The more things change, the more they stay the same. Barry Thompson met up with Graham Ransom, 25 years after their last boat test together and found the doyen of trailerable aluminium boat building still much as he was.
Twenty Five years ago I wrote that the future of aluminium runabouts in this country seemed secure with the introduction of the Fyran Futura. At 15ft it was the biggest production trailerable aluminium boat available and with features such as polyurethane foam, painted hull, back to back padded seating, built-in side shelves and welded construction, it was way ahead of anything else on the market. Since then aluminium boats have followed the progress of the welding machines and as they got better and the materials improved so did the boats.
Gone is the old cut and hack method from a few keen pioneers, replaced with sophisticated construction techniques, cad-cam designs and a plethora of shapes, sizes and brands. Twenty Five years later I was once again on the water with one of the designers of the Futura and found to my delight that nothing much has changed over those years. Apart from the method of construction, the materials available and the styling, things are still very much as they were when I first met the laid back Graham Ransom.
His philosophies haven’t changed either and his dedication to producing quality, affordable production aluminium boats was just as I remembered. Ransom, along with Trevor Fyfe, were the founders of Fyran Boats in 1968, with Ransom later going on to design and build the first Ramcos and about 9 years ago setting himself up with his own brand, Marco. With nearly 30 years in the aluminium boat building industry you could say he knows what it’s all about! The Marco 460 is one of four basic hull models built from the Morrinsville factory, which currently produce around 200 boats a year. Ransom has no ambition to get much bigger and is content to produce a limited range to an enthusiastic and loyal clientele.
The accent is on low maintenance, trouble free, high quality, tough boats, that whilst certainly not wanting for anything, don’t normally come highly speced out. As he says, they are boats designed for the average boatie who wants something that he can go fishing and diving from. Today’s Marcos are pitched more at the fisho who doesn’t mind “knocking” his boat around, something that is very important in Marco’s biggest market around the Waikato and Coromandel Coast. One of the biggest differences in the Marco 460 and other boats of its size is the 4mm plate welded hull, with 3mm pressed sides. This adds about $500 to the boat price (over the 3mm bottom option) and takes the hull weight to 310kgs. The 4mm plate is a higher tensile alloy than the pressed 3mm and it gives you a much stiffer boat, as all the bulkheads, frames and even the side shelves are welded and not riveted. In the 3mm bottom / 2mm side models, welding onto the thinner plate presents too much distortion. The thicker alloy is also of a higher grade and far more “knock proof” for serious boaties and divers.
Despite this being such a small boat (4.65m overall), there is a distinct lack of ‘tinnie noise’ and the boat feels a lot stiffer and capable of handling choppy water in more comfort than most others its size. The boat is built solidly, with six longitudinal frames stitch-welded into the bottom with cross frames and a plywood floor. The hull and deck are welded and then a neat gunnel capping covers it all for good looks.
There’s not a rivet in the boat. The foredeck has a compound curve which offers a very strong area and doesn’t flex when heavy guys stand all over it. My first impression of the boat was on a choppy Auckland harbour and the 15 deg deadrise hull just ate it. There was the occasional knock, but after all, this is a small boat and I was pushing it hard at times to see how it would react.
The bow section has full shoulders that hold the nose up, to stop you broaching in a big following sea and help keep the spray down. The hull is a constant 15 degree vee for the last 1.5m, with narrow chines and no strakes. It’s an easy boat to get on the plane and accelerated from idle to 30mph in 9.50 seconds. In a .5m chop the Marco 460 sat comfortably at around 4500 rpm @ 26 mph and rode without any obvious handling vices. Although rated to 60hp, the Tohatsu 40 pushed us along at an acceptable 33.5mph @ 5800 rpm and was responsive throughout the rpm range. In tight full throttle turns the Marco 460 turns amazingly well, with no side slipping or flicking the transom loose. The single cable steering was reactive to every movement of the wheel and overall the boat was a pleasure to drive.
It’s a boat that I personally would rather drive standing up, although I did find the seat base too far forward. Swivelling it on an angle fixed it, although some improvement could be made here. When seated, the addition of a footrest would be worthwhile also. Seated you are protected by a large three piece perspex screen and standing you look well over the top, but like me you may feel you are too far forward and keep wanting to trim up to get more bow lift.
The 460 has a small cuddy cabin with self draining anchor locker which is accessed only from the inside. You stand in the massive alloy forward hatch opening to do your anchoring chores. While our particular boat came with the basic layout, you can add side shelves and even a squab inside. The layout is open plan with a small bulkhead that takes care of the helm station and to port the flat area is ideal to position your fishfinder with a clear view for the driver.
The helm is large enough for all the instruments you’ll ever need with a small outboard. Seating in the test boat was twin swivelling pedestal mounted bucket seats and two rear jump seats, although you can have back-to-back buckets forward or a combination of the two. The rear seats are not removable as they form part of the structure of the boat. Storage is well catered for with narrow side shelves (so they don’t get in the way when fishing), big cavities under the cockpit sole and aft deck, as well as in the forward seat pedestals. There’s positive polystyrene foam under the floor, although this can be removed in the centre section to take a 55 litre fuel tank.
Other than that, the fuel is carried in two tote tanks which fit down aft, either side of the battery and bilge recess. Although the bilge pump isn’t standard, a base plate is welded in to take care of retrofitting. There’s also a U section plate welded onto the outside of the transom so you don’t have to screw into the main hull when fitting a transducer. Fisherman and divers will like the wide side decks and loads of room to move in the cockpit. If you want some changes to the layout to suit your own needs, then Marco Boats are prepared to make the necessary alterations, unless they think it’s going to be detrimental to the performance of the boat.
The 4mm Marco 460 came about after a lot of requests for a heavier boat and since its introduction over 20 have been sold. This tags onto the 500 or more of the 3mm versions that have left the factory in the last eight years and if current trends continue, the 3mm option may well be discontinued.
There are now over 2000 Marco boats on the water, with the average size around 5m and whilst Ransom is one of the most experienced trailerable aluminium boat builders and designers in the country, he doesn’t have any major plans to expand. He produces every boat as though it was his own and that’s just the way he wants to keep it. The Marco 460 is a tough little competitor that wears the Ransom name with distinction.