Based in the hardtop mecca of the lower South Island, Invercargill’s Image Boats has carved itself an enviable reputation for producing customised hardtops from 6.5m – 10m. Freddy Foote went to Mangawhai Heads to look at a customised Image sold into the North Island, the 8.75 Fishmaster.
This particular model, the Image 8.75 Fishmaster, is one of the biggest of Image Boats’ standard hull designs, one size down from the 9.3m version, a 10m version is also available.
The 8.75 is a big boat, not only from the sheer length, but also the 2.7m beam, which is a feature of the Fishmaster range. The Fishfinder models come in the same lengths, but have a 2.5m beam.
Sales for the entire Image range have been good in recent years, with many of the orders coming soon after boat shows and after magazine boat tests.
Built tough, Image Boats uses traditional construction techniques with stringers and transverse bulkheads, along with particularly solid 5mm or 6mm hulls. The superstructure plate thickness is either 3mm or 4mm.
This boat had been commissioned by Bill Nash of Mangawhai Heads, just south of Whangarei. He had read the test of the 7.85m Fishfinder that we featured in June/July 2004, and decided that this was the concept for him. Together with Dean Wilkes at Image Boats, they customised the boat to suit Bill’s needs, right from the internal layout of the cabin and saloon, to the type of engine that was going to be powering the boat.
Bill uses a tractor to launch ‘Northern Image’ at the Mangawhai Heads ramp, as it’s primarily where he does his boating, and he doesn’t have an appropriate tow vehicle yet to tow the 2800kg vessel. Once the boat and crew are in the water, the tractor is parked and the tractor driver can board the boat from the fold-down ladder on the bow, and walk around the wide side decks.
We set out across the Mangawhai Heads bar at high tide, and out to check a cray pot that Bill had set recently. A keen diver, Bill had asked for the winch and lifting arm to be fitted to his boat, as he didn’t always want to have to dive for crays, and the winch makes the lifting of a pot a lot easier.
A quick check of the pot revealed that it was empty, so we re-set it, and headed out to Hen Island for a bottom fish to get some snapper on board. The first spot we tried turned out to be a gear destroyer, as we seemed to have stumbled across a large school of barracudas. We switched to a second spot a little further around the island where we got into some good snapper, and by the end of the afternoon almost had our quota of fish on board, all up over 35cm.
Forward in the cabin, there is the traditional V berth that converts to a double berth with the addition of an infill. Storage underneath the squabs is minimal with the space used to store the extra infill. This boat had been customised with a hammock style bunk on the starboard side that despite its appearance has enough length for a large adult to lie down and extend fully. Side shelf storage space is also available on the insides of the cabin.
In the saloon area there is an accent of comfort and entertaining. On the port side is a small dinette, which consists of a table and seating on either side. The forward seat has a flip/flop backrest that enables the passenger to face aft around the table, or face forward when underway. The table can also be dropped down, and with the addition of an infill, it can be converted into a sleeping berth.
The galley area is situated on the starboard side and consists of a bench unit, complete with drawers, fridge, sink and cook top. Forward of that is the helm, with a storage shelf available to the side.
The helm seat was designed in such a way that you could sit or stand to drive. The standing position allowed you to lean back against a padded bulkhead in front of the galley, or you can sit to drive by lifting up a seat and locking it down into position. I preferred to stand while driving. There was plenty of foot room to position my feet and I didn’t feel too crammed in, and was able to reach the controls easily.
The dash had been covered with vinyl trim, and housed various switches, the control for the Maxwell rope/chain winch mounted on the foredeck, as well as the centre mounted Mercury Verado display. A Lowrance sounder /chart plotter was mounted on a bracket above. Directly above the helm, a spotlight had been fitted for night use, with the handle protruding through the roof so it could be swivelled and operated by the skipper.
Access out to the cockpit is through a lockable aluminium door that locks into the open position via a rubber doorstop. As you can see in the photos the cockpit is huge, which is greatly accentuated by the boat’s 2.7m beam. We fished four easily, with each of us having a whole corner to ourselves and then some, and I expect that to fish six would be just as easy.
Four-rod holders were dotted around the topsides, with additional holders positioned on the bait board.
A large boarding platform is sure to be a favourite with divers, as well as the large walkthrough built into the transom, and the ‘T’ type boarding ladder.
On the opposite side from the diver ladder was a fully plumbed live bait tank.
Storage space for rod and gaffs etc is available in the form of two side pockets that run the length of the cockpit. A wash-down hose is built into the side deck in the aft port corner, and has enough coiled hose to wash down the entire cockpit.
At the front of the cockpit is a fully enclosed shower and head, with hot and cold water.
While no under-floor storage space is available in the cockpit, as this area is taken up with the fuel tank, a lift-up hatch it situated inside the saloon and is big enough to store dry gear, such as dive and overnight bags. Dive bottle storage has been customised under the dinette area.
Also, as the boat is built for big rough water conditions, grab rails have been positioned right around the boat, so that you can navigate the boat safely, by going from grab rail to grab rail.
2800kg at almost 40mph!
As it always seems to be when testing a boat, you get 30 plus knots of wind when testing a bow rider, and 10 knots when testing a serious rough water hardtop.
Test day conditions were perfect for boating, and the kind of day when I realise that I have one of the hardest jobs in the world… With a light breeze blowing, and only a small swell rolling, we reached Hen Island after leaving Mangawhai Heads in around 20 minutes.
Although I didn’t get to experience the boat in any really wild water, the hull shape ensures that the boat won’t broach, and Dean Wilkes, the man behind Image Boats, assures me that none of his boats has ever broached. In fact when you sign up to buy an Image, you get a water test in Bluff harbour, in conditions as rough as you can possibly find to get a true idea of what the boats are capable of.
The 275 Mercury Verado was a perfect match for the boat. In fact the owner had pretty much chosen the engine before he decided what boat he actually wanted to put it on.
The lowest idle speed was 4.0mph @ 560rpm, and then with the throttle right down, the boat topped out at 39.0mph @ 6380rpm. Many of the boats from Image are matched with twin outboards, and I can imagine that the 8.75 with twin 135 Verados would be an ideal combination. To get an idea of fuel consumption I observed that the boat was using 39.5 litres per hour at 4350rpm with a speed of 26.0mph. And at 30.0mph @ 5000 rpm was using 61.0 litres per hour. Mind you, with a 500-litre fuel tank, it would take plenty of boating to get through that lot.
So overall, I can honestly say that I was thoroughly impressed with the 8.75 Image, with finish, features, handling, and design. Just going by the owner’s reflection, he’s got himself a boat that totally meets his needs, and had a builder who was more than happy to work through the ideas and thoughts from both parties to find a concept that really works. I’m sure that for the future, there will be more deep South influence in the North and if you are after a serious overnight hardtop, an Image should be on your shortlist.
- Model: Image 8.75 Fishmaster
- Price as Tested: $179,000
- Designer: Dean Wilkes
- Material: Aluminium
- Type: Hardtop
- LOA: 9.05m
- Beam: 2.7m
- Deadrise: 18 degrees
- Trailerable Wght: 2800kg
- Height on Trailer: 2.85m
- Engine Capacity: 250-400HP
- Power Options: Inboard/outboard/twin outboard
- Fuel Capacity: 500La
Performance – Mercury Verado 275
Speeds recorded on a Lowrance GPS and rounded off to the nearest 1/2 mph.