TEXT BY MIKE ROSE
In both the choppy waters of the Firth of Thames and the smoother swells out in the Motuihe Channel, Marco’s new 800 Sou’wester delivers calm comfortable rides — at 35 knots!
WHILE Marco Boats was founded back in the 1980s, it has been over the past 16 years, under the control of the Horne family, that it has become best known. Initially run by Bryan and Helen Horne, who also ran a successful engineering business, it is now managed by their son and fellow boating enthusiast, Dayne.
Based in the small Waikato town of Morrinsville, the Marco portfolio now includes almost 30 distinct models, ranging from small 4m dories to a large 9.5m custom hardtop. Their latest offering is the impressive 800 Sou’wester. At 8.7m LOA, it is a slightly smaller version 950 Sou’wester that won Marco the coveted Specialist Fishing Boat Open Award at the 2018 Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show.
Its first version is a smart and very sturdy looking vessel called Askari (an ancient Arabic word for ‘warrior”). It is the owner’s third boat and his second Marco (the first was a Westcoaster and the other a Marco 6.5 Sou’wester. Powered by an Evinrude ETEC G2 300hp outboard, it boasts two rather different places to call home: the Tamaki Boat Park on the upper reaches of Auckland’s Tamaki River and the Pauanui Waterways on the eastern coat of the Coromandel Peninsula.
Where many owners of large aluminium boats are primarily after a specialist fishing boat, Askari’s was adamant that the vessel must be equally suited to family cruising. He also had some fairly definite ideas on what he wanted in terms of interior design. The resulting layout is a remarkably clever one.
Putting as much emphasis on crew comfort and visibility as it does on the skipper’s, the design features a dinette table to port with a single forward seat and two behind. All three have hinging backrests. This means the passenger opposite the helm can either sit facing forward in the traditional manner or reverse the backrest and commune with those on the other side of the table.
Likewise, while the two seats at the back of the dinette will normally face forward while underway; at rest, with the hardtop’s bi-folds wide open, they can switch over to face aft. This allows them to be use as spotter chairs when game fishing or as a sort of mini grandstand for those not directly involved in the fishing or other cockpit activities.
The design has not only created a very versatile seating arrangement, it has also ensured an extremely comfortable and accommodating one. For example, while charging through the Motuihe Channel, we had four blokes on board. None of us was what you might be call tiny and yet, with the doors closed, we were all comfortably seated; and easily able to converse: the skipper at the helm and the other three around the dinette. Thanks to the height at which these seats have been placed, we were all also able to have a great view all around us. These seats have all been custom designed and built by Marco and feature the company’s standard upholstery.
But, as they are fond of saying in those ads: “Wait, there’s more…” At rest and with the bi-folds open, those twin aft seats can also hinge forward to create a flat sheltered spot on which to place a portable Weber gas barbecue. With the port side of the hardtop rather busy with those versatile seats and the dinette, the starboard side has been left relatively clear, to provide access to the helm station and cabin. This lack of clutter has also left space for a couple of both attractive and functional features: a set of three timber drawers in the rear of the helm seat and pullopen trash locker (also with a smart timber fascia) in the starboard bulkhead just inside the hardtop.
The dash is a compact, well laid out affair with twin Simrad 12” Evo3 MFD screens sitting by side beneath the Evinrude digital engine panel and above the tidy row of Carling DC toggles. In addition to the chartplotter, the MFDs are also connected to three transducers: a 1kW high Chirp, a 1kW low Chirp and a 3D.
So that he can take out and safely manoeuvre the 8m-plus Askari by himself, the owner has also installed a Vetus bow thruster and the control panel for this and the Zipwake auto tabs and Maxwell rope/chain windlass complete the dash. The Simrad VHF and Fusion Apollo sound system are mounted above the windscreen. .
Lighting inside the hardtop is by way of a brace of ceiling mounted Hella LED white/red units and a well-placed small LED spot to illuminate the barbecue when in use. There is also a spotlight mounted on the cabin roof and twin LED cockpit floods on the back of the hardtop.
Visibility from the helm and indeed from throughout the entire hardtop is superb. The windscreen is a two-pane model so there are minimal mullions to get in the way. The side windows are both large and able to be opened and the twin hatches above are both forward facing, ensuring welcome cooling airflow on even the most stifling of trolling days.
Although Askari’s cabin has not been primarily designed for overnighting, it is large enough and comfortable enough to sleep two and there is a plumbed Jabsco toilet under the centre squab if required.
The great thing about an 8.7m long vessel with a 2.7m beam is that there is no need to be parsimonious with the cockpit space. Askari’s is not only delightfully large and uncluttered, it is also smartly appointed, thanks largely to the generous amount of Ultralon U-Dek on the sole, on the coamings and on the spacious aft platform.
This latter is particularly impressive: large enough to accommodate a sizeable gamefish. Well protected by sturdy pushpit rails, it is also a great place from which to fish. It is also home to a brace of large tuna tubes and, thanks to a swing section of the pushpit that doubles as a boarding ladder, a great spot for swimmers and divers to get ready. Once back on board, those who have been in the water can wash down thanks to the handily positioned pullout shower, connected to a 60-litre water tank under the hardtop floor and with water heated through the engine.
The transom top is a smooth affair with a Marco custom board centrally positioned and featuring a hard plastic inset and three rod holders (there are another three in each of the side decks).
The batteries and fuel filters and the like are all safely protected in their own enclosed transom lockers and there is access to the engineering connections below. The now obligatory livebait tank is in its traditional spot under the walk-thru’ on port.
The side lockers (just one per side) are both wide and deep, providing easily enough space for Askari’s large fenders along with the washdown pump and a host of fishing gear.
For’ard, under the bifold hardtop windows, is a dedicated space for a large Dometic chilly bin.
FAST & QUIET
In an effort to get good photos in the blustery, showerladen weather common on New Zealand’s northeastern coasts at the tail end of winter, we had two attempts: at the mouth of the Waihou River, out from Kopu on the Firth of Thames, and in the Motuihe Channel in the Hauraki Gulf.
The conditions in each were very different. The Firth was choppy and hard in the way shallow water often is while the Channel was relatively smooth with just a minor swell. In both conditions, it was hard not to be both surprised and impressed by the way this first Marco 800 performed. For a start, the chop (and in the channel the big ferry wakes) made little impression on either the ride or the comfort of those on board. Even when bouncing over the worst of the chop, there were no hard landings and none of that rattling one often experiences in alloy vessels in rough water.
Part of that is obviously the long waterline and the substantial displacement (3200kgs dry weight) but a lot is also due to the construction. Not only is the hull bottom a thick 6mm (with 5mm topsides), there are also eight individual longitudinal stringers and the cockpit sole has been securely welded to the hull sides. The result is an almost completely rattle-free ride, regardless of the conditions or the boat’s speed.
Askari’s owner chose a 300hp Evinrude ETEC to power the 800, largely due to the fact that his two previous boats had both been Evinrude powered and he “had never had a problem”. He also like the engines’ efficiency and economy and the fact the 300 came with a 10-year warranty.
It certainly performed exceptionally well for us. The 300 lifted the big Marco onto the plane with a minimum of fuss and offered steady predictable acceleration throughout the rev range with no “soft” spots.
In fact, it was so smooth that, on a number of occasions, remarks were made about how sedate things were — until we looked at the instruments and realised we were barrelling quietly along at over 35 knots! (Not at all bad for a nearly 9m boat weighing in at well over three tonne!) The big Marco was also incredibly easy to turn sharply, even at full speed, with absolutely no obvious vices. It was also capable of backing up sharply into the waves and, provided the stepthru’ hatch was in place, this was a relatively dry experience.
Even with the walkway open and some water sloshing in, there was no need to worry. There is a 50mm upstand between Askari’s cockpit and the cabin to ensure no water gets inside.
There is an enormous amount to like about Marco’s new 800 Sou’wester. In terms of performance, it literally eats the nasty chop that is such a persistent feature of New Zealand’s estuarine coastal waters. It is easy and predictable to handle and clearly capable of handling big horsepower. In fact, if it were not for the fact it boasts a top speed of over 35 knots, one would be tempted to wonder if it was a touch under-powered. It’s layout, while probably not to everyone’s taste, has a lot to recommend The ability, while underway, to accommodate four substantial blokes, comfortably seated, is no small feat. Combine that with a seriously large cockpit and spacious platform area and you surely have a package that will appeal to gthose in the market for an 8m alloy powerboat.
- Model & Model: Marco 800 Sou’wester
- Price as tested: $250,000
- Priced from: $180,000
- Type: Alloy monohull
- Construction: Alloy
- LOA: 8.7m
- Beam: 2.7m
- Deadrise: 17 degrees
- Height on trailer: 3.3m
- Trailerable weight: 3200kgs (dry)
- Test Power: 300hp Evinrude G2 ETEC
- Propeller: Rebel 17”
- Max Speed: 35.7 knots
- Power options: Outboard/stern drive
- HP Range: 300-400hp
- Fuel Capacity: 400L
- Trailer: Marco Custom