BOAT TEST: EXCALIBUR 6.3 CENTRE CABIN

By: TRAILERBOAT


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The pen may be mightier than the sword, but when it comes to custom boatbuilding, very few companies command the blade with Excalibur’s level of skill and precision. David Lockwood reports.

BOAT TEST: EXCALIBUR 6.3 CENTRE CABIN
The Excalibur 6.3 Centre Cabin. The manufacturer specialised in custom-built plate boats.

First published in TrailerBoat #174, November 2003

If you're reading this, chances are you're probably in the market for a new boat… or at least thinking about it. Not that you're alone, mind you - many of us are in the same boat. Sometimes our existing vessel doesn't quite fit the bill. It might be too small, too big, not seaworthy enough or - perish the thought - a leaky boat.

Enter one proud new boat owner, Jason Sinclair, and his swanky Excalibur 6.3 Centre Cabin. Jason had a regular production tinnie before this plate brute. He was forced to shape up and ship out, because his old boat, well, it was leaking like a sieve after several hard seasons of offshore fishing.

Jason researched the market, read magazines like this one, and went one step further. He contacted the local Coastguard in his neck of the woods, Shellharbour on the NSW south coast, and asked them what they thought about their own boat. You see, it was an Excalibur with a wheelhouse.

The boys in beige downed teacups to sing the praises of their 7.5m Excalibur. The really convincing thing was that that their boat seemed virtually indestructible in the face of duty and irrespective of the weather, they said. That endorsement was good enough for Jason, so he ordered his Excalibur.

A custom boatbuilder, Excalibur employs just a couple of keen tradespeople headed by proprietor Frederick Gautschi. The boats
that leave the Sydney factory are all tailor made. This was further music to the ears of Jason, who wanted a serious fishing boat to contest all the east-coast tournaments for the Ulladulla Sport and Game Fishing Club. He had a clear idea of what he wanted.

The new boat was launched on the October long weekend and Jason headed straight for the Continental Shelf 20nm off the coast. While he only saw whales migrating in the still-too-cold winter current, it's odds-on he has boated a few nice tuna and a marlin or two on his homemade south-coast lures since then.

HULL-A-BULL-OO

The Excalibur 6.3 is a beast of a hull. The rig, with 175hp Honda outboard, weighs about 2000kg on its trailer with manual override brakes. Jason pulls the boat with a trusty Landcruiser, but you could do it with a Falcon or Commodore even though the boat would appear to overwhelm them.

The hull shape is a moderate vee with 14° of deadrise in the transom and no spray rails between keel and chine. Jason had a spray rail added in the bow area just to make sure the water was directed away. The boat certainly didn't appear wet during testing. In any case, the centre cabin has a hard top and side, so it's akin to a mini wheelhouse.

Construction is to the satisfaction of Coastguard using, in this case, 5mm plate for the hull, 4mm for the sides and 3mm for the superstructure. There are box-section beams and flat-plate stringers welded together to create a grid system. The framework is welded to the hull for stiffness, and with no flexing there is no cracking.

The boat is weighed and the underfloor structure filled with enough loose foam blocks to give positive foam flotation, the builder assures. A checker-plate floor is welded to the hull to create a waterproof, sealed, self-draining cockpit.

While the 180lt fuel tank is located under the floor, the panels covering it are fixed with rivets in case you need to access the sender or drain the tank. Smart thinking. There is also access to the underfloor conduits that carry the wiring looms from the motor to the dash.

A nice bit of stepped sheer rises from the gunwales roughly amidships to create a high bow. The bow is a long way off the water and there is a lot of volume to boot. The boat barely shifts when you stand on the forecastle, which augers well for riding out rough weather, climbing white horses, anchoring, and crossing bars.

The boat has very deep sides, 750mm of freeboard and the deepest splash well I have ever seen in a 6-7m boat. The scuppers don't act as conduits when reversing and, from bow to stern, this is one dry boat.

The owner conducted highly-mathematical stability tests of his new Excalibur 6.3 Centre Cabin. I won't go into the detail. Oh, alright. He plonked six people along one side and the boat, he said, still didn't feel tippy. Trace and gaff men and anglers will like that.

Such is the stability, freeboard and the width of the walkarounds that you can fish the full length of this boat. This will be good news for tuna fishing. Sport and fly casters will find the big bow area is a useful casting platform.

The boat looked the goods with its black two-pack spray job and contrasting white decks. While the build is workmanlike, there is some attention to detail.

All the stainless-steel screws in the boat have nylon shoulder washers to help prevent electrolysis. I noted both manual and automatic bilge pumps and good access to the fuel filter in the starboard corner.

DECK HEAD

There is an awful lot of deck space on the Excalibur 6.3 Centre Cab. Enough, in fact, for a tangle of six anglers to weave their magic at sea.

At the pointy end, I found a bow roller, open anchor well of adequate proportions and a welded bollard.

The front of the cabin top has a seat or perch from which to gain leverage when pulling the pick. Sensibly, anchor-pulling duties on this boat will be left to a dan buoy.

A couple of anchor-holding tubes wouldn't go astray up front, where there are two rodholders for drift fishing. There are good grabs on the cabin top and thigh support around the wide walkways, which step down twice before the cockpit.

The cockpit makes the most of the boat's 2.5m beam, which is the maximum allowable for towing sans permit. Central to the cockpit, literally, is an open-topped aluminium storage box used to carry assorted flat tackle boxes and lures. The padded lid lets it double as a seat. A pullout 85lt polypropylene fishbox hides underneath.

Further storage exists in an open sidepocket to starboard and under the bunks in the cabin. There is a plumbed square livebait tank in the starboard-side transom corner and a small berley bucket and tread step outboard. Opposite corner has a marlin door, boarding steps and fold-down ladder (in need of rubber stoppers to prevent vibration).

The sidedecks are each home to three rodholders, and short quarter rails provide handy handholds and tie-off points for sea anchors or big dead fish. The lift-out cutting board over the engine well is angled in such a way that you don't need to struggle to clear the line when dancing with a deep-slugging fish.

HOME WITH A HARDTOP

A lock-up cabin and sidepocket to port lets the owners secure expensive gaffs, tagpoles and rods. This way he can leave the boat unattended during tournaments. As a big part of the cost of tournament fishing is accommodation, the boat has a big vee-berth with infill
to make a double bed. No need to book a room at Flag Inn.

While prostrate in the cabin I noted hooks for hanging the wet-weather jackets, a deep footwell so you can sit and chat, but no cover over the helm wiring. There was a hatch for fresh air. The owner wielded the staple gun and did the upholstery himself - a good, honest job that saved money, too.

The centre cabin superstructure offers protection and good views all around. There are no windscreen wipers, however, and the windscreen is fashioned from Perspex. For bar work, well, I'd prefer armourplate glass. Hold the wiper and cover it with Rainex.

Up top is a fold-down frame that makes a neat fish-spotting tower. The owner loves it and his crew said it was still comfortable in 25kt of wind. You could drive the boat from up here if you had a wheel or autopilot knob.

The hardtop is also home to aerials and outriggers, which needed to be positioned so they had higher towing angles. New bases will provide the answer to this problem.

DRIVING STATION

There is a sufficient space between the helm seats - which the owner sourced from a chandlery - to access the cabin. This is
because there are no armrests on the inner side of those seats. Both seats swivel and rest on seat boxes for further storage. A fire-extinguisher is within reach.

The helm was set up for the owner, but it worked fine for me, too. While there is room for two inside the cabin, I found it nice and comfortable one-up, sitting side-saddle while trolling.

The dash harboured basic Honda engine gauges, marine radio, a stereo linked to 200W Fusion speakers, Navman fuel flow meter, simple switch panel, recessed compass and a nice, big stainless-steel wheel. The wheel was linked to Hydrive hydraulic steering and one very quiet Honda 175hp outboard.

OFFSHORE ACTION

This boat was obviously being fished. I noted gaffs, teasers, lure rolls, game rods in the overhead rocket launcher and - what's this? - a couple of flick sticks in a sidepocket.

And, over there, a school of hungry Aussie salmon begging for, here we go, a small casting lure. Yippee.

A couple of throws - of the lure, that is - and I was hooked up to a salmon. During the course of the battle the boat proved very surefooted (one needs to avoid leaving residue from cleaning products on the checker-plate floor), very fishable, and very stable. Swoosh is the sound of the landing net scooping up the salmon.

At 1950rpm the boat returned a handy 14kmh trolling speed. The wake offered a distinct wave pattern on which to set your lure spread and some nice blue windows of opportunity. At 2500rpm the boat slipped imperceptibly to a useful rough-weather planing speed of 24.4kmh. Slippery.

The efficient hull maintained around 37kmh at 3000rpm in the joggly sea off mighty Botany Bay. A fast cruise speed of 53.7kmh was recorded at 4000rpm inside and flat-stick the boat did 62.4kmh at 4800rpm on the tacho.

Experienced boaties might notice something amiss with these figures. I certainly did. The Honda is meant to rev higher than 4800rpm for starters. Secondly, a 175hp outboard should be producing a lot more speed. A change of prop, which was a 17in stainless-steel Mercury number, provided the answers.

With full in-trim the boat also ran in a position I would consider neutral trim. And as such, you couldn't get the bow driving into the headsea. Because there is a hardtop, and the bow is full, you should button this boat down for a smooth ride and throw a lot of water. After all, you don't have to worry about getting wet.

Since my test drive, the owner has wedged the motor for more in-trim and fitted a 15in prop. The boat now revs out to 5900rpm, says its builder, and it does better than 70.4kmh. Wow!

As it was, I though the big plate boat was a great fishing platform. I envisage many battles ahead, big fish hitting the deck with a thwack, but little more than a hose-out at the end of the day. And no leaks. Just what the doctor ordered.

 

SPECIFICATIONS: EXCALIBUR 6.3 CENTRE CABIN

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested: $75,000 w/ Honda 175hp outboard, electronics, tandem trailer, and regos
Options fitted: Si-tex GPS chartplotter, marine radio, marine stereo, livewell plumbing, fish box, fish-spotting platform, outriggers and more
Priced from: POA

GENERAL
Material: Aluminium plate 5mm bottom and 4mm topsides
Length (overall): 6.60m incl.
bowsprit
Beam: 2.50m
Deadrise: 14°
Rec/max hp: 200
Weight:  About 2000kg on trailer

ENGINE
Make/model: Honda 175hp outboard
Type: 60° V6
Rated hp: 175 @ 5500-6000rpm
Displacement: 3.5lt
Weight: About 267kg
Drive (make/ratio): Outboard leg,
1.87:1
Props: 15in s/s

SUPPLIED BY
For further information, contact Excalibur Boats, Botany, NSW, tel (02) 9666 1696

Story: TB staff
First published in TrailerBoat #174, November 2003

Find Excalibur boats for sale.

 


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