BOAT TEST: FI-GLASS FIRESTAR 530
The Fi-Glass models just keep on coming. John Ford takes the Firestar 530 for a run on one of his favourite waterways and discovers a sporty, economical boat with a quality finish.
TEST: FI-GLASS FIRESTAR 530
Berowra Waters is one of Sydney's prettiest waterways. You exit the madness of the expressway north out of town and squeeze your way down a narrow winding road to meet an arm of the Hawkesbury River. From there it's a laidback ride on an old-world car-ferry across to Berowra Waters Marina, where TrailerBoat's latest test model, a Fi-Glass 530 Firestar, lay waiting at the Avante Marine dealership.
Here the Hawkesbury boasts numerous waterside homes for lucky residents plus weekend bolt-holes for weary Sydney workers. It's an isolated, idyllic locality, and a wonderful place to test this little cuddy-cab from New Zealand.
Thanks in part to its reputation for a high level of finish and standard equipment, Fi-Glass has grown to become one of New Zealand's biggest boatbuilders - in the last 50 years some 10,000 models have come off its production line.
In addition to producing boats that look the part, Fi-Glass has over the years progressively evolved its manufacturing techniques. Its composite-construction, foam-filled hulls are strong and have positive buoyancy, meaning they've been designed to stay afloat even when swamped. You have to like that.
The Firestar is a sporty-looking cuddy cab that's small enough to be handled by one person and light enough to be towed by a small vehicle. It meets the needs of entry-level boaters or someone looking to downsize for ease of handling and economy.
Jumping aboard you'll soon discover the designers have packed a lot into a fairly small boat. The cabin has sitting room for a couple of adults and would make a great refuge for the kids. It's light and airy with narrow windows and a large roof hatch that opens to the bow. Storage space below is limited to a full-length shelf as the area below the seats is sealed. The cabin is lined with a grey front-runner material and the cushions are covered in a jaunty, nautical-themed fabric.
The bow section gets a large, unlined anchorwell, a small roller and a stainless cleat, and it's an easy reach for anchoring and tying up. A bowrail extends back midships.
The quality finish continues into the cockpit, with marine carpet on the deck, vinyl lining on the sidepockets, and the internal 'glass of the hull covered in the grey front-runner. An underfloor fuel tank holds 80lt.
At the transom there are two "dicky seats" fitted into the mouldings either side of the enginewell. The bilge and battery compartments have a clip-on cover. Two stainless steel rodholders, a couple of stainless T-cleats and a plastic fuel filler complete the transom section.
Power comes from a 90hp two-stroke Mercury. The Firestar is actually rated to 130hp but this would seem like overkill given the performance of our test boat.
The cockpit has two pedestal seats and the moulded dash, though compact, has room for the usual instruments and a small Eagle mono colour-sounder fitted on top. The wheel is mounted low in a vertical position but it proved to be quite practical to operate. The throttle control is set high on the side-console, but it too was easy to use. The seats are well padded and comfortable, with plenty of wraparound support and well-placed footrests for driver and passenger, allowing you to wedge yourself in place when underway.
Demonstrating its lightweight, racing pedigree the Firestar rockets out of the hole and gets to full speed very quickly. This model was able to get past full recommended revs and pulled 40.5kts (75kmh) at 6000rpm. At this speed the prop started cavitating and the steering momentarily lost grip, so even this 90hp motor might be a bit much, particularly for boating newcomers.
For a high-speed cruise, 4000rpm equates with 24.3kts (45kmh). The foam-filled hull is quiet and feels solid over bay chop, but the boat is quite sensitive to trim and it rolls around a bit on wake and waves. It turns with enthusiasm and is spritely and fun, and it feels safe and predictable in turns, even at high speed.
The Firestar is at home in the entry-level range and offers some creature comforts not available in some similarly-priced open tinnies. The cabin will appeal to families and casual fishermen who want a place to retreat from the weather, and there's plenty of power to tow the family around on tubes and wakeboards.
The purchase price gets you everything you need, including trailer and boat registration, safety gear, sounder, radio and bimini.
That's a pretty good package.
On the plane...
Easy to tow
Dragging the chain...
Tender at rest
130hp engine rating may be overkill
Specifications: Fi-Glass 530 Firestar
Price as tested: $34,990
Options fitted: Nil
Type: Deep-vee monohull
Hull length: 5.25m
Min. HP: 90
Max. HP: 130
Make/model: Mercury 90hp
Type: In-line, three-cylinder two-stroke
Gearbox ratio: 2.30:1
247 Dyers Road
210-212 Silverwater Road
Silverwater, NSW, 2128
Tel: (02) 9737 0727
Originally published in TrailerBoat 264.
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