BOAT TEST: NORTHBANK 650WA
Rick Huckstepp pulls on the wet weather gear as he and a Northbank 650WA head for the challenging South Australian waters of Gulf St Vincent.
TEST: NORTHBANK 650WA
South Australia is not bristling with boatbuilders - there are a handful that really stand out, and Northbank Boats is one of them. These boats are regularly seen on waters throughout the State and over in neighbouring Victoria. Built at Christies Beach in South Australia, Northbank's home waters in the relatively shallow Gulf St Vincent are prone to chop and big swell that pushes in from the Southern Ocean. By design, they handle those conditions well.
MADE FOR THE ROUGH
The 650WA as tested was kitted out with a large-screen Northstar M121 electro combination chartplotter and depthsounder recessed into the flat surface of the helm dashboard. This was the largest item on the dash, which is uncluttered thanks to the use of the SmartCraft head unit that provides a multitude of data on various engine functions. Other switchgear, as well as the VHF radio, was installed in the cabin liner below the low-profile remote gearshift.
Seating was plush but occupied a lot of the space across the beam of the inside of the cabin at the helm. Due to the walkaround path outside it was obviously not as wide as a full cabin-boat. The seats had to be pivoted into the straight ahead position for me to walk between them and, should you or your fishing and boating partners be overly large, you may want to look at a smaller seat-base profile to allow more room for easy passage.
And so the cabin was more narrow than normal, with sidepockets sitting under the moulded walkaround section, but it offered good head height for those seated. Typical under-bunk stowage was available but there was no roof hatch should you want extra ventilation there. No doubt one could be optioned into the equation.
Long handrails were fitted in the cockpit. They're a standard feature that would be welcome when moving about in rough seas while fishing at anchor. They were rebated into the inside edge of the coaming and provided safe handholds along most of the length of the cockpit while remaining unobtrusive. Gunwale height provided a good lean for fishing, with contact on the average person being around crotch height.
Plenty of tackle stowage was a feature in this boat. Ample cockpit sidepockets would hold plenty of gear, while skipper and passenger seats were mounted on fibreglass modules that featured a tackle drawer set in the rear fascia of each. A compartment in the deck between the seating modules was insulated as an icebox and access to the fuel tank was available under a centre hatch running to the transom.
The test boat featured an extended rear brow on the back of the bimini to increase cockpit shade. This installation made it a little difficult to reach the rods in the centre of the rocket launcher but an optional zip-open flap installed in the canvas remedied this issue.
Steering is via Mercury's own power steering pump system, connected to the 225hp Verado. It emanated a slight hum during operation (which is a one finger affair) no matter the sea conditions or boat attitude. While taking this boat out into Backstairs Passage, which is that tract of water running between Cape Jervis and Kangaroo Island in South Australia, we had a forecast of 5-10kts early, with 15kts towards noon. There was no noticeable swell and less than a quarter of a metre of chop.
Travelling east we sounded a couple of whiting marks and dropped the pick for a fish. The whiting were thumpers and, typical of the fisho's cry for "one last fish", we overstayed our welcome and the forecast 15kts materialised into something more like 20. This notorious stretch of water changed dramatically within minutes and by the time we neared the ramp at the Cape, the chop was running at well over 1m, with white caps stirred up by at least 20kts of that sou-easter we'd punched into.
Despite the nasty weather, the 650 handled itself admirably. Its ride headlong into the oncoming mess was as soft as could be expected considering the conditions, and when cutting at an angle across the chop it tracked straight. Manoeuvrability with the precise Mercury Verado power-steering was a delight with just the whir of the pump audible, but only when off the plane.
Acceleration was excellent and holeshot good, with the engine exhibiting a lot of torque throughout the throttle range. At all times it ran as quiet as a mouse.
At 5600rpm at WOT you can expect a top end speed of 46kts (85.2kmh). That's fast on water in anyone's books but it's not something we were going to attempt with that awful mess coming straight at us.
On the plane...
Stable fishing platform when moving around
Can handle some rough seas with ease
Effective walkaround feature
Quality finish throughout
Dragging the chain...
Sidepocket fascias flimsy for
standing when disembarking over gunwales (this will be rectified
on future models)
Specifications: Northbank 650WA
Price as tested: $104,000
Options: Chartplotter, electric anchor winch, bimini and brow, bait rigging station
Priced from: $92,000
Type: Deep-vee monohull
Length (LOA): 6.8m
Weight (hull only): 1300kg
People (day): 8
Make/model: Mercury Verado
Type: Six-cylinder, in-line, supercharged, DOHC four-stroke
Rated HP: 225
Gearbox ratio: 1.85:1
Propeller: 21in Ventura four-blade
25 Liston Rd
Lonsdale, SA, 5160
Tel: (08) 8381 1444
Christies Beach Marine
19 Sherriffs Road
Christies Beach, SA, 5160
Tel: (08) 8387 6411
Originally published in TrailerBoat 265.
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