BOAT TEST: FORMOSA BARRA 450

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD


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Formosa Marine has entered the bass boat market with a rugged new tinnie, the Formosa Barra 450. But how does the new vessel hold up?

BOAT TEST: FORMOSA BARRA 450
The Barra 450 is Formosa's foray into the smaller bass boat market.

Formosa Boats has a well-earned reputation for strong, well-engineered products, and this new Barra follows that trend with a smart-looking vee-nosed punt that's as tough as they come. According to company director Duncan Blakely, the new model came about as the result of demand from rural customers who were after a small boat that could withstand the punishment dealt out not so much on the water, but when travelling across rough bush tracks to remote fishing spots.

The result is a fair-dinkum plate boat with a 4mm bottom and 3mm sides, with stringers welded longitudinally into place. And because it's built to withstand life on the (dirt) road, the Barra will be a great knockabout boat on the water, capable of long-distance travel.

 

SLEEK DESIGN

Wide flares at the bow quickly give way to slab sides painted in glossy black, where Formosa's traditional jumping marlin design has been replaced by a more appropriate jumping barramundi. White trim and clean lines give the boat a sharp, appealing look, while a spray rail snakes down from high in the bow to meet the chine line, deflecting water on the move and acting as a reverse chine to help provide lift.

The design uses the manufacturer's well-established squared-off bow feature to gain good-sized casting platforms at both ends of the boat, further increasing fishing room. The relatively flat sections of the hull mean stability is maximised, but also that the boat is designed for the calmer waters of rivers and estuaries. A tiller-steer motor is used to help keep things simple.

The bow's raised casting platform has a large storage locker with two side-opening lids in the forward section and an optional 90L plastic live bait / holding tank in the rear. A mount for an electric motor is built into the port side deck and there is a battery cradle in the under-floor storage area.

The central section has a flat floor of marine ply covered in grey marine carpet and two pedestals that can be moved around the boat to five separate locations, including the bow platform,
to provide seating. A rod locker is fitted at floor level along the port and is strong enough to use as a step. A side pocket to starboard offers more storage, while 200mm decks all-round are wide enough for sitting and are fitted with two plastic rod holders each side.

Low rails are fitted at the corners of the boat and their sturdy 32mm tubing can double as strong mooring mounts. There is a raised casting deck with more storage and a metal rack to keep an Esky-style cooler in place below at the stern.

 

TILLER ART

Our test boat had a 50hp Mercury two-stroke long-shaft engine mounted directly to the transom, but the hull is rated to 80hp if you want more grunt. Tiller-steer motors are generally kept fairly basic in order to keep costs down and maintenance simple, but the Barra's electric start and power trim do make things a bit more civilised.

The provision for a pedestal seat at the helm is the most comfortable cruising position, but for short hops between fishing spots it is possible to drive the boat sitting low on the casting deck.

A small panel in front of the platform is home to switches for navigation and anchor lights, as well as the bilge pump. The start switch and choke are set below the starboard side deck, with the trim switch and a fuel gauge for the 60L tank ahead of these. A Garmin 350c fishfinder sits on an arm in front of the helm, from where it swings around so it can be seen from various positions.

Driving a tiller-steer boat is an art learned by seafaring types from an early age, and I have had tinnies and inflatable of my own with small-capacity outboards bolted on the back. Even so, I still find more powerful tiller boats take a bit of getting used to with their direct steering and awkward seating position.

That said, they are essentially pretty simple: push the tiller to go one way and pull it to go the other (of course, the direction depends on which side of the boat you're on), accelerating by twisting the hand throttle. I find it usually takes a while to be confident enough to go flat out and put the boat through tight turns and figure eights.

I envy the commercial fishermen up north who seem to spend hours effortlessly steering boats with 100hp motors to far off destinations, and wonder how they avoid lopsided muscle development. But let's not overstate the situation; not everyone is going to drive flat out and most people will find tiller steer pretty simple to get a handle on, so to speak.

Once I got my head around the Barra, it behaved impeccably. It turned with a flat stance at speed as quickly as I wanted, with no cavitation or vices, and it handled the chop with glee. The bow lifted quite high at take-off, but it quickly settled down once we got on the plane at about 7kts (13kmh).

It happily cruised in the 11.5-13.5kts (22-25kmh) range, where it is probably doing around 4000rpm (without a tacho, that's an estimate). Top speed is around the 24kts (45kph) mark. Through chop and wake the boat showed the benefit of its 400kg hull by maintaining momentum through waves, with a solid feel and no banging.

 

THE WRAP

While there are lots of vee-nosed bass vessels in the market, Formosa has found a point of difference with its new Barra boats by building them super strong without compromising the price point.

At a base of a little less than $25,000, there will be a lot of hardcore anglers bouncing their way to their favourite waterhole, happy in the knowledge the boat is going to arrive in one piece.

 

ON THE PLANE...

· Good-looking boat with quality paint and welds

· Stable at rest

· Good storage and lots of fishing room

· Sturdy construction

 

DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

· Not everyone will like a tiller-steer

 

PERFORMANCE

9kts (16.7kmh) @2500rpm (plane)

14kts (25kmh) @3000rpm

24kts (45kmh) @ 5500rpm

(Estimates only as no tacho onboard)

 

Specifications: Formosa Barra 450

 

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $26,900

Options fitted: Rod locker; live bait / catch tank; sounder; nav lights

Priced from: $24,200

 

GENERAL

Type: Vee-nosed bass boat

Material: Aluminium

Length: 4.5m

Beam: 2.1m

Weight: 400kg

Deadrise: 15°

 

CAPACITIES

People: 4

Rec. HP: 50

Max. HP: 80

Fuel: 60lt

Water: No

 

ENGINE

Make/model: Mercury 50hp

Type: Carburetted two-stroke in-line three-cylinder

Weight: 93kg

Displacement: 967cc

Propeller: 12in Spitfire

 

MANUFACTURED BY

Formosa Boats

3/1424 New Cleveland Road

Capalaba West, Qld 4157

Tel: (07) 3245 2950

Web: www.formosamarineboats.com.au

 

SUPPLIED BY

JD's Boatshed

27 Captain Cook Drive

Caringbah, NSW 2229

Tel: (02) 9525 3166

Web: www.jdsboatshed.com

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #289, December 2012.

Find Formosa boats for sale.

 


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