How does the southernmost production boat building company in the world get away with it? Their boats just seem to get better and better. Just when you think they have it right, they go ahead and improve them.
Paul Adams and the team at Stabi-Craft, a highly efficient aluminium boat building company based a few miles south of Invercargill, have been designing, building and successfully marketing their specialist hull forms for a number of years. They have graduated with honours from the functional commercial workboat to superbly sculptured rigid buoyancy boats that still incorporate the solid build and smooth ride, but with a little more style and finesse.
The new Stabicraft 533XR was one of a number of new models the company released at the New Zealand Boat Show and although based on the same hull as the 530 is aesthetically very different. Stabi-Craft’s new styling calls for softer lines with more curves and a very different layout that is very much targeting the family boatie and not just the serious fisho. Stabi Craft have managed to retain all the attributes of the hull shape and neatly packaged the needs of the two different markets into the 533XR.
The 533 uses the same flat-sided extruded pontoons as the 530, but the forward sections have been altered and the underwater sections given a tweak. Last year when I tested the 530 I felt it needed a little more bow lift but not so with the 533. Adams has made the chines wider and the kick down steeper, which has certainly improved the riding attitude.
The cuddy cabin is typical Stabi-Craft with the fully welded chequerplate floor running through at the same level as the cockpit and adding tremendously to the rigidity of the boat. Twin removable squabs have storage under and afford sitting headroom for two, plus are large enough for children to lay on.
Side trays provide extra storage and like the entire interior are lined with soft fabric, taking away the cold clinical alloy look. The overhead Weaver hatch gives access to the forepeak and the anchoring area, but it’s really a bit small for someone like me.
As the 533 is not pitched directly at the fishing market, Stabi-Craft have chosen to offer only a shallow open anchor tray. It may only be a 5.3m boat but it comes with a big reputation, so I would like to have seen a lrger anchor locker to compliment the oversized fairlead and large cleat, both capable of handling big tackle.
The hatch also folds back onto the windscreen so be careful not to scratch the perspex when you open it. With the boat’s reputation for stability, I found it easier to walk around the wide side decks and sit on the foredeck to carry out the anchoring chores.
The lack of any bulkheads between the cuddy cabin and the cockpit accentuate the space aboard and make this an ideal boat for divers and fishers. I can vouch for this because that’s exactly the crew we took aboard for the test on a very pleasant day trip from Auckland to Little Barrier. Sea conditions were kindly with a very light breeze blowing and no more than a ripple on the water when we ran the 30 nautical mile trip from Gulf Harbour. During one of those very special calm winter days we fished and dived all around the island before returning home. The return journey was the calmest I have ever experienced from Little Barrier, with mirror smooth water broken only by the pod of whales and some dolphins we encountered half way back to Kawau Island.
Our divers found the cockpit spacious enough to make it easy to change into their gear, although the absence of a boarding ladder (optional extra) made getting back aboard a little difficult. The wide flat side decks suited both the divers and the fishers and once the gear was cleaned away there was plenty of space for three people to toss a line over. The low coamings were ideal when fishing, dropping over when wakeboarding or leaning on to retrieve the SCUBA gear when our divers resurfaced. The buoyant rigid alloy sponsons provided unequalled stability at rest.
The removable moulded aft bin seat could have been left at home as there were only two guys aboard for the trip, although it did serve well as bait storage and later a place to stow the catch of the day. Unfortunately the fishing wasn’t great and most of the legal sized bugs were in berry so we came back a little light on bounty.
The cockpit layout can be designed to suit the owner with a number of seating options. For the test boat we had a swivel bucket forward and lower bin seat to port and a single swivelling helm bucket seat opposite. Storage is available in the seat bases as well as side trays and under the aft deck. The side shelves are long enough for rod storage and there’s a hidden ducting arrangement to hide away all the steering and control cables from the outboard. The aft space is better used for auxiliary tote tanks, although with an under-floor fuel tank there is hardly any need. The battery and oil tank are mounted behind the rear seat on a raised alloy platform to starboard and it was good to see the fuel filter positioned high enough to be out of any potentially wet areas. A battery cut-off switch and bilge pump completed the componentry necessary for CPC classification.
I was particularly impressed with the high perspex screen, which held off the chill morning wind and undoubtedly would also eliminate most spray from the cockpit. The driving position is great either seated or standing with the controls and all instrumentation conveniently arranged, plus the footrests are strategically placed for both forward seat occupants. The 533 does not have a big fascia, but there is enough room for the usual tacho, speedo, trim gauge and battery meter. You don’t need a fuel indicator as this is already mounted in the centre of the cockpit sole. The deep space behind the fascia is adequate for your entire bracket mounted electronics.
Standard steering in the 533 is mechanical, although hydraulic can be fitted for an extra cost. I found with the Evinrude 115 Ficht, the standard steering did the job and even when trimmed right out and pulling maximum rpm there was very little torque on the wheel.
The Stabi-Craft 533 is rated for 70 hp – 115hp so the 115hp Ficht was right at the top of the range. On the Eagle GPS we recorded a top speed of 43.5 mph @ 5800 rpm and a low of 4 mph @1000 rpm. My kids reckon that wakeboarding speed was best at 3200 rpm @ 18 mph and on our trip to Little Barrier in ideal conditions we sat on 5500 rpm @ 40 mph both ways.
While the 115 Ficht and all its fuel and emission savings is certainly a great match for the 533XR, it does bump the package price up to $37840. The same boat fitted with a carburetted Johnson 90 retails for $31265 and is still good for close to 40 mph.
Stabi-Craft have an enviable reputation for designing boats with rough water capabilities and as with all the models I have tested over recent years I have found them to be exceptional riding boats for their size. The wide curved underwater shape of the sponsons contributing to both a soft and smooth ride and they are also very dry boats. Although we had nothing but calm weather for this test, knowing how the 530 rides I have no doubt that the 533’s handling and ride in adverse seas would be even better.
In all Stabi-Craft I have tested previously I have been impressed as to their suitability as a diving and fishing boat, but with the 533 it’s a little different. This is a boat undeniably relating to the recreational family boatie looking for a boat that serves all purposes. The more modern and stylish lines coupled to the family boating type layout will have tremendous appeal for those who already appreciate the ride and handling of the Stabi-Craft. There is also the inherent safety factor of the rigid buoyancy hull design and the stability factor that goes past the 10 out of 10 scale.
Stabi-Craft also adheres to the strict CPC build programme so you can be assured that the finish and construction is also first rate. I launched the boat from the beach and never got the back wheels of my 4WD in the water and as for towing, it’s only around 800 kg on the trailer so you don’t need a big car to tow it.
It’s a boat with a compelling difference that is well arranged in layout and is designed for those who believe that a good boat needs more than just good looks.
- Model: 533 XR
- Price (Hull Only): $17995
- Price As Tested: $37840
- Designer: Stabi-Craft Design Team
- Material: Hull 4mm, 3mm & 2.5m aluminium tubes and topsides.
- Type: Rigid Buoyancy Boat
- LOA: 5.33 m
- Beam: 2,15 m
- Hull Configuration: medium V
- Deadrise At Transom: 18º
- Trailerable Weight: 800 kg (approx.)
- Engine Capacity: 70 – 115 hp
- Power Options: Outboard Only
- Fuel Capacity: 120 litres
1000 rpm @ 4.0 mph
1500 rpm @ 6.0 mph
2000 rpm @ 7.5 mph
2500 rpm @ 10.0 mph
3000 rpm @ 16.0 mph
3500 rpm @ 22.0 mph
4000 rpm @ 28.0 mph
4500 rpm @ 31.0 mph
5000 rpm @ 35.5 mph
5500 rpm @ 40.0 mph
5800 rpm @ 43.5 mph
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
CPC approved, battery & oil tank shelves,
removable cable duct, cabin lining, paint
NOTABLE OPTIONS ON TEST BOAT
- Make: Evinrude
- HP: 115
- Model: Ficht
- Cylinder Type: V4
- Max RPM: 5800
- Propeller: 17” Viper
- Retail Price: $15350
- Make: Voyager
- Model: A17E
- Braked: No
- Suspension: Springs
- Rollers: Keel and multi roller
- Std Features: submersible lights, jockey wheel, 3:1 winch
- Retail Price: $2893