By: David Lockwood

sta01.jpg sta01.jpg
sta02.jpg sta02.jpg
sta03.jpg sta03.jpg
sta04.jpg sta04.jpg
sta05.jpg sta05.jpg
sta06.jpg sta06.jpg
sta07.jpg sta07.jpg
sta08.jpg sta08.jpg
sta09.jpg sta09.jpg
sta10.jpg sta10.jpg

They may not be pretty to some but the Stabicraft series of boats raise the bar in levels of safety, buoyancy, stability and fuel efficiency, writes David Lockwood.


FROM THE ARCHIVE: First published in TrailerBoat #217, Mar 2007



It all began when some thick-skinned paua or abalone divers in New Zealand wanted a boat with hitherto new levels of stability and seaworthiness. Using extruding aluminium pontoons welded to the central aluminium hull, Stabi-Craft came up with the RIB-type boat with level flotation that, if rough-water boating is your thing, takes some beating.
News travels fast in New Zealand and, before long, these rough-and-tumble tin ducks were in great demand right across the land and, now, across The Ditch. Today Stabi-Craft is building rescue and commercial craft to 14m based on the pontoon or RIB-style hull and a range of boats from an open 3.89m dory through various cuddy cabins to serious lock-up cabin boats up to 8.95m in length.
I have driven the smallest Stabi-Craft runabout the 389XR and one of the biggest Super Cabs the 659 for trailerBOAT. Both Stabi-Craft were true to form exhibiting superb seaworthiness and amazingly smooth rides that belied their size.
The subject of this test, the 589 Super Cab, has only reinforced my belief that these unconventional craft deserve a place on the water somewhere. They don't flaunt classic lines or comely styling but Stabi-Craft are wonderfully utilitarian boats that put safety first.
Not surprisingly the Sydney dealer Ken Bullen said he has sold Stabi-Craft to safety-conscious trailerboat anglers, especially the 659 and 759 Super Cab models. There were two Stabi-Crafts among the 220-odd boats fishing the Interclub at Port Stephens this year.
The modest 589 could easily fish such a tournament, although it is more likely to be found on the anchor at some great snapper spots, trolling the headlands or drifting for table fish. And with an enclosed wheelhouse and shelter it's an especially practical boat for cold-climate boating.




Stabi-Craft uses computer-aided design and computer-controlled routers to cut the aluminium for all its boats to within 0.5mm tolerances. This way every boat is built the same. The 589 Super Cab uses 5mm-thick sheet for its deep-vee hull and 3mm-thick alloy for the pontoons tracing it. These airtight chambers have a similar effect to strapping a whole bunch of sealed 44-gallon drums to your gunwales.
The tubes, with three separate airtight chambers, allow the boat to displace only so much water before they force it back up - it's a bit like pushing a 44-gallon drum underwater. And all that inbuilt buoyancy is responsible for the boat's seven-adult load-carrying capacity. There's also tremendous lift in the bow. Last but not least, should one air chamber be holed, no worries, there's still enough buoyancy in reserve to float the boat, assures Stabi-Craft.
While the beam is a comparatively narrow 2.31m, stability at rest is amazing. This alone puts this boat in the serious offshore boating league, especially where bar-crossings are part and parcel of heading wide.
Although this boat had a checkerplate floor that drained to a bilge (and
pump) back under the integrated outboard pod, there is the option of a self-draining floor that would further enhance the fishability of this boat. That would be my choice.
On the road, meanwhile, the all-up towing weight is real bonus as the 589 Super Cab tips the scales at just 1250kg on a tandem Breeze trailer with galvanised axles and brakes. This is well within the towing capacity of even a mid-sized family sedan, cutting car and travel costs considerably compared with the fibreglass boat and 4WD league.




The big forward enclosed wheelhouse with full headroom and armour-plate glass windscreen, plus the inherent buoyancy in the bow makes the 589 Super Cab a great boat when punching through headseas. It's the right formula for fishing, say, the NSW south coast, SA or Tasmania. Hardly surprising, the Kiwis know all about wet-track form.
But in terms of frills there are relatively few. So you should view the Stabi-Craft as a blank canvass upon which to do your own customising. The boat needs things like a portable baitbox, icebox for toting the day's food and catch, rod storage and electronics, and perhaps even outriggers, or maybe nothing more than a fish tub and some handlines.
You access the bow in two ways, either by shuffling around the side decks with non-skid treads, aided by the grabrails on the cabin top and split bowrail, or through the escape hatch in the cabin. The latter is easier requiring a tolerable amount of contorting to reach the bowsprit, the small cross bollard and the truly deep anchor well.
You could also use a side-anchoring system by storing the ground tackle and anchor-retrieval buoy in the cabin, deploying it over the gunwale and clipping it on to a springer attached to the bow. This would be my choice.
There's not a lot inside the cabin. The optional factory-fitted vee berth has upholstered cushions but they are short and the cabin is more for escaping foul-weather and dry storage than a sleeping space for two.
The cabin sides are lined in that basic charcoal-grey furry frontrunner that helps reduce noise and prevent condensation. There are two big sidepockets and dry storage space under the treated-timber seat bases. You can also stow stuff in the footwell or add storage nets here and there for the lifejackets.
The dash is a no-frills number but has a cover to keep the wiring protected, out of sight and contained. There is space to flush mount a 10in-plus electronic screen, a spread of Mercury engine gauges, plus a switch panel for the lights, wiper and bilge pump.
There is a basic throttle for the 115hp EFI four-stroke Mercury outboard which was kind of clunky and tight - outboard makers really need to come up with a more sophisticated gearshift - and a sports wheel linked to (optional) hydraulic steering. I would hate to drive anything above 70hp without it.
The navigator has a couple of sturdy stainless-steel grab rails but with the rake of the windscreen you have to step back from the dash to eliminate any chance of hitting your head when underway.
Otherwise, headroom under the hardtop is a high point. On the aft edge of the hardtop the boat needs a factory-fitted or backyard-built rocket launcher for rod storage, perhaps outriggers, and you need to add the cost of serious electronics to the boat to make it fish ready.




But, ironically, one of the best things about the 589 Super Cab is what you don't get and that is clutter in the cockpit. One big broad expanse of checkerplate flooring ranges from the back of twin pedestal helm seats which, incidentally, have handy built-in grab rails for crew to hold when standing, all the way to the transom.
The space under that floor is a watertight air chamber that adds to the boat's buoyancy. It also includes the 150lt underfloor fuel tank with integrated magnetic fuel gauge. Storage exists in full-length side pockets and deep voids under the transom where you could stash tubs, fighting gear and a portable icebox or two (go for the ones with rubber feet that stay out on the deck).
You will, however, have to come up with something clever in respect of fish storage, a live bait tank and bait-rigging area. Being aluminium it shouldn't be hard to fabricate something like a mid-cockpit padded fishbox with rod storage. A rotomoulded livebait tank will fit on the outboard pod.
Even with things like a central fishbox the boat is remarkably stable with a reassuring sense of freeboard. I noted that three adults leaning outboard induced about half the list of that in a conventional boat which bodes well for landing big things like sharks and marlin.
Speaking of which, the transom has a portside marlin or boarding door with lift-out aluminium panel that can be relocated in a dedicated slot to starboard. The deck cleats were mounted proud of the hull sides but the cheap plastic rod holders need replacing if you plan to fish with anything more than about 10kg tackle.
The boat was factory fitted with a small nylon cutting board mounted on a lift-out ski pole so you can have your fishing and summer fun. But the keen fisher might want to fashion something bigger and better and, perhaps, a saltwater deckwash and aft rocket launcher.
I was pleased to find the battery mounted off the floor behind a watertight plastic hatch in the transom, in a dry and accessible spot for servicing. The main scupper to the bilge is mid-floor so it remains to be seen whether water pools in the corners of this boat. It probably does and is best fished wearing Crocs or deck sandals.




It's not until you've driven a Stabi-Craft that you appreciate that beauty is more than skin deep. You are assured of a big cruising range with the recommended 115hp (four-stroke) outboard and this, with the hardtop, side-opening windows for ventilation, and big glass windscreen with wiper for vision, allows you to cruise and troll this boat in the foulest of weather - when the fish are often biting best!
The outboard is mounted with a product called Vibrastop to, you guessed it, reduce vibration. This it does but with all the bare aluminium and the open cabin there is reverberation of engine noise at high speeds. Lift-out cockpit carpet or rubber matting would help dampen that.
The hull of the Stabi-Craft isn't dissimilar to that of a RIB, with outer sponsons that trap air for lift and a central deep-vee that cleaves the waves. Suffice to say the boat is very easily driven and efficient with its modest 115hp outboard.
In the estuary we hooked into a big-boat wash and ran the Stabi-Craft sideways along the trough where many other deep-vee craft would catch a chine and maybe trip up. Not this little tin duck. The buoyancy chambers around the bow saved the day by providing lift once the bow dug in keeping the boat on line.
With full in-trim the outboard had the easily driven hull planing at 2500rpm or lure-trolling speed of eight knots which is good for fuel economy.
The boat continues to run flat at 2800rpm and 9.6kt right up to a heavy-weather cruise of 13.5 to 14kt at 3200rpm. A handy offshore speed of 19 to 20kt at 3500rpm doesn't produce much engine noise and you will find the outboard most economical.
The 115hp was really in the zone at 21.4 to 22kt and 4000rpm which is considered optimum cruising revs. If conditions allow 4500rpm gives 27kt knots, 5000rpm returns 30.1kt and top speed is 35kt on the GPS at 5800rpm. Offshore there was a short and sharp metre or more of swell stacking up on a runout tide but the 589 Super Cab never thumped.
Interestingly this boat is also exceedingly buoyant in the transom and it backed up amazingly well. I'm not one to chase fish in reverse in a small boat, preferring to fight them off the quarter while going forward, but if you do need to go back in a hurry or wrench and anchor out of a reef this boat will do it.
I'm not sure what it is about sweet-running boats and their lack of looks. Many cats and trimarans fall into this category, so too the Stabi-Craft from New Zealand. Far from being oil paintings Stabi-Craft are supremely utilitarian boats, user-friendly, way better for offshore fishing than a RIB and are backed by a useful three-year hull warranty.
Add some of the groovy factory colour options and graphics, and you could create something that didn't go unnoticed. Plus with a clever bit handiwork you would have an even better fishing boat. Though it hails from the Shaky Isles the Stabi-Craft is a rock solid foundation.




High degree of safety with level flotation and huge reserve buoyancy
Exceedingly smooth ride
Brilliant stability at rest
Utilitarian layout offers loads of fishing room and low maintenance
Hardtop with headroom makes for a boat in which you can tackle any weather
Good built quality




Not the prettiest boat with a utilitarian or workman-like purpose
Not cheap for a 19-footer with a relatively modest 115hp four-stroke outboard
Not a huge following so it might not be the easiest boat to offload on the secondhand market
Small cross bollard on the foredeck
Quite noisy at fast running speeds
Plastic rod holders




Specifications: Stabi-Craft 589 Super Cab




Price as tested:    $66,525
w/ four-stroke Mercury 115hp Verado outboard, dual-axle trailer, safety gear, registrations and factory-fitted options.
Options fitted:    V-berth and cushions, wiper, opening navigator window, hydraulic steering, Nyalic (non-skid) on pontoons and transom, trailer, plus registrations, safety gear and more.
Priced from:    $59,163 base package




Material:    Aluminium 5mm hull, 3mm pontoons
Length overall:    5.98mm
Beam:    2.31m
Deadrise:    n/a but deep-vee centre hull
Weight:    Approx. 740kg hull only, approx. 1250kg on road




Berths:    Two on deck or squeeze in cabin if you add an infill
Fuel:    150lt
People:    Seven adults at 75kg each
Rec/max HP:    150




Make/model:    Mercury 115 EXLPT Verado
Type:    Four-stroke outboard
Rated HP:    115 at 5500 to 6000rpm
Propeller:    16in stainless steel Vengeance




Ken Bullen Marine
58 Garden Street,
North Narrabeen, NSW, 2101
Phone: (02) 9913 3522, or tollfree 1800 178 224.



Originally published in TrailerBoat #217

Find Stabicraft boats for sale.


Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.