Innovation and credibility!
By Dave Moran
Lazercraft 740 Sportman Hardtop
Boy this guy was enthusiastic to meet us. He was bouncing all over the place, âlook at this â look at that â this works like this â cool eh?â
I was one of the judges at the New Zealand Boat Show 2002, and this was the first time I had met Neil Surtees â talk about a guy passionate about his teamâs product. We four judges were on a very tight time schedule to check out all the boats that had requested judging, it would take one and a half days. Neil held onto our shoelaces, we were going nowhere! â âHey guys have you seen this, Iâll show you how it works and why itâs a good ideaâ.
The prestigious Boat Show Awards were presented at the gala awards evening at Alexandra Park. The Surtees 6.7 Sportfisher Hardtop was awarded: Aluminium Fishing Boat of the Show and the most sought after prize, Overall Best Boat of the Show.
This was the first time in the Boat Showâs history that an aluminium boat had won the top award. Neil and his wife Jan were ecstatic with the awards. It was payday for all their hard work and an acknowledgment of their boat building teamâs craftsmanship. When accepting the awards, Neil could not thank his family and his hard working team enough for their efforts. I think, there was hardly anyone in the room who did not feel for this guy and what his team had accomplished. âGood for you mateâ was the general consensus!
Two years later, here I was jumping onboard a 6.7m Sportfisher Hardtop, that was floating on the water and not sitting in a Boat Show marquee. Gary Richmond of South Auckland Marine had arranged with the owner Steve Baskett to take us for a spin out on Aucklandâs Waitemata Harbour in his pride and joy MAJN, named after his sons, Mathew, Anthony, Jonathan, Nicolas. The weather was dark and foreboding but the sea conditions were flat calm â perfect! âBugger, not the conditions I wantedâ, commented Gary. âI wanted it to be rough to show you how this baby handles snotty sea conditionsâ. Oh really, I thought.
When Surtees picked up their Boat Show Awards a few commented to me, it had won on the innovative ideas that Neil builds into his boats â but what are they like out on the water? I was about to find out! I asked Gary to enlighten me on what he sees as the most outstanding feature of a Surtees boat. His answer âIts soft ride. I say to potential customers, go and test whatever boats you like then come back to me and Iâll take you out when the sea is having a bad wave day. The soft ride sells the boat and Neilâs teams innovative ideas are the icing on the cakeâ.
The sea was not having a, âbad wave dayâ the only waves we would slice through (like melted butter) were created by the harbour ferries.
With only three guys on board we fair hooned around the harbour and enjoyed jumping the ferriesâ wake. Was I impressed? In a word yes! Admittedly we were playing around on a flat sea but her handling and the stability felt under foot was very reassuring. Gary commented that to bury her with a following sea up your backside was virtually impossible due to a spray deflecting strip welded onto the chine which effectively lifts the boat and allows the hullâs widening shape to continue lifting her nose out of trouble. She is definitely a blue water boat.
Construction – Solid is the only word to describe the construction of this craft. 5mm plate forms the bottom, 4mm sides that have two pressings running horizontally to add extra strength and the topsides are 3mm. Stitch welding must be a swear word at Surtees as the vast majority of welds are full runs and stitch welding is only seen where structural strength is not compromised. Six fully welded underfloor stringers run the full length of the hull, these are tied into the mid-shipâs 200 litre fuel tank and rear storage bin combining with stringers and supporting gussets every 400mm. This lattice work of underfloor construction is capped with the 3mm tread deck plate that is fully welded to the hull, creating superb stiffness and also providing port and starboard sealed buoyancy chambers for added safety.
The addition of the flooding âVâ chamber built into the keel also contributes to making this hull extremely robust. No wonder Surteesâ hulls have a six year warranty. In the four years that Gary has been selling Surtees boats, he has not had to send a hull back to the factory due to structural failure.
Taking the âCâ out of compromise – It is often commented: âchoosing a boat for your requirements is always a compromiseâ. We have all heard the moans and groans – a deep V hull is great getting out there, but once you get there, you roll your guts out â¦etcâ¦etc. Trailer boat manufacturers have been playing around with flooded keel sections for a number of years and Surtees have embraced the concept to endeavour to give their boats the best of both worlds. A boat that crashes through the tough stuff but is very stable when at rest. The water ballast V shaped chamber holds 350 litres of water which in effect adds 350 kg to the boatâs weight at its lowest point of gravity. This extra weight improves the stability of the boat enormously, for a diver kitting up on the side of the boat or a fisherman sitting on the 330mm wide gunwales, this ladyâs skirt hardly raises on the other side. To take full advantage of this flooding chamber, Surtees has made it possible for you to not lose this added water when on the move, which is the normal procedure. If you find yourself out in rough conditions and wish you had a heavier boat âno worries mate. Just close the sealing hatch to the flooding chamber; trapping the water, effectively lowering the central point of gravity of the boat and giving you that little extra weight to punch through a messy sea.
Innovation – As I looked around the layout of the boat you become aware of the thought that has gone into making normal features that little bit more user friendly, adding convenience and comfort. Examples of this are the foldaway seating. If you are out with the boys you need all the room you can, but if youâre out with the family a few extra seats would be handy. At the transom a fold down cushioned seat when in the up position covers the compartment containing batteries, isolating switch and fuel oil. On the passenger side, beside the skipper, another foldaway seat with a removable backrest as an option. Both these seating configurations are very quickly raised or lowered. Access to the forward cabin is through a sliding lockable door. The most prominent feature in the cabin is the very large cabin hatch (970mm x 560mm) allowing easy access to the anchor well and electric winch which is a knee switch operated from within the cabin, no more gymnastics on the bow! The cabin is lined with marine grade carpet, which eliminates cabin condensation and reduces noise. Large, full length shelves, port and starboard and under bunk compartments provide ample storage room. There is even provision for a âheadâ.
All switchboard wiring, lighting and electronic instrumentation cabling is concealed behind removable panels. You have no concerns about fingers getting tangled up in the spaghetti!
The windscreen is made up of 4mm toughened glass in three sections with sliding panels on the port and starboard returns. The dash board area is huge with plenty of room to mount your NavMan instruments. A convenient grab rail runs the full length of the dash, it also prevents items such as cell phones crashing to the deck.
The helm sported the latest in Mercuryâs SmartCraft wizardry. It canât make a cup of tea yet but it informs you of important information such as, fuel flow, consumption rates, estimated range, trim level, course heading, air/water temperatures, battery charging levels, speed and engine rpm, maintenance and service advice. Technologyâs great.
Neil Surtees, being a country lad at heart, figures to know the amount of fuel you have on board is important so he use the kiss principle – keep it simple stupid! The fuel in the 200ltrs capacity under floor tank has a built in mechanical fuel gauge. No electrons needed to tell you what fuel remains!
The skipperâs station is very comfortable and the sloping instrument/steering panel is excellent. The hydraulic steering by Hydra Drive is effortless. You could be forgiven for thinking you were driving a car – it even has a foot rest which also gives you plenty of support when bracing yourself in a heavy sea.
Fish TV â not every boat has this feature! The built-in transom live bait tank has a clear front allowing you to keep an eye on the condition of your baitâvery entertaining and very practicable.
Diving friendly features – Easy access to the portofino stern is through a step-through section of the transom. The wide portofino stern platform is adequate for a fully kitted diver to stand up on. The fold down âTâ boarding ladder and grab rails provides excellent support for a diver climbing on board. When ordering your boat, make sure you include these extra stern grab rails â it will save your back! The built in port and starboard storage shelves are sufficiently wide enough to hold scuba cylinders or you could place them lower down in the built-in rear storage bin which is flush with the decking. It could hold three cylinders or a few dozen crays! The beam of 2.35m provides plenty of room for four divers to comfortably have space to gear up. As mentioned previously the stability of the boat and the wide gunwales â all add up to make this a very diver friendly boat.
Nyalic(R) protection – An optional extra when ordering your boat is to have Nyalic(R) applied to the bare aluminium surface and also to painted surfaces.
This unique New Zealand product which is distributed through Australia, Asia and the USA has excellent qualities for extending the life of your boatâs surface and help maintain its resale value. It reduces or eliminates the effects of UV, salt water corrosion, stray electrical currents, protects dissimilar metals, preventing the resulting corrosion problems and makes hosing down the blood and guts of a day out on the water an easy exercise. For further information refer to their ad.
Surtees has a bright future – the 6.7 Sportfisher Hardtop is a serious boat and it reassured me that as judges back in 2002 we were on the mark. I noted with interest that the New Zealand Navy has a 5.5 model that is available for staff and they have recently ordered another. The Department of Conservation have three and a fourth 5.5 is soon heading for Great Barrier Island. Maybe the Government is smarter than we think!
The boats are distributed in Australia under the Bar Crusher brand. Trust the Aussies to come up with a name that says it all!
Performance/Mercury Optimax 200hp: 41 knots 5.8 rpm; 30 knots 4.18 rpm; 25 knots 3.8rpm. Fuel: 27litres per hour.
Hull weight: 1000kg
Recommended HP: 130-200
Deadrise: 18 degrees
Shaft Length: 25â
Water Ballast: 350 ltrs
Ballast drain time: 5 seconds
Under floor fuel tank: 200 ltrs
All quality marine grade aluminium.
Tested boat on the road cost: $79,722.00 inc gst.
Standard bare hull package with 200 ltr underfloor fuel tank: $26,000.00 inc gst
Numerous options are available when building up a complete package to your requirements.