BOAT TEST DELTACRAFT ISLANDER GENESIS
With a bloodline going back to the ’70s, Deltacraft has been reborn with a bigger version of its evergreen cruiser. We sent JOHN FORD on a leisurely trip up river to savour life in the slow lane
In its heyday, more than 700 Deltacraft were built, so it is likely you have seen one putt-putting by or swinging from moorings all around the country. Last time I was in Mallacoota I counted six sunning themselves happily along the foreshore. With a production run that lasted for 14 years 'til the late '80s, the tubby little craft are a common sight and were born out of the '70s panic that we were about to run out of oil.
With miserly fuel consumption and space for the family the boats were an instant hit when released and according to legend most are still in service. Partners Steve Leonard and John Gale originated the brand and were amazed when they discovered the buzz that a Deltracraft Islander Club was getting on the internet. For boats that have been off the market for so long they have taken on something of a cult status among their owners.
Heartened by the interest the boat was creating Steve and John thought it high time for an encore, so they put two years of planning and development into new moulds before setting-up production in Brookvale on Sydney's northern beaches. They have now launched the first production models, with more boats on order.
The Genesis is a development of the original Islander, with a number of refinements and an extra metre-and-a-half added to the length. The boat retains the features that made the original model so popular, including the heavy fibreglass construction and frugal diesel motor. A new walkthrough transom, full-width boarding platform and transom shower make life easier, while the extra length means more space for entertaining and a liveaboard lifestyle.
The Deltacraft is a displacement hull design and Steve Leonard is passionate in his praise of this style of boat and its sensible easily-driven lines. He claims: "The soft curves of the hull mean the boat can be driven with very low power, and the ballast down low on the keel line makes the boat very stable and seakindly. The boats do not have to compromise on keeping weight low at the expense of making them sturdy and long lasting."
Steve is so confident in the strength of the hull that he boasted it could be driven onto rocks at full speed and not suffer too much. Many of the original Islanders have been in service in hire-boat fleets and Steve has tales of them being run aground over the years so he is speaking from experience. Happily, we did not put his theory to the test but there is no doubt the boat has the feel of being strongly constructed.
In the Deltacraft's original production run modifications were made over time and feedback from owners claimed the thicker hull construction contributed to a better handling craft, particularly with the weight in the keel and bilges. An added benefit was the improved sound deadening and reduction of vibration and resonance in the hull from the diesel powerplant. This construction technique has been carried over to the Genesis.
In standard trim the boat comes with 360kg of ballast permanently located low in the keel, but there is a towable option with 360lt of water ballast that drains as the boat is drawn onto the trailer. This allows the hull to retain its stability on the water and reduce the weight of the rig on the road to 1540kg - or an all-up weight of less than two tonnes which avoids the need for electric brakes.
With a one-piece liner joined to the hull mould the Deltacraft Islander Genesis has a virtual monocoque construction, making it stiff and strong. There are three fully-glassed marine ply bulkheads in the cabin area and another seven under the floor to further strengthen and stiffen the hull, as well as triangulating the whole underfloor area. Full foam floatation can be added during construction if requested.
The bow is accessed by a walkaround sidedeck or from the cabin through a hatch, with a strut that can be locked open or set to allow good airflow. Anchoring duties via the hatch is relatively easy because of a step onto the bunk from where it is possible to reach right up to the bowroller. Otherwise, fit an electric winch so that anchoring can be done remotely from inside the cabin. A sturdy rail protects the bow and the cabin top makes a very usable seat for relaxing or a comfortable place to fish.
One of the features of the Genesis is the amount of room and amenity built into a 7m boat and the cabin layout will certainly appeal to those wishing to entertain guests or spend extended periods onboard. Headroom throughout is 1.9m, high enough for most people to move around freely.
WHAT'S FOR LUNCH?
Set-up in dining mode to starboard you get a club lounge with seating for five, to port an Engle fridge, kitchen bench with two-burner cooktop and even a kitchen sink with hot and cold water. A cabin bulkhead has storage for utensils and swings out to create a servery to the cockpit. While it looks like granite, the bench top is actually a single fibreglass moulding that incorporates the deep sink. (There is an option for a stainless steel sink for those who don't believe a fibreglass sink won't scratch). Storage space is provided below the bench for pots and pans, and more space under the bunks will take a good supply of food and drinks so that the boat can be provisioned for extended trips.
IT'S A CARAVAN!
For sleeping the starboard dinette lounge converts to a double berth and with an infill becomes a super-wide king bed, while to port is a single berth. Ventilation is through the forward hatch (as mentioned earlier, it can be set on its strut to open in any position) and by way of a four seasons wind-out hatch in the roof.
Behind the lounge on the starboard side is the en suite with cassette toilet and handheld shower, and while not overly big the en suite is quite usable. Steve explained that water is heated from a heat exchanger in the motor or from 240V if in a marina or caravan park. I had to pull him up on that one - "Caravan Park?" I asked. Steve elaborated that as in the previous model he expects people will tow the new Deltacraft Islander to get on the water in faraway places.
The Deltacraft Islander Club website has tales of members taking their boats around Australia and using them as caravans on land between voyages. Think about it. All the grey nomads travelling the countryside search out beautiful places next to the water to park their vans. In Steve's vision of paradise they can freely camp on the water, not next to it, and explore the area properly, catching a fish on the way and avoiding the maddening crowds in expensive parks.
THE VOLVO SET
Sitting below the cockpit deck in its own fibreglass engine box is a diminutive three-cylinder Volvo Penta diesel rated to 20hp (or 18hp at the prop). Access is easy through the floor hatch and the combination of the box and sound deadening in the floor keeps noise levels low. Drive is through a 25mm stainless steel shaft to a four-blade bronze propeller. Power options include a 25hp outboard and a 7kW electric model with roof-mounted solar panels.
The cockpit has a pedestal helm seat and two side lounges leaving a wide space to move around. With the bulkhead door open to the cabin there is a real feeling of space and good opportunity for socialising. Anyone given galley duties will not feel isolated from the rest of the group and even crew at the cabin diner can be involved in activities. Of course, the reverse applies. Close off the cabin door if you want a bit of peace, while partaking in an afternoon nap leaving the crew to live it up out the back.
Overhead is a full-length hardtop with dropdown side curtains that make the boat snug when the weather turns bad. The hardtop is a lightweight sandwich moulding and the side curtains are Bainbridge Odessa material to keep weight above the waterline as low as possible and minimise the roll motion of the boat. The rear lounges can be used as sleeping accommodation for two taking the total liveaboard capacity to five.
AT THE WHEEL
From the helmthere is good all-round vision through the big glass windscreen either from a standing position or perched on the high driver's seat. Steering is light and there is a leisurely response from the wheel. I found a tendency to want to correct the steering as the boat rolled with wake and waves but after a while I realised it is possible to let go of the wheel altogether and let the big keel keep us in a straight line. At full lock the Deltacraft Islander Genesis turns progressively without undue roll motion and almost in its own length. It is quite easy to manoeuvre up to a mooring or alongside a dock.
It takes some time to get used to the rolling motion inherent in the displacement design, which gives the boat an initial tenderness over wake and waves. Steve says the boat has been tested for hire-boat operation and with 10 people along one side the amount of lean was well within standards. What happens is the boat has a tendency to lean but the lean is limited by ballast and design, and the roll motion is limited to one roll for each wave rather than rocking back and forth. Steve maintains the new boat is much improved in its stability over the older versions
With a muted diesel chug from the engine the boat gets moving at an unhurried pace. Because of the high windscreen and the wide-open space in the cockpit the Genesis has a big-boat feel that is emphasised by the slow roll over the wake of other boats. With a new motor, we achieved 6.2kts at 3100rpm, but a more realistic cruising speed would be 5.5kts at 2700rpm, where the motor is at its most miserly - probably around 1.5lt/h. So while the pace is moderate, the fuel economy is phenomenal. At these speeds there is little noise from the engine to disrupt conversations around the cockpit and down into the cabin.
Not everyone in this fast-paced world will embrace the idea of a classic-design displacement boat, but there are those who like the idea of adopting a relaxed mode when boating. The Deltacraft Islander Genesis makes no pretence about being a speed machine and anyone disappointed in the pace is missing the point: the Genesis is about the journey. If the idea of regularly getting out fishing and mucking around on the water, while only filling the tank every few months appeals then the Deltacraft Islander might just be the ticket.
DELTACRAFT ISLANDER GENESIS
PRICE AS TESTED
Side curtains, TV and fridge
TYPE: Displacement monohull
WEIGHT: 1930kg (1540kg for trailerable version)
PEOPLE (day): 10
REC. HP: 20
REC. MAX HP: 30
WATER: 88lt; 22lt (hot)
MAKE/MODEL: Volvo Penta 1D-20
TYPE: Naturally aspirated diesel
GEAR RATIO: 2.34:1
PROPELLER: Four-blade Aquapoid 14in x 9in
SUPPLIED & MANUFACTURED BY
Deltacraft Pty Ltd,
37 Woodward Street,
Cromer, NSW, 2099
Factory: 11/130 Old Pittwater Road,
Brookvale, NSW, 2100
Phone: (02) 80219083 (factory); 0421 455 471; (02) 9401 4824 (after hours)
Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 425, March-Apr, 2012. Photos by John Ford.
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