Author : David Toyer
The launching of the Steber 3800 Sportfisher late last year marked the 60th anniversary for one of the most respected all-family owned and operated boat building companies in Australia.
Bruce Steber started building small timber boats in a factory at Brookvale on Sydney’s northern beaches just after the end of the Second World War, and in 1959 Stebercraft established itself as one of the industry’s pioneering companies when it introduced FRP construction for dinghies and small runabouts.
In 1974 Stebercraft ceased production of trailer boats and relocated to larger premises at Taree on the NSW mid-north coast. This change and relocation enabled the company to concentrate on, and expand, its commercial and recreational range of non-trailerable boats.
Though company founder Bruce Steber has now supposedly “retired” and operation of the business is carried out by his son Alan, Bruce still maintains a close contact with the business and keeps very active hands-on contact with the factory and most of the boats that roll out the doors.
While golf accounts for a lot of his time these days, with a boat (and at the moment it is the 3800 we have reviewed here) tied to the jetty of his waterfront property on the Manning River, and the factory only a kilometre or two away, Bruce will probably never fully retire from what has been almost a life long obsession.
Stebercraft is a fiercely proud Australian company. Almost without fail, it has an Aussie flag running from the ends of the game poles and has that flag featuring on its brochures. Alan is very active on AIMEX (Australian International Marine Export Group) and as an Austrade executive, he promotes the Australian boating industry to international markets.
Imported boats are challenging the viability of many Australian boatbuilders, but with an outstanding reputation for quality commercial boat design and construction, Stebercraft has been able to maintain a steady flow of orders for both local and overseas clients. Though much of the activity has been in the government, commercial, and charter fields, the recreation (private) boats have developed and benefited from that commercial reputation.
Though there have been new models released by Stebercraft during the past 10 years, the last significant new boat release by the company was the multi award winning 52. That boat, like the 3800 now, marked a milestone for the company at the time, by not only celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary, but also bringing about a very significant styling and design change that gave the company greater penetration into local and international markets.
The 60th anniversary Steber 3800 is in some ways not unlike that 50th anniversary release. This boat doesn’t just simply follow the rest of the 12 metre sports boats. It takes a fairly serious aim at the sportsfishing and charter/commercial boat market primarily, but at the same time doesn’t ignore the family and recreational boat buyer. But building boats for a commercial market is the strong point of Stebercraft and it is only natural that an anniversary model should be so inclined.
In establishing the design criteria for the 3800, Alan Steber identified three critical elements that were essential for this to be an appealing commercial/charter craft, but on the other hand were flexible enough so as to not limit the boat’s recreational appeal.
These three points were engines positioned under and fully accessible and serviceable from the cockpit; a toilet/shower accessible directly from the cockpit, and finally, a simple four-berth accommodation for charter operation, but flexibility with the cabin arrangement options to be able to offer more private and convertible facilities for family/recreational use.
At over 13 square metres, the cockpit is of ballroom proportions for a boat of this size so it comes as no surprise that the entire engine room is accessible from the cockpit. This enables all engine and other accessory servicing to be carried out from the cockpit with no need at all to get into or work inside the saloon. This also means that any major work involving lifting or engine removal is a much simpler exercise and does not involve any stripping or “dismantling” of interiors.
With boats that quickly run up engine hours and therefore require more regular servicing programs, a simple cockpit access through sensibly sized flush deck hatches is a big plus.
As the photos show, the reviewed boat has a very simple and spartan cockpit with a basic moulded and speckled flow coat finish. Raised storage shelves run along each side; a chest freezer is tucked in under the flybridge access ladder; and a centre transom door leads out onto the moulded boarding platform which is about 700mm wide.
The cockpit can be spec’d up with the usual teak, carpet or other such finishes and more specialised bait prep, work bench and additional bait and kill tanks can be fitted.
The single bathroom directly off the cockpit is also in response to the needs of again the commercial/charter boat operator. It makes the bathroom more accessible and doesn’t require crew or passengers to walk through the “clean” and usually carpeted or more elaborate saloon to get to the facilities. And with the main cockpit of this boat taking up such a large proportion of the overall length, the aft located bathroom does free up the remaining saloon and cabin space for the more open layout that seems to be favoured by many small charter operators.
In this configuration, the forward cabin is not completely closed off from the saloon with only the storage locker bulkheads each side and aft of the double level V berths separating the main galley and saloon from the sleeping arrangements.
Stebercraft offers as an option, a traditional recreational/pleasure boat interior, moving the bathroom forward and down, also locating the galley down and opposite the bathroom, enabling a double island berth cabin to be positioned in the bow. For guests’ or kids’ accommodation, a convertible berth is provided via a U-shaped lounge, which wraps around the dinette table in the saloon.
Although the boat reviewed is designed for commercial/charter operators, if you are happy with the four single berth accommodation, then the saloon and cockpit both provide a huge amount of recreational space with all the facilities that are needed. The galley is well equipped with plenty of storage and bench top space; microwave oven, reasonable sized refrigerator (supplemented with the freezer/fridge in the cockpit) and moulded sink with hot & cold water.
The lounge and dinette are generous for this size boat and the highly polished timbers used on joinery and bulkheads, suede effect upholstery and solid surface bench tops make for a comfortable and classy interior.
The flybridge has a centre helm console and this gives a good vantage point from which to look down onto every part of the boat. The moulded console itself has enough room to install all the electronics that are needed, particularly now that electronic engines and controls have enabled so much to be compacted onto display screens rather than individual gauges etc.
The hardtop and clears are standard and the passenger seating is via the lounge across the front of the flybridge.
Engine options are quite open, though Stebercraft is very enthusiastic about the performance of the twin 420hp 6LY3-STP seriesYanmars installed in this boat, as well as the pair of Cummins that went into the second boat, delivered to its commercial operators at Hamilton Island last December.
With the twin 5.8-litre digital electronic 420hp 6-cylinder turbocharged and aftercooled Yanmars, the 9-tonne Steber 3800 will top out at just over 33 knots at approximately 3400rpm. With the boat planing at 14 knots, you can expect very economical cruising at anywhere from 16 to 24 knots. At 16 knots the Yanmars are running at 2000rpm and consuming approximately 21 litres per hour per engine. This will produce a cruise range of around 500 nautical miles.
These 6LY3 Yanmars are compliant with SAV, EMC and IMO exhaust regulations and meet the 2003/44/EC emission requirements which became effective from 2006.
Typically, the engineering of the 3800 ensures that this boat is built to last – and that’s the way each and every Steber is built. Whether for commercial or private use, there is no difference. Shaft sizes, sea cocks and plumbing, through-hull fittings, fuel valves and shut-off systems; emergency steering and controls . . . you name it, Stebercraft does not pull back on quality and engineering when it comes to building for the private sector and you will see that throughout this 3800.
Stebers may not have the opulence and sparkle of the imports – even that of many of the locally built boats, but you can be sure that a Steber will last and you can be assured of personal and on-going assistance from the very enthusiastic and dedicated team of people at this long-established family company.
- Design Name: Steber 3800 Sportsfisher
- Year Launched: 2006
- Designer: Stebercraft P/L
- Builder: Stebercraft International
- LOA: 12.5m incl. boarding platform
- Moulded Length: 11.5m
- Beam: 3.84m
- Draft: 0.98m
- Displacement: 9 tonnes
- Transom deadrise: 20 degrees
- Max. Speed: 33 knots
- Cruise Speed: 20-25 knots
- Construction: FRP
- Fuel Capacity: 1400 litres
- Water Capacity: 300 litres
- Holding Tank: 135 litres
- Cabin Headroom: 1.9m
- Number of berths: 4 singles
- Engine: 2 x 420hp Yanmar 6LY3/STP420
- Propeller: Teignbridge 4 blade 21” x 27” Aquaquad 87
- Generator: 130Ah DC Microgen
- Inverter: 250W AC inverter
- Windlass: Muir VCR 1250
- Anchor: 45 CQR plough
- Steering: Hydrive
- Engine Controls: Yanmar Electronic
- Windows: Alfab
- Liferaft: RFD 10-person
- Sound System: Combination DVD/CD/AM/FM
- Entertainment system: Sharp LCD 15” TV
- Auto pilot: Coursemaster CM800
- GPS/Plotter/Sounder: Combination Seiwa Barramundi 10.4” colour
- VHF: Icom
- Base Price from: $A513,000
- Price as reviewed: $A630,000