BOAT TEST ALASKA 460 SEDAN GEN II
A go-anywhere escape machine, the Alaska 460 Sedan Gen II has the legs to race away from the madding crowds. JEFF STRANG puts the pedal to the metal
How do you characterise a trawler? Well a trawler is usually built like the proverbial, with the ability to go almost anywhere anytime. Engineered for efficiency, endurance and high-torque rather than top-speed performance, a trawler is seldom capable of exceeding its displacement speed, usually less than 10kts. So when Gold Coast City Marina's dealer Dave Wright informed me we would be testing a trawler capable of exceeding 30kts he had my attention.
Trade-a-Boat has already tested the Alaska 460 Sedan's twin sister, the Alaska 46 Flybridge in an earlier addition of the magazine. The sedan, we were told, was a totally different configuration. In-house photographer, Ellen Dewar, confirmed this was the case when she stepped onboard and added that she thought the interior was a real step-up in quality. At a glance, I had to agree, the inside of this boat looked pretty nice. With the Gold Coast afternoon sky promising a balmy and colourful sunset and the threat of yet more rain in the morning I was keen to get moving on the water and experience the boat for myself.
BIRTH OF ALASKA
As a reader not familiar with the Alaska brand you're probably picturing a manufacturing plant somewhere in Seattle, or even Alaska itself. Think again, much of what makes the Alaska what it is could not be more Australian. The Leigh-Smith family is considered a Queensland boating dynasty with more than 45 years' experience in the industry. Jeff Leigh-Smith worked with his father on the Isle of Capri in the early '60s on a hire-boat business and brokerage before taking on a key role in the development of Runaway Bay Marina. Eventually, Jeff had what he describes as an epiphany and set-up a one-stop-shop for boaties known as Gold Coast City Marina. When eldest son Dean joined the family business in 1995 it was clear that the dynasty was to continue.
In 2003, the father and son team were touring several Asian countries on other business when they were introduced to the Alaska range. Impressed with the seakeeping and finish the Leigh-Smith's agreed on a deal to import the brand into Australia. With so much experience on the water it did not take long before Jeff and Dean began collaborating with the Chinese manufacturers to customise their boats to precisely suit the local market. Never happy to stand still, even now 10 years later, great ideas from team members and customers go towards incremental changes that are implemented from model to model in an effort to maintain continued product improvement.
Today, Alaska boats, which are wholly-constructed near Shanghai, are a clear testament to the quality that is now available out of that manufacturing giant. Of course Jeff and Dean keep a close eye on quality control.
The class of a vessel is often alluded to by a few visual and sensory cues. It is always a good sign when acoustics are good. Much like a five-star hotel room you almost feel like you should be speaking in whispers in order to meet some unwritten code of conduct. I had this feeling when inspecting the below-decks accommodation of the Alaska 460. It's a trick of the senses of course, created by the stylish combination of superior furnishings, solid timber joinery, and the sound-absorbing fabric-panelled ceilings.
The forward cabin is a split-level single vee-berth arrangement. This is not something I've seen before, but I quite like the way it provides a mixture of storage options beneath the bunks. As you can see in the photography the mixture of oak panelling and deep upholstery gives a sumptuous feel to the boat. The styling is very much classic trawler, with high ceilings and traditional portholes. Modern items like the blinded hatches and the LED lighting add a touch of the contemporary. This forward cabin is also serviced by a dedicated en suite.
Moving slightly aft into the stateroom, we found more innovative design that looks like it was crafted in a different era. This time the queen-sized island berth is sunken slightly to give it a feeling of privacy, even without the cavity sliders pulled closed. There is more of the same in terms of classic and the contemporary right down to blue LED lighting (tastefully done) beneath the bed. Extra touches like the mirror in the small vanity cabinet and the personalised haberdashery make all the difference.
The stateroom en suite is also something of a work of art. Yet more swathes of beautiful oak panelling and teak flooring. Even the shower floor is done in a grid of teak, something that is not seen often these days. Again, it is spacious and has that five-star feel.
Moving up into the saloon and galley area the timber theme is continued along with plenty of stainless steel and yet more sumptuous upholstery. I could go on in some detail but there is no need. There is more value in pointing out a few of the features that deserve special mention.
If traditional helm stations are your thing then the Alaska 460 Sedan should please, although it does encompass a few high-tech features like the Cummins electronic controls system, twin thrusters and the useful SmartCraft engine and boat management system originally launched by Mercury in conjunction with its Verado outboards. A traditional large diameter wheel ensures the feel is still classic trawler.
Almost all the systems onboard the Alaska 460 are run through C-Zone, effectively a CAN-bus network of microcontrollers running through a single touchscreen control unit. This is a good system run by many major production boatbuilders, but it does need to be commissioned fully before handover. It is also my view that a controlling head unit should be mounted on the dash within easy reach of the skipper to avoid the need to leave the wheel to make any adjustments if necessary.
If I sound too critical of the system, I don't mean to be. Much like an iPad, it is the way of the future and is very intuitive once the operator has had time to familiarise him or herself with it. C-Zone also provides significant reductions in overall power use, which has the added benefit of a considerably fire risk.
CATERING FOR THE CROWD
A massive galley (possibly the largest I have seen on a boat under 60ft) is available to ensure any hungry complement is well catered for. In this configuration, the galley runs parallel to the port sidewall, and with the back windows and doors fully open, allows for easy servicing of guests on the aft deck. While I am not a huge fan of longitudinally configured galleys, I find them harder to brace against when preparing a feast at sea than the lateral option, in this case I acknowledge it is a good option that maximises the available space. With refrigeration to burn, plenty of preparation space, and a few nifty features like the fold-out overhead plate racks, any budding MasterChef would be delighted with this kitchen at home, let alone on a boat.
As mentioned, Alaska has followed the current trend of indoor/outdoor living by allowing virtually all of the rear saloon to be opened up to access the aft deck lounging area. This is dealer Dave Wright's favourite feature. With extra refrigeration at hand and the outdoor barbecue, the 460 Sedan's ability to feed and water large parties in comfort was probably its best feature for me as well. We certainly enjoyed a lovely evening on the Broadwater soaking up the Queensland atmosphere in style. I'm sure the pictures hereabouts tell the story.
SAFE AS HOUSES
Like most trawlers the Alaska 460 Sedan Gen II is a full and comfortable walkaround. There is no scrambling for handhelds to get up on the foredeck and all the hardware is built to last. The dual fairlead anchoring equipment is substantial, as it should be, and all the doors, stern gates and hawsepipes are noticeably heavy showing that this boat is built to last.
I particularly liked the fixed stainless steel ladder mounted in the middle of the front window to allow access to the roof. This is a huge improvement in safety over many boats that require the crew to cling to handholds not designed to take the full weight of the person while clambering for the dinghy, or worse, the liferaft.
In all ways the 460 Sedan has that distinctive trawler feel. While she is certainly a lady, make no mistake, if the going gets tough she would happily lift her skirts and get all her almost 19 tonnes (wet) up and going.
ON THE WATER
And get going she certainly does. It's disconcerting to be charging along at more than 30kts on a boat that all your instincts are saying should only be capable of 8 to 10kts. Clearly there is something very undisplacement-like going on under the water. Turns out she has the very latest in modern warped-plane hulls, which only partly explains the impressive performance. The rest can be put down to the powerplant.
Naturally in this day and age there is no six-cyclider naturally aspirated Ford in the engineroom (not that there was anything wrong with those. I once ran a vessel with just such a motor that had more than 20 000 hours on her without skipping a beat). The pair of Cummins' latest 440hp QSB common rail grunters purr away in the engineroom, large enough to please any ageing diesel mechanic's aching back. He will also be pleased to see quality fittings and splash-protected wiring looms. This is all the stuff that will save you money in the long run. A well-engineered engineroom with quality equipment will give less problems in general, while any issues that do arise will be quicker to fix saving plenty of expensive labour hours.
The Cummins QSB series is proving to be a superbly reliable package. In fact, I can honestly say that I am yet to hear of any significant issues. This twin package certainly pushes the relatively big-bottomed lady along impressively, although you do need a decent set of trim tabs in operation to get the most out of her. That is also good sign, it means there is plenty of boat in the water to get you to your destination in the best possible comfort. I did find the engines' noise to be slightly barky at wide open throttle with the saloon doors open, even though she has underwater exhausts. The noise is probably coming from the back pressure breathers and it was not noticeable with the doors closed.
Manoeuvred by a pair of thruster-assisted and well-spaced conventional shaftdrives, and with plenty of weight to hold her in place against the wind and tide, the Alaska 460 Sedan Gen II is no trouble around the dock either. A little tuition, something the Gold Coast City Marina team would be more than happy to provide, would be a wise investment in time that will leave you with the confidence to park her almost anywhere, anytime.
THE LAST WORD
If you keep your eyes, ears, and most importantly your mind open you just might be surprised by something you did not expect to impress you. I have never been much of a recreational trawler fan but the Alaska 460 has gone a long way towards changing my point of view.
I am pleased I walked onto this test with a blank sheet of paper because when I go through my notes there is a long list of positives and very few negatives. On the face of it the Alaska 46 looks like a seriously good sedan, one I would like the opportunity to spend more time on for a thorough assessment.
Given the Leigh-Smith family qualifies as one of Australia's most experienced and successful boating industry stalwarts, and that they have committed more than 10 years' time and effort developing the brand, I think it is safe to say the Alaska 46 Sedan is boat well worth investigating further.
ALASKA 460 SEDAN GEN II
PRICE AS TESTED
2 x 425hp Cummins QSB turbo-diesels
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN RANGE
600 4kts 6lt/h 1513nm
800 5.5kts 8lt/h 1560nm
1000 6.7kts 10lt/h 1520nm
1200 7.7kts 16lt/h 1092nm
1400 8.7kts 20lt/h 987nm
1600 9.5kts 30lt/h 718nm
1800 10.1kts 41lt/h 559nm
2000 11.9kts 56lt/h 482nm
2200 14.9kts 70lt/h 483nm
2400 17.6kts 90lt/h 443nm
2600 19.9kts 110lt/h 410nm
2800 22.6kts 140lt/h 366nm
3000 24.8kts 170lt/h 331nm
3050 25.2kts 180lt/h 317nm
*</I>Sea-trial date supplied by Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales. Fuel burn is total for both engines.</I>
MATERIAL: Handlaid fiberglass
TYPE: Warped-plane monohull
LENGTH OVERALL: 15.1m
HULL LENGTH: 14m
MAKE/MODEL: Cummins QSB5.9
TYPE: Six-cylinder electronic turbo-diesel
RATED HP: 440 (each)
DISPLACEMENT: 5.9lt (each)
Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales,
Admin Building, 76-84 Waterway Drive,
Coomera, QLD, 4209
Phone: +61 (7) 5502 5866; 0408 758 887
Fax: +61 (7) 5502 5832
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 425, March-Apr, 2012. Photos by Ellen Dewar.
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