Just about everything else these days is made out of plastic, so why not boats? I’m not talking epoxy or fibreglass here, though people commonly refer to boats made of these materials as ‘plastic’. Rather, I’m talking about polyethylene — the same stuff used to make plastic water-tanks, rubbish bins, storage bins, plastic bags and so much else today.
New Zealand’s (and perhaps the world’s) most technically advanced plastic boat builder is Galloway SPI Asia Pacific Ltd, manufacturers of the Mac range of boats. These include tenders and dinghies, right through to 5.7m cuddy cabin and runabout pontoon hulls. Hulls are rotationally moulded in one piece and all components are made from top-quality first generation polyethylene thermoplastic, then assembled and fitted out at the company’s Auckland factory.
The 4.2m model has been around for a while. It’s popular for both work and recreational use, and the version we tried is the first of the new runabout versions (previous incarnations have all featured a small cuddy cabin). Even though it’s only around 14-feet long, the boat has a beam of 2.2 metres — beamier than any other pontoon boat manufactured in New Zealand. Interior volume is considerable and stability at rest in the water turned out to be exceptional.
The venue for our couple of days with the boat was Lake Tarawera. Opening Day was a good excuse to get the boat on the water and fish hard for a day. I towed the boat down to Rotorua with my Nissan Terrano diesel. At more than 200kg bare hull weight, it’s relatively heavy for a fourteen-footer (4.2 metre), compounded by a 50hp Mercury four-stroke engine (top of the horsepower range for this boat), a full belly of fuel, plus spare tote tanks (two) and other assorted gear. I could definitely feel the boat on the back of the car, but the trailer was well set up so towing was never a chore.
Because of the little boat’s beam, it feels a much bigger craft on the trailer. Care needs to be taken negotiating narrow gates, roundabouts, city traffic and other road hazards — it really is wide; wider than the car and comparable to many 6m boats.
We launched early on opening day, but not as early as most judging by all the boat trailers in the trailer park and the hundreds of boats looming out of the mist and gloom on the lake as we idled out. I’ve never seen anything like it there were boats trolling backwards and forwards as far as the eye could see.
We decided to try and get away from the crowds and headed to Twin Streams, where we intended to anchor the boat and fly fish for a few hours.
The 50-horsepower Mercury (brand new) got the Mac onto the plane without any fuss, although the transition between displacement and planing speeds was difficult to pick, as there didn’t seem to be much of a hump. Rotationally moulded bucket seats mounted on plastic pedestals were reasonably well positioned, but they needed cushions to be truly comfortable. The helm position is okay, although the foredeck and dash on this boat flexed quite a bit. Subsequent boats will be better braced in this area. A handy glove box kept the cell phone and car keys dry; the screen kept the mist off my face as we flew across the calm waters of Lake Tarawera.
Adam hooked the first fish before Steve and I had even finished securing the anchor. It was a beauty and gave him plenty of trouble — nearly as much trouble as Steve and I gave him for ‘cheating’ by sneaking a cast before we were ready. Pretty soon we too had lines in the water and not long after Steve hooked a good rainbow which had his reel screaming — an excellent specimen that later weighed-in at over seven pounds.
Fishing Glo-bugs may not appeal to everyone, but it’s certainly effective. And to my mind it’s a lot more fun than trolling. Bites can be savage, and provided the angler keeps a tight line and strikes immediately, it’s possible to hook fish in the mouth at least some of time — important if you wish to release trout. We were fishing for the table so it wasn’t an issue. Judging by the apparent success of the trollers around us, Glo-bugging wasn’t a bad option for the conditions. Adam’s second fish proved the point and both Steve and I missed bites in the next hour.
As the light strengthened and the fog lifted, our action dried up. We decided to try somewhere new, lifted the anchor and blasted off across the lake. The anchor was stored under the foredeck, accessed via a So-Pac hatch. This was a bit fiddly so we opted to anchor the boat from inside for the rest of the weekend — and Mac might consider an integral anchor locker. A grooved, moulded plastic fairlead guides the anchor warp over the bow and the bollard is situated inside the hatch.
Our second fishing spot proved to be no good, so we up-anchored again and headed out over a drop-off. Adam fed out a compact trolling rig consisting of a light rod, an ABU 6500 level-wind, five colours of leadline, a long monofilament trace and a new pattern Tasmanian Devil — a great combination. Steve eased a full-length super-fast sinking flyline over the side, tipped with a large trolling fly.
I throttled the Mercury back to idle and we trickled along in near silence. The pontoons are comfortable to sit on and warm to the touch — a feature of Mac boats and something we all remarked on. The first strike came almost immediately and Adam soon slid the net under a shiny three-pounder — the first fish for the new pattern lure.
The next strike took a bit longer, but it was my turn on the rod with the lucky lure. The rod wrenched over and the reel gave a good length of line against the drag. I gained a couple of metres then the trout ran again — it was obviously a good one. A series of solid thumps were transmitted up the tight line, followed by a disheartening loss of tension. The fish was gone.
Sadly, that was to be my only strike for the session. We trolled a bit more, then jigged at a few likely looking locations, all to no avail. Towards the end of the day we again anchored the boat close to where we had experienced our trolling success. Glo-bugs were once more deployed on short traces and shooting head flylines and we settled down to wait.
This style of fishing is not the most active in the world, but it needn’t be totally static either. As well as maintaining a tight line (not always easy in a swinging boat), it pays to clean your Glo-bugs regularly, changing them every so often for different colours and/or sizes. It’s also sensible to cast to different areas, covering the ground and improving your chances of intercepting a cruising fish.
Adam showed the way by catching another fish only a short while after we anchored the boat. Steve missed another 20-minutes later and Adam muffed the strike on a third within the hour. I just cast and retrieved my line.
At close of play we had five good fish in the boat. The wind had risen and the trip back across the lake to the ramp was across a nasty short chop, which tested the boat’s ride and dryness. Interestingly, it’s very quiet (accentuated by the quietness of the engine and possibly dampened by the carpet) and really quite soft riding. There’s some hull flex, but this seems to help the ride as the hull ‘absorbs’ the bumps. We stayed pretty dry, although a bit of water found its way into the cockpit after creeping up over the pontoon before being caught by the slipstream and deposited inside. This minor point aside, we were pleasantly surprised at the rapid progress we made back across the lake.
The next day Adam and I decided to sneak out for a morning fish before towing the boat back to Auckland. Thankfully, boat traffic was much lighter than on the day before and our decision to begin the day where we left off on the previous afternoon was the right one. We had only a few hours available to us so were pleased to hook a fish almost straight away. I was doubly pleased because it was my first for the trip. By my third fish of the morning, I could see that Adam was becoming a little agitated — understandable as he had yet to experience a touch. Fortunately for both of us, he finished the morning strongly with the biggest fish for the trip.
A quick trolling session was our last shot (unsuccessful) before we again gunned the Mac 4.2 onto the plane and headed for the ramp. The lake was flat enough to throw the boat into some sharp turns and generally ‘hoon about’ on the way back. In the turns, the Mac tends to slide, rather than biting in hard. This feels a little strange but, combined with the pontoon design and extreme beam, it makes for a safe boat in the turns. Backing up needs to undertaken with care as the transom is low and can ship water, though the boat steers quite well in reverse. We noticed, too, that the wakes of passing boats slopped a little water into the cockpit while at anchor, particularly with all three of us standing across the back. On the other hand, the boat is only 4.2 metres long and the cockpit drains into the hull where the bilge pump deals with it.
We enjoyed our time with the Mac 4.2. It performed very well, even with three guys and all their gear aboard, and fuel consumption was minimal (we were still on the same tote tank at the end of the trip). Stability is excellent and the boat is a great fishing platform. Flyfishing is easier standing up (as are most forms of fishing) and the Mac 4.2 is a safe boat to stand up and fish from. The sides are low, however, so there’s no thigh support.
One of the features of Mac Boats is their ruggedness. The plastic hulls are very tough. They will withstand collisions, groundings and other abuse most hulls would give up on. The material is also easily repaired. They do, however, require proper support on the trailer, which should be of the bunk type as supplied with the test boat. Launching and retrieving the boat was straightforward enough. The boat’s hulls are double skinned and moulded in one piece with sealed air spaces and foam providing floatation.
A five-year structural warranty is offered on all Mac hulls.
Capacity: 6 persons (max)
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