AMF Express 37

Aluminium Marine Fabricators (AMF) in Te Puke recently launched their first Express 37 for Wellington clients that have cruising and international adventure on their minds.

AMF Express 37
AMF Express 37

Viewed from afar you would think the Express 37 - which looks like a fast and nimble workboat - would see service in the fishing or diving sectors, but there is not one concession to either pass-time on the John S Cabot (named after a French explorer).

Get a little closer and you'll see that the boat is more sophisticated than the aluminium hull suggests. Inside, leather upholstery, handcrafted heart-matai timber, carpet and gloss paint lifts the comfort levels of the no-nonsense exterior.

The owners selected heavy-duty alloy construction and water jet propulsion (292 Hamilton Jet) because the boat will see service in areas where there is hull-challenging drift wood, in estuarine areas that dry, and eventually, the Great Lakes and inland waterways of North America. It also needs to cope with demanding Cook Strait conditions on a regular basis.

The owners sometimes holiday at one of Tasman Bay National Park's many tidal estuaries and, with the jet unit and alloy construction, they are happy to let the boat sit on the crisp white sand at low tide. The same combination also provides the peace-of-mind to make a night commute back to Wellington from Tasman Bay or the Marlborough Sounds without having to worry about unseen debris that could damaging the hull or drive line.

The big cockpit, with its long cabin overhang, encourages out-door living and the long engine box that covers the Diamond Series 450hp Cummins diesel, gearbox and jet unit has a secondary purpose. It provides a landing for a traditional wooden sailing dinghy that will be hauled over the transom and settled into a cradle atop the engine box.

The owners will also carry two kayaks to compliment their exploration and recreational options and these will be stored on the cabin top either side of the aerofoil mast and radar scanner.

Jet units do not require a gearbox as the reverse bucket provides neutral and reverse. However, the 1:1 Twin Disc gearbox fitted to the John S Cabot provides the ability to back flush the jet unit should the intake grill become blocked (running the gearbox in reverse reverses the water flow through the jet unit and pushes the obstruction away from the grill).

The Express 37 is constructed to AMF's usual high-quality standards using 8mm plate on the bottom and 5mm plate on the topside panels. Two fore and aft girders interlock with athwartship frames and the hull panels are welded to the girders and frames. Paul Sharratt, a director at AMF, and the company's founding craftsman, says the small panel sizes make for a very stiff and quiet running hull.

Paul says the delivery trip, which saw the Express 37 relocated from Tauranga to Wellington, was a telling trip. He and the owner departed at 5am Sunday morning, with the expectation of south-west winds, but the wind stayed in the south east and their course to, and around, East Cape, was to weather. They had to ease the John S Cabot around East Cape and Paul describes the passage as "big gnarly seas that were way above cabin height and often breaking."

"We motored through the worst of it at around 9/10 knots and I have to say the boat handled beautifully. There were times I thought we were going to get dumped on or launched into mid air, but the boat sorted the sea out and the jet unit didn't cavitate once."

Once clear of East Cape they increased speed to around 18 knots in 3m seas. After a hard 15 hours they made Gisborne where they slept and loaded the boat with full fuel before departing for Wellington at 8am Monday.

Maximum fuel load is 1100 litres and during the trip to Gisborne, Paul says the boat averaged 50 litres per hour. These figures give an approximate range of 440nm in rough conditions and perhaps 600nm in calm weather.

The leg to Wellington took 17 hours and towards the end of it they experienced big following seas. "We were charging down the back of the waves and cleaving into the back of the next one. The bow peeled white water but we kept tracking straight until it lifted and we climbed up the next wave. Then we would crest that wave and charge down hill again," says Paul.

In light ship trim - about 400l fuel and 200 l water, no sailing dinghy, kayaks or cruising gear - top speed was around 30 knots at 2600 rpm. Comfortable cruising speed appeared to be 20-24 knots.

At all speeds the boat maintained a low angle of attack (it does not squat) and it holds a straight line. Two one metre sister keels that terminate at the end of the planning surface key the boat to the water and provide enough lateral resistance to keep it running straight.

Underway, the cabin provides a very comfortable environment and I am sure there will be no hardship at rest.

The décor draws on green tones -Tasman Green leather upholstery, light green carpet and a hint-of-mint in the paint - that highlight and compliment the heart matai woodwork. The matai and leather provide a natural contrast to the workboat exterior and the timber brings its own history to the boat. It was sourced from the owner's family farm.

LOA: 11.18m
Beam: 3.5m
Draft: 0.5m
Fuel: 1100l
Water: 400l
Sleeping accommodation: 4
Designer: Terry Read
Make: Diamond Series 450hp Cummins
Bore and Stroke: 114 x 135mm
Capacity: 8.3 litre
Aspiration: Turbochaged/aftercooled
Jet Unit: Hamilton 292
Boat Built by:AMF Boat Company, 2103 State Highway 2, Te Puke, Ph +64 7 573 9377

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