By: David Lockwood, Photography by: David Lockwood

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Don't let the pretty little flowers on this Stabi-Craft 759 Super Cab fool you -- underneath the decorative exterior is one very utilitarian rig, says David Lockwood


We might boast about being the world's best manufacturers of tinnies, but those cunning Kiwis across the ditch can fly some mettle, too. Take the Stabi-Craft 759 Super Cab. While tinnies are not known for a smooth ride, this Kiwi creation redefined everything I have come to know in three decades of riding roughshod aboard damned tinnies.

While it mightn't look like an oil painting - though I do love the laser-cut frangipani and hibiscus flower stickers added for some summer style by the owner - there's plenty to admire about this clever boat. Beyond the metallic-blue two-pack paint job with funky flower print is a boat sure to win over the most hardened of tin men.
I headed out in to the wilds of Broken Bay, where a 15kt south-easterly and a quick two-metre chop was rolling over the top of a wind-blown metre-high ground swell, expecting a crash tackle or two. There were more potholes than the Hume Highway ahead of me, but I thought I'd at least embark on a lap of Lion Island before forming my considered opinion.
Quite incredibly, the Stabi-Craft maintained cruise speeds of 26.6kt according to the GPS (when I did manage to read the screen). And not even one kidney-pounding tackle or poleaxing crack while running in all directions. What's more, with an enclosed wheelhouse, I was as dry as Slim's famous pub, the one with no beer.
Now I'm not one to heap praise on a boat for the builder's or agent's sake. Rather, I share these sentiments with readers with all sincerity. This Stabi-Craft, and the 6.0m model we used as a camera boat, keep rare company - they belong to an elite group of smooth-riding tinnies.




How do you make a smooth-riding lightweight boat? Well, it's pretty easy, really. As one who spends a reasonable amount of time buzzing about in the RIB tender on our cruiser I senses a familiar motion at work here. Simply, the Stabi-Craft hull is an evolution - and aluminium rendition - of the time-honoured RIB.
The 759 Super Cab hull was built tough, too, with a 6mm hull and engine pod, and 4mm tubes and topsides. The hull also has a deep-vee - 22 degrees of deadrise in this instance - with an exceptionally sharp entry that slices the water.
Buoyancy is derived not from the volume of the centre hull, but from the aluminium pontoons either side of it. The pontoons are sealed with separate air chambers, and there is a reserve buoyancy of 3100lt, so you will be hard pressed to sink this boat.
At the transom, a slight cathedral shape helps to trap air and cushion the ride. In the rough stuff, I felt as though I was on a king-sized cushion in the tray of a ute. Even when standing and not seated on the standard-issue pneumatic Softrider helm seat, the ride was surprisingly comfortable.




Clearly, I am not alone in thinking Stabi-Craft has hit on something. Since the first boat was released in 1986 - that boat was built for a paua or abalone diver working the rugged Foveaux Straight - the Kiwi company made 610 boats and 23 models from 4/0-7.6m last year. Soon, they will be building boats to 10.5m and to 2C survey.
Importantly for survey work, the 759 Super Cab, and indeed all Stabi-Craft models, feature positive buoyancy. You might have seen the display at the East Coast boat shows of a submerged 4.0m model. When swamped, the outboard's powerhead still sits nice and clear of the water. The smaller models, with their self-bailing decks, apparently drain and resume their original trim in just 20 minutes.
The 759 hull tested here wasn't self-draining and, instead, its sealed decks lead to a 1100gph bilge pump hiding in the bilge in the pod. However, all this is in the process of being changed and every Stabi-Craft measuring six metres and greater with have a raised floor with self-draining deck by the time you read this.
So do consider these boats incredibly safe. Certainly, many authorities do. I'm told all manner of government departments from fishers to waterways, coastguard to police employ Stabi-Crafts in NZ. Here, you will find them in all States and serving commercial roles soon, me thinks.
For recreational purposes they should be shortlisted for fishing, diving, cruising and a myriad of runabout uses. The 759 Super Cab with its wheelhouse and standard-issue diesel heat/demister would make a brilliant cold-climate craft, too. After all, the boats come from wild-and-woolly NZ.




Strictly speaking, this, the flagship of the range for now, requires a permit to be towed. The Super Cab models, you see, have full-width wheelhouses with extruded aluminium side decks that sit proud of their cabs. You can, however, order this exact boat without the sidedecks, a bigger foredeck hatch, and it will measure a legally trailerable 2.50m wide. Either way, it's a high-volume craft, tipping the scales at 1300kg for the hull only. Moreover, its enormity and approximate 2200kg road weight will demand an authoritative maxi 4WD.
With the supplied windlass there's actually not much reason to go forward. But I did, noting that handrails help with the passage, and seeing a deadeye in the rope well. The SARCA anchor, an Aussie invention which the local dealer fits to all his Stabi-Crafts, is a clever device designed to work equally well in reef, sand or mud.
Returning to the cockpit I saw that the rear edge of the hardtop sported an optional rocket launcher that doubled as an aerial-mounting bracket. You could add outriggers to this boat if gamefishing is your bent and at least one 759 was fitted with a fish-spotting platform on the hardtop.
Most Stabi-Craft owners tick the option boxes marked livebait well, filleting table and even twin outboard brackets, I'm told. The skipole and spotlight on this boat were also optional. Consider a saltwater deckwash, too.
The cockpit was exceptionally deep, so future self-draining models will still have terrific freeboard. The floor of the entire boat is sealed chequerplate aluminium, with optional rubber tube matting should you plan to stand and fish all day. A 280lt fuel tank hides underfloor.
A neat washboard, which can be stowed in a supplied bracket, effectively seals the portside walkthrough transom. The optional rear-boarding ladder will come in handy when clambering aboard from beaches and the ramp. There's plenty of room to mount a berley pot.
Storage, while not a highlight of the sealed cockpit, exists in two full-length sidepockets and two cockpit boxes near the cabin door. With upholstered lids these double as comfy seats. There's also room back under the transom for a fish box or two. Fish storage is best left to a portable insulated icebox.
Full marks for keeping the twin batteries and oil bottle well up off the floor in transom lockers. The batteries are split between engine-start and dedicated house duties, with a parallel switch, and the alternator on the Evinrude E-Tec has a whopping 133A output, but I'd also like to see some water and a sink in this so-called Weekender. I'm told water and a walk-in shower are possibilities. Hopefully they become standard inclusions.




The lock-up sliding cabin door will be a boon for those who aim to moor or drystack the boat. Inside there is immense headroom of some two metres. Look about and you will soon learn find justification for the Weekender tag. Immediately to starboard, behind the driver's seat, was a two-burner gas stove. (So that is the reason for the gas bottle back in the cockpit sidepocket).
Under the stove is a small portable plastic diesel fuel tank linked to a Webasto 2kW cabin heater and demister. This device, which uses 0.2lt/h of diesel and is vented overboard, is a brilliant inclusion. No fogged windscreens ever again. Wipers are also provided. Oh, and that windscreen is a Taylor Marine armour-plate glass model with no distortion and side-opening windows for natural ventilation.
Meantime, opposite the stove I found a decent 12V Engel fridge under the aft-most seat of the portside dinette. While the dinette isn't huge, a couple can sit here or, using the helm seat, you could seat a family of four for a meal. The dinette also converts to a double bed for kids.
The backrest for the forward seat of the dinette reverses to become the back support for the navigator's seat. Under all the seats is useful storage space. Ditto for the vee-berth up front.
Between the vee-berth was the expected portapotti. With the infill over the loo the cabin morphed into one big double bed that can easily sleep a couple in true comfort. The upholstery was really quite well done and I almost sensed that love was in the air. Must be spring.
The sidepockets above the bed - you also get an escape hatch - were long enough for stashing a few fishing rods, paddles, safety gear, book, sunscreen, that kind of thing. I imagined the boat would be great for a night at least and, with water, two nights.




The workman-like charcoal cabin liner and black-painted aluminium surfaces ensure there's little glare at the helm. Nearby, I noted a couple of pockets for stowing personals such a wallet and blowphone. HyDrive hydraulic steering is standard.
The dash had speedo, tacho and volt meter, a Navman colour Fish 45000 sounder and Tracker 5500 GPS chartplotter, with tiny writing (or maybe I have failing eyesight). It appeared that you could flush mount much bigger nav screen if you wanted. Transducers will have to be transom mounted.
There was a VHF radio, the remote for the spotlight, windlass control and the starter for the nifty diesel demister/heater. The switchpanel took care of lighting and wipers and pumps, while the Softrider helm seat was teamed with a built-in footrest. Still, there was room to stand and drive.
And this was an obliging boat to drive, with great views and, as I mentioned, comforts. These come not from trinkets and pretty trim but an amazingly smooth ride. As with most cathedral-type RIB hulls, the Stabi is efficient and champing at the bit to plane.
But first a word on the outboard. My experience with the Evinrude direct-injection E-Tec outboards was formerly confined to the mid-range models. Everything that is great about them - low emissions, low idle noise, low fuel consumption and wild acceleration - applies doubly to the 225hp Evinrude E-Tec on this 759 Super Cab. Evinrude's 225hp E-Tec is an impressive outboard with plenty of acceleration, quietness and fuel efficiency, and a quick response trim button.
And talk about mid-throttle poke! It will leave four-strokes looking like plodders.
With full leg-in trim the boat easily held plane at 10kt at 2500rpm, cruised at 16kt at 3000rpm, and jumped to 24kt at 4000rpm. The throttle and motor seemed really content to sit on 4200rpm, which gave the 26-27kt cruise on the wide blue yonder, around Scotland Island, where the waves were cracking like a Scottish coast. I even sniffed herrings in the air.
But the outboard is still very much in its comfort zone cruising at 5000rpm for a fast 31-32kt continuous speed. At 5800rpm, the 19in stainless-steel prop gave 37kt. Apparently there was 40kt in the boat when new and before the marine critters decided to make the hull their home.
I have since learnt that future Stabi-Craft boats from six metres and above will have a Vibra-Stop anti vibration kit fitted as standard. These are said to really cut down on engine reverberation on tinnies; only at high speed was the noise of the two-stroke motor in any way noticeable.
I almost feel apologetic for being so taken by this utilitarian-looking boat. Could it be that the Kiwis have perfected the tinnie? I hate to admit it, but this Stabi-Craft is definitely keeping elite company in a rare class of aluminium boats with a great ride. Well done, Kiwi bros.




Incredibly smooth ride offshore
Dry boat with a protected wheelhouse
Low-fuss aluminium surfaces
Good stability at rest
Decent fuel capacity
Good accommodation and amenities
The diesel demister is a cracker
Impressive E-Tec outboard




Prone to cross winds and the boat skates about at low speed, making a potentially tricky trailer retrieve.
Finish is workmanlike
Some sound reverberation, though future boats will have a special anti-vibration engine mounting system.
Not the prettiest hull lines
No water in this "Weekender"





Specifications: Stabi-Craft 759 Super Cab Weekender




Price as tested: $113,000 with 225hp Evinrude E-Tec outboard and options
Options Fitted: Rocket launcher, ski pole, spotlight, rear boarding ladder and electronics
Priced from: $99,900 as basic 759 Super Cab Fisher with 200hp Evinrude E-Tec outboard on trailer



Material: 6mm aluminium hull w/ 4mm alloy tubes composite transom, stringers and floor
Type: Dee-vee planing hull modelled on RIB
Length overall: 7.60m
Beam: 2.69m
Deadrise: 22°
Weight: Around 1300kg hull only, about 2200kg towing weight




Berths: Two adults + two kids
Fuel: 280lt
Water: BYO bottled




Make/Model: Evinrude 225hp E-Tec
Type: Outboard V6 90 degree petrol two-stroke
Rated hp: 225 @ 5150rpm.
Displacement: 3.279lt
Weight: About 385kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): 1.85:1 outboard
Props: stainless-steel 19in




Ken Bullen Marine,
58 Garden St,
North Narrabeen, NSW, 2101.
Phone: (02) 9913 3522; 1800-1STABI for interstate dealers

Originally published in TrailerBoat #198

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