Surtees Boats is based in the rural Bay of Plenty near Whakatane.
The company was started by Neil Surtees, who originally turned out maybe one hull a month. But his innovative designs were well received and demand steadily increased. With the adoption of the latest construction technology and mass-production methods, accompanied by a professional approach to business and marketing, output grew to 220 hulls a year, including a solid export base.
In 2005 Neil sold the company to a group of six shareholders, but he retains an association with the brand. The plant has further expanded into a go-to-whoa operation, and is now one of the largest aluminium boat builders in the country.
Times change, and Surtees Boats is changing with them. The last few years have seen the increasing popularity of smaller boats for inshore sport fishing, driven partly by the enthusiastic adoption of soft-plastic fishing. Reinforcing this trend is the current financial contraction, which has meant a greater interest in smaller boats that are cheaper to buy and run.
Surtees Boats released their new 4.7m Workmate at last year’s Waikato Boat Show, where it created considerable interest. It is now available in cuddy-cabin and centre-console versions. Recently John Eichelsheim (from sister magazine Boating NZ) and I joined forces with Andrew Carlson of Family Boats North Shore (Auckland) to trial the cuddy and centre-console versions of the 4.7 for our respective magazines. As the most fishing-oriented design, Fishing News has concentrated on the centre-console layout, kindly loaned by owner Nick Sampson.
Basically a scaled-down version of the popular 5.5 Workmate, the 4.7, like other Surtees designs, centres on a triangular self-flooding ballast chamber formed by welding a flat plate across the V of the keel. Off plane, this chamber fills through the open end at the transom and vents the air at the bow. When the boat accelerates onto the plane, the chamber quickly empties. A spring-loaded gate offers the option of holding in the water as ballast when on plane. This model holds 280 litres, about 280kg of extra weight, down on the keel line.
Bottoms are 4mm alloy and sides and topsides are 3mm. Surtees assured me that the rig would float if swamped and the hull is currently undergoing the CE (European Certification) process, which exceeds New Zealand regulations.
The hull is supported by six full-length stringers with gussets between them. Additional lateral support is provided by the transom assembly, a bulkhead amidships and a forward brace forming the anchor-well. The keel-line is formed by butting up the bottom plates and seam-welding them inside and out. The chines are rolled and the bottoms welded onto the flat created.
The hull is beamy at 2.0m and has a relatively modest deadrise of 15°. This (along with the self-flooding ballast keel) gives it good stability for its size, without seeming to pay a price in sea performance.
In the standard model, fuel is carried in a couple of tote tanks that fit under the transom, but the test boat had been customised in this respect, with a 35-litre under-floor fuel tank. Not a lot of fuel, you might think, but with the miserly E-Tec you can go a long way on this amount of juice. To help with the trim of the hull, the battery is set centrally in the transom, protected in a battery box up on a shelf. An isolation switch is fitted.
Power and performance
Recommended horsepower for this hull is 30-70hp. The test boat was fitted with a compact 60hp Evinrude E-Tec outboard swinging a 15-inch-pitch stainless Viper prop. This produced a little over 51kph (28 knots) at 5700rpm at the top end. BRP rate the top-end revs for this model as 5500-6000rpm, so the prop is a fairly good match to the rig.
Summer is a great time for centre consoles. The morning was glass calm on the Waitemata Harbour – you could have gone to sea in a bathtub. Fortunately, a heavily-laden freighter appeared, pushing a massive bow wave, giving us something to play with. Later in the afternoon the usual northeast sea breeze sprang up, raising a bit of a chop. The 4.7 proved to be a comfortable traveller, running softly, being well balanced and with no tendency to bow-steer.
Access to the bow is easy with the centre-console design. Anchor-warp storage is in a raised tray of modest capacity, but enough for the inshore work the boat is designed for. An alternative would be to drop a bulkhead right down to the deck, forming a much larger anchor-well, perhaps topped with a hatch.
A substantial bollard is welded to the foredeck and Deck Tread protection added. Bow rails drop down against each side of the fairlead, constraining the warp.
This boat may be regarded as a ‘blank canvas’ to be fitted out to any owner’s requirements. The sealed chequerplate deck drains to a sump under the transom, from where water is removed by a 500gph bilge pump. An under-deck hold is situated behind the console. Side shelves, approximately 2.5m long, run along each side. Transom shelves are fitted either side of the central battery shelf.
The console itself is fitted with a fold-down screen for easier towing and storage. There are two levels of shelving up off the deck, and while grab rails and the throttle/shift are fitted on the sides of the console, there is still sufficient room to move easily between it and the gunwales in this beamy hull.
The usual gauges and switching are fitted to the console, and electronics are taken care of by a Raymarine A60 sounder/GPS and Raymarine Ray54 VHF radio. Separate mounting plates are fitted on the stern for transducers and intakes.
Deck Tread panels are fitted along the wide gunwale tops, making useful seating when fishing. Over the stern are two chequerplate boarding platforms; one could easily be fitted with a boarding ladder and grab rail if required.
Aftermarket iceboxes, one in front of the console, one behind, would be obvious additions, forming seats and providing storage.
The big advantages of the centre-console layout is the extra space it opens up for fishing in what is essentially a small boat (4.7m/15.4 feet), as well as the ease of access around the whole craft when playing fish. The boat is stable for its size (with the aid of the ballast chamber) and the chequerplate deck gave good footing. Six through-gunwale nylon rod holders were fitted, and the bait-station on the transom had a further three.
After the photo shoot on the two versions of the 4.7, John Eichelsheim and I took the centre-console for a run from the Rangitoto Channel out towards Tiritiri Matangi. The plan was to have a few casts with soft-plastics to see what it was like to fish from this hull (the things we have to do for our readers!). As luck would have it, we soon came across a big concentration of surface-feeding kahawai with heaps of snapper beneath. If our lures made it through the kahawai, the snapper nailed them. It was hot fishing – even a couple of makos showed up, cruising around our hooked fish – all this off Auckland’s East Coast Bays!
The centre console proved excellent to fish from. Playing the big kahawai on our light spin sets as they circled the hull was a breeze, and the rig proved ideal for drifting and casting soft-plastics. This sort of action is just what the centre-console design is all about, but the boat would be just as at home fishing at anchor or acting as an inshore dive tender.
The trailer was built by allied company Surtees Trailers, and is a cradle A-frame, single-axle model. Suspension was leaf spring. After considerable trouble with imported leaf springs failing, Surtees now uses a locally made product (which does not feature a zinc finish) and has had no further problems. Other features include a wind-down jockey wheel and submersible taillights.
With only three pairs of wobble rollers per side, it took several attempts to get the boat level on the trailer when retrieving it in a bit of a side sweep. Trailer upgrades are available, and include guide bars, more rollers and brakes if required.
Tow weight of the rig is about 680kg – easily handled by an average vehicle.
All in all
With NZ’s seasonal weather changes, centre-consoles are not for everyone, and this is reflected in a something like 5:1 sales ratio between the cuddy and centre-console versions of this hull. However, if you are a hard-core angler who values the fishing functions of a boat first and foremost (and who lives in the warmer regions of the country), then this is a layout well worth considering.
The Surtees 4.7 travels very well indeed, the ballast tank offers extra stability, and it is great to fish from. Love this boat!
Configuration centre console
Hull weight 350kg
Tow weight 680kg
Rec. power 30-70hp
Test engine Evinrude E-Tec 60hp
Trailer Surtees Trailers
Price as tested $29,675
Test boat courtesy of Nick Sampson and Family Boats North Shore.
This article is reproduced with permission of
New Zealand Fishing News
2009 - by Sam Mossman
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited