning, he sold both the brace of boats tested here at the show. Apparently, one went to a merchant banker looking to de-stress, while the other was heading for a barrister with a young family and waterfront. These could well be the thinking-man's boats. Two more presold models are on the way.
Rated for carrying up to 12 survivors, and attracting interest from commercial operators in Queensland, the Coopersloops are great recreational people movers. We reckon you can carry eight or two families in comfort. Due to the aft sponsons, which extend the waterline length, the boat can carry a big load while remaining stable. And the extra lift from these aft-running sections assists with performance.
After ranging upstream, we traced the shoreline around Seaforth Bluff, ogling the waterfront properties, idling past the boatsheds, while weaving in and out of the litter of moorings. All the time the steering proved nice and direct and responsive. And by the end of our Friday fling, we found salvation from the long, hard, working week.
FACTS & FIGURES
The Yanmar 3YM30 engine is known for its tremendous amount of torque and is therefore well-suited to a round-bilge displacement boat like the Coopersloop 745. At full revs of 4050, the hull hit 8.2kts. Fast cruise of 7.5kts was recorded at 3800rpm - the importers preferred speed - while 3000rpm gave a very relaxed 6.6kts for just four litres of fuel per hour.
At 2500rpm and 5.7kts, fuel consumption drops to a few sips over 2lt/h, giving a range of almost 100nm. It's here that your tester found reprieve from terrestrial life. And that's a lot of Sunday picnic trips. In fact, such are the miserly fuel bills you'll be able to splash out on the champagne for the chicken lunch.
PRICE AS TESTED
The Coopersloop 745 sells for $69,000 for the Pro w/ 22hp Yanmar engine and $79,000 for the Plus w/ upgraded 29hp Yanmar diesel engine, bowthruster, coloured hull, bimini top, and more
The upgraded Pro model has teak trim and a 29hp Yanmar engine. Champagne and chicken extra.
$69,000 w/ 22hp Yanmar diesel engine
MATERIAL: Solid handlaid GRP hull
TYPE: Round-chine displacement lifeboat hull
LENGTH OVERALL: 7.45m
DRAFT: Approx 0.47m
DEADRISE: Flat aft
WEIGHT: Hull only 1650kg (light ship)
BERTHS: Two in swags
MAKE/MODEL: Yanmar 3YM30
TYPE: Three-cylinder four-stroke diesel with common rail injection
RATED HP: 29 at 3200 to 3600rpm
WEIGHT: 207kg (inc. transmission)
GEARBOX (MAKE): Yanmar
PROPS: Three-blade 14.5in
Phone: (02) 9310 5900; 0418 350 220
With a hull usually found dressed in orange livery and swinging off the Queen Mary, this lifeboat puts a different spin on being rescued. An alternative to turbo-charged fuel bills, the boat champions the go-slow movement and offers salvation as you tootle upriver or across the bay. Given the way we are working these days, we reckon the Coopersloop 745 is a real lifesaver. And it's great value.
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