Surtees 8.0 Game Fisher

Neil Surtees' list of awards for his designs is almost as extensive as his vocabulary. Paul Smith rides shotgun on Surtees new 8m Game Fisher.

Surtees 8.0 Game Fisher
Surtees 8.0 Game Fisher

I'm unsure as to how or why the word "grouse" came to exist in the slang vocabulary. According to my dictionary, the word has two distinct meanings: n gallinaceous game-bird with feathered feet; and v/i grumble, complain. Yet in the slang context, the word means "great, good" - distinctly at odds with either of the"'formal" definitions.

However, in respect of our recent experience with the Surtees 8.0 Game Fisher, the slang definition of the word "grouse" certainly applies. Boat builder and owner of the test boat, Neil Surtees of Edgecumbe, must think likewise as he has named this first example of the new model Grouse.

We had the opportunity to experience this new model in the Surtees range doing what the boat was designed for - a spot of fishing - off Whakatane. Neil Surtees and his team had only just returned from a successful Hamilton Boat Show at Mystery Creek, so the opportunity for a couple of hours or so of R & R out on Grouse was not to be forsaken.

Neil duly arrived at the Whakatane wharf launch ramp with the boat hooked up to his new Dodge Ram Pick-up, and initial impressions of the whole rig were very positive. The sturdy multi roller trailer made launching a breeze and while gear was being stowed, I took the opportunity of snatching some quick photographs. In short order, the 225hp Honda had been warmed up and we were making our way quietly down the lower reaches of the Whakatane River toward the bar. Our crew for the excursion included "Nobbo", "Frosty", Bill Roberts, Skipper, Neil (Surts) Surtees, and yours truly. The plan was to head out to one of "Nobbo's" secret fishing spots where he was confident we would catch "a feed".

The Whakatane bar was docile on our exit but even so, all aboard wore flotation devices for the duration of our traverse into open water in deference to the local safety requirements. As we made our way up the coast in a moderate swell, the boys made ready the fishing tackle while I chatted to Surts about the boat and took a good look around the layout.

Construction and design
As with other models in the Surtees range, construction of the 8.0 Game Fisher is all marine grade aluminium alloy. The bottom sections of the hull and the transom are fabricated in 5mm while the sides and deck are 4mm. The topsides are a mixture of 3mm and 4mm.

The hull is reinforced with eight full-length bearers which are supported by gussets athwartships every 500mm. There are three sealed buoyancy chambers including the engine pod on the transom.

The hull design follows similar Surtees design cues having a steep forefoot with a very fine entry. The deadrise is variable over the length of the hull and measures 18 degrees at the transom. The chines are down turned and the hull form is clean with no planing strakes.

Of interest is the incorporation of a flooding ballast tank along the keel line the rear gate, of which is controlled by an electrically operated hydraulic ram. With a capacity of around 400 litres, the flooded tank endows the boat with good stability at rest.

The forecabin is fully lined, and incorporates two full-length berths. An infill converts to a large double. There is storage under the berths, which also house a macerated toilet, which can be closed off using a privacy curtain if required. Two full-length shelves incorporate stretchies to secure lifejackets or other items against the shelves. Access to the foredeck from inside the cabin is by means of a large hatch, although it can also be easily accessed by the walk around deck, with plenty of grab rails.

A Sarca anchor is permanently mounted on the forepeak, which is controlled by an electric capstan with a line counter operable from the helm.

The large helm station to port is well designed and displays comprehensive instrumentation for the engine. A nice touch is the use of a lip above the electronics to provide shading from sunlight. A Navman Fish 4500 colour sounder/finder and a Tracker 5000 GPS plotter are flush mounted above the helm. Of course, steering is hydraulic. The whole of the helm station is well designed with plenty of shelf space. The VHF and stereo are mounted in a central binnacle at roof height. The lower section of the helm station includes a foot well, while the helm seat is bench style. Immediately aft of the helm station is the table, which slides up to the ceiling on a pole when not in use. Right behind this is the galley, which features a gas califont, cooker and plenty of exposed shelf storage for cutlery and foodstuffs. Beneath the helm seat and the galley, is a single berth.

To port, there is a full-length berth/seat with storage for chilly bins underneath.

The entire hardtop cabin is fully lined, with not a trace of bare alloy to be seen, with the exception of a profusion of sturdy alloy grab rails.

Access to the business end of the boat, the cockpit and separating it from the cabin is a solid feeling alloy door, which folds back to the port bulkhead. To starboard, is a solid -alloy seat with a chequer-plate top, with storage beneath accessed via a SoPac hatch while a stainless fire extinguisher is recessed into it. A tackle box is recessed into thecockpit coaming within easy reach of the seat, while full-length side pockets run along each side of the cockpit. The coamings are wide enough to offer sitting space while fishing if required, high enough to provide good thigh support when reeling in, and fitted with copious drink holders, which are ideal for holding sinkers while underway. The transom has large sealed hatches for battery and/or oil tank storage beneath the centrally mounted bait station, the top of which folds up to reveal a gas hotplate. Access to the wide chequer-plate boarding platform is via a cut out to starboard while a solid boarding ladder, and plenty of grab rails make life easy for divers and/or swimmers. To port is the live bait tank, and in each corner are tuna tubes, which drain into two berley pots in each corner of the boarding platform. The chequerplate cockpit sole is covered in plastic tube mat and a large underfloor locker is accessed via dual hatches. There is also a sole level five-rod rack just forward of the locker.

Rod holders are a real feature of this boat, with a capability of 52 rods, spread right around the cockpit, including the rocket launcher and racks under the hardtop extension, over the front section of the cockpit. Quite simply, the boat is rigged as a fisherman's dream!

Performance and handling
Grouse has been fitted with a single 225hp Honda four-stroke outboard, which is at the lower end of the recommended power requirements, but still delivers sufficient grunt. The boat can easily be set up for twin outboard installations and since there has already been some interest, a stern drive option will be offered in due course.

With an underfloor fuel tank of nearly 300-litres capacity, and the reasonable fuel efficiency of the big Honda, Grouse has an expected fuel range of around 450km. The Honda spins a 15" 5-blade stainless propeller, which gives maximum engine speed of 5800rpm and with the boat lightly loaded, top speed is about 30 knots.

We noted the engine trim was not used to much effect, as Neil believed the engine had been mounted a little high. This meant that at the upper half of the trim available, cavitation sets in. However, the trim of the boat and its ride could be adequately controlled using the Lectrotab trim tabs. On our return journey back to Whakatane we encountered a very confused sea, quite rough whipped up by a strong wind. In these conditions, Grouse took quite a bit of windblown spray across the screens and with the ballast tank empty she was pushed about a bit. But when the ballast tank was full, the ride improved dramatically with the boat feeling very solid on the water.

Despite the unpleasant conditions, the Surtees was still able to deliver a comfortable ride.

The Surtees 8.0 Game Fisher is certainly a well conceived and executed fishing boat for the dedicated and enthusiastic fisherman. Grouse sits on a sturdy multi roller Voyager trailer, which Neil Surtees has modified slightly to include a self-locking catch making retrieval a cinch. At a little more than 3 tonnes "loaded" and ready to fish, you will need a substantial vehicle to tow it, and in all probability an HT license to boot.

Nevertheless, the boat is capable of getting you to where you want to fish and once you are there, has everything on board you need to find the buggers. However, as our time on the water showed, sometimes you can have all the gear to hook up but still come away with only enough for the smallest of snacks. But I suppose that is the very reason why you want to go back and have another go.

At $170,000 as reviewed, this boat does not come cheap, but it does come "loaded".


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