By: Mark Robinson, Photography by: Mark Robinson

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SA boatbuilder Northbank has cut a name for itself manufacturing reliable and tough fishing craft. Mark Robinson takes the new model 650 Walkaround out for run and finds the reputation endures



Over the past 10 or so years I have tested several Northbank Marine craft and found them all to be superbly built and finished vessels, so I was looking forward to checking out the 650 Walkaround. I'll admit to a touch of bias here, as being a long-time keen angler I'm a bit prejudiced toward this style of craft and the wonderful freedom they give you to follow a hooked fish in whichever direction it chooses to go.
I had also better 'fess up to being a former Northbank owner, in conjunction with my son Adam, and I can tell you that it was with considerable reluctance that we sold it when his family started growing past the point where his budget could no longer cope with half-ownership of a craft of this size.
Designed by naval architects and produced with CAD/CAM technology, the Northbank vessels are manufactured from fibreglass composite. While closely inspecting the craft on its trailer I determined that this latest Northbank has kept up the standard of previous vessels in respect of hull finish, in particular its mirror-smooth gelcoat.
Now James, the owner of this particular craft, is in the composites business managing the South Australian branch of Nupol Composites. Nupol manufacture polyester and vinylester resins, gelcoats, flowcoats and pigment pastes, so as you can imagine he had more than a little input into this vessel's appearance, choosing the black and white finish which, in my opinion, has worked superbly.


The Northbank 650 Walkaround has both the look and feel of a larger craft and a hull built like a battleship, well, maybe not quite a battleship, but with a hull thickness of 25mm at the keel and six to 8mm at the gunwale, plus its seven bearers (where five is more usual in a craft of this size) and three cross bulkheads, you have strength plus. And with a beam of 2.5m and running a 22-degree deadrise, I looked forward to the usual Northbank soft ride.
Stepping aboard I noted excellent lateral stability and this was maintained during the test regardless of where the three of us on board moved around the deck or cabin, thanks to the wide chines. Taking the stainless steel wheel in hand I observed that the sight lines to the instrument panel were good, as was the view forward through the screen.
A Northstar M121 multi-function screen sits pride of place on the dash and with its integrated functions provides the skipper with a comprehensive array of information from sonar functions through chartplotting and even video input if required.
Situated directly above the Northstar unit is the Mercury Marine VesselView SmartCraft display which links the propulsion control module on the engine to an advanced computer network so the driver can access all manner of data such as speed, engine rpm, cooling water temperature, water depth and fuel consumption via SmartCraft gauges and displays.
The throttle falls nicely to hand and I was pleased to note that my 100kg-plus frame didn't feel at all cramped between the helm seat and the wheel. The sturdy screen is nice and high, and effectively protects the occupants from most of the water thrown around by a high-powered planing powerboat in a roughish sea with the clears doing the rest.


Now on this test day the often vicious Gulf of St Vincent chop that defines these waters was having a rostered day off and the sea was relatively smooth, so we had to make our own confused sea by roaring around in circles for a while.
Mind you, having spent several hundred hours on virtually the same hull, albeit with a different superstructure, I hardly needed any more experience in the soft-riding qualities of these capable hulls. My son and I have a favourite secret snapper spot across the Gulf and make regular trips across this 30nm stretch of water.
These trips have taught us that the Northbank hulls are best driven hard and fast, as in this manner they will skim over the lumps and bumps with aplomb and instil huge confidence in the helmsman. There's rarely a need to back off, whether facing a breaking headsea or running down the face in a following one, as at virtually all times and all running angles the 650 Northbanks behave like the thoroughbreds they are, inspiring confidence in those aboard.
The Mercury Verado 225 powering this craft is a straight six, 24-valve, direct acting double overhead cam (DOHC) motor and like its model designation suggests, is rated at 225hp or 168kW in the new money. It does a superb job of making this craft fly with arm-stretching acceleration and a blindingly quick transition from displacement to planing speed with just a light touch on the fly-by-wire throttle.
A WOT run brought up a speed of just over 40kts (74kmh) and with a 300lt aluminium underfloor fuel tank, range is quite reasonable and somewhere in the vicinity of 200nm or 370km.


The helm seats are adjustable fore and aft, and both swivel to maximise fishing space and comfort, while each pedestal contains considerable storage for fishing gear in the form of inbuilt tackle boxes. And speaking of fishing, the relatively high sides of the cockpit are ideal to brace against when fighting those big ones, with the additional benefit of safety when kids are aboard.
A deep livebait well is set in the starboard transom, the baitboard has a hinged lid to allow access to stored bait and the lid itself features a Teflon cutting board. Three handy rodholders are mounted at the rear of the board while other rodholders are set in the gunwales along with two recessed grabrails. This craft was outfitted with a Fusion CD player and with four speakers in the cockpit there will be no lack of music when required.
Unlike some craft claimed to be walkaround in style, the Northbank does offer a workable walkway, with an easy step up from the cockpit sole, and plenty of fishing space forward.
The cabin is set up with the usual V-berth arrangement and while it couldn't be described as overly spacious, with its two-metre-plus berths it certainly allows for a nap between tides or shelter from inclement weather. And the sidepockets in the cabin increase storage space for the various miscellaneous items that always seem to find their way aboard.
The stainless steel Bimini support carries a six-pot rocket launcher and it provides a nice handgrip when stepping up on to the Walkaround's side walkway. All Northbank models feature a large, easy to access and clean, underfloor wet storage bin with a drain plug and covered by a solid lid.
There are many more features of the Walkaround, some of which are: the twin boarding platforms; the stainless steel fold-down boarding ladder; the moulded bowsprit with anchor roller; a Muir electric winch; the obligatory VHF transceiver; and, the EPIRP and fire extinguisher, both set in neat recesses.
Altogether this is a stylish and immensely practical fishing platform for the more serious angler and one which will handle rough offshore sea conditions with aplomb.


Stylish looks
Rock solid construction
Soft ride


Anchor locker could use a gas strut



Specifications: Northbank 650 Walkaround

Price as tested: $97,900
Options fitted: Electronics, anchor winch, deluxe seats, walkthrough transom, swim platform, 306lt fuel tank (250lt standard), trailer upgrade, clears, and towing covers
Priced from: $74,000

Material:    GRP
Type:    Monohull
Length overall:  6.8m w/ bowsprit
Hull length:   6.5m
Beam:   2.44m
Deadrise:   21°
Fuel:    306lt
Rec. max. HP/kW: 250/185
Weight:   2300kg (BMT)

Make/model:  Mercury Verado 225
Type:    Straight six petrol outboard
Rated HP:    225

Christies Beach Marine,
19 Sherriffs Road,
Lonsdale, SA, 5160
Phone: (08) 8387 6411

Originally published in TrailerBoat #241

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