By: Bernard Clancy

The TABS 650 is a stable fishing all-rounder that will provide some comfortable offshore cruising, reports Bernard Clancy.

When it comes to aluminium plate boats, there are plenty of options on the market these days. Basically, hulls are not all that different because there’s a limit to how plate can be bent, so performance from one to another is reasonably similar.
There are exceptions of course, such as the deep-veed Bar Crusher and Stabi-Craft, but they’ve got a couple of design differences such as a flooded keel section (Bar Crusher) and sponsons (Stabi) to achieve the stability of more conventionally constructed hulls at rest.
The black-painted True Aluminium Boat Specialist (TABS) Ocean Series 650 has a rather mean, no-nonsense appearance. A set of shark teeth on the side would not be out of place.
TABS is a Gold Coast stable that has been around for a long time. It makes an extensive range of plate alloy trailer boats but has been somewhat limited in distribution, keeping mainly to Queensland sales outlets.
The boat we tested was from Victoria’s Regal Marine in Melbourne, which has been the sole Victorian dealer for a relatively short period. But the boats have been a best-seller for the company, according to sales manager James Verheyen, with more than 80 on its order book at the time of testing.

The 650 is a fishing all-rounder, made from 5mm bottom and 4mm topsides, with a spacious cuddy with plenty of cockpit space for fishing. It’s well-appointed without going into the top dollar bracket, well-finished, and practical. Stability is good, helped considerably by wide reverse chines welded to the hull.
In fact, we had an underwater digital video camera with us on test day and were able to film pockets of air trapped between the hull and the chines.
These chines, coupled with a strake on each side of the hull keeps the boat very upright in turns. Try as we might, we could not get the TABS to lean into a turn or slip through tight turns. It simply hangs on, with the prop letting go before the hull does.
While the cavitation was nothing to get concerned about on the 650, it certainly was in a sister boat, a smaller six-metre TABS, which we used as a camera boat. Dropping the motor a notch would probably have made all the difference.
The big tinnie backs down well, with no sign of water coming back through the self-draining tubes in the back corners, over the transom, or through the transom gate.
At the pointy end, the boat is equipped with a basic bowroller for the anchor, which is secured (rather precariously, I thought) only by the tightness of the chain on the South Pacific 800F anchor windlass, so there is no need to dirty the vee-berth cushions to get through the hatch. 
When you do need to access it, though, it’s no trouble to worm through the glass hatch. The split bowrail is aluminium and very strong, as is the alloy cleat behind it.
The cabin is very wide (width overall is 2.5m – right on the tow limit), lined and carpeted in black-grey tonings. Under-bunk storage compartments are carpeted and covered with practical vinyl cushions. A couple of port holes and an interior light provided light on what is a fairly dim interior.
Black, padded vinyl parcel shelves are adequate, and the open bulkhead is covered in a canvas clip-on curtain for privacy.
Although the marine radio is mounted under the dash and out of view, it is within easy reach of the skipper’s left hand. The self-draining cockpit is carpeted, and has a huge wet fish bin across the deck in front of the transom. The driver’s set-up is okay, but could be much better with some relatively minor improvements.
The bucket seat, which is mounted on an open-sided storage bin, is far too low and not height-adjustable, and the straight cable steering would strain the muscles of even Hercules. It cries out for hydraulics or some sort of power assist. At no point in the trim range was the steering comfortable.
One would have thought that boats of this size, being pushed around by large motors of 150hp-plus, would come standard with hydraulics. It all comes down to the ‘package’ price, I suppose. 
The seats are both solid alloy with armrests, good padding and moulding, also in the black-grey color scheme. Both are mounted on open-sided storage boxes with rear-facing cushions for lure-watching crew, which would be comfortable enough for short periods.
The passenger side featured a small grabrail in front, mounted over the CD player, and an open storage box to the left. The fire extinguisher is floor-mounted adjacent to this seat. Both seats have footrails.

Driven sensibly, the TABS will perform well. Pushed a bit harder in a lumpy sea, the ride becomes uncomfortable, as it will in all tinnies. The driver’s seat is adjustable forward and back but not, as I’ve mentioned, up and down. The bulkhead instrument panel has twin multi-purpose Mercury Optimax gauges, which cover everything, allowing a little room to spare.
The Humminbird 595 colour GPS and fishfinder is centrally-mounted, with a windlass switch to the right.
The five-piece wrap-around Perspex windscreen is centrally-supported by two alloy poles, but features no grabrail.
The bimini has a front awning beyond the windscreen, which is cleverly made from a strong mesh material that lets water through but not sun. It clips back to a strong six-pot rocket launcher. Clears all round are necessary to keep out the occasional flick of moisture. Outriggers are mounted on the sides of the cuddy.
The carpeted cockpit is a strong feature of the TABS. There is plenty of working room, the dicky seats are good without being intrusive, and the gunwales are quite high and wide enough to dance on, but lacked non-skid panels.
There are four plastic rod holders, and there is a raised grabrail, unusually, on the outer side of the gunwales. Huge rear alloy cleats look big enough to hang onto the biggest gaffed, thrashing shark. Pockets either side are large enough for odds and ends, gaffs, and small rods. The under-floor kill tank, positioned almost right across the transom just in front of the bilge, would hold some seriously large fish.
Although the under-floor has no foam filling, it is designed to be airtight.
The three-quarter width transom (the starboard side featured a walkthrough door) is wide enough to include a 55lt livebait tank and a chest-high baitboard. The nearby deckwash hose is very handy.
Under that, two wide hatches give access to twin batteries and oil bottles.
Access to the large rear deck, on which the engine is mounted, is through a starboard transom door. This deck featured a telescopic ladder and large grabrails either side.
In calm water of the channel at Newhaven on Phillip Island, Victoria, we achieved a top speed of 63kmh at 5000rpm (GPS-recorded) from the still tight, brand-new 150hp Optimax, although the boat’s speedo indicated 75kmh.
The aforementioned camera boat, fitted with a well-used 150 EFI, achieved the same speed at 5500rpm. Cruising offshore was comfortable at 40kmh at 3000rpm.
The TABS from Regal Marine is priced from $61,000, with a 150 EFI Merc, but the Optimax-packaged version we tested ran to $66,465.
Among other items, this included a Dunbier trailer with electric brakes, anchor winch, outriggers, rocket launcher, radio, and GPS.

Spacious cuddy
Wide gunwales
Spacious cockpit

Seat height


Specifications: TABS 650 Ocean Series

Price as tested:  $66,465
Options fitted:    150 Optimax, anchor winch, outriggers, rocket launcher, radio, CD player, Humminbird 595 colour sounder/GPS, baitboard, bimini and clears, deckwash, registration, safety gear.

Material:    Aluminium plate
Length overall:   6.5m
Beam:     2.5m
Deadrise    19°
Rec. max HP:  225
Hull weight:    1220kg
Weight  on trailer:   2200kg

Fuel:     250lt

Make/model:    Mercury
Type:     Optimax
Rated HP    150
Displacement:    2507cc
Weight:    195kg
Prop     19-inch s/s Vengeance

Regal Marine,
Vermont, Vic.
Phone: (03) 9874 4624

Originally published in TrailerBoat #204


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