Surtees 5.5 Workmate Centre Console
Perfectly set up for softbait fishing, the Surtees 5.5 Workmate is an ideal boat for those with limited budget and storage space
- Wide gunwales offer plenty of workspace
- Perfect softbait fishing platform, and possible dive tender
- Solid, smooth ride
- Surtees flooding keel offers 320kg of water ballast
- Seven rod holders and four drink holders
The standard Surtees 5.5 Workmate is fast becoming a Kiwi icon, occupying a sweet spot of price versus functionality. Big enough for two to four occupants, easy to store, light to tow, and an excellent price, means it is a popular model.
It comes in an enclosed hardtop and open cabin options, and now in a centre console configuration.
Why a centre console?
Softbaits are usually worked while the boat drifts, and the fishermen typically casts their lure forward of the boat then work it as the boat drifts past. This requires a boat with straight walk-through access from the bow to the stern. The centre console is the solution.
The boat is has the same 5.5m hull as the standard Workmate. It gives a solid, smooth ride, with a beam of 2.15m and a freeboard of 710mm. It also has the famous Surtees flooding keel, providing 320kg of water ballast when filled.
Out of the hole
The review boat came with an Evinrude eTec 90hp fuel-injected two-stroke outboard. The lightness of the Evinrude balances the hull, and with its quick-revving power the boat quickly lifts on the plane and empties the ballast chamber.
The helm station
The boat layout has the console unit exactly midships in the hull, and features a folding down windscreen to reduce the storage space required for the boat. A bench seat wide enough for two people is tucked behind the screen, and offers support for the skipper when standing while driving.
The dashboard on the review boat was dominated by a Lowrance HDS 7 chartplotter/sounder on a pedestal mount. The usual Evinrude engine gauges provide a visual aid to the performance of the motor. A useful lined parcel shelf is located under the dash, and a VHF radio is fitted just below. A second storage tray at the bottom of the console houses the battery but also provides space for items like lifejackets.
A conventional steering unit is fitted to the boat, which proved quite heavy when the engine was badly trimmed. However tweaking the trim angle reduced the effort required to steer.
An 80-litre underfloor fuel tank is fitted, with the usual Surtees gauge set into the floor. The fuel filler cap is also in the floor just ahead of the console. The front of the boat has an open anchor well with a welded alloy bollard. A grapnel anchor was provided, well suited to the rocky terrain often encountered when softbait fishing. A welded alloy bow rail and fairlead complete the bow area.
On a perfect day, the boat touched 32 knots with two adults and a full tank of fuel. The interior remained completely dry, although this is an open boat and in rougher conditions you can expect to take some spray. The windscreen adequately protected the skipper from the wind.
We took the boat over a few wakes and some tight turns. The hull is very smooth riding, and the chines grip well when heeled over to give a tight and positive turn. When accelerating hard the centre console lifts its bow more than the conventional layout, although it quickly levels out when on the plane.
Fit for purpose
Once up close to the rocks we were able to test the boat's suitability for purpose. Surtees has widened the gunwales on this model to make them very comfortable to sit on for extended periods. Deck grip pads are fitted at strategic positions, and there are four rod holders (plus accompanying drink holders) fitted around the boat. The Surtees alloy bait board with removable wooden cutting surface provides three additional rod holders.
Thanks to the extra ballast provided by the flooding keel, this boat is superbly stable. There was no problem with two hefty adults on the same side of the boat; even three or four people will not make this boat tender at rest.
The hull features a wide parcel shelf running all around the cockpit. The deck is finished in a non-slip checkerplate and is uncarpeted. Along the transom the trademark Surtees alloy hatch turns the full width of the parcel shelf into a locker, and when opened up this forms a bench seat.
This boat is also well set up for use as a diving tender. The wide boarding platform is split in half by the outboard mounting pod but still provides plenty of surface for sitting or gearing up. An alloy boarding ladder on the port side swings up out of the way when not in use. Although there is no step-through in the transom it is easy enough to step over from the boat onto the boarding platform. A centre console means that divers can gear up and then make a backwards exit into the water from just about any point on the boat.
Back at the boat ramp we were able to use the Surtees self-loading mechanism to drive the boat onto the trainer single-handedly. The boat is supplied on a single-axle unbraked Surtees trailer, and the overall weight of the package means it is easily towed by a moderately sized car.
The Surtees 5.5 centre console is a solid fishing machine, perfectly designed as a no-nonsense softbait fishing platform. It's highly versatile but will still appeal to the specialists amongst us.
Water ballast 320L
Fuel tank 80L
Engine as tested 90hp Evinrude eTec
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