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Our boat SA boat tester, Mark Robinson, looked to muscleman actor Arnold Schwarzenegger for an apt analogy to describe the smart and ruggedly built Gold Star Offshore Escape fisher


The Gold Star Offshore Escape is a big, tough, plate aluminium boat with a finish to rival that of the majority of fibreglass vessels out there. Nearly all visible welds have been completely smoothed and rounded before being painted over. And it's a boat which truly lives up to its name, one that you could truly escape on for days at a time.
To my eyes this craft combines stylish lines with in-your-face toughness. It's big, it's bold and it personifies seaworthiness in its construction. With a length of 7.66m, not including bowsprit, and a beam of 3m, along with its 6mm marine grade bottom plates, 5mm side plates, 3mm self-draining deck and its toughened glass hardtop, this is an Arnold Schwarzenegger of a boat ready to flex its seagoing muscle the moment those twin Honda 200hp four-stroke motors fire up.
And flex that muscle it surely does; the craft leaps forward and up on to the plane like a sprinter leaving the line in a 100m race. And it keeps on accelerating right up to its WOT of 5900rpm for a top speed of 75.6kmh (40.8kts) that we pulled on the test day with cruising props fitted. But it's not just the top speed, but how fast it takes off that impresses, feeling more like a ski or wakeboard boat rather than a beamy offshore craft. For the record, at 2000rpm we saw a speed of 15kmh (eight knots) on the GPS, 3000rpm brought up 33kmh (18kts) and 4000rpm realised 50kmh (27kts).
The big Hondas are superbly quiet and having the vessel set up in twin outboard configuration negates the need for trim tabs as trimming the motors correctly will keep the big Gold Star upright even in a strong side wind.
After studying its lines closely on the trailer, in particular its fine entry and 19-degree transom deadrise, I felt confident that it would offer a fine ride in practically any kind of sea. However, as luck would have it, on the test day we encountered only a slight chop for the most part.
Nevertheless, cutting across a pilot boat wash and playing around in the mixed seas out from the mouth of Outer Harbour on SA's Gulf of St Vincent, we found enough confused water to validate my confidence in its soft-riding qualities, its fine entry working like a charm. Like all alloy craft there is a bit more noise emanating from the air/water interface than one might encounter on a GRP vessel but it is minimal and not at all offensive.

Everything about the Gold Star Offshore Express exudes toughness. This fact is borne out by the fully welded frame to hull plates, 50 by 6mm stringers, 38mm welded bowrail, integral bowsprit, four-welded on-cross bollards, welded rodholders and rocket launcher, and fender holders on that solid-as-a-rock hardtop. All of this assists the rigidity of the craft, and even being thrown around at speed there was absolutely no sense of flexing or quivering that can blight alloy vessels of lesser construction.
At the helm, the sightlines to the comprehensive range of gauges are good, with the wheel and controls falling readily to hand. There is a built-in footrest for the skipper as he relaxes on his sprung captain's seat and visibility forward is excellent. In pride of place is a Navman 8120 low-profile, low-power multi-function marine display integrating GPS, sonar, fuel management and video functionality into a 12in daylight-viewable, high-resolution screen.
Up forward is the typical V-berth setup with storage shelves on both sides but with quite a roomy feel. The watertight hatch provides a supply of both light and air. The wheelhouse portside features a seat running fore and aft which can be converted readily into a bunk by using a neat mechanism to attach its backrest to its width. As a seat it would hold three adults in comfort.
The craft is claimed to sleep three to four people, although with respect to full sized adults I think that is a bit of a stretch and that three in comfort is a more reasonable assessment. Of course, with the huge amount of storage space found throughout this craft a swag or two could readily be stowed and thus increase that liveaboard capacity.
Now the downside of hardtops is that they can be a bit too hot at times, but with its forward opening centre window and sliding side windows that is never going to be a problem with the Gold Star Offshore Escape. And when those cold nights close in the fully lockable rear doors can be securely shut and the wheelhouse section would become quite snug.
The self-draining cockpit features an aluminium checkerplate sole (although on this craft some carpet had been temporarily laid) and the cockpit sides are at just the right height for the average sized fisho to brace against when working a fish. There is space along both sides and across the transom for the fighting angler to place their feet so that maximum leverage advantage can be gained by thigh placement, an important consideration for serious fishos.

The twin boarding ladders are the most ruggedly constructed units I have encountered in two decades of boat testing and pivot on a superbly strong tubular hinge. Without doubt they would take the weight of a solidly built scuba diver wearing weight belt and air tank with ease. Climbing back on board is facilitated by two well placed welded grabrails each side and, taken together with the steps on the ladders, adds up to an ease of reboarding rarely encountered, especially when the portside transom door is utilised.
Three batteries in compartments well above the cockpit sole make for electrical peace of mind and two-level sidepockets along the cockpit sides provide a ton of storage space for boat hooks, fenders, lifejackets or the many bits and pieces we seem to take to sea. The transom seat folds down when not required and is readily removable.
Beneath the cockpit sole are found two tanks, one a 160lt killtank and the other of 240lt which is plumbed for livebait use, while forward, under the wheelhouse sole, is a huge storage compartment which could be used for all manner of things.

Creature comforts include a gas stove to starboard and a sink to port just aft of the wheelhouse, a 12V hot-water system, a full-height shower and toilet compartment with sink and a 40lt refrigerator. Freshwater capacity is 120lt while fuel capacity is a healthy 400lt. The double tiered baitboard had nice, high edges and my only complaint with it was the drain opening being a tad small.
Floatation consists of polyethylene foam noodles densely packed in the appropriate areas, while finish is listed as two-pack epoxy high-build for its very high-adhesion properties and then two-pack poly paint for a hardy, resilient and superbly glossy finish. Pacific Marine's Paul Lamb related to me that they are most impressed with the finish on Gold Star craft using this approach and have had virtually no warranty claims.
I can't end this test report without mentioning the superb all-aluminium trailer that carries this craft. It's a custom made tri-axle job with Duratorque suspension, stainless steel callipers, bronzed hubs, breakaway brakes, mag wheels - all-in-all, a magnificent piece of kit that allows this vessel to be legally towed with the ever popular Land Cruiser or similar tow vehicle.
In summary, the Gold Star Offshore Escape is a big beefy boat that is built to last practically forever and will carry its skipper and crew safely through just about any sea likely to be encountered around our coastline in comfort and style.

Integrity of construction
Superb finish
Sparkling performance
Excellent skipper and crew protection
Well placed grabrails
Non-skid finish on walkway and foredeck
Practically every creature comfort
Five-year structural hull warranty (transferrable)

Baitboard drain a tad small in diameter

Specifications: Gold Star Offshore Escape

Price as tested: $184,960 w/ twin Honda 200hp four-stroke outboards

Material: Plate aluminium
Length overall: 7.66m
Beam: 3m
Weight: Approx 3100kg (tare with motors)

Berths: 3 to 4
Fuel: 400lt
Water: 120lt

Make/model: 2 x Honda 200
Type: V6 outboard
Rated HP: 200 at 5500rpm
Displacement: 3.5lt
Prop: Solas three-blade 14¼ x 17in

Pacific Marine,
Corner Tapleys Hill Road and Old Port Road,
Royal Park, SA, 5014
Phone: (08) 8444 2421

Originally published inTrailerBoat #242

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