BOAT TEST: STESSCO 420 SERIES

By: Rick Huckstepp, Photography by: Rick Huckstepp


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For the budget conscious or first-time boaters, Rick Huckstepp evaluates the very affordable Catcher SF420 open dinghy and the Skipper 420DLX runabout from Stessco

BOAT TEST: STESSCO 420 SERIES
STESSCO’S 420 SERIES

BUDGET SHOPPING WITH STESSCO

All of the bells and whistles on many of the boats adorning TrailerBoat inevitably push the purchase price higher. So there comes a time to take stock of what is available for those about to start out fishing and/or boating or perhaps for those looking for cheap water transport - so we checked out the 420 series of Stessco's.
These alloy boats come with the bare minimum of window dressing in the case of the Catcher SF420 open dinghy while the Skipper 420DLX has a few added extras adorning its runabout design. Both will find a place in the lower end of the market for those looking at economy at purchase and low running costs with small horsepower propulsion units.

 

CATCHER'S OOMPH
In the case of the Catcher it was fitted with a Yamaha 30hp two-stroke engine which offered plenty of power with two adults aboard and gave it a WOT speed of 44kmh on the handheld GPS.
Holeshot was quick and when solo at the tiller, the boat bow lifted high quickly but laid down flat just as quickly. The fitted outboard had a manual tilt and short tiller arm, but this did not impede its performance in turns, with minimal torque having to be overcome by the left arm.
With a single adult on board the chines on this boat sit above the water line so it will behave with more stability when at anchor or dead in the water with additional weight payload. Another body on board remedies this.
Standard on this boat is the rear boarding platform with rail which is a great asset for the price. The aft gunwales have robust grab handles for those seated in that part of the cockpit, while those in the forward area with the same seats in another set of post-base holes will have to do without.
The bow point features a couple of grab handles for hand guiding the boat onto the trailer, but which also second as a place to connect rope tiedowns for extra security when towing.

 

CHECKERPLATE PROTECTION
Another practical feature is the bow section gunwale consisting of alloy checkerplate which keeps the area looking neat rather than having the flat sheet knocked around and dented with anchors being dragged on board.
Still up front, anchor and ground tackle may be stowed in an area in front of a low-profile retaining fence. The base of this was welded to the most forward short rib each side of the centre line while the top sections are a small distance from the side of the hull. This is done to alleviate stress cracks developing at that point due to flex, but, in this case, the ends of the partition were sharp and unfinished which could be an issue to the fraying of anchor ropes and also should a toe of finger get caught here.
The deck is carpeted marine ply and sits under flanges welded to the ribs and is then screwed to the full supports underneath.
The aft end of the deck has a small aperture leading down into the bilge and transom strengthening struts from the engine mount cut-away in the stern extending down through here to the deck support structure below.
One issue we see looming is rubbish and gear getting swallowed up by this void and being unable to be retrieved without removing a floor section. A way around this might be to make a sieve basket to sit in here that catches any wayward materials before they go missing. Even a flat piece of alloy sheet with holes drilled all over it and Velcro stuck to the carpet would do that job cheaply.
The beauty of unpainted aluminium boats is that you can take to them with drills and welders, and chop and change anything to your liking before settling on what fits your style, like a glove.

 

CATCHER SF420
WHAT WE LIKED

Simple and cheap
Economical to run with low horsepower

NOT SO MUCH
Sharp unfinished edges on ground tackle fence
Open bilge needs to be screened.
Bilge pump needs to be mandatory as one cannot bail via the small aperture to the bilge

 


SKIPPER'S FANCY
So, need a few more comforts in life but suffering budget constraints? Then the Skipper 420DLX might fit your wallet.
There's nothing like getting out of the cold wind behind a windscreen under some shade.
The Skipper features a curved Perspex windscreen with a centre opening pane allowing one to stand and lean through and over the open anchorwell. This last item is a reasonable size and would accept a small grapple or large Danforth anchor with chain and 50m of rope. It is drained via a hose to the outside hull.
The forequarter low-profile handrails come from the sides of the screen right up to a sturdy heavy-duty plate bowsprit on which is fixed a rope roller.
Two simple pedestal seats sit behind the windscreen which, when closed, offers a person of average height clear vision over the top. Excluding that section which opens to the bow, the screen has a handrail wrapping around for extra screen rigidity.
A flat-top dash behind the screen will accept gimbal-mounted medium-sized cabinet electronics and on the test boat Eagle's Cuda 128 was installed, but not connected to the power supply.
Teleflex NFB (non feedback) manual steering was fitted on the boat and connected to a Mercury 40hp two-stroke engine. The remote throttle, power trim and tilt control are installed on the inside of the gunwale in a comfortable position.
While occupying the front seats, one has improved legroom due to a dropdown in the deck height under the dash. A bimini top provided plenty of shade while seated and while not fitted, it no doubt could be rigged with clears to the top of the windscreen.

 

COCKPIT ADJUSTMENTS
In the aft of the cockpit, a beam-width rear lounge is installed and occupants may lean against padded inner gunwales. The lounge is a stowage box with a hinged padded lid and tilts forward to access the battery and tote fuel tank in each aft corner under the transom bulkhead.
It can also be used as a fishing seat for those facing aft and the box is large enough to stow all of the safety gear and more. If required, it would be easy to remove the screwed hinges to take the box out of the boat and give anglers more room or perhaps to use as a seat on the beach when picnicking.
Some more stowage is available in short sidepockets, port and starboard, that are welded between structural ribs at a position high enough off the deck to allow feet to get under.
The deck is carpeted marine ply which sits under flat flanges coming off the structural ribs and is then screwed to the frame underneath. This deck extends to the stern and a small aperture is open to the bilge.
There is no bilge pump installed and the engine well superimposes over the top of the aperture. Should any objects fall in here one cannot look into the aperture to locate them and must go by feel, and if out of reach, the floor would have to be unscrewed which would be inconvenient. As with the Catcher SF420, a grate installed over the aperture would save a lot of hassles in the future.
The Skipper has a boarding platform and grabrail on the port side of the stern and there is a grab handle on each end of the beam for manoeuvring the boat onto trailers and tying off back anchor ropes.

 

POWER AND ECONOMY
I must say we were pleasantly surprised at the performance of Skipper 420DLX with such low horsepower. With two large adults on board it got onto the plane easily and ran quiet for a standard-type two-stroke engine which was rated 'one star' under VELS.
Trimmed right in, the Skipper handled tight, high-speed turns without aeration at the propeller and steering was easy on the arms at various angles of trim.
The transducer brackets welded to these boats sit about one centimetre above the bottom line of the hull which might create installation problems for some types of mounts, depending on the brands. We would like to see these lowered so the bottom of the bracket is in line with the bottom of the hull.

SKIPPER 420DLX
WHAT WE LIKED
Small-engine capability
Good seating and stowage in rear lounge

NOT SO MUCH
Bilge pump should be mandatory
Aperture to bilge should have sieve or grate
Transducer mount-base too high

 

 

Specifications: Catcher SF420

 

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested:    $7,990
Options fitted:    Nil

GENERAL
Material:    Aluminium, 3mm bottom, 1.6mm sides 
Length overall:   4.2m
Beam:    1.98m
Deadrise:    15.5 degrees
Weight:    175kg (hull)

CAPACITIES
Fuel:     Tote tanks
People:    4
Rec. max. HP:   40
Rec. min. HP:   25
Max. transom engine weight: 95kg

ENGINE
Make/model:   Yamaha 30 CV
Type:     Single carburetted two-cylinder two-stroke outboard
Displacement:   496cc
Oil mix ratio:   100:1
Rated HP:    30
Weight:    54.5kg
Gearbox ratio:   2.08 (27/13)
Propeller:    12in three-blade
VELS rating:    1-star   

SUPPLIED BY
Marine Tune,
64 Kortum Road,
Burleigh Heads, Qld, 4220
Phone: (07) 5576 7388
Email: sales@marinetune.com

 

Specifications: Skipper 420 DLX

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested:   $14,990
Options fitted:   nil  

GENERAL
Material:    Aluminium, 3mm bottom, 1.6mm sides 
Length overall:   4.2m
Beam:    1.97m
Deadrise:    15.5°
Weight:    250kg (hull)

CAPACITIES
Fuel:     Tote tanks
People:    4
Rec. max. HP:   40
Rec. min. HP:   30
Max. transom engine weight: 110kg

ENGINE
Make/model:   Mercury Lightning XR
Type:     Carburetted three-cylinder two-stroke outboard
Weight:    69kg
Rated HP:    40
Displacement:   697cc
Gearbox ratio:   2.00:1
Propeller:    13.5in
VELS rating:    1-star 

SUPPLIED BY
Wondall Road Marine,
419 Wondall Road,
Tingalpa, Qld, 4173
Phone: (07) 3396 5633
Website: www.stessco.com.au

Originally published in TrailerBoat #235

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