Stabi-Craft 593HT

All Stabi-Craft hardtop models are selling well and the 593HT is the most popular of them all. Geoff Green took one to sea in the face of an ominous forecast and a filthy black cloud on the horizon.

Stabi-Craft 593HT
Stabi-Craft 593HT

When reviewing boats, I prefer undertaking a reasonable expedition rather than a quick spin around the harbour, which seems to be the limit of participation many builders/dealers are prepared to commit to these days. In all my dealings with Stabi-Craft - since 1989, when I wrote the very first Stabi-Craft boat test - they and their dealers have gone out of their way to set up a decent day on the water. They know the boat will cope with the worst and present well in any conditions. The last Stabi-Craft review I did took us from Mana, across Cook Strait to D'Urville Island, and back, a distance of 157 miles. An earlier effort saw us venture out into the Tasman Sea from Doubtful Sound in Fiordland.

Kev and Ian's Marine - Stabi-Craft's only Auckland dealer, based in Manurewa, had a similar mindset when we organised the 593HT review. The initial plan was for two divers, two fishermen and myself to head to the reefs around the northern tip of Coromandel Peninsula, in search of big crayfish and notable snapper. This trip would have covered some 70 miles in both sheltered and open water.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. The collective crew rethought the destination when we heard the forecast - wind warning in force, 20-25 knots north-east, gusting 35 knots, heavy rain developing. While I am sure the Stabi-Craft would have gone the distance, none of us looked forward to the 20-mile head-butt to weather, and we all knew Colville channel and the exposed tip of Coromandel were not the places to be that day. So we formulated Plan B - a run down the inside of Waiheke to fish and dive the area around Pakatoa, Moturoa and Ponui Islands.

We left the Maraetai Boat Club's ramp, and the only other car-and-trailer combination in the carpark that Saturday morning was ours. It belonged to the expedition's photoboat - a Stabi-Craft 643 powered by twin 90hp Yamahas. It was interesting to watch everyone head directly to the hardtop boat and avoid the 643 with a soft-top but no clears. As a result, all the dive and fishing gear, and nearly all the personal and safety gear, was stowed on the smaller 593. Each diver had a full set of dive gear, plus a spare tank. The fishermen had many rods, tackle boxes and the boat's fish bin-seat packed with ice, plus bait and berley to optimise their chances of filling it up. With 200l of fuel in the underfloor tank, spare this and that, a port-a-potty and my bulky camera gear, we had a full and heavy ship.

I swapped between boats to take photos and noticed the environment in the hardtop was much more conducive to being out on the water that day, because the 593HT offered superior warmth and shelter from the rain and cool slipstream. The hardtop also offers adventurers the ability to shrug off waves encountered on bars and in really dirty water. Of course, the Stabi-Craft design is optimised for just this type of work.

The down side is it's hard to get moderate-sized, deep-vee alloy boats looking good with a hardtop and they generally lean into strong winds at speed.

Stabi-Craft has solved the first issue by blending a fibreglass hardtop and foredeck with an alloy hull. The fibreglass components enable them to using flowing compound curves, giving the 593HT pretty good lines for an otherwise all-alloy pontoon boat. The 593 was the first model to introduce the fibreglass/alloy mix and has been available for nearly two years.

On the second point, the 593HT is not particularly prone to leaning into the wind, because the pontoon design offers a stiff-hull form. I ignored the small list while running across moderate chop down the inside of Waiheke. I could have asked a passenger to shift to the leeward side or requested that part of the payload be moved to counter the lean, but it was just as easy to ignore it and go boating. There would be times, however, when trim tabs would be helpful, and Ken and Ian's sales manager Andrew Deadman recommends adventurous customers fit them to optimise the ride and performance.

All deep-vee boats lean into strong winds, because the wind blows the bow off course and a hardtop amplifies this effect by presenting more windage. The helmsman, often subconsciously, brings the boat back on course by turning the helm slightly, and when helm is applied to a monohull, it lays into the turn. Hence, trailerboats and light launches with hardtops lay into strong winds when they appear to be running a straight course.

The 643 accompanying us had the same hull design, foredeck and cuddy structure as the 593, but it was 500mm longer. The extra length is incorporated into the cockpit for a greater working area. The 643 is also available in hardtop form and the 593 hull will accept the 643's slightly longer hardtop. This gives the option of boosting the cabin size and fitting a clear curtain across the back to enclose it. The trade-off is that the extra cabin space is provided at the expense of open cockpit space.

We had a quick and comfortable run down to Ruthe's passage, where we stuckour nose out into the Firth of Thames to taste the conditions and consider proceeding across to the Happy Jack's in the lee of Coromandel. Water conditions were very lumpy and the steep chop would have made the 12-mile bash an uncomfortable way to spend 45 minutes. We decided there was nothing across the other side we couldn't find where we were and stuck to Plan B. The decision was made even easier by the imposing size of the filthy black cloudbank massing on the horizon.

It was only fair we gave the divers the opportunity to dive, dry-off and change into warm, dry clothes before the rain set in, so we opted for a scallop dive over a bed that used to produce 20 years ago. The divers really liked the 593HT, because it was stiff and stable while gearing up, the side decks were wide and easy to roll off, and the re-entry over the stern was easy and comfortable.

"Its not often you find an under-six metre boat that lets you climb in with your gear on without the trim changing noticeably," said Brian, one of our divers.

Both divers were enthusiastic about the protection offered by the hardtop when getting changed.

From my point of view, it was great to be able to stand anywhere on the wide coamings to take pictures. We were anchored in calm water in the lee of an island, but I still stood unaided holding an expensive camera and was able to walk where I pleased. At rest, the 593HT was stiff and stable.

Bruce Duncan was aboard for the ride and his preferred fishing spot was tucked in close to foul ground on a lee shore. The water conditions were decidedly sloppy, but once again the Stabi-Craft sat relatively quietly and it was no trouble to fish three people out the back of the boat. I gravitated to one protected rear corner of the hardtop and fished without wearing a jacket quite comfortably.

When anchoring, the boys used the side decks to access the foredeck, and sat astride the cuddy cabin when laying or lifting the anchor. Access through the cuddy and foredeck hatch was available - provided we cleared a path through the gear - but safe access down the side was not an issue. Nor was stability and two people opted for this method when anchoring. Hand rails on the hardtop, grab handles on the windscreen surface (bolted to the pillars and not noticed from inside), bow rails and non-skid on the side decks provided good security, although once in position, you could get wet feet if it was rough.

By early afternoon, the filthy black cloud was no longer on the horizon, but loomed above us and we decided to withdraw home before the light rain turned to a deluge.

Running downwind in a light-to-moderate chop, the speedo showed 23mph and the tacho 4000rpm. At 4500rpm, we achieved 28mph on the speedo and at 5000rpm in flat water, the 130hp V4 Yamaha two-stroke Saltwater Series engine produced33mph. I couldn't get the bow to lift as much as I thought it should when running fast in the calm, but forgot about this when we re-emerged into the moderate chop and throttled back to 25mph for comfort's sake. I knew we were carrying 10m of chain in the anchor locker, but it wasn't until we had the boat on the trailer and I volunteered to pass gear out of the cuddy that I realised how much weight we had been carrying forward. The divers had trendy travel packs that contained all their wet gear except their tanks, and these were stowed well forward on the bunks. They probably weighed 25kg each. Then, there were spare tanks stored under the bunks, plus about five armloads of non-diving related product we had accumulated for a pleasant day on the water. Add the weight of three adults keen to enjoy the comfortable confines of the hardtop and it was little wonder the bow was reluctant to lift that last little bit. If I had thought to shift the wet dive gear and spare bottles aft, I think we would have easily added a couple of miles an hour to the indicated speeds. (The following weekend Kevin Griffin had the 593HT out with his eight-year-old son and he achieved 44mph with the engine trimmed up at full throttle.)

In the rougher segments of the trip, the 593 cruised most comfortably at 22-23 mph, a speed we could have maintained for a long time.

The helm position was fine when standing, but the driver's seat needs some fore and aft adjustment to optimise the sitting position (it swivelled, but did not slide forward).

The AFI wiper provided a good sweep to keep the centre glass panel clear and the hardtop provided good headroom.

The interior surface of the hardtop and the dash were finished in grey paint rather than white, reducing the glare reflected inside the hardtop on a bright summer's day. With the big tinted windows, the light levels where fine during our grey overcast day and visibility was excellent.

The 593's 20-degree hull is usually constructed of 4mm plate and the pontoons are 3mm (the hull is 5mm thick on the review boat). A 4mm checker-plate floor is standard and sealed to create additional buoyancy chambers under the floor, and the fuel tank is positioned in the centre. Because the review boat was a bells-and-whistles example built to exhibit at the Auckland boat show, rubber-tube matting was laid on the floor throughout the cuddy and cockpit. This made a noticeable difference to the comfort factor, because it insulated you from the aluminium, provided a worthwhile amount of cushioning and eliminated a lot of the noise when gearing up. It also provided good grip.

The boat show brief also explained the upmarket metallic paint on the 593. It was a top-quality paint job, but metallic paint on a boat destined for hard time seems a bit of a paradox. Sean McColl, sales manager at Stabi-Craft Marine in Invercargill, says 60% of their hardtop boats are factory painted and the blue-metallic finish was chosen to demonstrate the company's capabilities.

"The 593HT is sold across the board to families, fishermen, divers and commercial operators, and there is strong demand for painted boats from the recreational sector. The metallic-paint option carries an additional cost, but any standard paint colour is available within the normal charge."

The cuddy and hardtop were lined, and the cuddy finished with a nice upholstery package. The side shelves were faced with padded half-round bolsters to form backrests and the cuddy had plenty of sitting room. The bunks are long enough to snooze on and in-fill is available to convert them to a double for over-nighting. Storage is provided under the bunks, but I don't think a chemical toilet will fit under them.

Storage is also provided in the cockpit side pockets and they will accept rods, although my long 6kg rod needed a bit of gentle persuasion to get in.

Once there, it laid flat and was well protected by the rubber tube matt lining the shelf. The 593 also had a small but useful live-bait tank installed in the platform and a welded ski pole that supported a bait board (the bait board was a little too high).

Stabi-Craft's hull design, styling and detailing, not to mention the brand's acceptance, have come a long way since I first drove one in 1989. They now have rectangular-shaped pontoons to maximise internal volume, good-looking fibreglass hardtops and excellent paint jobs. However, the fundamental elements have not changed. The styling still draws on the brand's commercial beginnings, the sealed reserve buoyancy built into the hull form makes them ideal for demanding applications and the build-quality remains very good.

Stability at rest is excellent and life-support in the hard top is to the same standard.

As Bruce said, "It may have been a shitty day, but we had a great time."

Stabi-Craft 593HT
LOA: 6.5m
Beam: 2.38m
Cockpit width: 1.7m
Deadrise at transom: 20°
Hull thickness: 4mm
Tube thickness: 3mm
Rec. horsepower: 130 hp
Max. horsepower: 175 hp
Engine: Yamaha 130hp two-stroke
Packages from: $53,831
Price as shown: $63,758 (includes electronics, safety equipment and creature comforts).
Boat supplied by Kev & Ian's Marine Services Corner Mahia and Holmes Roads, Manurewa, Auckland.
Phone (09) 267499
Fax (09) 2681234

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