BOAT TEST: STABICRAFT 559XR SPORT

By: DAVID LOCKWOOD, Photography by: JOHN FORD


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Sporting a refined "Generation II" hull, fibreglass topsides and flash new paint job, Stabi-Craft’s 559XR makes a serious play for the Commodore-driving mum-and-dad boating market. But it’s the model’s tremendous stability, tough-as-nails build quality and wet-track performance that speaks volumes to Trailer Boat’s chief boat tester, David Lockwood.

BOAT TEST: STABICRAFT 559XR SPORT
The Stabicraft 559XR Sport combined stability, build quality and tremendous handling.

First published in TrailerBoat #175, January 2004

There was a good, old-fashioned southerly buster in Sydney just as I remembered it when I was kid, before the icecaps started melting and the hole in the ozone layer grew ever larger. Leaden skies and low-scuttling clouds foreshadowed the impending squalls and torrential downpours.

Unperturbed, this writer slipped behind the wheel of a safety-orange Stabi-Craft - an innovative Kiwi-built boat with claims on rough-water boating - and made like a duck to water. The only thing missing was the sou'wester.

While she won't win any beauty contests, the Stabi-Craft is a great companion for safety-conscious boaties. Having said that, I find it ironic that the brochure features anglers wearing gumboots and waders, both of which have the effect of bricks tied to the feet should you fall overboard. Anyway...

The Stabi-Craft can be described as a rigid-hull inflatable fashioned entirely from aluminium. Instead of hypalon tubes, these aluminium sponsons have watertight, pressure-tested sections to provide an impressive degree of positive buoyancy. And it is this detail that has endeared the Stabi-Craft to commercial operators and rescue groups on both sides of the Tasman.

According to the photo gallery in the Stabi-Craft brochure, models from 6.3m to 14m have been used by sea-rescue groups, fisheries departments, St John's Ambulance, dolphin-watching tours and as tenders to boats as flash as superyachts.

Based in Invercargill - New Zealand's southernmost city and the commercial heart of the so-called Southland - Stabi-Crafts are at home in such roles. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the boats feature fully-enclosed wheelhouses or cabins for all-weather cruising and workboat duties.

Targeting the leisure market, the 559XR Sport is more your low-profile runabout. It has more eye candy than the many Stabi-Craft models intended for commercial use, and more by way of recreational fittings for such pastimes as fishing, diving and family funrunning.

BOAT WITH A DIFFERENCE

The success of the 559XR Sport centres on the hull, which is fashioned from 4mm aluminium and 3mm for the tubes. There is a moderate 16° of deadrise in the hull, which has been cut out in one piece from sheet aluminium; however it feels sharper than its deadrise suggests.

The answer for its smooth ride rests, in part, with the forefoot. It has a lot of rake in it. It is important to keep the boat's fine entry working through the waves, but if you do that you'll be rewarded with a smooth ride. And buttoning the bow down doesn't lead to a wet ride. The spray is pushed out low to the sides, thanks in part to the tubes.

A slight cathedral shape in the hull's aft sections helps provide lift.

A new model in the range, the 559XR Sport is also 300mm wider than the boat it replaces. This extra beam in the so-called GEN II hull provides increased internal space, stability and running surfaces.

FLOAT YOUR ASSETS

The positive buoyancy of this boat, which is favoured by commercial operators, remains a selling point for offshore divers, anglers negotiating river bars, and recreational users planning to moor their boat.

The 559XR Sport has six air chambers within the pontoon surrounding the main hull. An under-floor cavity acts as the boat's seventh watertight buoyancy chamber.

Whether the boat remains upright or inverts when swamped is another matter. But unless you manage to tear most of the seven chambers, the boat will support six crew, an outboard motor to 130hp, and gear. The hull's reserve buoyancy is 1490lt, according to Stabi-Craft.

There is a self-draining version for those who want to leave their boat on the water. The demo boat had a bilge pump in the open outboard pod. Personally, I'm not so keen on increasing the weight of this rearmost appendage, and would prefer a subfloor bilge area and sealed pod.

The floor hides the boat's 100lt fuel tank. The tank has its own sides except for the top, which doubles as a part of the chequerplate floor. A fuel gauge is provided on top of the tank and it is possible to unscrew the gauge and siphon the tank should you get a batch of dirty fuel.

The fuel filter, battery and oil bottle are mounted aft behind the rear lounge, well above the cockpit floor. The floor itself was covered in an optional German-made outdoor carpet. It looked great and provided cushioning on the soles.

TOUR OF DUTY

The Stabi-Craft 559XR Sport lends itself to fishing as much as it does to diving, which is a favourite pastime of our Kiwi bros. This explains why access to the water is unfettered.

The boat has a walkthrough transom with a lift-out panel to starboard that is stowed in a dedicated bracket on the outboard side of the boat. There is a semi-submerged step with handrail to help you clamber aboard with the lobsters and abalone.

The XR denotes a number of sports-orientated leisure features within this boat that aren't fitted to the 559 Fish'r. For example, there is a stainless-steel skipole, full two-pack paint with graphics, and upholstery that runs to padded side coamings.

Options fitted to the demo boat included the fold-down rod and canopy arch that can accommodate four outfits as well as GPS aerials or lights. You can add an additional forward strut to the tower and tow wakeboarders if you wish.

The cockpit measures 1.62m wide internally, 2.15m wide on the trailer, and 4sqm all up. The boat's inherent stability makes for a surefooted platform.

Storage exists in two sidepockets, a pocket for personals alongside the skipper, shelves tracing the inside of the cuddy cabin, and seat boxes.

Further storage exists under the vee-berth seats, over which there is seated headroom for two people at a pinch. Pretty black patterned upholstery adds a sense of class. Kiddies will undoubtedly gravitate to the cabin when lunching on the anchor. The footwell drains under the hull to the bilge.

The cabin top or bonnet is moulded from fibreglass for a softer-styled look than you will get from aluminium. There are very narrow walkways around the cabin sides with non-skid that leads to the bow. Or use the cabin hatch for anchoring.

The simple dash gets the thumbs up for its low-glare grey finish and generous mounting space for electronics. The windscreen is traced by a sturdy grabrail, but the screen itself is acrylic. Safety glass is an option that offshore boaties should seriously consider.

Seating comprises a lift-out aft lounge for two people and Raeline skipper and copilot pedestals through-bolted to polypropylene storage bins. Steering was mechanical cable, but hydraulic is a worthwhile option for outboards above the recommended 90hp.

INTO THE FRAY

I was pleasantly surprised at the soft ride into the steep headseas gathering pace at the mouth of Broken Bay. Providing you keep the boat's forefoot buttoned down, and you aren't too heavy handed on the throttle, you can maintain a good clip in choppy water.

The extra-long-shaft 115hp Johnson two-stroke outboard and 21in stainless-steel propeller had the 559XR Sport holding level plane at 3000rpm and 30.4kmh (16kt) on the GPS. And it was at precisely this speed that I managed to make good progress into the slop.

Fairweather cruise was logged at 4000rpm and 47.5kmh (25kt), while top speed was a sprightly 74.3kmh (39.1kt) at 5800rpm. This is plenty fast enough to get from the boat ramp to the heads, river entrance or bar crossing. Offshore fishers might need to consider carrying a spare fuel tank.

Yet the Stabi-Craft 559XR Sport weighs just 1070kg (dry) on trailer, which is well within the towing capacity of the average family six-cylinder car. The dumbed-down 559 Fish'r with optional self-draining hull is my pick as a low-maintenance alternative for keeping on the water.

As it was, the 559XR ranked as a viable alternative to a traditional tinnie for open-water pastimes that demand a boat with a high degree of stability, large load-carrying capacity, good access to the water, and a smooth ride at low cruising speeds. Oh, and low maintenance.

There was a mighty swell pumping through the entrance to Broken Bay during the closing stages of this test, and I didn't spare the horses. But the boat was at home in the South Island-like weather. A bit like Mudlark on a soggy Melbourne Cup track. Or the All-Blacks playing wet-weather rugby.

HIGHS
* A surprisingly smooth and dry ride from a stable platform.
* Positive buoyancy, good freeboard and grabrails add to the boat's safety.
* Low-maintenance aluminium and an easy-tow fit within the requirements of the trailerboater.
* Good access to the water for diving and fishing.

LOWS
* She won't win any beauty contests.
* Boat can bang if you drop it in a hole. It is essential to keep the forefoot working for a smooth ride.
* Fuel capacity of 100lt mightn't cope with a full day's fishing.
* Not keen on using the pod area as a bilge. Less stress on this area the better.

 

SPECIFICATIONS: Stabicraft 559XR Sport

Price as tested: $41,060 w/ 115hp Johnson two-stroke, trailer and selected options
Options fitted: Rod and canopy arch, motor upgrade, flush-mounted throttle box
Priced from: $39,070 w/ 90hp Johnson, trailer, safety gear and regos

GENERAL
Material: Aluminium 4mm hull and 3mm tubes
Type: Moderate-vee planing hull
Length overall: 6.20m
Length: 5.60m (plus boarding platform)
Beam: 2.15m
Deadrise: 16°
Weight (hull only): 670kg
Towing weight: 1070kg dry on trailer

CAPACITIES
Berths: Two
Fuel: 100lt
Water: n/a
Payload: Six adults

ENGINE
Make/model: Johnson 115hp outboard
Type: V4 loop-charged two-stroke petrol engine
Rated hp: 115 @ 5500rpm
Displacement: 1.7lt
Weight: 160kg
Gearboxes (make/ratio): 2.25:1
Props: Three-blade 21in stainless steel

SUPPLIED BY
Acclaim Marine, Belrose, NSW, Tel (02) 9986 1911

First published in TrailerBoat #175, January 2004.

Find Stabicraft boats for sale.

 


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