REVIEW: STABICRAFT 1850 FRONTIER AND 1850 FISHER

By: JOHN WILLIS, Photography by: JOE PRESS


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John Willis got a close look the latest Stabicraft 1850 range.

What a privilege it was to be offered the opportunity to test three different types of the same hull on the same day. And given New Zealand manufacturer Stabicraft’s 1850 hull has seen a complete revamp, rather than just a minor alteration or name change, this was a test in the truest sense of the word.

The hull’s most obvious variations are throughout the shoulder section, where traditional convex pontoon shapes often created a rather hard entry. The new "Arrow Pontoons" shape, however, has reduced those outward shoulders making a great hull even better, with a noticeably softer and drier entry in the chop.

Our fearless editor Angelo already tested the 1850 Supercab (TrailerBoat #290, January 2013) and came back with a gleaming grin, so he and I were waiting with bated breath to trial the new centre console 1850 Frontier, and true to our expectations it’s a ripper. The Frontier has all the elements of a sportsfishing weapon, but with great storage, creature comforts and the ride of a sports car.

The third in the 1850 series, the Fisher runabout completes the trio and carves its own niche supporting the excellence of the Supercab and the Frontier. It’s a terrific little boat in its own right and will certainly suit many customers.



 

1850 SUPER FISH TRANSOM

The "Super Fish" transom fitted to the 1850s is a beauty and with it Stabicraft has perfected the work station for fishos, divers and families.

It incorporates an enclosure for batteries and switchgear, large cutting surface and livebait tank, as well as grab handles and rodholders at a comfortable height. Two simple but effective fold-down seats sit either side of it and also double as steps to disembark the deep cockpit.

Those industrious Kiwis have also been hard at work redesigning the transom layout and have come up with a beauty — the "Game Chaser".

The designers have angled the pod and the rear steps, while at the same time extending the hull sheets all the way aft creating a better ride, greater stability, increased buoyancy, improved holeshot and a hull that will reverse at considerable speed. There’s a functional step on either side, a folding ladder and minimal distance from the work station to the transom. This is truly a working/fishing boat.



 

STABICRAFT 1850 FRONTIER HULL

I loved tales of the Wild West when I was a boy and as a slightly older boy I love the Stabicraft Frontier. A joy to drive, the boat is soft, manoeuvrable and confident, and enormously stable when you stop for a fish.

You can discuss the physics of the Stabicraft stability till the cows come home but all I can tell you is that it’s one solid platform. A mid-mounted console puts the centre of gravity in the middle of the boat, slightly aft, which is right where it should be. While this means there is plenty of room for lure casting in the bow, you also have ample space to move when you want to stop at anchor and dangle bait off the back. Furthermore, this ideal weight distribution allows for terrific handling abilities.

Jumping aboard the Frontier, one of the first things you notice is the big wide coamings and the depth of the freeboard. You step right down into the boat and feel secure in the thigh-high gunwales. Stabicraft achieved the freeboard by combining the high sides with a low checkerplate floor. The floor itself is not self-draining but that’s why the centre of gravity is so low and is a major factor to the boat’s excellent stability and handling.

I especially liked the boat’s wide gunwales, which are almost like having a work surface and seat everywhere on the boat. They also offer a solution to the age-old problem of storage on a centre console, by allowing cavernous side pockets all-round.

Since the standard Frontier package is supplied as a blank canvas, ready to be personalised, there are no doorways or enclosures. But if it were mine I would introduce some detachable canvas covers held on with Velcro fastenings. Either way, it’s up to the owner.

One thing I think we can all agree on, however, is the need for appropriately-placed drinkholders, something the designers have thankfully taken care of. There are six drink and rod holders on the gunwales, as well as rubber foot grips and short siderails. A wide beam means there is plenty of deck room around the console and I can see five or six fishing similtaneously from various positions.

The designers got the console right, too. The windscreen keeps the wind off the driver in the seated position, but standing is also comfortable and refreshing. Dash space is usually limited by the width of a console but the Frontier has plenty of room for a large sounder/GPS, as well as a full array of gauges, switches and gadgets.

The console has access through a doorway to the rear, and there is further access and storage through the front. It also has a small step seat with a removable padded lid that, other than the large fishbox/storage/icebox seat, will be the second best seat in the house.

Another small seat in the bow can also double as a casting platform. The bow itself has a short, split bowrail finishing at a bowsprit and deep anchor well.

All of this works well but there is only limited paint protection and noise dampening for the anchor chain, so a little more customising could be required. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with an anchor winch on the Frontier, but rather the simplicity of an anchor ball.

I initially thought the Frontier would be adequate with a 90hp four-stroke. But "adequate" is really the key word — gimme the 115hp any day. While top-end performance wasn’t all that different with a light load, and the 115 was actually rougher and noisier at very low revs, its performance through the low- and mid-range was noticeable. There is a difference of around 45kg and 550cc between the Honda BF90 and the BF115, but the hull definitely liked the bigger and heavier engine.

Interestingly, at 217kg the 115 is actually comparable to an older V6 two-stroke but the 1850 just loved the extra weight. Again, the extended hull plates and increased buoyancy help considerably.

The hull feels great at speed and tucks into a turn with no noticeable cavitation or other bad habits, and the hydraulic steering allows comfortable command. The four-blade 15in stainless steel propeller gets the boat up and out of the hole with minimal throttle and only a very slight bow rise, but never with a loss of visibility.

With a light load the Frontier gets a little flighty at more than 30kts (55.5kmh), which is another reason the 115hp is the ideal engine.

Many will add T-tops, winches and all sorts of custom rodholder configurations and outriggers. But whatever your method and accessories, the 1850 Frontier is a terrific base to work from.



 

STABICRAFT 1850 FISHER RUNABOUT

There’s a little bit of duality to the Stabicraft 1850 Fisher. It’s a terrific runabout with all of the hull, transom, cockpit, fishability, safety and stability of its sister ships, the Frontier and the Supercab. But this one is best described as a raised runabout, almost cuddy, configuration.

We took the Fisher for a run with the 90hp Honda four-stroke and immediately noticed the difference with mechanical steering as opposed to the hydraulic options fitted to the Supercab and Frontier.

The 90hp was slightly smoother at low revs and idle, yet its note was understandably not quite as pleasing at higher revs. Still, it gave satisfying performance, obviously working harder through the mid-range but surprising us all by reaching just a pinch off the same top speed as the Frontier (34.1kts/ 63.15kmh) with the 115hp.

I have spent plenty of time in centre consoles, in both hot and cold conditions, and you may call me a wimp but I definitely prefer a small cuddy or enclosed hardtop.

The Fisher’s cuddy is not too big and not too small, with an opening five-sectioned glass windscreen. It has modern lines and an attractively rugged appearance. The fully-lined cuddy provides plenty of protection for tackle and accessories, or perhaps the kids when they get tired, as well as a big storage bin.

The Fisher’s compact dashboard allows ample room for the Garmin 750S colour sounder/GPS/plotter (with NMEA and radar availability). Drop-down swivelling seats are mounted to welded aluminium boxes that extend from the side coamings, which allow extra floor space while still offering storage. I particularly liked the small sections next to the seats where all my fishing paraphernalia, phones and loose accessories usually end up.

As expected, since the seated weight is so much farther forward, the Fisher’s ride is slightly harder into the chop than the Frontier. Plus, the bell-shaped cuddy tends to amplify water noise, so it’s a little louder, too.

To be honest, when I’m out fishing I often get frustrated with rocket launchers that only hold six or eight rods. So imagine my disappointment when I discovered the Fisher’s standard rocket launcher only holds four. But that’s actually not too bad because it can be easily fixed.

Something we can’t easily fix, however, is the anchoring setup. There’s a functional bowsprit that would easily hold a SARCA, reef or plough, a nice split bowrail and a deep anchor well. But I certainly wouldn’t like to be scrambling around the minimal side walkways, and not everyone wants to add the expense of an electric anchor winch. The lean-through windscreen is awkward and should you actually succeed in raising the anchor by hand, there is no mechanism to lock the chain in place.

I must admit to being more than a little surprised by this type of indiscretion, especially from Stabicraft, a manufacturer with a real history of producing fine examples of boating ergonomics for a very long time.

Regardless, the Fisher is a great little package with excellent fishability and plenty of appeal as a family dayboat. She’s also got all of the prerequisites for a terrific diving boat and will happily tow the kids (both large and small) for some skiing and fun on water toys.

The smaller 90hp Honda works well and is considerably cheaper and lighter than the 115hp with the hydraulic steering option.



 

THE TRAILERBOAT VERDICT

All-in-all the 1850 hull is another progression in the unique Stabi design history. Each of the three configurations has its own identity and will appeal to different customers.

These hulls are far from the ugly ducklings that took a number of years to gain acceptance. Most people have now seen the inner beauty of these Stabicrafts, and those that haven’t probably haven’t driven them.



STABICRAFT 1850 FRONTIER PERFORMANCE

(With 115hp four-stroke)

15.5kts (28.7kmh) @ 3000rpm

19.8kts (36.6kmh) @ 3500rpm

23kts (42.6kmh) @ 4000rpm

26.5kts (49kmh) @ 4500rpm

29.6kts (54.8kmh) @ 5000rpm

33kts (61.1kmh) @ 5500rpm

35kts (64.8kmh) @ 6000rpm (WOT)



STABICRAFT 1850 FISHER PERFORMANCE

With 90hp four-stroke

13.6kts (25.2kmh) @ 3000rpm

18.3kts (33.9kmh) @ 3500rpm

21.6kts (40kmh) @ 4000rpm

25.6kts (47.4kmh) @ 4500rpm

28.6kts (53kmh) @ 5000rpm

31kts (57.4kmh) @ 5500rpm

34.1kts (63.1kmh) @ 6000rpm (WOT)




 

STABICRAFT 1850 FRONTIER SPECIFICATIONS

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $55,000

Options fitted: Hydraulic steering; front seat; boarding ladder; powder-coated console; Garmin 750 GPS/sounder; Garmin VHF radio; Fusion AM/FM radio; and binnacle control.

Priced from: $43,000



GENERAL

Type: Plate aluminium centre console

Material: Plate aluminium

Length: 5.6m

Beam: 2.4m

Weight BMT: 1400kg

Deadrise: 17.5°



CAPACITIES

People: 6

Rec. HP: 90

Max. HP: 115

Fuel: 120L



ENGINE

Make/model: Honda BF 115

Type: Four-cylinder EFI four-stroke with BLAST

Weight: 220kg

Displacement: 2354cc

Gear ratio: 2.14:1

Propeller: Stainless steel 15in




 

STABICRAFT 1850 FISHER SPECIFICATIONS

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $59,000

Options fitted: Side gunwale rails; plumbed livebait tank; boarding ladder; cabin lining; bimini/clears; Garmin 750s GPS/sounder; Garmin VHF radio; Fusion AM/FM radio; upgraded bolster seats; electric anchor winch; front-cabin privacy screen; saltwater deckwash; tube floor matting; boat catch; dual batteries; spare wheel.

Priced from: $42,990



GENERAL

Type: Plate aluminium runabout/cuddy

Material: Plate aluminium

Length: 5.6m

Beam: 2.4m

Weight BMT: 1250kg

Deadrise: 17.5°



CAPACITIES

People: 6

Rec. HP: 90

Max. HP: 115

Fuel: 120L



ENGINE

Make/model: Honda BF90

Type: Fuel-injected SOHC four-cylinder four-stroke with BLAST

Weight: 166kg

Displacement: 1496cc

Gear ratio: 2.33:1

Propeller: Alloy three-blade 17in





ALL BOATS MANUFACTURED BY

Stabicraft

345 Bluff Road

Invercargill

Southland, New Zealand

Tel: 1800 178 224 (free call from Australia)

Web: www.stabicraft.com



ALL BOATS SUPPLIED BY

M.Y. Marine

Corner Nepean Highway and Ponderosa Place

Dromana

Victoria 3936

Tel: (03) 5987 0900

Web: www.mymarine.com.au

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #299, September / October 2013

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