BOAT TEST: STACER 449 ESTUARY MASTER

By: DAVID LOCKWOOD


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Stacer’s 449 Estuary Master is a no-fuss runabout that bay and estuary fishos, or even the entire family, will still have a ball in

BOAT TEST: STACER 449 ESTUARY MASTER
STACER 449 ESTUARY MASTER

 

LITTLE TACKER


It might be the smallest runabout with windscreen and forward steering in the Stacer tinnie brochure, but it's limited only by your imagination. And luck…
And, as luck would have it, a pod of migrating dolphins was cavorting about the Georges River during this test. This just goes to show you only have to be on the waterways in a small tinnie like this to see some of Mother Nature's most stirring sights.
Elsewhere, there were anglers in other tinnies wetting a line, trailerboaters setting crab trabs, and the whole of Botany Bay beckoned to be explored. In light of this, the Stacer 449 Estuary Master has a fitting name.
Priced from $19,535 as a drive-away, no-more-to-pay package - or $114 per week over 60 months, plus dealer charges - this is a boat that just about everybody can afford.
But besides the prospects of dolphin spotting, fishing and crabbing, pottering about the bay and a picnic ashore, what exactly do you get in an entry-level runabout package from one of Australia biggest tinnie manufacturers these days?

 

 

THE PLATFORM


Rated to a maximum 50hp outboard, the 449 Estuary Master tested performed perfectly as a 'Ready-2-Go' factory-rolled package bundled with a Mercury three-cylinder 40hp electric-start outboard with power trim and tilt.
The boat arrived on a single-axle Stacer-badged trailer, with an all-up towing weight of about 500kg, which means no needs for trailer brakes and an easy tow behind a basic city hatch.
The Mercury 40LW outboard is a long shaft with a decent 11-amp alternator, so you can run a few accessories like bait pump, depthsounder and fluoro fishing light off your battery. The dealer also fitted a 12V accessory plug. The outboard has variable oil injection for less smoke and a 17-inch alloy prop seemed well suited to the rig.
Besides the 12V plug, the dealer added a few extras to the basic 449 Estuary Master: a Navman Fish 4430 depthsounder, a Navman 27MHz radio, an aft cutting board that includes two handy rodholders, and the factory-fitted rear ladder so you and the kiddies can clamber back aboard after your midday swim.
The extra $455 for these accessories would be money well spent. If you want to spend half that you can have two engine gauges, which aren't standard on this boat, but in my opinion that's not such a good investment.
Rather, you drive a simple runabout like this by ear and feel. 'Ouch' means slow down, a whirring prop means trim in the motor, and a smooth ride means give the outboard some more throttle.

 


 
HULL OF A TIME


The so-called EVO Series II hull is fabricated or pressed from 3mm aluminium sheet on the running surface to which 2mm sheet is welded for the hull sides, coamings and small foredeck. As with all Stacer boats, the 449 Estuary Master has a full-beam forward hull with a lot of depth, buoyancy and freeboard up front. That's handy on a small boat that might be confronted by rough bay conditions.
But it's the so-called Mod Pod at the blunt end that matters just as much. Where some entry-level alloy runabouts have low transoms or no splash well at all, leading to the ingress of water, the 449 Estuary Master has a deep well with integrated engine pod that extends the running surface of the hull.
The Mod Pod does four important things: it provides buoyancy for motor and crew sitting aft or fishing over the transom, it keeps water out of the cockpit, it ensures the powerhead of the long-shaft outboard is well clear of the water, and it assists with hole shot and performance.

 

 

FISHING AND FAMILY FUN


Besides the Mod Pod and optional factory ladder, the boat comes with a simple fold-down two-person/three kiddie aft lounge. For strictly fishing days the lounge can be removed to create more cockpit space. It also folds down out of the way.
Behind the lounge were the battery in a box, the battery-isolating switch, which you need to prevent current leakage when parked at home, and the standard-issue 25lt remote fuel tank, which should suffice for a day's gadding about an estuary.
Sadly, access to the bilge pump requires unscrewing an aluminium trim panel. A bit silly, really, since bilge pumps often get gummed up and require quick access and a clean to kick start.
Should you throw a few buckets of water on the deck after landing a fish only to discover the bilge pump doesn't work, you'll be on your hands and knees for a while trying to right things.
On the upside, the boat has big side storage pockets, a wide cockpit with carpeted flat floor, with basic positive foam flotation contained within. There is toe-under support for leaning into the gunwales when fighting a fish, deck space to prepare crab traps, and a bimini top so you can drift-fish in the shade.
The load capacity as per the Australian Builders Plate developed by the Australian Marine Industry Federation, which appears on all boats nowadays, was listed as 350kg or four adults at 75kg each. Given the average weight of an adult these days is about 90kg, that's a bit generous and something of a flaw in the plate.
But by my reckoning the little tinnie with flat carpeted floor is an inherently stable boat, even if the adults are 90kg a pop. Its high sides, bow and transom, and wide 2.04m beam sees to that.

 


 
BACK TO FRONT


The tinted acrylic windscreen is a three-piece model with a centre-opening section through which you can easily reach out to the anchor well. It's got a polypropylene insert to prevent that annoying anchor and chain rattle when crossing boat wake. There's a bowrail, bowroller, and small bowsprit, too.
The windscreen is traced by a grabrail that leaves a wide enough gap to get your hands around and between the windscreen frame. There's a big sub-foredeck dry storage area, glovebox for personals, a simple moulded plastic dash panel with scope to fit electronics, and reasonably comfortable swivel helm seats.

 

 

DASHING DRIVE


As mentioned, there was no tacho. Instead, this was all about driving by feel. When the ride becomes bum-numbing, just back off. And there are no surprises in the ride department. The 449 Estuary Master delivered typical small-tinnie performance. Read: a bit noisy, a bit thumpy, and a bit wet.
With full trim in, the 40hp Merc had the boat planing at just 6kts, but it was more comfortable cruising at 13kts where it achieved a level attitude. Family cruise with nominal engine trim was clocked at 16kts on my handheld GPS.
In flat water, I was happy enough maintaining 20kts. Top speed ranged from 24.1kts to 25.3kts with the outboard leg trimmed out as far as it would go without sucking air, freewheeling, cavitating and decelerating.
But let's get back to the likely role of a boat like this. An all-purpose potential estuary master, the 449 from Stacer is all about no-fuss boating. A blatt, a fish, a swim, a quick hose off and out with the backyard barbie. Really, it's all you ever need. Oh, and just might get lucky and see some dolphins.

 


 
WHAT WE LIKED


Big brand backing with strong dealer network and resale value
Improved finish from one of our highest-volume tinnie makers
Stable, with excellent fore and aft freeboard and buoyancy
Seating for four and a liftout rear lounge for more fishing space
Eager to plane with a frugal 40hp outboard
No-fuss boating is hard to beat

 


 
NOT SO MUCH


Typical tinnie ride, meaning sometimes harsh, noisy and quite wet in a quartering seas
Lack of backrest on rear lounge might add to the discomfort
No engine instruments as standard and no fuel gauge on the dash
Poor access to bilge pump - this needs addressing
The 449 model designation is misleading, as it's an exaggeration of the length overall

 

 

 

 

Specifications: Stacer 449 Estuary Master

 


 
HOW MUCH?


Price as tested: $19,990 w/ Mercury 40hp outboard, single-axle trailer, dealer options, safety gear and registrations
Options fitted: Navman Fish 4430, Navman 27MHz radio, 12V accessory outlet, aft cutting board, factory-fitted rear ladder

 


 
GENERAL


Material: 3mm alloy hull bottom, 2.5mm sides
Length overall: 4.46m
Hull length: 4.36m
Length on trailer: 5.4m
Height on trailer: 2.04m
Beam: 2.04mm
Weight: 278kg hull only. Approx 500kg on road  

 


 
CAPACITIES


Fuel capacity: 25lt remote tank
Passengers: Four adults at 75kg each
Rec. max HP: 50
Rec. min HP: 40

 


 
ENGINE


Make/model: Mercury 40LW
Type: Three-cylinder two-stroke outboard
Weight: 69kg
Rated HP: 40 at 4500 to 5500rpm
Displacement: 697cc
Drive: outboard 2:1 transmission
Propeller: 17-inch alloy

 


 
SUPPLIED BY


Webbe Marine,
541 Princes Highway, Kirrawee,
NSW, 2232
Phone: (02) 9521 7944
Website: www.stacer.com.au

 

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #213

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