Surtees 800 – Trailerboat Perfection

  • Boat Reviews

The technology packed into trailerboats has been growing in recent years, but the Surtees 800 has provided yet another leap forward. NZ Fishing News’ Ethan Neville headed to Whitianga to put Surtees’ latest offering through its paces and was blown away by what he found.

Over the last couple of years working at NZ Fishing News, I’ve had the opportunity to get out on a fair few boats, so it’s not often that I’m surprised by what a vessel has to offer. When I stepped off the Surtees 800 onto the Whitianga wharf, however, I was genuinely in a state of bemused awe.

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We were on our way back from Red Mercury Island and the wind had done what it usually does on sunny summer afternoons: ignored the forecast and started blowing. A solid chop had to be navigated, which on your standard alloy boat can often mean a lot of banging, bouncing, rattling and, quite literally in my case recently, a quick trip to the chiro. I shouldn’t have been worried. We cruised at 25 knots on the Surtees 800, and we even shared a quiet brew to finish the day – on my personal boat, this results in either spilled beer or chipped teeth. It was smooth riding at its very best, and certainly beyond anything I had encountered before on a trailer boat. So, when I got on to dry land, I was as mystified as I was impressed – this boat was something else.

The day had started “late” by fisherman’s standards. With the Surtees crew coming up from Whakatane and me shooting down from Auckland, we’d decided 10:00am was a reasonable hour to launch. I met Surtees GM Cliff, Marketing Manager Isabell and all-rounder Kris at the ramp, along with their videographer Geoff. They informed me that Ka Awatea II, the name of this particular Surtees 800, was the first one ever built, and that owner’s Stu and Ngaire Fairweather had kindly allowed us to borrow it for a couple of days – so a big thanks to Stu and Ngaire! After all our gear was loaded and the boat prepped, we started the short trip out to meet NZ Fishing Media’s own Grant Blair and Josh Williams, who were providing the photo boat.

The team took a quick break from the filming to wet a line.

While everyone got settled and Cliff slowly moved us away from the marina, I took my opportunity to give the boat a thorough inspection. This started at the stern, and I was immediately impressed by the grab rails – yes, this may not seem like an exciting place to begin, but every keen angler will tell you how often these come in handy. There is ample space to fish from on the stern “boarding platform” (“fishing platform” would be my preferred name – it would certainly be poll position when straylining on anchor!), and it also provides the ideal space to land bigger catches. Two of the grab rails easily convert into boarding ladders at either side of the outboard, which Geoff put to work later that day while getting some underwater footage.

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The transom took my attention next – the impressive black/white aesthetic is hard to miss, and there’s also no shortage of features. Two livebait tanks are built in – one each side of the transom – and these conveniently sit under two panels which slide down to provide access to the boarding platform. The bait station takes centre position on top of the transom, and it comes fitted with five rod holders, as well as a storage drawer underneath (the perfect place to store salty tackle throughout the day). Beneath the drawer is where I found the two batteries hiding, both of which have isolation switches. Finally, slick-looking tuna tubes are built into each corner of the transom, ensuring all the fishing-bases are covered.

By the time I’d taken all of this in, we were nearing the harbour entrance, so it was time to move forward before Cliff opened the throttle. I looked for a grab rail – of which there are many (yes, I was impressed) – and prepared myself to hold on. Again, I needn’t have worried. There was a small chop, but it felt like we were riding on silk. The jet-black Suzuki 325 four-stroke got us out of the water quickly, and we were soon cruising at 25 knots. Surtees deal with most major outboard brands in NZ, so it is up to the owner to take their pick. Stu and Ngaire have a soft spot for Suzuki, and it was hard to fault their choice. The recommended HP is between 300 and 450, so the 325 pushed us along comfortably. However, 325 is a lot of HP for one motor, and the trade-off with this model is the noise. It’s powerful, but certainly not the quietest engine on the market.

The Surtees 800 in full flight.

We soon caught sight of Grant and Josh aboard the photo boat and made our way over. The introductions and running shots were quickly taken care of after a bit of boat swapping, and then it was finally my time to get on the helm.

Before I opened the throttle, I did ask Cliff for a run-through of the controls and electronics. They were, as expected, impressive. The 16” flush-mounted Garmin chartplotter/sounder unit is unmissable. This was my first time using this model, but it was extremely intuitive and had all the features you’d expect of a top-of-the-line fish finder. Beneath the screen were a long row of labelled switches, controlling everything from window wipers through to the bilge pump. The trim tab controls are accessible and easy to use, even for someone like me who doesn’t have this luxury on my personal boat. Of particular note are the bow thruster and power steering controls – yes, you can choose how heavy you want the steering to be. While I opted for the “middle” setting, I can see how the lighter setting could be helpful when docking. When combined with the bow thrusters, there’d be no mooring, dock or wharf that’d be too difficult to manage with this boat, which Cliff clearly demonstrated at the end of the day.

With the basics out of the way, my impatience was growing, so I pushed the throttle into gear and slowly got us up on the plane. The water had glassed off and the path forward was effortless. I started to adjust the trim as we gained pace (force of habit), but Cliff said I didn’t need to worry. Sure enough, the nose came down and we were soon humming along at 30 knots, balanced and without even the slightest bounce. “Balanced”, in fact, is probably the adjective which describes the Surtees 800 best. As I pulled the craft port and starboard at pace, we made the turns with ease – never once did I feel anything but in control. And I should note that the sharp entry Surtees hulls are famous for did not compromise stability at rest. When I came down off the plane and let my own wake roll under the boat, the rocking was at a minimum and certainly far less than I was expecting when you consider the ease at which this hull cut through the water.

Once I was satisfied with the boat’s handling and pickup, I cruised us into one of the many islands off Whitianga for a quick flick of the rod. It was then that I finally got familiar with the rest of the boat’s fishing capabilities.

The cockpit is just how I like it: big, flat and empty (in other words, lots of fishing room). Four adults could easily fish at once, and the forward platform provides another fantastic casting point for at least one other angler (two if it’s calm). The fully welded tread plate floor was what I’m accustomed to, but those who like their finer comforts may opt for a full SeaDek covering. The wide gunnels do come covered with SeaDek out of the box, and these are fitted with drink and rod holders. Their height was also ideal for thigh support when jigging or getting bent over the rails by big fish. I’m a huge fan of upright rod storage that’s out of the spray zone, and that’s exactly what Surtees have provided on the inside of the gunnels – not that there’s a ‘spray zone’ on this boat. Besides Geoff who chose to go for a swim, not one of us got the least bit wet the whole day.

Moving forward, two IceyTek split lid bins fit snugly under the passenger seat (these come standard with the boat). The passenger seat itself offers a variety of options: lean the back rest forward and you have a backwards facing bench seat; lean it back and you’ve got yourself booth-style seating with a table between; lay both passenger seats down and you’ve got yourself another bed for the night. If overnighting is on your ‘to do’ list, then you’ll also love the fridge, sink, stovetop and toilet. The squabs in the forward cabin provide comfortable sleeping for at least two more, so overnighting with three to four adults wouldn’t be a problem at all. Two tinted glass doors can make this cabin enclosed, which is great for keeping wind, salt and bugs out of the sleeping areas. You can also tick the lighting box with Narva internal touch lights and Hella roof-mounted navigation and rear facing LEDs covering all your bases. Finally, the underfloor tank is 500L, which means an overnight journey to most offshore islands (I have my favourites in mind: Barrier, Mokes, and Mayor) won’t be a problem.

There is no shortage of fishing space on this vessel.

Back to the fishing.

Rod holders are everywhere: 13 on the rocket launchers, five on the baitboard, four on each gunnel and four up front for those casting off the bow – that’s a grand total of 30. There are also mounts for outriggers ready to go, which the current owner has already put to good use. When you take into account the fishing room, casting space, livebait tanks, tuna tubes, tackle storage and state of the art sounder, I really can’t think of anything Surtees have missed.

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The fishing on this day was slow – although Josh did manage one 60-odd-cm snapper on the photo boat – and before long we started making our way back to port. As mentioned, this is when the chop stood up and my confusion began. The famous Surtees “sharp” hull shape lived up to its reputation, its fine entry carving through the sea-breeze induced waves. The 6mm hull ensured we didn’t feel every bang or slap – not that there were many – and we arrived back at port comfortable and dry. I should note that this boat has an Anti-Roll Lock Shut-off Gate that retains the ballast water to make the ride more stable, but we didn’t even need to utilise this feature.

Surtees have been making boats for a very long time now, and this is overwhelmingly evident in their latest design: every box has been ticked, every detail thought of. As a NZ fisherman and boatie, I stepped off the boat without any real complaints or suggestions – nothing has been overlooked. It is a true testament to NZ-design, and it was an absolute pleasure to helm. If you’re in the market for a boat that covers all your fishing bases in comfort and style, then the Surtees 800 should be at the top of your list.

LOA 8000mm

Hull thickness: 6mm

Recommended HP: 300 – 450

Under floor fuel tank: 500l

Fuel Tank: 500l

Height on trailer: 3200mm

Beam: 2700mm

Sides: 4mm

Deadrise: 20 degree

Top sides: 4mm

Cabin: 3mm

Approx. tow weight 3400kg

Boat Price as tested: $318,000

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