By: David Lockwood

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New on the local bill of fare is New Zealand's range of Tristram trailerboats, which aims to take a slice of the Aussie market by delivering family-sized feasts with the lot. David Lockwood reports.

Tristram Prima

The owner of this Kiwi-built Tristram Prima is a partner in the new local distribution agency for the brand. I mention that because he just happens to be the perfect promoter of a trans-Tasman trailerboat with tickets on family use.

His Tristram Prima hosts family flings with aplomb, revels in towing mum and the kids on skis, and is used for a spot of fishing and cruising on bays and big rivers like the mighty Hawkesbury.

As if that's not enough, the agent has now taken to using his Prima as an overnighter. By pulling on the covers and laying down an airbed in the cockpit, he has successfully accommodated his family of four. There is more room than a small tent, his wife says proudly, adding that she plans to do a lot more camping out on this resourceful Kiwi all-rounder.

So who is Tristram? The Fink-family-owned fibreglass boatbuilder from Hamilton on New Zealand's North Island has been making trailerboats for 40 years. Revered by Kiwis as a cut above the pack in terms of finish, the hand-built Tristrams span eight models,
from cuddy cabins to bowriders, built on four hulls measuring from 5.50m to 6.90m overall.

All of the boats appear to be based on monohedron or constant-deadrise deep-vee hulls with 20 or more degrees at the transom. The Prima had 21° of deadrise, which is sharp by any measure, and a couple of strakes aside. The boat has flotation foam in the cabin and pressure-tested buoyancy chambers, too.

The GRP hull and moulded deck are glued and screwed together. 'Glass-encapsulated marine ply is used for the stringers, and some transverse members  to strengthen the transom. The hull is hand rubbed and flow-coated inside, so you won't find a jagged edge. Apparently the builder goes to great lengths to ensure such things.

Mouldings are impressive by world standards, and the fully-moulded liner is particularly curvaceous in the way many trailerboats of Kiwi extraction tend to be. The boat is backed by a five-year hull warranty. But the details are what make this Kiwi boat really shine.


Like a Whittley of New Zealand, the Tristram house prides itself on a strong following among family boaters who want a little extra refinement for their buck. On the Prima, for example, I noted a full-length brass keel strip for protection from scrapes when retrieving the boat on its trailer or pulling into a beach.

The stainless-steel work was all impressive, with thick gauge piping that was welded cleanly. Among the standard stainless-steel features are rodholders, a fold-down swim ladder, 145lt underfloor fuel tank, anchoring fairlead and a large bowrail. Elsewhere I found dual batteries, an isolating switch, oil bottle and the fuel filler.

The transom carried an auxiliary bracket, optional stainless-steel skipole and aft baitboard with additional rodholders. There was also an optional spare wheel for the trailer. On its dual-axle custom NZ Voyager trailer - built to match the Tristram Prima - the rig weighs in at around 1480kg, which is within family-car limits.


The Prima has a full-width boarding platform, moulded with the hull but partly overhanging it, with a portside walkthrough facility. This cut-out in the transom, and the swim ladder, make for easy passenger or skier loading.

However, the scooping effect of the boarding platform and cut-out make it very easy to put water aboard in reverse. Owners will have to be aware of that fact - especially those who plan on some diving or fishing in offshore waters. A watertight gate and/or raised freeboard around the transom and engine well would help keep water at bay.

The cockpit floor is finished in non-skid and the boat comes standard with removable cockpit carpet. Near the transom was a handy fender storage locker. The sidepockets have provision for storing fishing rods, gaffs, landing nets, and there is space for skis.

The cockpit itself feels quite wide and bruise-free thanks to radiused mouldings. There is room for three anglers to fish over the transom and gunwales. I noted courtesy lights for night cruising and press-stud fittings for the camper covers when your day is done. A bimini top offers shade.

In the starboard corner is a quarter seat, and there is a rear-facing seat behind the co-pilot for the second guest. All up, the boat seats four. There is further storage under the moulded base of the back-to-back seat on the co-pilot's side. Underfloor is a big fish box or wet well.

Narrow non-skid-topped sidedecks run around the windscreen to the bow. But taking that route to set an anchor in rough water will be hazardous. From the cabin hatch I could reach the anchor okay, but I needed to stretch to unlock the pin on the fairlead on the end of the moulded bowsprit. An opening windscreen and step-up dash could be a solution.

The windscreen was a Perspex number, but in this class of boat, safety glass would better. I would also like to see the windscreen better supported. After all, the buyer of a 5.8m all-rounder is the kind of person who might enjoy family boating one day and then be gripping the windscreen edge and crossing a river bar to go bluewater fishing the next.

But full marks for the dedicated storage areas around the helm for holding personals and a grab-bag of safety gear. A fire extinguisher was located on the passenger's side. The moulded dash has burl-look panels and lots of white fibreglass with space for 10 gauges and flush-mounted electronics.

The Prima's cabin is a great space, with comforts and an inviting atmosphere. There are two two-metre-long vee-berths split by a deep footwell that drains back underfloor. There is storage room under the centre section of the vee for a Portapotti. The owners carry the loo when heading out for a big day and night.

Red nightlights, curtains and soft wall liners make the cabin pleasant. Over the bunks is seated headroom for two people or a gaggle of kids and room for two adults to sleep. Which is exactly what the owners get up to after a big day waterskiing with the children.


On the transom sat a 150hp Yamaha HPDI outboard. This engine isn't exactly light, and its weight contributed to the transom's relative close proximity to the water.

Also, in the stormy conditions and big swell that were a feature of this test, the boat would have benefited from some additional in-trim going into a headsea.

Having said that, the hull is a sweet-performing unit and it had a smooth feel working into the teeth of the 15kt wind and two-metre sharp swell. Trolling speed came in at about 11kmh at 2000rpm. At 2500rpm the boat wanted to break into a canter or attain planing speed.

Low-speed heavy-weather planing speed of 30kmh was held at 3000rpm. In the calms of the river I noted 41.5kmh at 3500rpm - which is a nice ski speed - and a good fast cruise of 50kmh at 4000rpm. Top speed at 5500rpm was 74kmh, which is about as fast as an all-round family fun boat needs to be.

A known quantity across the Tasman, Tristram boats are favoured for being handcrafted and hand finished. You won't find some of the dags or the slap-dash fitout evident in mass-produced boats from trailerboat factories that build to a price. Yet the price of this boat is one you can come at.

Mid-$50,000 covers everything right down to a towing tarp, safety gear, registration and 60lt of petrol and oil in the bottle. Add a safety-glass windscreen and impenetrable transom arrangement to keep water out, and a good boat could become a great one.


Price as tested: $58,687 w/ Yamaha 150hp HPDI outboard, tandem trailer, options and registrations
Options fitted: Baitboard with rodholders, spare trailer wheel, skipole, flush-mount throttle
Priced from: About $53,140 onroad with Yamaha 150hp Saltwater Series outboard

Material: GRP hull and 'glass-encapsulated marine-ply frames
Length (overall): 6.0m
Beam: 2.40m
Deadrise: Deep-vee 21°
Rec/max hp: 115/175
Weight: 1480kg complete package

Fuel: 145lt
Water: n/a
Passengers: Seats four, can carry six
Accommodation: Two

Make/model: Yamaha Z150hp
HPDI outboard
Type: Direct-injected V6
76° two-stroke
Rated hp: 150 @ 4500-5500rpm
Displacement: 2.596lt
Weight: About 216kg
Drive (make/ratio): 1.86:1
Prop: 17in stainless

For more information, contact Acclaim Marine, Belrose, NSW, tel (02) 9986 1911; Westside Boating, Brisbane, tel (07) 3818 0400; or visit

Attention to detail goes beyond the industry standard
Plenty of show and go on the water
Stable, spacious and comfy layout with adult-length bunks in cabin

Transom may take on water in reverse
Safety-glass windscreen would be better than acrylic
Fibreglass around the dash could be tempered with a matt finish

Story: David Lockwood Photos: John Ford
First published in TrailerBoat #176

Find Tristram boats for sale.


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