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Thinking of changing to an alloy plate+boat? Rick Huckstepp suggests looking at the entry+level Formosa 550 Centre Console where you get plenty of boat for minimal outlay.

Formosa's 550 Centre Console is an excellent entry-level plate-boat for its size.

With seemingly everything we associate ourselves with in the recreational arena escalating in price at an alarming pace, one gets the impression that soon we will all need very deep pockets if we want to hook up to a reasonable trailerboat package.
We found one recently that offers itself as a good starter package and one that won't break the bank. A search of our archives revealed that we tested a Formosa Centre Console 5.4m back in August 2004 with a 75hp two-stroke which retailed for $23,500. At that time, petrol was around 70 cents per litre.
The Formosa 550 is a run-on model - with quite a few changes since - that we tested out of the Gold Coast Seaway. It has upped the ante on its predecessor with a 115hp Evinrude E-TEC and retails for just $36,550, at a time when petrol was $1.47 per litre!
This boat presents itself as an ideal starter in the alloy boat market. It features the hallmark Formosa keel line which sees the forefoot being sharp on entry and raking up and forwards at an acute angle to the flat surface. This, along with the good flare on the forequarters, equates to soft ride in chop and dry, due to the water being forced away rather than up in the air. Bar Crusher boats have a similar concept in their forequarters and they enjoy the benefits of this style of design.
The anchor well on this model is open and very wide allowing for large Danforth and wide grappling anchors. The inside is carpet lined which alleviates a lot of metal-to-metal rattles and a fixed chain roller is fitted to the short bowsprit.
The well is an insert rather than formed with a bulkhead across the narrow part of the bow and the drain for the well is a pipe coming from the bottom aft end of the insert across the port side of the hull. While it seems strong, it may be subject to damage from bending if used as a step or struck by objects sliding around on the foredeck.
This foredeck is carpeted marine ply and raised directly in front of the centre console which butts up against it. A hatch is removable and there is stowage room within, although not water resistant.
The ribs on this boat float against the side sheets and there are flat radius plates under which the deck is tucked before being screwed down to stringers and crossbeams.

The console consists of a stand up box section with an angled fascia for the helm and instrumentation, and on top of that a windscreen which is latched and folds down for towing or stowage under a low port.
The top of the windscreen base is flat and there is plenty of room on which to gimbal-mount electronics. As tested, a small Humminbird depthsounder and Lowrance's GPS antenna, which is linked to the I-Command instrumentation for the Evinrude E-TEC engine, was installed here.
A carpeted and fenced shelf inside the module, and another fenced at deck level will hold plenty of gear without it falling out.
The seat module is a box with a double-sized cushioned hatch on top which hinges forward assisted via gas struts. The backrest also rocks fore and aft allowing one to relax facing the rear when on anchor. On the test boat a canvas canopy on aluminium struts provided plenty of shade over the helm area.
Sidepockets on this boat are attached to the ribs and do not extend to the rear. They are wide and deep enough to handle large tackle trays and are angled inwards at their bottoms so the edge does not contact the shins.
Under the transom bulkhead, a raised tray across the beam holds the oil bottle for the two-stroke E-TEC and also the cranking battery. Also installed here is a deckwash kit that has the coiled hose sitting in a rack up off the deck. Also, the hoses and wiring under deck exit through this tray and some pass through the rear sheet to the engine. This bundle could be more neatly secured as it was a little on the untidy side.
Over the back, Evinrude's 115hp E-TEC is fitted to a transom that has a rounded aft corner and checkerplate topside. Sturdy 32mm handrails are installed here as well as around the forequarters.

There was very little chop within the Broadwater on test day and outside of the Seaway a long swell was running up to 1.8m. Pushing the limits on this boat against the swell we could get it clear of the water and landings into oncoming swell was generally soft.
The hull tracked straight running along, and with the swell into the Seaway where the waves were pressurising. There was no indication of broaching.
This boat was fitted with a manual cable-steering system and when trimmed correctly it was easy on the arms. It did need to be trimmed constantly throughout its speed range to keep it manageable and this was laborious to say the least. It would be a definite advantage to opt for hydraulic steering on this rig.
Speed wise, the engine wound out to 5000rpm and at WOT gave us 63kmh.
Dropping back to a cruise rpm of 4000 the speedometer registered 40kmh.
Out of the hole it was no slouch either and jumped onto the plane quickly with one person aboard.
With minimal fuel and other payload aboard, this boat was light on the water and would benefit from a couple more bodies and some freight such as ice boxes and the like. We tested this hull with a walkaround cabin on the day and the ride in the heavier boat was much softer in the same conditions.
As tested, this boat has the bare essentials and is ready for some serious dressing. You will get plenty of boat for minimal outlay with this rig.


Specifications: Formosa 550 Centre Console

Price as tested:                          $36,550
Options fitted:                           Coloured paint, deck wash, depth sounder, GPS antenna.
Priced from:                             $35,850

Material:                                   aluminium 4mm plate bottom, 3mm plate sides
Length overall:                          5.7m
Beam:                             2.4
Weight:                                     550kg approx

People:                                     7
Fuel:                                         150
Rec.hp                                     115
Rec. max.hp:                            140
Rec. max. engine weight:           200kg

Make/model:                             Evinrude ETEC 115
Type:                                       direct injected V4 two-stroke    
Weight:                                     170kg
Rated hp:                                  115
Displacement:                           1726cc
Gearbox ratio:                           2.25:1
Propeller:                                  19-inch

Coastal Powerboats,
2182 Gold Coast Highway,
Miami, Qld, 4220
Telephone (07) 5526 0858
Fax: (07) 5526 5654

Originally published in TrailerBoat #233

Find Formosa boats for sale.


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