CRESTLINER COMMANDER 1850 AMERICAN TINNIE

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD


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Crestliner has introduced a no-nonsense knockabout boat, the Crestliner Commander 1850, to its otherwise chic range.

CRESTLINER COMMANDER 1850 AMERICAN TINNIE
The Crestliner Commander 1850. All the refinements of an American-made boat… but on a tinnie.

After singing the praises of the Crestliner Sportfish, describing it as a step ahead in luxury and innovation (TrailerBoat #287, September 2012), I was somewhat surprised to discover the company soon had the black sheep of the family waiting in the wings.

No one is likely to use the word "pretty" to describe this boat, and with a name like Commander it immediately generates expectations of a tough boat with Schwarzenegger-like credentials, ready to take on the worst conditions Mother Nature can throw at it. So when it came time to test the boat it was fitting that we were faced with a 25kt southerly on NSW's wide, open Hawkesbury River.

In contrast to the previous Crestliner models we have seen - boats that ooze quality and class, like a Range Rover - the Commander is the Hummer of the fleet. Its high, upright windscreen and squared-off corners give it a boxy look and a purposeful army-issue presence. It would look great in camouflage khaki green.

What could be called pretty, however, are the boat's high-gloss black finish and impeccable welds. In keeping with its military style, a pair of seats fold out sideways, similar to the lengthways benches in a troop transporter. Like so many of the innovations we have discovered in other Crestliners, these versatile seats seem like such an obviously good idea, but they are something we haven't seen here before. Crestliners are like that: full of fittings that fold into place in such a logical way that it's a wonder nobody else has thought of them.

The Commander packs a lot into its 5.7m, and does it in such a way as to make the boat feel, through creative design, like something much bigger.

 

ALL ABOARD

Climbing into the boat from the front, where a bow step has an anchor roller, you step down onto the forward casting deck that - like the flooring throughout the boat - is covered in a thick, non-skid grey vinyl. A carpet-lined storage bin and a 68L aerated live bait / holding tank, both of which have lids with stainless handles and sturdy hinges, live under the floor.

A walkway leads through the folding windscreen down a 300mm step to the cockpit which is, aside from the helm seats, an uncluttered and open dance floor. Side decks to a maximum height of 76cm provide the cockpit with a very secure feel and the grey carpet-lined side decks tie the space together for a neat, well-finished setting. Like all Crestliners, there is little in the boat that gives away its metal origin.

The helm seats are firm but comfortable vinyl-covered pedestals and there's a generous fore-and-aft slider for the driver. Staying with the military theme, the dash is an austere flat metal panel, but there is plenty of information to keep track of performance, with gauges for speed, revs, voltage, fuel and trim. There are also switches for navigation lights, bilge pump, courtesy lights and the horn, as well as a 12V outlet and USB input for the Jensen stereo.

Adjustment of the stainless steel steering wheel allows it to be set from a vertical to almost horizontal setting, much like a Mack truck.

There is a lined and lockable glovebox on the passenger side, but the Commander is unfortunately missing the slide-out drawer common to other Crestliner models we have seen. Storage for bulky items is found in open bins under the driver and passenger consoles.

I particularly liked the small fiddle rail around the flat dash, which allows that area to be used for smaller items without them flying into space when underway. There's a low plastic grab handle, but I found the windscreen does not provide much of a hand-hold for any standing passengers.

The two seats that fold out sideways from the sides sit directly behind the helm. These seats are set in such a way that you can sit on them facing sideways, to the front or to the rear - this means they are perfect for travelling or fishing, but can fold up out of the way for more space. It might sound like I'm spruiking Crestliner a bit too much, but when the firm keeps coming up with great concepts someone has to point them out; these boats are light years ahead in pioneering better ways of doing things.

A locker with tubes for five rods up to 7ft is found in the floor, and there are open racks for four rods up to 9ft 6in along each side deck - that's an impressive total of 13 rods. There is also space under the rod lockers for good foot holds, and the side decks are wide enough to sit on when fishing.

 

ROOM FOR ACTION

The floor at the transom extends around the engine well, making it easy to access the rear of the boat when fighting a fish around the motor. The well is wide enough to take an auxiliary in addition to the main motor, which is rated to 150hp, although the 115 horses fitted to the test boat would be comfortably adequate for most situations.

There is a cutting board to starboard on the transom, which I felt would be too low for most people to find useful (I have been told the company is developing a bait table for the Australian market so it will be interesting to see what the Americans come up with for us). The transom is also home to neatly hidden compartments for batteries, fuel filters and the bilge tank, and there is an option for removable dicky seats in the corners each side of the motor.

When cruising in the driver's seat, I felt well protected by the high tempered-glass windscreen wrapping around the driving position. It affords excellent all-round vision and there is no buffeting from the breeze when underway.

There is good grip on the rubber-lined wheel and, with such a wide range of adjustment from the seat and the wheel, almost everyone is going to find a comfortable driving position. The throttle is mounted high on the side and I found it a little awkward at first, but I quickly got comfortable and found it well placed when driving while standing.

 

THE ROUGH STUFF

We started off our drive in the calm of Berowra Waters before deciding to head to the bridge over the Hawkesbury for some fishing. By the time we did some speed runs this became a cruise of about 45 minutes, while a southerly gale had turned the river into a very unpleasant place by the time we arrived. No fish, but plenty of opportunities to experience the Commander in more demanding conditions.

During our test runs across all angles of wind the boat stayed dry as the big spray rails sent water well clear of the boat. In winds of 25kts (46kmh) I was expecting the big windscreen to have some effect on stability, but even at full revs the boat tracked true without any undue leaning.

Although we didn't get in any real fishing time, we did get a good feel for the boat. It remained stable in the gusty conditions and there was enough room for three anglers to move and cast lures.

With a maximum rated horsepower of 175, I was half expecting the four-stroke Mercury 115hp fitted to the test boat to be a bit sluggish, but that was far from the case. It climbed out of the hole pretty well on 2800rpm at 13kts (24kmh), and after 3500rpm it really got going and accelerated rapidly to nearly 40kts (74kmh). The boat liked to cruise in the 4000rpm range, where speed was 22kts (41kmh).

I have said the 115hp is adequate, and it is, but a bigger donk would drag the Commander out of the water more quickly, while providing a top-end advantage. Even so, I could live with the motor that's fitted and it would be up to the job for all but the biggest rev heads.

 

THE WRAP

Handling has always been one of the standout features on all of the Crestliners I've driven, and the Commander is no exception.

It turns as hard as you want in a predictable arc and only shows signs of cavitation in the most extreme full-power turns. It was soft and stable across the chop, with no shake or banging from the hull or fittings.

For a boat that looks like a Hummer, the Commander handles like a sporty road car. And for all the first impression of it being the black sheep of the Crestliner family, it proved to be just as refined and gentle as its siblings.

 

ON THE PLANE...

· Excellent build and finish

· Great innovative design

· Open cockpit and easy access

 

DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

· Looks might frighten the children

· Needs a better table for bait fisher folk




PERFORMANCE

13kts (24kmh) @ 2800rpm (plane)

15kts (29kmh) @ 3000rpm

17kts (32kmh) @ 3500rpm

22kts (42kmh) @ 4000rpm

28kts (53kmh) @ 4500rpm

32kts (60kmh) @ 5000rpm

36kts (67kmh) @ 5500rpm

39kts (72kmh) @ 6000rpm (wide-open throttle)

 

Specifications: Crestliner Commander 1850

 

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $52,990

Options fitted: Fishbox, in-floor storage; power steering (Verado only); hydraulic steering with tilt; stainless steering wheel; helm seat slider port; starboard side benches; bow anchor; roller swim platform; Jensen stereo

Priced from: $52,990

 

GENERAL

Type: Monohull fishing

Material: Alloy

Length: 5.7m

Beam: 2.39m

Weight: 710kg

Deadrise: 17°

 

CAPACITIES

People: 6

Rec. HP: 115

Max. HP: 150

Fuel: 125lt

 

ENGINE

Make/model: Mercury 115hp four-stroke

Type: Inline four, 16-valve, dual overhead cam

Weight: 181kg

Displacement: 1732cc

Gear ratio: 2.33:1

Propeller: 19in Black Max

 

MANUFACTURED BY

Crestliner Boats

Web: www.crestliner.com

 

SUPPLIED BY

Avante Marine NSW (through Berowra Waters Wholesale)

212 Silverwater Road

Silverwater, NSW 2128

Tel: (02) 9737 0727

Web: www.avantemarine.com.au

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #289, December 2012

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