Released earlier in the year, the FC597, is the hardtop version of the FC595 we tested last month in our sister publication Alloy Boat. Freddy Foote gets aboard the FC597 and checks it out.
Last month I tested the FC595, and I loved it. The FC597 is largely the same boat as the FC595, the only difference is that it features a hardtop. Stepping aboard the FC597 gave me a feeling of déjà vu; the layout is largely identical as to what we saw on the FC595. The FC597 targets those who want a bare and robust fishing tinnie, with a generous cockpit space for fishing, fantastic stability due to its flooding ballast system and a large casting platform on the foredeck. What’s more it comes with the protection and shelter of a hardtop – truly a versatile package.
It is a boat well suited to both fishing and diving, and with the built-in seating aft, you’ve got a good family boat too. There is also plenty of storage forward in the cabin.
A key feature of the FC597 is stability. Like all FC Boats over 5m, the FC597 has two stability systems; aft, there is a flooding keel, which floods when the boat is at rest, making the craft ultra stable, then when underway the water drains out quickly. In the forward section next to the helm, there is a controllable ballast system, enabling the skipper to bring onboard the desired amount of forward ballast and then to dump it when it’s not needed.
A simple release valve is located down to the left of the helm to easily control the amount of water. Extra safety comes in the form of a sealed floor and flotation foam under the side decks.
To flush out the chambers after a day out on the water is a very easy process. Up under the fairlead are two small holes, big enough to push the end of a hose through. It enables you to flush out the ballast tank system with fresh water.
The FC597 has stability in buckets, which is what you want when you have a feature such as the forward casting platform on the foredeck. Extended gunnels provide ergonomic access around the sides to the foredeck and casting platform.
The brand has also incorporated a gull wing design that has been successful in its smaller models, which lends itself to making this boat very dry.
The gunnels and foredeck are treated with a tough, durable coating called ‘Deck Tread’ which comes as an option. It makes the foredeck non-skid and then also allows the gunnels to take knocks and scratches.
An open layout firstly sees an adequately sized boarding platform on either side of the outboard pod, with the port corner featuring an aluminium boarding ladder, again finished with ‘Deck Tread.’ A grab rail has also been welded onto the rear of the transom to aid in re-entering the boat from the water – this is especially great for divers.
As well as the boarding platform and ladder in the port corner, a walk through is also built into the transom with a removable slide in door. When the walkthrough is being used, the door slots into position on the opposite side out of the way.
Our test boat came with an 110L underfloor fuel tank, 10L bigger than what we see on the cabin model. The pedestal box seat also houses the fuelling pipes, with the filler for the fuel tank on the starboard exterior side by the helm.
The transom has hatches built in, which not only stores the on-board systems such as batteries up off the floor, but also provides another area for storage. Above is a sizeable bait board, which is available in three different versions.
Below on the floor, is the FC passive live bait tank. Passive meaning that it fills itself when at rest, and no pump is required, with water locked in until you choose to discharge it.
The cockpit is quite roomy for what is a boat just under 6m in length, with long side shelves running right up to the forward seating area. Two welded rod holders each side are situated along the coamings, with a further two situated in the transom and the large under-floor storage locker is big enough for dive bottles. Seating on our test boat consisted of a king/queen seat on the passenger side, with lift up access storage underneath. While the helm seat consisted of a fully adjustable pedestal seat mounted on a base.
Additionally seating is available in the aft starboard corner with a fold down seat, which when not in creates thigh padding. This allows an angler to play a fish right into the far corners of the boat – a great feature.
Small storage shelves are on either side of the helm, a convenient place for keys and cell phones. A handrail runs right along the edge of the forward dash area and is perfect for passengers to grab onto. Forward in the well-protected cuddy cabin there is a v-berth with a toilet under the forward centre squab. Bunk extensions can be added to extend the length of the bunks. I’m 1.9m tall and I managed to lay down quite comfortably with the bunk extension fitted. When not in use they can hang in the cabin out of the way or on the side next to the passenger seat. For privacy, a curtain can be drawn across the cabin entrance.
Back at the helm, our test boat had the engine instruments mounted in the carbon-finished dash, with the forward dash area carpeted. A 7” Furuno MFD was flush mounted and was complimented with engine instruments and controls for the Maxwell rope/chain windlass. The helm area was light and airy; with a lighter tone of carpet used to line the inside area, which I feel, really helps to lighten it up. There are no side windows and extra ventilation can be gained by opening the two roof hatches above.
Our test boat was fitted with a rocket launcher and handrails along both sides of the roof, providing a handhold when walking around the side to the foredeck.
The FC597 is rated for outboards from 115hp through to 150hp. The standard package as we saw on our test boat was a Mercury 115hp 4S CT (Command Thrust). The Command Thrust models use the same bigger gear case housing as the Mercury 150 4S, but with an all-new 2.38:1 ratio.
The 115hp CT pushed the boat along to 34.7 knots @ 6000rpm. On our test day, we had two of us on board and a light fuel load.
We found a comfortable cruise of around 20 knots @ 4000rpm. A quick look at the Mercury Smartcraft gauges showed the 115hp four-stroke was using 16 lph.
The 115hp CT gave great punch out of the hole and good acceleration mid-range and is the ideal engine match for the boat once you load it up with more fuel, gear, and passengers. Essentially, the CT engine is designed for pushing heavier loads and I thought it was the perfect match for the hull.
As with all FC Boats, handling was excellent. The 597 have an incredibly soft ride. We experienced a small chop, and it was quite evident to note that there was no banging and crashing or hull noise to contend with. It was also a very dry ride.
Back at the ramp, the FC597 is easily handled back onto its tandem axle trailer. If you wish, you can opt for a single axle, however, a tandem axle is only $400 more expensive.
On the trailer, the whole package weighs in at 1350kg, which will mean you can easily tow it behind a standard family car. I towed it to and from the Fish City Albany branch with a Holden Commodore with no trouble at all.
As tested, this FC597 was priced at NZ$82,995, and packages start from NZ$64,995. Overall a very well-appointed package with pretty much everything you need to get going on the water. Loads of great features as standard, yet still plenty you can opt to add to make it your perfect vessel.