BOAT TEST: STEJCRAFT ISLANDER DAY CRUISER

By: DAVID LOCKWOOD, Photography by: JUAN FORD


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Stejcraft has set its sights on recapturing a share of the family fishing market with its brand new Islander Day Cruiser, and David Lockwood steps ashore with this thorough report on a boat that’s gonna win a lot of fans

BOAT TEST: STEJCRAFT ISLANDER DAY CRUISER
STEJCRAFT ISLANDER DAY CRUISER

 

ISLAND IN THE SUN


Times are tough for Australian boatbuilders, what with the rash of imported craft assaulting our shores, the stellar Aussie dollar, and Little Johnny's dubious decision to sign the free-trade agreement and drop the duty on foreign orders. Ouch!
But the combination of events is far from sounding the death knell on our local boatbuilders. Except for the free-trade agreement, old stagers like Stejcraft have seen it all before.
Stejcraft is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so the stalwart has to be doing something right. I think it has something to do with them building dinkum Australian boats for Australian workers.
While the new Stejcrafts are pretty boats with lots of curvaceous mouldings, and while the company does a stylish line of ski craft, boats like the Islander Day Cruiser, the subject of this test, are foremost keenly-priced and designed to offer bang for your buck.

 

 

PHEONIX RISING


Joe Nansra, who bought Stejcraft when it wasn't in good shape in 2003, is responsible for the resurrection you see today. He always had a passion for boats and owned boats. In fact, he got into the business of boatbuilding by default.
"Stejcraft have always been the blue-collar worker's boat for the average family man who enjoys recreational boating," he explains. "It's my mission to bring Stejcraft back to where it ought to be."
Joe told TrailerBoat that his business built just under 200 boats last year and he will meet his goals of 220-250 boats this year. The 15 models include general-purpose speedboats and skiboats, a strong bowrider line-up, a number of family cruisers and some revamped trailerable fishing boats.
In other words, the company takes a holistic approach to the small-boat building by offering something for everyone at most stages of their boating lives. And appealing to the fishing and family boater - the broadest of markets - is a certain way to attract interest in its new Islander Day Cruiser.
One of the latest redesigned boats, the Islander Day Cruiser looks smart at the ramp. The combination of modern mouldings, lots of curves, good graphics and chic trim panels give the boat a contemporary look, while also hiding the bulk of the above-deck sections.
Beyond the boat ramp and showroom floor, Botany Bay called. By rights a 5.8m (LOA) hull designated a Day Cruiser should be able to cross a big bay and head out into the bluewater when conditions are acceptable. They were, and so off I went.

 

 

FOUNDATION FOR FISHING


Well, almost. First, some investigation was in order while the hull sat on its single-axle trailer. I noted a galvanised axle, galvanised leaf springs, manual brakes and a drive-on multiroller setup, plus submersible lights.
Good to see the dealer had done his bit by providing a tough low-maintenance Aussie-made trailer that can withstand our roads and ramps.
I also noted an interesting hull that points to the direction that modern fibreglass production trailerboats are heading these days. Like a lot of Kiwi-made GRP boats and those from Whittley, the Stejcraft hull had a very raked stem and a fine point of entry.
Offsetting the fine bow was a hull with a lot of volume in its topsides that quickly flares to a beamy cockpit. Lift is generated along the running surface by a series of strakes and very pronounced chines. The aft section also gets an enormous amount on lift from a rounded planing plank.
About halfway along the hull is a hip or cutout in the chines. The brochure mentions something about a Hull Release System, but the combination of strakes, big chines and a planing plank are what makes this boat willing to plane. The cutouts may or may not help with cornering.
Underway, the Islander Day Cruiser was an exceedingly slippery and sneaky hull that glided to planing speeds. There wasn't an inkling of the bow lifting skywards or a transition when it tried to get over the hump. Stability at rest was good, too, but more on these things later.

 

 

AUSSIE BUILD


Stejcraft uses solid GRP with a 'glass-encapsulated marine ply box stringer system, a strengthened transom and internal GRP liner for its hull, which are backed by a five-year structural warranty. The volume of the boat is concealed to some degree by a silver-and-black metallic fleck colour panel and grey graphics. The cabin has a black Perspex window with eagle-eye styling that looks modern.
On deck, I found a fuel filler that you can reach at the petrol station without having to clamber aboard, a starboard-side boarding step with ladder, and a transom-hung transducer and speedo pickup. The boat had two small cleats in the transom corners and amidships that won't take a thick mooring rope.
The split bowrail, moulded bowsprit and roller will certainly help with anchoring. I would like to see some non-skid on the anchor-well hatch to help with your footing when coming aboard from the bow or disembarking.
I couldn't find a deadeye to tie the rope to in the anchor well, but at least it's a deep well with plenty of room for rope. So, too, is the engine well.
An interesting design, the engine well had a pullout washboard or centre panel that, no matter how hard I tried, didn't leak water during offshore tests.
I assume the reason the panel is removable is to provide room to tilt the engine heads of bigger, four-stroke outboard motors. The transom also had twin bait bins, albeit on the small side, one of which the dealer was intending to plumb as a livebait tank.

 

 

CONVERTIBLE LAYOUT


The family/fishing intent of the Islander Day Cruiser was underscored by the convertible layout. The boat had a full-length rear lounge with a deep backrest that should be comfortable for up to four people. The two upholstered lounge seat bases drop onto a full-length moulded GRP storage bin. The seat bases lift out to give access to whatever you have stored in the bin.
The bin had a hole at either end to accommodate the rubber stoppers mounted on the deck. This way, the lounge unit and storage bin stay in place when travelling.
Presumably, in family or ski mode you leave the lounge in place for extra seating. Stainless grabrails will help aft crew stay put when cornering. Then, before you go fishing, you can lift the bin out, leave it in the garage and enjoy the roomier cockpit and standing room at the transom. With the GRP base out of the way you can access the bilge, oil bottle and battery.
However, for all this, I would change the attachment method of that lounge base. The holes cut in the bottom to accept the rubber stoppers on the floor mean the box isn't watertight. If one were to use external deck clips to retain the lounge base then you could have a sealed GRP unit that could double as an icebox/fish box.
There is a smaller underfloor storage area that drains to the bilge for storing bait, fish or drinks and an underfloor 130lt fuel tank. The floor is carpeted, with carpeted sides, toe-under space and good thigh support when leaning outboard. In fact, the cockpit is really quite wide and the boat derives stability from that.
Fishing amenities include four stainless rodholders, a five-tray tackle locker in the co-pilot's moulded seat base, and an optional factory-fitted bimini top with clear curtains and five rodholders. The aluminium targa frame and plastic fittings for the bimini top were not strong enough to hang off, but they created practical rod storage, shade and spray protection. The canvas was the top-grade Sunbrella material.
Storage is a real strength of the Islander Day Cruiser. Besides the aft bait bins, the lounge base, underfloor well and sidepockets, the boat has a second tier of storage pockets for holding personals near the helm seats and moulded seat bases with storage space. There is yet more storage under the bunks or seats in the cabin, as well as in vinyl pockets on the back of the helm seats.

 

 

CABIN CRUISER


The Islander may well take its name from the oasis that is the cabin. It's a big cabin by little boat standards, not so much graced with adult-sized bunks as replete with seats and seated headroom for four people. The seat backrests double as sidepockets and all the vinyl upholstery throughout the boat was well done. Marine ply is used as backing boards for seat bases and backrests.
A couple of anglers will be content sitting inside the cabin riding out a storm and kids will welcome the space when the boat's swinging on the anchor. I noted a moulded ledge tracing the internal moulded footwell that supports an optional infill. I would get this so you could create a decent daybed.
The lack of cabin bulkhead makes this an easy boat to climb inside and thought has been given to draining the underbunk areas and the footwell. There was a cabin light and, I noted, a cover over the wiring and instruments behind the helm to keep the salt away and keep the appearance nice and clean.
The deck hatch opens for anchoring. As with most boat this length you need to contort your body in order to dispatch the anchor. I found the most comfortable way to do this was to kneel on the forward section of vee berth. Standing wasn't so easy. Either way, the vinyl-clad cushion is in for a workout.

 

 

DRIVING STATIONS


The boat's twin buckets seats are nice and comfortable, even though the footrests are a long reach for the lankiest of drivers. The helm seat slides and both seats swivel to face aft when you're doing lunch with the tykes.
The forward view was excellent through the windscreen. Its frame was anodised aluminium and front pane was armour-plate glass. The all-round white anchoring/driving light was mounted on a telescopic strut on the cabin top. A much better installation would be on the top of the targa. With the light where it was your vision may be impaired at night.
I noted provision for marine speakers next to the helm seats and grabrails for the co-pilot. There wasn't a lot of standing room at the helm ahead of the seats with the clear curtain zipped onto the bimini top.
The helm was nicely moulded and accommodating of a vertical switch panel, the dealer-fitted flush-mounted 27mHz radio and small Navman 4100SX depth sounder. The white Bombardier analogue engines gauges for the Johnson 115hp motor were easy to read and, during my test at least, there was no fogging.
I found two drinkholders for the skipper and mate and a neat timber sports wheel. The wheel was linked to non-feedback steering that didn't pull to either side. It was, however, quite heavy in corners at speed.

 

 

BAY AND BLUEWATER


The Johnson 115hp motor, while noisy at high revs, was a smooth motor and very clean-running for a traditional two-stroke, even at trolling revs of 2000rpm. Of course, it had grunt we all grew up with and, coupled with the slippery hull, the boat was eager.
While the motor gets the hull planing at 2300rpm, it hooks into a low-speed cruise at 3000rpm and 14-15kt (26-28kmh). Carefree family cruising and economical offshore cruising were clocked at 3500rpm and 20kt (38kmh). In the calms of Botany Bay, 4000rpm returned 25kt (48kmh) with nominal trim and 4500rpm gave a fast cruise speed of 28-29kt (53-55kmh). As such this is a fast boat, returning speeds of 31.5kt (60kmh) at 5000rpm and 35.5kt (67.5kmh) on the pegs at 5500rpm.
I was surprised by the smoothness of ride from the combination of a fine entry, 21 degrees of hull deadrise, which qualifies as a deep-V, and the efficient cruising at 3500rpm. The hull has a naturally flat attitude and it threw the majority of water when its fine bow was pushed down the face of a wave into the back of the next roller.
At the end of the day, I thought the Islander Day Cruiser was a smoother riding boat than I imagined. It was perhaps a tad wet in cross winds. At rest, it seemed stable, though the lack of buoyancy in the bow and raked stem could also see the bow ship water if a big bloke is up front retrieving the anchor as the hull dips in a trough.
If it were my boat I would employ a side-anchoring system for fishing and do away with the need to go through the hatch, except in calm water when setting the sand anchor in the shallows.
The Stejcraft Islander Day Cruiser with optional targa arch and tackle tray also comes as an Islander Fisherman with a standard aluminium rocket launcher, a stainless steel berley bucket, a bait cutting board and even a portable loo in the cabin. Or you can buy the Overnighter version with stove, sink, toilet and cabin infill.
In all cases, the underfloor fuel capacity of 130lt will be enough for most family/fisher types. And for them, the Island Day Cruiser model is an honest boat with a lounge that can be used to boost seating capacity to six.
Joe says he isn't going to stray from his mission of looking after the true blue Aussie boater. The dealer had $43,950 on the boat, though Joe was hoping to hit the market with a sub-$40,000 rig. Still, it's a Dinky-Di buy.

 

 

HIGHS


* Good value package
* Good comfort levels
* Surprisingly smooth ride
* Very efficient and eager hull
* Large cabin, loaded with storage space
* Convertible family/fishing layout

 

 

LOWS


* Tight cleats
* Lack of buoyancy in the bow
* No deadeye in anchor well
* Moulded lounge storage base isn't watertight and therefore can't be used as an ice or fishbox
* Tight cabin hatch

 

 

 


Specifications: Stejcraft Islander Day Cruiser

 

 

HOW MUCH?


Price as tested: $43,950 with Johnson 115hp two-stroke motor, options and Dunbier trailer
Options fitted: Navman depth sounder, 27mHz marine radio, targa arch, tackle box, safety equipment and regos
Priced from: About $40,000 with 115hp Johnson

 

 

GENERAL


Material: GRP w/GRP-encapsulated marine ply stringers
LOA: 5.80m
Beam: About 2.45m
Deadrise: 21 degrees
Weight: About 650kg hull only

 

 

CAPACITIES


Rec/max hp: 115/150 max.
Fuel: 130lt
Water: n/a
Passengers: Six
Berths: Two w/ optional infill

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model: Johnson 115hp
Type: Carburetted V4
Rated HP: 115hp @ 5000-5500rpm
Displacement: 1726cc
Weight: About 160kg dry
Drive (make/ratio): Outboard 2:1
Props: Alloy 19in

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


Webbe Marine, 541 Princess Highway, Kirrawee, NSW, tel (02) 9521 7944, or for more information, call Stejcraft, tel (03) 9720 5400 or visit www.stejcraft.com.au

 

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #192

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