FC 500 – Centre Console

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FC500

A few issues back we brought you a test on the FC430, a no-nonsense open fishing dinghy from Fish City. While the success of the FC430 has been exceptional, there were still those that wanted something bigger. Welcome to the FC500

Fishing is New Zealand’s biggest recreational pastime, be it from rocks and beaches, tinnies or motor yachts. Kiwis will go fishing in anything, even if the boat’s more suited to towing a wake board than storing rods. There’s no doubt that aluminium is the flavor these days for those that have a special bent for fishing, with a massive selection of alloy trailer boats from 4m to over 9m. Hardtops and pontoon boats have been the big winners. However, not everyone can afford, has a place to park, or wants, a big boat. I live on the beach at Manly, Whangaparaoa, just North of Auckland and a few months ago I tested the budget package tiller steer FC430. What an awesome little boat. 

It was a breeze to launch off the beach, lovely to drive and when we came back very easy to hose down and clean up. Best thing is we also caught plenty of fish. As a big open dinghy I doubt there is anything better….until maybe now, that is.

The FC500 is a development of the FC430, it’s just that it’s bigger. Like the FC430 it is also available as an open dinghy or as a centre console. Not one to ignore the potential of customers’ requests, Fish City’s Ross Christensen commissioned a big sister for the FC430 after being approached by clients for a centre console option. After trying various ideas in the FC430, he decided that what he really needed was something bigger, so the FC500 was born.

A variation of that console is also available on the FC430.

He adds that once they had proven the hull was what they wanted, the design process started on the centre console. “We looked at numerous ideas, from fibreglass to even just a large chilly bin type centre console, but in the end decided that a proper aluminium centre console was obviously better suited to the style of boat we were marketing”, adds Ross. If the FC430 lacked anything it was dry storage – apart from the space under the foredeck – but in the FC500 centre console there is heaps. The console has come in for extra attention to not only be the platform for the steering, instruments and sounder, but also a generous storage compartment, accessed through a So-Pac hinged door and dedicated seating with storage under.

There is enough space under the hinged forward seat to store all your dive gear. The upper forward locker houses the battery and spare oil, plus there’s still space for a few more bits and bobs. On top of the console, the builders have added a nice open tray with surrounding upstand that gives you somewhere to toss the car keys, cellphone and sunnies. The standard boat comes with a Humminbird bracket mounted sounder, but if you want to upgrade to something bigger and more powerful then there is enough real estate on the dash for at least a 10” MFD screen.

Just as in the FC430 there is a two-level storage area under the foredeck, which also incorporates a reasonably sized open top anchor locker. There is space here also for a small capstan. Provision has been made for rod holder mounts under both gunnels.

Size Matters

The big difference between the FC430 and FC500 is really all about size. The FC430 is 4.3m overall, whereas the FC 500 is 5.0m. The FC430 has an external beam of 1.65m, with the FC500 extended out to 2.05m. Both have an internal coaming height of 57mm, but the external coaming height of the FC500 is marginally taller. Both also have 30mm wide side decks and a treadplate welded-in sole. The foredeck area is the same on both the FC430 and FC500.

The fishing ‘footprint’ internally for the FC430 is around 4.50sqm, whereas the FC500 is 5.30sqm – a lot more space for your soft bait fishing. As for the weight, the FC430 has a towing weight of around 350kg and the FC 500, 390kg. Overall, everything is proportionally bigger.

Construction of both the FC430 and FC500 is the same, with 4mm plate hull, transom and deck and 3mm plate used on the sides and gunnels. Both have the same 12-degree deadrise.

Drivability

The difference in driving the FC430 with tiller steer and the FC500 from a console is huge and there’s no doubt in a boat this size with the horsepower on the transom the centre console is the way to go. But there are some – especially commercial guys – who are happy with tiller steer, so that option is available on the FC500. The big thing is that it drops the all-up package price from an already very reasonable $NZ24,995 down to $NZ19,995, leaving quite a bit over for extra fishing tackle.

Like the FC430, the FC500 is really an inshore calm water fishing boat, but the team at Fish City have ‘gone wide’, fishing off Raglan and even around Channel Island in the Colville Channel.
My test run was again off the beach at Manly, about 5km straight out onto the worm beds. The sea state was very mild and as expected the FC500 performed just fine. I did however feel that the boat drove very flat and lacked bow lift, even when the outboard was trimmed to the max.

Craig Archer, boat sales manager for Fish City Auckland, says that once you bolt on a heavier 4 stroke 40hp/60hp outboard (around 25kg more) the extra weight on the transom and in the case of the 60hp, the extra power, makes a noticeable difference to the trim of the boat. Top speed with a 60hp outboard is around 32 knots (37 mph). Our test boat was the very basic centre console model with a 2-stroke tiller steer 40hp Mercury ELPTO. Top speed was 27 knots (31 mph).

It proved an extremely stable fishing platform, with excellent stability and with just two of us soft baiting there was plenty of space. Like the FC430 your catch can be stowed in the dedicated transom fish bin, which can be filled with fresh seawater to act as a passive live bait tank. So what do you get for your $NZ24,995 standard package price? Firstly there’s the engine, a Mercury 40hp ELPTO, the Voyager low rider trailer and of course the all-alloy boat. Standard equipment includes a Humminbird 550 sounder, nav lights, battery and isolator switch, plus eight rod holders. Also included is the standard trailer, which has LED lights, registration and a WoF.

In all available spaces under the welded tread plate floor and under the gunnels the hull is packed with positive flotation. This means that the FC500 is virtually unsinkable and the flotation under the gunnels is designed to stop the boat rolling over if swamped.

The FC boats have been built to survey standards! while this seems a bit extreme for the size of these craft it is a main point of difference between the FC range and other brands, this should give the first time buyer confidence as well as good resale value.

Like the FC 430, the FC500 is an affordable way to go boating. You don’t need a 4WD to tow it and like the Fish City adverts say, it is a perfect mix of practicality, performance and price.

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