Take your pick: Stabicraft 1850

By: John Willis , Photography by: Joe Press

Stabicraft 1850 Raised runabout ‘cuddy’ configuration with the hull, transom, cockpit, fishability, safety and stability of Frontier and Supercab Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Honda 90 works harder through the mid-range but still reaches same top speed as 115hp Frontier (34.1kt) Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 A great little package with excellent fishability and plenty of appeal as a family day boat, dive boat or ski boat for the kids Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Fully-lined cuddy provides plenty protection for gear (zips closed) — or perhaps the kids when they get tired — plus there’s a big storage bin Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 A joy to drive: soft, manoeuvrable and confident; a solid, stable fishing platform Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Game Chaser transom: better ride, greater stability, increased buoyancy; reverses at considerable speed Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Honda 115 and four-blade 15” stainless prop get boat out of the hole with minimal bow rise and no loss of visibility Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Wide, thigh-high gunwales provide work surface and seating all round plus large side storage; deep cockpit; low centre of gravity for excellent stability and handling Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Compact, versatile, family-friendly cabin; visibility terrific; dash and helm work well; good dry storage; well-placed footrests Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Bluewater battle tank is as tough as it looks, with performance and functionality to please the fussiest offshore anglers Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Built to meet the hardcore fisho’s needs; heaps of workable space in cockpit Stabicraft 1850
Stabicraft 1850 Seems to handle high-speed manoeuvrability better than Fisher, could be partly down to weight distribution; Honda 115 a great match Stabicraft 1850

Stabicraft’s capable, versatile and fisherman-friendly 1850 is available in several configurations to suit the needs of a wide range of buyers. Not sure which of these three great craft you’d tow home? Read on…

Take your pick: Stabicraft 1850
Taske your pick!

What a privilege it was to test three different configurations of the same boat on the same day. And given New Zealand manufacturer Stabicraft's 1850 hull has seen a complete revamp rather than just a minor alteration or name change, this was a test in the truest sense of the word.

The hull's most obvious variations are throughout the shoulder section, where traditional convex pontoon shapes often created a rather hard entry. The new Arrow Pontoon shape, however, has reduced those outward shoulders, making a great hull even better, with a noticeably softer and drier entry in the chop.

Previous editor Steve Raea tested the 1850 Supercab last year and found it "a mighty little boat with the integral strength and handling to punch well above its weight" (see tradeaboat.co.nz for the review), so we were waiting with bated breath to trial the new centre console 1850 Frontier — and true to our expectations, it's fantastic. It has all the elements of a sports-fishing weapon but with great storage, creature comforts and the ride of a sports car.

The third in the 1850 Series, the Fisher runabout, completes the trio and carves its own niche supporting the excellence of the Supercab and the Frontier. It's a terrific little boat in its own right and will certainly suit many customers.

The workshop

The 'Super Fish' transom fitted to the 1850s is a beauty, and with it Stabicraft has perfected the work station for fishos, divers and families. It incorporates an enclosure for batteries and switch gear, large cutting surface and live-bait tank, as well as grab handles and rod holders at a comfortable height. Two simple but effective fold-down seats sit either side of it and double as steps to disembark the deep cockpit.

Stabicraft has been hard at work redesigning the transom layout and has come up with a beauty: the Game Chaser. The designers have angled the pod and the rear steps, while at the same time extending the hull sheets all the way aft, creating a better ride, greater stability, increased buoyancy, improved holeshot and a hull that will reverse at considerable speed. There's a functional step on either side, a folding ladder and minimal distance from the work station to the transom. This is truly a working/fishing boat.

Solid platform

I love the Stabicraft Frontier, it's a joy to drive — soft, manoeuvrable and confident — plus it's enormously stable when you stop for a fish.

You can discuss the physics of the Stabicraft stability till the cows come home, but all I can tell you is it's one solid platform. A mid-mounted console puts the centre of gravity in the middle of the boat, slightly aft, which is right where it should be. While this means there's plenty of room for lure casting in the bow, you also have ample space to move when you want to stop at anchor and dangle bait off the back. Furthermore, this ideal weight distribution allows for terrific handling abilities.

Jumping aboard the Frontier, one of the first things you notice is the big, wide coamings and the depth of the freeboard. You step right down into the boat and feel secure with the thigh-high gunwales. Stabicraft achieved the freeboard by combining the high sides with a low checkerplate floor, which itself is not self-draining, but that's why the centre of gravity is so low and is a major factor in the boat's excellent stability and handling.

The boat's gunwales width meant it was almost like having a work surface and seat everywhere on the boat. They also offer a solution to the age-old problem of storage on a centre console by allowing cavernous side pockets all-round.

Since the standard Frontier package is supplied as a blank canvas ready to be personalised, there are no doorways or enclosures. But if it were mine I'd introduce some detachable canvas covers held on with Velcro fastenings. Either way, it's up to the owner.

One thing I think we can all agree on, however, is the need for appropriately-placed drink holders — something the designers have thankfully taken care of. There are six drink and rod holders on the gunwales, as well as rubber foot grips and short side rails. A wide beam means there's plenty of deck room around the console and I can see five or six fishing simultaneously from various positions.

Beyond adequate

The designers got the console right, too. The windscreen keeps the wind off the driver in the seated position, but standing is also comfortable and refreshing. Dash space is usually limited by the width of a console, but the Frontier has plenty of room for a large sounder/GPS, as well as a full array of gauges, switches and gadgets.

The console has access through a doorway to the rear, and there is further access and storage through the front. It also has a small step seat with a removable padded lid that, other than the large fishbox/storage/icebox seat, will be the second best seat in the house.

Another small seat in the bow can also double as a casting platform. The bow itself has a short, split bowrail finishing at a bowsprit and deep anchor well.

All of this works well but there's only limited paint protection and noise dampening for the anchor chain, so a little more customising could be required. Personally, I wouldn't bother with an anchor winch on the Frontier, but rather the simplicity of an anchor ball.

I initially thought the Frontier would be adequate with a 90hp four-stroke, but "adequate" is really the key word — gimme the 115hp any day. While top-end performance wasn't all that different with a light load, and the 115 was actually rougher and noisier at very low revs, its performance through the low- and mid-range was noticeable. There is a difference of around 45kg and 550cc between the Honda BF90 and the BF115, but the hull definitely liked the bigger and heavier engine. The extended hull plates and increased buoyancy help considerably. With a light load the Frontier gets a little flighty at more than 30kt (55.5kph), which is another reason the 115hp is the ideal engine.

The hull feels great at speed and tucks into a turn with no noticeable cavitation or other bad habits, and the hydraulic steering allows comfortable command. The four-blade 15-inch stainless steel propeller gets the boat up and out of the hole with minimal throttle and only a very slight bow rise and no loss of visibility.

Many purchasers will add T-tops, winches and all sorts of custom rod holder configurations and outriggers, but whatever your method and accessories, the 1850 Frontier is a terrific base to work from.

Fisher king

There's a little bit of duality to the Stabicraft 1850 Fisher: it's a terrific runabout with all of the hull, transom, cockpit, fishability, safety and stability of the Frontier and the Supercab, but this one is best described as a raised runabout, almost cuddy, configuration.

We took the Fisher for a run with the 90hp Honda four-stroke and immediately noticed the difference with mechanical steering as opposed to the hydraulic options fitted to the Supercab and Frontier. The 90 was slightly smoother at low revs and idle, yet its note was understandably not quite as pleasing at higher revs. Still, it gave satisfying performance, obviously working harder through the mid-range but surprising us all by reaching just a pinch off the same top speed as the Frontier (34.1kt/ 63.15kph) with its 115hp.

I've spent plenty of time in centre consoles, in both hot and cold conditions, and you may call me a wimp but I definitely prefer a small cuddy or enclosed hardtop. The Fisher's cuddy is not too big and not too small, with an opening five-sectioned glass windscreen. It has modern lines and an attractively rugged appearance. The fully-lined cuddy provides plenty of protection for tackle and accessories — or perhaps the kids when they get tired — as well as a big storage bin.

The Fisher's compact dashboard allows ample room for the Garmin 750S colour sounder/GPS/plotter (with NMEA and radar availability). Drop-down swivelling seats are mounted to welded aluminium boxes that extend from the side coamings, which allow extra floor space while still offering storage. I particularly liked the small sections next to the seats where all my fishing paraphernalia, phones and loose accessories usually end up.

Fishing and family

As the seated weight is farther forward, the Fisher's ride is slightly harder into the chop than the Frontier's. The bell-shaped cuddy tends to amplify water noise as well.

To be honest, when I'm out fishing I often get frustrated with rocket launchers that only hold six or eight rods. So imagine my disappointment when I discovered the Fisher's standard rocket launcher only holds four. But that's actually not too bad because it can be easily fixed.

Something we can't easily fix, however, is the anchoring setup. There's a functional bowsprit that would easily hold a SARCA, reef or plough, a nice split bowrail and a deep anchor well. But I certainly wouldn't like to be scrambling around the minimal side walkways, and not everyone wants to add the expense of an electric anchor winch. The lean-through windscreen is awkward and should you actually succeed in raising the anchor by hand, there's no mechanism to lock the chain in place.

Regardless, the Fisher is a great little package with excellent fishability and plenty of appeal as a family day boat. She's also got all of the prerequisites for a terrific diving boat and will happily tow the kids (both large and small) for some skiing and fun on water toys.

The smaller 90hp Honda works well and is considerably cheaper and lighter than the 115hp with the hydraulic steering option.

Wide appeal

As mentioned above, we've previously reviewed the 1850 Supercab so we won't go into too much detail here. Visibility is terrific, dash and helm work well, and it's got a good amount of dry storage in the cabin, well-placed footrests, large side pockets and a weight distribution that appears more favourable than the Fisher. It's still a little noisy from the open cabin, but the boat seems to handle better in turns and high-speed manoeuvrability.

All-in-all the 1850 hull is another progression in the unique Stabi design history. Each of the three configurations has its own identity and will appeal to a wide range of different customers.

These hulls are far from the ugly ducklings that took a number of years to gain acceptance in some corners. Most people have now seen the inner beauty of these boats, and those who haven't probably haven't driven them.

For more information contact Stabicraft on (03) 211 1828 or visit Stabicraft.com.

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