We are blessed with some wonderful boating and fishing grounds in many parts of this country: sheltered bays, harbours and offshore islands that can make ‘stay-away’ boating expeditions one of life’s great pleasures.
The Bay of Islands, the Hauraki Gulf, Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel Peninsula, the Marlborough Sounds and Fiordland are a few of the better-known stay-away locations. But to explore these – and other regions – in comfort, you need the right boat. Well-known Southland boat builder Stabicraft may have built its ultimate trailerable stay-away boat in the 2500 Ultracab XL, and in the process proved that you can have your cake and eat it, too – in considerable comfort.
Invercargill-made Stabicraft aluminium pontoon boats are renowned for their safety, stability and load-carrying ability. While I will grant you that, at first glance, the 2500 Ultracab XL is not a ‘classically beautiful’ rig, I have always been a function-over-form sort of man. And in a practical sense, this is a brilliant boat. The vessel’s lines are a little in the style of a robust commercial work boat, thanks to the wheelhouse’s reverse sheer, and there also appears to be a bit of motor-home in its DNA.
Better still, the design team at Stabicraft has fitted a huge range of original features into this hull without it becoming crammed or cluttered. In fact, there are so many clever fit-out ideas that there will not be space to cover everything in this article.
The tapering Arrow pontoons are pure Stabi’ and offer an impressive reserve buoyancy of around 2,100kg. Other design features include the Game Chaser transom configuration and Wing Coamings (gunwale tops kicked up on the outside edge). The cabin sides are largely constructed of tinted, toughened glass, giving excellent all-round visibility (aided by Roca wipers) and a light, airy feeling to the lockable cabin. Clever sliding windows are cut into the main side ‘screens for ventilation and communication.
The cabin roof is an obvious spot to carry an inflatable tender, which can be lashed down to the rails fitted along each side.
As mentioned, every possible nook and cranny inside the cabin has been used for stowage – more than I can really detail here, but trust me, you won’t have any problem with gear stowage space!
The rig meets CPC, USCG and ABP safety standards and is rated for up to nine adults.
An electric flush toilet is fitted under the berth in the bow, with an under-deck holding tank enabling it to comply with regulations.
The forepeak’s large double berth folds forward and locks, forming a half-height bulkhead to constrain stowed luggage when the boat’s underway. The cabin is fully lined and offers under-berth stowage, side shelves, and two underdeck stowage holds.
A hatch in the forward bulkhead gives access to the anchor-well, while another in the roof allows for more ventilation and light options. Cabin decking is Ultralon faux-teak.
The fit-out has made extensive use of NZ-made Hella Marine LED products. Again, too many are incorporated to mention them all, but roles include extensive cabin, cockpit and task lighting, along with Sea Hawk forward- and side-facing floodlights, assisting with docking etc after dark. Even the Stabicraft logo on the cabin sides can be backlit at night.
Complementing the forward berths (which can sleep three adults), two more berths can be made up by adjusting the foldup dining table and bench seats. Formal seating includes a very comfortable helm seat with roll-back bolster, mounted on a shockabsorbing KAB base, plus passenger and table bench seats, along with a fold-out dickey seat at the rear of the cabin.
The dining table can seat four, and a 44-litre 12-volt fridge is built under the passenger bench seat. Grab rails have been fitted wherever appropriate.
To further the boat’s stay-away credentials, a compact galley is fitted behind the helm seat. Stabicraft has decided to avoid using propane gas, aware of its dangers, and opted instead for a diesel stove, which can also be set up as a cabin heater. A sink with a 60-litre freshwater system is also fitted, and diesel-powered water heating is an option. Cupboard stowage is built inside the unit and in cabin wall lockers.
The electronic tasks are handled by a Lowrance HDS12 multifunction unit, which displays GPS, sounder, radar, side-scan, autopilot, and a sonic-hub sound system with radio and Bluetooth and Fusion speakers.
Also recessed into the console are a Lowrance Link5 VHF and Yamaha digital engine gauges and switching, including the anchorwinch controls. At least four USB ports are fitted, so the toys will keep working.
Twin Yamaha 150hp four-strokes with 17”-pitch props
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There is no argument that the insides of the 2500 are very cleverly designed, but it is in the cockpit that the fish-and-dive action occurs, and Stabi’ has not allowed the home comforts to intrude on the work space. The cockpit is substantial and its chequer-plate decks, overlaid by tube-matting, make for a very decent workplatform, enhanced by the exceptional stability afforded by the pontoon configuration. High sides with flat faces offer top-of-thigh support to adult anglers, as well as side stowage pockets housing a deck-wash and the small diesel tank that feeds the stove.
A flap in the rear face of the cabin bulkhead lifts and locks to make a bench seat that provides an ideal spot for lure-watching, as well as disclosing a stowage space for a chilly bin. Two more folddown bench seats are fitted in the stern corners, with the port-side one doubling as a step over the transom step-through (also fitted with a drop-door).
This boat is easily used for game fishing. The starboard side of the transom wall is unbroken by a door, making it the ideal spot for a stand-up angler to park his backside while the boat is chasing down hooked gamefish by running ahead (enabling the helmsman to easily see the line and avoid running over it). Outrigger mounts are fitted.
A large bait-station in the middle of the transom features a locker for the twin-battery system (plus isolation switching) below and a live-bait tank above. On top is a hinged cutting board; either side (or both) can be opened to access the live baits in the tank. This unit also has a tow point for water toys or skis, two rod holders, and a pull-out freshwater shower nozzle for divers and swimmers to wash salt off their bodies.
Along with the two positions on the bait-station, four throughgunwale rod holders are fitted along the sides, with a ten-position rocket launcher on the hard top. Half-a-dozen cup or sinker holders are also fitted.
Divers, swimmers, or those boarding the boat while it is on the trailer, can use a fold-down T-shaped boarding ladder adjacent to the transom step-through, aided by a grab rail and non-skid plate.
The 2500 Ultracab XL is configured for twin outboards of 150- 200hp (maximum) each. The safety aspects of two outboards are well known and recommended for a boat that may be used for trips to remote areas; the test boat has twin 150hp Yamaha four-strokes, with counter-rotating 17-inch-pitch props.
The underfloor fuel tank has a capacity of 378 litres, providing a range of around 200 nautical miles.
Steering is hydraulic, and although the twin-binnacle engine controls are cable operated, they are positive and easy to use, making the Ultracab a pleasant rig to helm.
Kev Griffin (from South Auckland Stabi’ agents Kev and Ian’s Marine) and I took the big Stabi’ out for a run from South Auckland’s Half Moon Bay and around the south coast of Waiheke Island. It was a beautifully calm morning on the outbound leg, but by the time we headed back, the wind had come up to 15 knots in a wind-against-tide situation.
For those not familiar with these waters, it is shallow and currents can run strongly. In this case it kicked up into a steep chop of around three-quarters of a metre, mostly right on the bow. The big Stabi’ was easy to trim using the twin outboards, and blitzed the sloppy conditions while we stayed warm and dry inside the wheelhouse. The pontoon configuration gives excellent stability.
Part of the design concept behind the 2500 Ultracab XL was to create a ‘trailerable launch’. The trailer is a reinforced Voyager Elite tandem-axle model with zinc-protected leaf-spring suspension.
It features a Hydrastar braking system (activated by the towvehicle’s brakes), seven pairs of wobble rollers per side, parking brake, dual coupling, dual-ratio manual winch, wind-down dual jockey wheels, walkboard, and submersible LED lights. It is also fitted with the innovative Kiwi-made Balex Automatic Boat Loader, which is basically a conveyor-belt system that loads the boat onto the trailer. The tow weight of the rig is approximately 3.3 tonnes, including fuel.
The 2500 Ultracab XL combines Stabicraft’s proven stability, safety and load-carrying ability, a whole lot of brilliant layout designs (with a splash of campervan DNA), a spacious and practical cockpit, and great sea-keeping with blue-water capability. What an excellent stay-away boat!
Configuration: pontoon, closed hardtop
LOA: 7.61m (25ft)
External beam: 2.54m
Internal beam: 1.97m
Deadrise: 19 degrees
Recommended power: 2X 150-200hp
Test engines: 2X 150 Yamaha four stroke
Props: 17” pitch
Fuel capacity: 378L underfloor
Fresh water capacity: 60L
Trailer: Voyager Elite tandem axle
Tow weight: approx. 3.3 tonnes (including fuel)
Key-turn package: $180,000 (single 250hp Yamaha)
As tested: $247,000
Test boat courtesy Kev and Ian’s Marine, Auckland.
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