Review: Northbank 500C

By: John Ford, Photography by: John Ford


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Northbank Boats has been serving the South Australian fishing boat market for more than 30 years. The 500C cuddy-cabin is the smallest boat in the range.

The 500C is the smallest craft from Northbank Boats. It’s an impressive package and will suit those new to boating just as much as anyone downsizing to something more easily handled. As a pure family fun-boat or fishing boat, the Northbank 500C is good value for money, as its sales numbers indicate.

 

NORTHBANK BOATS

Northbank Boats 500C

Northbank Fibreglass Boats has been building boats for more than 30 years and operates a 4000m² facility in Lonsdale, just south of Adelaide. Prior to our boat review I had been shown around the factory where the boats are produced using traditional hand layups and an emphasis on getting strength and weight into all the hulls across the range of seven boat models from 5m to 7.5m.

Quality Nupol resins and ’glass are used throughout and the hull has a laminated beam bearer system, with weight concentrated low to benefit the centre of gravity. The 500C incorporates a ply floor that is laminated all-round and finished on top in a non-skid stipple and marine carpet. All boats are built to survey and the Northbank 500C is foam-filled for level floatation and sound deadening in a choppy sea.

 

CUDDY CABIN

Cuddy on Northbank 500C

Gulf St Vincent, South Australia’s giant waterway, was only a short drive and for the day of our review it was putting on a show of ideal boating conditions with a breathless blue sky and perfectly flat water – a great way to spend a day on the water but not the best for reviewing a boat’s rough-water handling.

It was a contrast, as for much of the time prevailing winds from the west across the wide fetch of water can turn the Gulf into a choppy mess. As such the little Northbank is designed to handle the short, sharp chop commonly experienced there. These are the seas that boaters all along the East Coast, from Port Philip to Moreton Bay, deal with as well.

 

LAYOUT

Fishing deck on Northbank 500C

The Northbank 500C can be easily launched singlehanded and its weight on a single-axle Dunbier of around 1100kg means you only need a small family car. And at 6.4m on a trailer, it will fit in most garages between fishing trips, while the running costs for the frugal four-stroke outboard won’t break the bank.

Looking over the lines I noticed a slight dip at the bowsprit, but from there the sheer line is highlighted by a black stripe against the white hull in a straight line to the transom. The roof of the cuddy cabin rises from the bow to meet the high acrylic windscreen and the sides drop away sharply, meaning there is no walking space. This though provides maximum beam inside and there is good access to the bow from the cabin anyway.

Moderate flare and a deep entry run to 19° at the transom promising a good ride, while rounded chines grow to wide sections farther back to assist stability at rest. A pair of lifting strakes along each side of the keel help the boat out of the hole and add grip into turns.

With only 5m to play with on the Northbank 500C things have been kept simple. An opening in the screen and a side-opening hatch in the cuddy means the full length of the boat can be accessed easily. In calm weather with the hatch open and the sun beaming down, it will also make an extra place for fishing.

Northbank 500C cockpit

Bunks either side of the walkway have enough head-height for adults to sit in comfort and with more space forward, it presents an ideal retreat for young ones to rest or play.

Twin bucket seats at the helm are neatly finished. Set on top of storage boxes they slide forward, swivel around for fishing and provide comfort and a secure grip when underway.

Cockpit layout on the Northbank 500C is simple and uncluttered with rear corner seats for occasional guests folding easily out of the way. The square transom has a gate at the enginewell to allow the engine to be raised to full height for towing. While they were not fitted to the boat, there are options for livebait tanks, a bait table and rod racks in the full-length sidepockets.

Their absence highlights the dual nature of the Northbank 500C. It’s not a dedicated fishing boat and many would see it as a cruising or sporty family boat with the strength to tow around some watertoys.

 

HANDLING AND RIDE

Northbank 500C on the water

Recommended outboard motor power on the Northbank 500C is 70 to 90hp. Our review boat’s 80hp Mercury outboard sat right in the middle and proved a good match for the hull. This new four-stroke weighs in at 163kg and allows access to Mercury’s VesselView readouts.

The Northbank 500C has sweet-handling and very responsive and has a bigger feel than its 5m footprint suggests. A lot of this is down to the way weight has been built into the hull, but it’s also a product of smart design that lets it cut through the water in a straight line and hang on tenaciously into turns.

And unlike a lot of boats with such good dynamic stability, it’s remarkably steady at rest. We deliberately sought out wake from boats to assure ourselves it wasn’t just the calm conditions that were fooling us. We put all our weight to one side and the impressions were confirmed – it’s very stable at rest.

Driving the boat was enjoyable and safe. Into fast turns it stays remarkable flat without any wallowing or indications of wanting to grab a rail. Slow-speed sharp turns were just as predictable and lock-to-lock change of direction was effortless from the mechanical non-feedback system.

A sporty holeshot had us on the plane at a tad over 3000rpm and 14kts with the motor sounding a muted and pleasant growl. Acceleration is smooth through the range and at all speeds there was no hint of vagueness in the steering or any flightiness from the hull.

Trimmed right out saw 31kts on the GPS and 5900rpm on the tacho for a fuel use of 32lt/h. A sustainable top end of 5500rpm gave 28kts and 28lt/h but the combination feels happiest at 4000rpm and 23kts where the motor was sipping 15.6lt/h, suggesting a safe range of around 50nm from the 60lt in-floor tank. Maybe a bit light-on for serious fishing trips but upgradable if necessary.

 

THE VERDICT

Northbank 500C on trailer

Northbank Boats has built 220 of the locally-renowned Northbank 500C. Our review boat came in at $39,990 with the desirable 80hp Mercury outboard motor, Garmin GPS and the Dunbier trailer. It can be bought ready-to-go for $34,990 on a trailer and with a 75hp Mercury two-stroke engine.

It’s an impressive package and will suit those new to boating just as much as anyone downsizing to something more easily handled. Throw in the fishy mods and it will be a very capable estuary or bayboat for a couple of anglers who like a bit of comfort.

 

HIGHS

• Well-finished and attractive design

• Good safe handling

• Opening forward hatch makes mooring easy

• Good value

 

LOWS

• A bit too much flowcoat

 

NORTHBANK 500C SEA TRIALS

Single 80hp Mercury outboard motor with 16in stainless steel propeller

RPM

SPEED (KTS)

FUEL BURN (LT/H)

1000

4

2.2

1500

5.3

3.7

2000

6.7

5.1

2500

8

7.5

3000 (on the plane)

14

8

3500

17

12

4000

23

15.6

4500

27

20

5000

31

23

5500

28

28

5900 (WOT)

31

32

* Sea-trial data supplied by the author.

 

NORTHBANK 500C SPECIFICATIONS

Northbank 500C price: $39,990 (as tested)

 

OPTIONS FITTED

Garmin GPS, 80hp Mercury outboard motor upgrade, 27MHz radio, VesselView and custom stripe

 

PRICED FROM

$34,990 w/ 75hp Mercury two-stroke outboard motor

 

GENERAL

MATERIAL GRP

TYPE Monohull

LENGTH 5m

BEAM 2.25m

WEIGHT 580kg hull

DEADRISE 19°

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 5

REC. HP RANGE 75 to 90

FUEL 60lt

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Mercury 80 EFI outboard motor

TYPE Inline four-cylinder four-stroke outboard motor

RATED HP 80

WEIGHT 163kg

DISPLACEMENT 2065cc

GEAR RATIO 2.07:1

PROPELLER 16in stainless steel

 

MANUFACTURED BY

Northbank Fibreglass Boats

Lonsdale, South Australia

 

SUPPLIED BY

Christies Beach Marine

19 Sherriffs Road,

Lonsdale, SA, 5160

Phone (08) 83876411

Email sales@christiesbeachmarine.com.au

Web christiesbeachmarine.com.au

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #461, January / February 2015. Why not subscribe today?

 


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