Fish the bay, harbour or offshore in this tough new bluewater runabout. Built with Stessl's Platerix plate-alloy hull for maximum strength and durability, this sharply priced sport fisher has a raised deck, "shelter runabout" configuration, loads of interior space, ample freeboard, and a sharp bow entry shape for carving up the chop. Rigged with a Yamaha 115hp four-stroke, the 520 Bluewater is a welcome addition to the alloy fishing-trailerboat market.
In 2016, the Gold Coast's Horizon alloy boats announced it had secured the rights to manufacture and distribute the rival Stessl alloy-boat range. Since then, Horizon's Scott James has been fine-tuning the range, dropping some models, introducing others, and upgrading those that have traditionally proven very popular. The renowned Edge Tracker V-nose punts come to mind here.
Almost as well known within the Stessl range is the Bluewater series of coastal and offshore fishing boats. These sturdily built runabouts were introduced back in the early 2000s and were an immediate hit with fishermen. The boats combined robust construction with keen pricing, a raised-deck runabout layout, a large, uncluttered rear cockpit, and not much else. They were relatively simple, utilitarian fishing boats... and popular for this very reason.
In updating the latest Stessl Bluewater range, Horizon's Scott James has not messed with the original and successful formula, but has concentrated on upgrades to improve the boats where necessary.
The hulls, for example, now have a finer entry to improve the ride, but the chines aft are wider, flatter to boost stability and rear buoyancy.
Among the other changes was a re-design of the transom and outboard well layout to make it more compact, better suited to fishing.
The Bluewater range has also been expanded to five models. The boats are now available in 4.8m, 5.2m, 5.5m, 5.8m and 6.2m lengths.
For this review we have secured what has traditionally been the most popular model, the 520 Bluewater rigged with an extra-longshaft (25in) Yamaha 115hp four-stroke outboard.
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
Marine Tune on the Gold Coast has 520 Bluewater packages available with prices starting from $42k when paired with a 90hp Yamaha four-stroke outboard and a single-axle Dunbier galvanised-steel trailer.
This ripper price includes boat and trailer registrations and heaps of good gear, including the fastback-style transom with boarding platforms, foam-filled 4.0mm alloy-plate hull with tough Platerix underfloor stringer grid construction, carpeted plywood floor, fibreglass deck with curved, centre opening windscreen, dual pedestal helm chairs, folding rear bench seat, elevated battery and storage platforms, four rod holders, transducer brackets, bilge pump, 150L fuel tank, and more.
Our test boat was rigged with the more powerful 115hp four-stroke Yamaha outboard, along with a bimini and rocket launcher, rear bait board with live bait tank, underfloor kill tank, starboard side transom door, and a Raymarine Axiom fish finder/GPS combo display.
With the extra kit the BMT price rises to $48,990, but that is still very respectable for a turn-key plate alloy coastal fishing rig.
Anglers have traditionally favoured trailerboats with a runabout configuration as this layout generally has the most rear cockpit space. This is certainly true of the Stessl Bluewater boats. The interior of our 5.2m test boat, for example, is pretty much all cockpit with 2.9m of space aft of the helm station by 2.18m wide.
The cockpit is also deep with 645mm of freeboard along the sides, and flanked by full length, above floor side storage pockets.
Anglers will approve of the extra-wide 250mm side coamings (for fitting extra rod holders, downriggers, etc), the sturdy looking coaming rails (though not recessed) and the four included plastic rod holders.
The battery, which is too often left in a position exposed to the weather, has been secured on a shelf in the Bluewater, under the transom. It is ideally situated on the port side, alongside a storage shelf and behind a Sopac hatch.
The test boat was fitted with several rear cockpit options, the most desirable being the large underfloor kill tank, the port side transom door, and the multi-function rear bait board.
The latter is quite an elaborate unit, incorporating an aft facing rod rack, drink holders, bait board and a modest sized live bait tank. It was bolted to the transom so it can be removed as required.
Also removable is the padded rear bench seat which stretches three quarters of the way across the transom to the transom door. The bench is comfortable enough thanks to the nicely padded back-rest, and also folds down to the floor, although it does not sit totally flush with the transom wall when folded.
For additional seating, move forward to the dual pedestal-mounted chairs at the helm. Each chair swivels, slides fore and aft, and has a front bolster which flips up and back out of the way so you can easily drive the boat while standing.
In fact, the helm is comfortable whether you are standing or seated. The steering wheel and throttle are perfectly positioned, the windscreen sits at just the right height for six footers like me, and the instrument panel and fascia is well angled for a clear view.
The only issue we would have with the fascia is that there is not enough flat-panel space to flush-fit a decent sized electronics display, as evidenced by the mounting of the Garmin display in the test boat on a bracket in a position that looks to have been originally designed for circular analogue gauges.
Having noted the above, the bracket-mounted Garmin was easy to view and there was ample space below it, surrounding the steering wheel, for a marine radio and additional gauges.
We should note also that the dash and fascia is built into, and part of the single fibreglass deck mould, upon which the curved centre-opening windscreen is mounted. Apart from the older-style dash layout, the configuration works very well, as the raised deck has lifted the helm and screen up higher to provide the skipper and crew with decent shelter from wind and spray.
Other features of note include excellent grab rails for the skipper and first mate, easy access through the windscreen to the anchor well and foredeck, cup holders and a glove box to port, an underfloor safety gear bin, and framed, storage bin enclosures beneath the moulded deck.
ON THE WATER
Having tested several Stessl Bluewater boats in the past, I knew what to expect from this latest model, but once we were out on the water the new Horizon-built model performed substantially better than anticipated.
Much of the improvement appears due to alterations to the hull which has seen the entry shape sharpened up and the stern softened with a more moderate vee shape and wider chines. The alterations, combined with the foam-filling of the heavy duty Platerix hull has resulted in a much improved and quieter ride.
If you keep the hull straight and level so the fine entry shape can do its job then the 520 Bluewater rides very comfortably into heavy chop. It is also stable, well-balanced, and tracks nice and straight.
The hull also performs well in a beam and following sea, and feels agile and manoeuvrable at the helm during tight turns, crossing boat wakes, etc.
Our test boat was rigged with Yamaha's second generation 115hp four-stroke outboard and it delivered on all fronts, offering up plenty of power from idle through to wide-open throttle.
Our top speed exceeded 35 knots and the boat cruised most easily and economically at 3500rpm for a miserly fuel burn of 13.5l/ph at a boat speed of 17.9 knots. This combination yields a maximum range of 189 nautical miles.
The latest Stessl Bluewater is unquestionably the best version we have tested to date. It's a smart looking boat with a very practical shelter runabout configuration, great big fishing cockpit, and excellent performance.
The Bluewater is also sturdily built, well-priced against rival brands, and easy to stow and to tow. For bay and coastal fishing this new rig ticks a lot of boxes. - Jeff Webster, words and photos.
PERFORMANCE - SPEED
3.6kts (6.7km/h) @ 1000rpm
4.9kts (9.1km/h) @ 1500rpm
6.1kts (11.3km/h) @ 2000rpm
7.3kts (13.5km/h) @ 2500rpm
11.9kts (22.0km/h) @ 3000rpm
17.9kts (33.1km/h) @ 3500rpm
21.6kts (40.0km/h) @ 4000rpm
25.0kts (46.2km/h) @ 4500rpm
29.1kts (53.8km/h) @ 5000rpm
33.0kts (61.0km/h) @ 5500rpm
35.6kts (66.0km/h) @ 5800rpm (WOT)
PERFORMANCE – ECONOMY
1.9 l/ph @ 1000rpm
4.4 l/ph @ 1500rpm
6.1 l/ph @ 2000rpm
6.9 l/ph @ 2500rpm
10.3 l/ph @ 3000rpm
13.5 l/ph @ 3500rpm
17.3 l/ph @ 4000rpm
21.7 l/ph @ 4500rpm
28.4 l/ph @ 5000rpm
36.7 l/ph @ 5500rpm
40.1 l/ph @ 5800rpm (WOT)
MAXIMUM RANGE ON 95% OF 150l FUEL TANK: 188.94 @ 3500rpm
Length overall: 5.5m
Hull length: 5.3m
Hull weight: 550kg
Weight on trailer: Approx 1300kg (dry)
Length on trailer: 6.7m
Height on trailer: 2.4m
Bottom & transom alloy: 4.0mm
Topsides alloy: 4.0mm
Maximum power: 115hp
Maximum engine weight: 178kg
Engine as tested: Yamaha 115hp four-stroke
Fuel capacity: 150lt
Flotation standard: Basic
Maximum persons: Six
Phone: (07) 5576 7388
More at Gold Coast Boating Centre and Stessl Boats
Words By Jeff Webster