By: Rick Huckstepp, Photography by: Rick Huckstepp

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If you’re in the market for a knockabout boat that can really handle the rough stuff… check out a Polycraft




Recently the TrailerBoat team had the chance to compare two Polycraft 599 models: one a centre-console and the other a cuddy-cabin version. "So, what's so strange about that?" I hear some readers thinking out loud. But this test did have an unusual twist.
Normally, we put new boats straight out of the showroom through their paces, but this time we met the owners of these boats when they came back to the dock at the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club. They'd just returned from a charter after taking a group of pensioners for a daytrip to St Helena Island. And these guys were keen to show us their boats.



The centre-console boat has been in service for more than three years, while the cuddy-cabin version had clocked up slightly fewer hours. But now both of these boats are in full 2C Survey, which allows them to travel up to 15nm offshore in a charter capacity.
Their day-to-day routine usually sees the boats ferrying customers on various charters. The boats are rated for six people offshore and eight in sheltered waters and their many activities include fishing, beach cruising, moonlight tours and watching wild life and sea life. With so much in their repertoires, the boats have to be capable of carrying not only the people, but all their associated baggage and safety gear as well.
According to Danny Hovey and Darren Cleary, partners in Brisbane Bay Tours, their regular fishing clients normally specify the centre-console boat for offshore trips, while the other more sedate activities, who are normally the older set, opt for the added comfort offered by cuddy-cabin.
Danny says he originally bought a Polycraft 455 as an experiment six years ago and flogged the hell out of it fishing from Bundaberg to the Gold Coast and all over Moreton Bay.
"I thought to myself, this boat really stacks up, so I upgraded to the centre-console you see here," he said.
"I liked her wide beam and the foam floatation inside the hull, because I knew that down the track I wanted to get into some sort of water-based business and would need the flotation to get the boat certified for Survey work.
"Later I started Brisbane Bay Tours, to give people a "small boat experience" and quickly had to expand, so I added the cuddy to the fleet," he said.
His business plan has room for further expansion, which will have this small company running five vessels - and you can bet they'll all be from Polycraft.
These boats offer exceptional value for money, especially when you take into consideration just how durable polyethylene is.
A durable hull is something these operators definitely need when they go out fishing, because the hull is always getting whacked by heavy sinkers from less experienced anglers.
Danny added that good stability at rest was an important factor in his decision to purchase Polycraft boats.



So, what did we find? Danny was spot on! The shallow deadrise and prominent tracking rails along each chine make these boats extremely stable. All Polycraft have these rails, which gives them a flat-planing attitude during hard turns at high speed. They also wrap around the skids of the boats' purpose-built trailers, which helps centre them on the trailers back at the ramp.
Both hulls had moulded anchorwells, so they were part of the hull. They're big enough to hold enough rope and chain, a decent plough anchor and a handy sea anchor (drogue), used to slow the boat's drift when required.



One of the Survey requirements is to have a toilet onboard. The centre-console's is positioned under a cushioned frame at the front of the console. Unfortunately the law doesn't have much to say about privacy, so I doubt that this loo ever sees much action. I'd say most would prefer to grit their teeth and hang on until they reach the shore. In the cuddy version, the loo was tucked away in the cabin among all the safety gear and fishing tackle, comfortably obscured from prying eyes.
There's a long amidship's hatch in both models. In the cuddy version this is inside the cabin, while on the centre-console it's in from the front of the console. The owners did something clever here and avoided having to shift the portable toilet by cutting and hinging the lid, midway along its length.
These below deck lockers can be used as killtanks. Both boats had another locker located against the transom bulkhead. These lockers have small hatches, but the storage area beneath carries well forward, so fish bins and other gear can be easily stowed here.



The dash on the cuddy boat's quite large for a vessel of this size and featured a flush-mounted Humminbird sounder/GPS unit. There's also a narrow space on the dash top where you might squeeze some small electronics if necessary. The cuddy's cabin can be sealed off with a vinyl curtain, should you be fortunate enough to be on this boat rather than the centre-console, when nature calls.
Changing boats, the console was wide and filled with electronics and other gadgetry, while the underfloor lockers were "chock-a-block" with gear.
In Survey life jackets can be bulky and these were stowed under the canopy and held in place by elastic netting, which meant the rod rack on top could only be accessed by standing on the gunwales.



There's plenty of flex in this frame, which probably stops it from breaking, but flex is something you get very used to after spending time on a Polycraft. They're not rigid boats; in fact, the entire hull flexes when underway, but don't let this put you off, because this creates the soft ride in choppy conditions that these boats are renowned for. Also, the foam-filled hull eliminates almost all running noise coming through the hull. This, and the super-quiet operation of the Honda 150hp VTEC four-stroke bolted to each transom, made riding in these boats at full throttle across Moreton Bay's notoriously short chop quite pleasant.
Seating on the centre-console boat consists of a wide insulated fishbox and "fold-down" lounge across the transom. The cuddy-cabin had bucket seats on modules, which housed the batteries and isolation switch.
Back on the centre-console, the void inside the transom bulkhead is foam filled in order to meet the extra Survey buoyancy requirements. For this reason, the batteries have been located in the centre-console. This actually helps with the boat's weight distribution and planing angle.



Holeshot on the centre-console boat was slightly quicker than the cuddy and took less effort. However, at 5800rpm it topped out at 32.4kts (60km/h) on the GPS, compared to the cuddy's WOT speed of 33.5kts (62km/h) at 6010rpm. At 4000rpm the cuddy cruised at 16.7kts (31km/h), while the centre-console did 19.3kts (36km/h) at the same revs.
At the helm, both had easy steering and did not have any problems handling big wakes from larger boats.
According to their owners, on a day of fishing offshore, after negotiating a bar crossing and battling constant swells, both boats used an average of 100lt per 160km of sea travel.



If you had to choose between these boats for future exploits, you'd really have to sit down and itemise your exact needs to separate the two. All centre-consoles wet their occupants when the wind is blowing over a forequarter and the boat is punching through waves, something the 599 Centre Console solves with clears and extra fishability.
Alternatively, if you're looking for more protection and want to get out of the weather, the cuddy will be high on your list of considerations.




Beamy cockpit with extra fishing room
These are super tough boats
Honda 150hp gives extremely good fuel economy




Rear lounge impedes fishing
Can't achieve toes in-under when fishing
Rear lounge base needs trimming





Specifications: Polycraft 599 Cuddy/Centre Console




Price as tested:  Approx $52,000
Centre Console (BMT); approx $55,000 Cuddy (BMT)
Priced from: $24,642 Centre Console; $28,252 Cuddy




Material: Polyethylene
Length overall: 6.1m
Beam: 2.5m
Deadrise: 17° Cuddy Cabin
Weight: 1040kg Cuddy
(hull); 940kg Centre Console (hull)




Max. load:  600kg
Fuel: 200lt
Max. engine weight: 220kg
Rec. max. HP: 175hp
Rec. min. HP: 115hp
Rec. max. load: 940kg




Make/model: Honda BF150hp
Type: Four-stroke
Displacement: 2354cc
Gearbox ratio: 2.14:1
Weight: 220kg
Propellers: 14¼in x 17in Cuddy; 14½ x 15in Centre Console




Brisbane Bay Tours,
Fairlead Crescent,
Manly, Qld, 4179
Phone: (07) 3904 7106



Originally published in TrailerBoat #247

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