BOAT TEST: STACER 649 OCEAN RANGER

By: KEVIN SMITH, Photography by: KEVIN SMITH


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Kevin Smith comes back mightily surprised after sampling Stacer's first venture into serious plate-boat territory.

BOAT TEST: STACER 649 OCEAN RANGER
The Stacer 649 Ocean Ranger. Construction is pretty solid with its 5mm bottomsides, 4mm topsides, and fully-welded sub-frame rib structure.

When Stacer recently released its 2012 range, for me one boat in particular stood out - the 649 Ocean Ranger. Why? Quite simply, it's Stacer's first hardcore offshore plate-alloy fishing boat, designed to meet the exacting demands of bluewater anglers, as well as those of family boaters.

Considering the crowded market into which it's headed, is there really room for yet another offshore plate fishing boat? Well, given its palatable pricing, it's got a damn good chance. The class is usually the preserve of big-buck sportfishing weapons, but the 649 Ocean Ranger is priced from $53,861 - an attractive price tag for a 6.5m plate craft with a  150hp E-TEC and aluminium trailer.


HEAVY-DUTY BUILD

For starters, the 649 has a heavy-duty construction comprising 5mm bottom sides, 4mm topsides, and a fully-welded sub-frame rib structure below its self-draining, tread-plate floor.

Whether you're a gamefisho or a bottom basher, the more useable space the better, and especially so in the stern. It's clear that plenty of forethought has gone into the 649 at the design stage, because Stacer has managed to offer consistent space throughout the layout.

In the stern there's a large docking platform with boarding ladder, integrated berley bucket, full-length grabrails and entry into the boat via a small transom door. Instead of the usual bulky false transom setup, the 649's is compact, but still includes a large permanent baitboard with stainless flush-mounted rodholders, livewell and rear lounger with full access to the battery and filters behind the latter.

The deck is bare aluminium tread-plate; although I prefer fully-painted hulls, this breaks up the colour scheme quite nicely. The gunwales are of a good height and have wide coamings, and while the large, full-length sidepockets with toe-locks are comfortable to fish up against, they would have been even better with some bolstered padding along the top rail - an easy task to remedy, no doubt. I also noted a lack of non-slip along the tops of the painted surfaces; it's not a major issue but it would have been nice to see it as a standard inclusion.

Up front on the deck there's a large killtank / storage hatch situated between the front seats. The seating is of a high standard indeed - instead of standard budget seating, the 649 has heavy-duty executive seats mounted atop storage boxes. Quality seating like this definitely adds to your comfort while driving. It's also well positioned and can be adjusted to suit either sitting or standing.

The helm affords decent vision through the screen, with good space to flush-mount fair-sized sounders and other electronics. An interesting aspect of the dash layout concerns the cabin walkthrough, which opens up to give easy access to the bow - it's a great feature. The open-plan cabin is spacious and could be customised to accommodate overnight stays.

There's a lot going on in the 649's layout, with plenty of standard accessories and good ergonomics throughout. It's obvious Stacer has achieved that nice balance of catering to offshore fishos and families alike.


HANDLING AND RIDE

The 649 Ocean Ranger sports Stacer's EVO Advance Hull, which features a 19° deadrise with wide chines for improved roughwater handling, plus stability and easier planing. I was expecting the sort of ride that's typical of plate-boats, but I have to say I was blown away with the overall ride offered by the 649.

This is one of very few plateys that achieves an awesome combination of performance, softness and dryness of ride, and stability. If you're into roughwater launches or bar crossings, the 649 will lap it up as Stacer has nailed the engine setup - it'll take tight, full-lock turns out of the hole and at speed in its stride, and with no cavitation.

Offshore the hull offers a very soft ride, especially considering that 19°deadrise; it is also very stable and the ride is noticeably dry. The wide chines definitely do a good job of reflecting spray away from the boat rather than up and onto the screen.

I also found I could maintain a comfor-table speed of 25kts (46.3kmh) while seated. This seems to be the optimum economical speed, with the revs sitting at 3500rpm for a fuel burn of 22.4lt/h.

Higher offshore speeds of around 30kts (55.6kmh) were entirely achievable while I was standing and driving. Indeed, I reckon this has to be one of the quicker plate-boats out there. Its speed and 160lt fuel capacity make for one very potent rig suitable for longer offshore runs, while it's natural on-water manners mean you won't find yourself constantly having to make corrections, as can be the case with some other boats on the market.

Really, it's nigh on impossible to fault, although I will say that I'd probably opt for the maximum horsepower rating of 175hp, just for that little bit more gumption.


THE WRAP

With so much to offer in its layout and also the handling, I can already picture this boat as a common sight on the water. Not only is it a fantastic offshore fishing weapon, it's also an ideal family boat that could be used for overnighters and even skiing if so desired.

The 649 Ocean Ranger is an excellent first plate-boat from Stacer, and carries a very reasonable price tag. As tested, this package came to $59,990 including rego, safety kit, trailer, 150hp E-TEC, vinyl wrap, twin Lowrance HDS-7 CP FF GPS / sounders and more.

On the plane...
* Soft ride
* Great price
* Tight turning capabilities
* Decent standard options
* Easy access to anchor hatch / bow
* Selfdraining deck

Dragging the chain...
* It'd be good to see heavy-duty welds throughout
* Lack of non-slip on smooth, painted surfaces
* Electronics are a little tricky to view when seated
* Could do with a grabrail next to passenger seat


Specifications: STACER 649 OCEAN RANGER

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $59,990
Options fitted: Vinyl wrap, 2 x HDS-7CP FF sounders
Priced from: $53,861 (boat, 150hp E-TEC, aluminium trailer, on-water costs including registration and safety kit, standard features)

GENERAL
Type: Deep-vee offshore fishing / family
Material: Plate-aluminium
Length: 6.64m
Beam: 2.4 m
Weight (hull only): 940kg
Deadrise: 19°

CAPACITIES
People: 7
Max. HP: 175
Min. HP: 115
Fuel: 160lt

ENGINE
Make/model: Evinrude E-TEC E150DPX
Type: Loop-charged, direct-injection, V6 two-stroke
Weight: 196kg
Displacement: 2592cc
Gear ratio: 1.85:1
Propeller: Stainless viper 15¾in x 15in

MANUFACTURED BY
Stacer Boats
Coomera, Qld
Web: www.stacer.com.au

SUPPLIED BY
Wynnum Marine
31 Fox Street
Wynnum, Qld, 4178
Tel: (07) 3396 9777
Website: www.wynnummarine.com.au

Source: TrailerBoat #284, July 2012.

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