Upfold 12.8m Sportfisher

Designed by Bill Upfold and built by Auckland's Bartlett Marine, Kiwi Blue is an exquisitely-finished boat with a level of workmanship that's difficult to fault. It's the closest thing - writes Norman Holtzhausen - to absolute fishing nirvana.

Upfold 12.8m Sportfisher
Upfold 12.8m Sportfisher
Bill Upfold laid out the design of this 12.8m hull in 2004, with the brief to provide a dry, quiet sportsfisher configuration that would be comfortable during extended trips out on the water.

A good night's sleep was high on the design agenda, and the hull has a chine configuration that virtually eliminates chine slap. This is achieved by lifting the spray rail off the chine and placing it above the waterline, effectively keeping the spray down while underway and the boat quiet at rest.

Kiwi Blue is the second boat completed from this design, with a third hull already under construction at Bartlett Marine. Chris Bartlett has had plenty of interest in the design and predicts we will see more being built in the near future.

The boat's constructed from laminated plywood core with glass and epoxy reinforcements inside and out, while the superstructure is ply-foam composite. The total package weighs eight and a half tons. Her 12.8m length and 4.3m beam provide ample interior space. Despite the weight, her draft is only 90cm, making it a very versatile boat.

Several different layout options are provided for the interior. Kiwi Blue has two double and two single berths, plus a toilet and shower. All cabins have numerous cupboards and storage space, and deck hatches supply fresh air and natural light.

Power's supplied by a single Cummins QSC 500hp diesel engine, although the hull design offers ample space for fiting twin engines if required. This propels the boat to an optimum cruising speed of 22 knots through a Mikado 26-inch propeller. Top speed is a respectable 26 knots, and the 1000-litre fuel tank provides a good range.

A Sidepower 8hp bow thruster simplifies manoeuvring into tight berths, and the Hydrive steering is relatively effortless. The hull rides well, and a set of Lectrotab trim tabs has been fitted to offset the effect of a beam sea.

Spacious and bright best describe the main saloon. Large, tinted windows from Seamac are fitted along the sides, with the forward-facing windows divided into five panels. The saloon features plush seating for eight people on sandstone-coloured leather upholstery, with polished teak woodwork. Cabinetry around the galley is well executed, with good use of space and some clever design to ensure the contents remain secure.

A window and door in the rear of the boat (between the galley and cockpit) are somewhat unusual. The tinted glass window opens vertically (securing against the underside of the flybridge) and there is no frame for the glass door. This creates an opening along the entire width of the boat, enabling easy conversation between those in the saloon and the cockpit. It also allows free airflow through the galley.

Access to the flybridge is up a curved stairwell finished in bright white upholstery. A centrally located helm station is surrounded by an upholstered, curved seat. The flybridge roof rests on stainless steel supports, and apart from the front window, the area is enclosed entirely with clears. The glass front window is fitted with a wiper. A rocket launcher (with 10 rods holders fitted) doubles as a safety rail along the back of the flybridge.

No expenses spared. A Raymarine C120 GPS plotter, with radar overlay, takes are of navigation duties, while the location of nearby fish is pinpointed by a Raymarine C80 colour sounder. A Raymarine autopilot integrates with the chartplotter to enable hands-free cruising, while VHF radios are fitted upstairs and in the main saloon.

A range of entertainment options are available in the saloon. A Sharp Aquos flat-screen TV (combined with a DVD player) ensures the latest All Blacks game is not missed. Speakers for the stereo system are strategically positioned around the boat. A digital depth display and bilge and fuel alarms means nothing important goes unnoticed while the bridge is vacated.

In the galley a Sharp Carousel microwave handles the quick meals, with a four-burner gas hob plus full oven allowing the galley slave to perform gastronomic miracles.

The large, self-draining cockpit is well laid out for fishing. Six rod holders are scattered around the gunwales, which contain several built-in storage compartments. Foot space under the gunwale allows the angler to brace comfortably against the side. A built-in freezer compartment keeps bait (and the catch) fresh, and a livebait tank is built into the teak-covered floor.

Under the cockpit is a large, wet storage compartment, stretching the full width of the boat and almost as long as the cockpit. Gas struts ease the job of lifting the cover and a built-in step facilitates entry. Two sliding doors are built into the back of the cockpit. When opened, they create a large hatchway through which the inflatable is easily pulled and secured. For island-hopping this is much easier than repeatedly moving the inflatable to and from the foredeck. The same doors also provide easy access for swimming or diving, as well as for pulling in that trophy marlin or gamefish.

A stainless rail surrounds the boarding platform - and provides a sense of security for those involved with bottom fishing. Additional rod holders have been mounted to the rails, further enhancing this area for fishing.

The inflatable is stowed on the foredeck and lifted into the water by a foldaway davit. For island cruising with frequent stops, it's probably easier to keep the inflatable in the cockpit. A Maxwell VWC2200 auto anchor system keeps the boat in one spot, with deck switches providing manual control (in addition to the helm control).

We left the marine with very little fuss, the bowthruster making the job a lot easier. The engine's quiet and very smooth, thanks partly to the Acustop soundproofing fitted to the engine compartment. Out on the open water, Chris opened the throttle and we quickly reached cruising speed. The boat comes up onto the plane effortlessly and smoothly. From the flybridge the growl from the Cummins diesel was moderate - the venturi exhaust system enables conversation at normal levels.

Conditions were good. In tight, high-speed turns the hull banks nicely and is very stable. She's very responsive to the helm and the turning circle, even at 20 knots, was excellent. The cockpit remained absolutely dry, with no spray or blowback. Down into the forward cabins, the engine noise was almost absent, and only the splash of water on the hull indicated we were under way.

Much thought and experience has gone into Kiwi Blue's detail and the quality of build and fittings is of the highest standard. The price reflects that this boat will appeal to the upper end of the market, and I can't see purchasers being disappointed.

Upfold Sportsfisher (price as reviewed $850,000)
LOA: 12.8m
Beam: 4.3m
Draft: 0.9m
Engine: Cummins QSC500 Electronic
Fuel: 1000 litres
Water: 600 litres
Top speed: 26 knots
Cruising Speed: 22 knots
Weight: 8.5 tons
Power: 12v/240v
Accommodation: 2 x double, 2 x single berths
Electronics: Raymarine C120 GPS Plotter/ Radar;
Raymarine C80 Colour Sounder; Raymarine Autopilot; Raymarine VHF (x2)
Anchor Winch: Maxwell VWC 2200 auto anchor system
Bowthruster: Sidepower 8hp
Soundproofing: Acoustop

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