Surtees 5.5 Workmate

By: Norman Holtzhausen

A no-nonsense boat for those on a budget, the 5.5 Workmate has a couple of neat tricks up its sleeve

Watch video of self-loading

  • Flooding under-floor tank makes the boat stable at rest
  • Folding hardtop to fit into garage or carport
  • Single-person launching is possible with the trailer latch
  • Excellent storage for a compact vessel
  • Hull holds well in high-speed turns

Featuring the Surtees self-flooding ballast tank, six fully welded stringers, a six-year hull warranty and unique self-loading trailer catch, the 5.5 Workmate is a lot of boat in a small package.

Plus, Surtees has designed a hardtop and windscreen package that can fold down, reducing the total height of the boat on the trailer to a standard 4WD wagon. This allows a bigger boat to be stored in a garage or carport.

First glance

The boat has an open layout, with a lined forward area of the cabin with two bunks, which are not quite full-length and covered in a washable PVC.

A large alloy hatch provides access to the bow area, where an anchor well holds the anchor and rope. Two broad, lined parcel shelves provide lots of storage.

The dash layout is simple, with the test boat only having the standard engine gauges. There is sufficient space for a 7" fishfinder/chartplotter, as well as a VHF radio.

Although the standard pedestal seats are not adjustable for height, there is a hinged foot rest.

Great ideas

Perhaps Surtees' best innovation is the alloy hardtop. The front is held by pneumatic stays, with a system that allows the front to be pulled down until it meets the windscreen. This position can be used when towing the boat, or to reduce wind and spray coming over the windscreen if a set of clears are not fitted.

Along the back of the hardtop is a rocket launcher with space for six fishing rods and a floodlight is fitted for night fishing.

Reducing the boat's height is a simple matter of unclipping a couple of catches and swinging the hardtop back into the cockpit. A further three catches release the windscreen, which again swings on hinges back into the cockpit, leaving the cabin roof as the highest point of the boat. The whole process takes just a couple of minutes.

Behind the pedestal seats the unlined cockpit is open and well suited to fishing. Gunwales are wide and comfortable to sit on, with two rod holders on each side. A wide parcel shelf under the gunwale holds extra gear. Along the rear is a bench seat that folds up to cover and protect the battery and switches or folds down to provide a seat for two occupants. A step-through transom is available as an option.


Under the cockpit floor is an 80L fuel tank, with a fuel gauge set just below the level of the deck. The tank filler is on the floor between the pedestal seats. A wet storage area is set in the rear under a removable aluminium hatch, and this can be drained into the flooding keel when the boat is on the trailer. An optional bait board, with further rod holders, fits into a mounting point in the transom.


Hanging off the stern of the boat is an Evinrude E-Tec fuel-injected, 90hp, two-stroke outboard. The boarding platform has a swinging ladder on the port side. On the starboard side a removable burley pot is set into the boarding platform.

On the water

The test day was unpleasant, and we headed out onto the harbour in a 25-knot wind with a sizeable chop.

As soon as we powered up the Evinrude the benefits of the Surtees hull showed themselves. Measuring 5.5m in length and with a beam of just 2.15m, the deep V hull (18 degrees at the stern) coped well with the conditions. We were in light trim and the boat fairly bounced off the wave tops. We managed to get totally airborne but the landing was no problem thanks to the lack of planing strakes and soft-riding deep V hull.

Hitting the swell side-on did result in spray coming into the boat, but that was to be expected. Overall the chines did a good job of directing it away from the boat. Its possible to allow the ballast chamber to fill and then close the release gate, which gives a more comfortable but slower ride.

At rest the flooding keel fills with 320L of water, an excellent stabiliser on this relatively light hull.

Some high-speed turns proved that the hull holds a turn well. The chines make up for the lack of planning strakes and enable tight turns to be made when required.

The 80L fuel tank should provide for a whole days fishing for a couple of mates without any risk of running dry.

Despite the conditions we managed to maintain a 20-knot speed heading back. Back at the beach we ran up on the sand, one of the benefits of an alloy hull. The self-loading latch meant it was a simple matter of powering up until the boat connected with the latch and was secured. See the self-loading latch in action below.

Read in-depth boat reviews in the latest issue of Trade-A-Boat magazine, on sale now.

See Surtees boats for sale here.


LOA 5.5m
Beam 2.13m
Fuel capacity 80L
Motor Evinrude 90hp injected two-stroke
Trailer Surtees multi-roller single-axle galvanised trailer
Warranty Six years on hull; five years on motor



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