From its small beginnings, Surtees Boats of Whakatane has quietly built itself up to be one of the leading production aluminium trailerboat manufacturers in New Zealand. Now heading its creative and practical designs is the new 7.3m Gamefisher. Freddy Foote went and checked it out.
The company’s previous largest production model was the 6.7, which was available in three configurations: Weekender, Coastal Explorer and Gamefisher.
The company’s policy for a number of years was that there wouldn’t be a larger boat than the 6.7, as sales of the 6.7 and the other smaller models were keeping the Whakatane based factory very busy year-round with 5-6 boats going out the door every week. However, customer demand meant that some space was cleared in the corner of the factory and the new 7.3m model was developed.
From the 6.7m model, the new Surtees 7.3 HT is approximately 200mm wider and 80mm higher in the sides.
“The hull is designed on our 6.7m range and we’ve basically just kept the best attributes of that hull and widened it slightly; we’ve also tried to keep the ratios the same and to keep the Surtees handling characteristics the same; what Surtees is known for really,” Says Phill Noblett, sales manager at Surtees Boats.
Surtees has kept the hull design as clean as possible and allowed the boat to have a nice soft entry coming into the water. The chines are slightly wider than on the 6.7 to give the boat more stability at higher speeds; given that it has been rated at the higher horsepower end in the engine stakes. The deflector rails have also been adjusted at the front to keep the water off the screen.
This particular boat is the Gamefisher model in the 7.3m range.
“The boat can easily be rigged for gamefishing with the addition of gamepoles, we’ve put a mount for a game chair under the floor, tuna tubes, live bait tanks, big topsides; essentially a boat that is really set-up for fishing but yet has a few of the creature comforts forward that will keep the female fishers happy.
In the cockpit, as in all Surtees, fishability is a main feature with a good-sized work area able to accommodate four people fishing with relative ease. This fishability has been accented with six rod holders at various angles built into the coamings – add the rocket launcher above and the rod holders built into the bait board and there is certainly no shortage.
On the port side, built into the transom is a live bait tank, fully plumbed to circulate the water. It also features a see-through window. Access to the bait tank is via the removable lid above; this area is also the walkthru into the cockpit from the boarding platform aft. While this boat wasn’t fitted with one, a variety of boarding ladders are able to be fitted, to suit an owner’s requirements.
On the starboard side of the platform, a berley pot is built in, and on this particular boat, optional tuna tubes are situated in the corners of the transom area, both fully plumed with an aerator.
A large storage compartment is located under the cockpit sole. Phill tells me that this is largely used by customers in their 6.7m models as a kill tank, as it drains through the transom and can easily be flushed after a day out on the water.
Large, deep and wide side shelves run the full length of the cockpit and are an ideal place to store gaffs and catch nets and maybe even dive bottles.
In the forward corners of the cockpit there are two aft facing seats; on the starboard side a cooker top is located under the removable seat squab; and the gas bottle is housed underneath. Surtees has made the effort to store the gas cooker and bottle outside, so that there is no danger of a gas leak inside or the potential for an explosion.
Opposite and to port, there is a sink under the seating squab and a cold/hot water shower hose that pulls out on a retractable cord. A califont is under the seat base. It is all fed via the 75L freshwater tank, so there is plenty of water if you want to have a warm washdown after a dive. On future 7.3m models, the water tank is going to be upgraded to 100L.
One other neat feature located on the starboard side was a cray pot hauler; with the addition of a lifting arm that is stored in the forward cabin you can quickly haul up pots without breaking a sweat!
Stable at Rest
One of the key design features of the Surtees range is the flooding keel. On this model, the keel can hold approximately 450L of water from the transom end of the keel forward to the base of the anchor locker.
What it does is make the boat incredibly stable while at rest, something I can attest to while we did the boat test. With three of us on one side, the boat showed very little lean, especially when we liaised with our camera boat (Surtees 6.7 Weekender) and people and gear were transferred across.
The water ballast system can also be closed off; a door can be moved into place from the stern. This allows water to be kept out or locking the water in the hull, giving 400kg of ballast, lowering the centre of gravity and lowering the bow into the water – ideal for those times when water conditions are really rough.
The cabin is fully enclosed, with the cabin doors easily able to be hinged back and secured into place. There is an option to have a seat infill which can go in the middle of the helm and passenger seats, providing a seat for a third person.
Forward in the cabin there is a full 1.9m berth, that with an infill converts into a large double berth which seems just as wide as it is long.
There is storage under the squabs, while full-length shelves run up the cabin sides. An electric/macerator flush toilet is also fitted under the forward squab – fine for ocean use, but not for lake use!
A small 40L fridge is located under the helm seat, and while it was hard to photograph between the seat and the hull sides, a small rack slides out and you can store smaller food items here, herbs, spices, sauces etc for those extended trips away. This is a really neat feature that Surtees has incorporated into the boat to make the use of every space possible.
This being the first model off the production line and a boat they plan to keep not only as a demonstrator, but to also exhibit at the boat shows this season, they powered it with a DF300 Suzuki four-stroke.
On a first impression, the 300hp engine option is a fantastic combination with the 7.3m, providing a great level of power, response, speed and handling to the boat.
If 300hp isn’t your thing and you don’t really like the $45,000 price tag, the 7.3 can be easily powered with a 225hp or 250hp. While the first models are all to be single outboard powered, there are design drawings for twin outboard applications (115hp-150hp) as well as a diesel sterndrive.
According to the GPS and the Suzuki fuel instruments, the 7.3 achieved a top speed of 46.0mph @ 6000rpm using 91.4L/h, or 2.3L/nautical mile. At a cruising speed of 30.5mph @ 4000rpm the fuel usage was 32.6 L/h or 1.2L/nautical mile – just over half the rate at WOT. This is a dramatic illustration of what going at WOT does to fuel economy! At trolling speeds the performance numbers were as follows:
7.0mph @ 1500rpm @ 6lph
8.0mph @ 2000rpm @ 10.9lph
9.5mph @ 2500rpm @ 15.4lph
The helm position was very comfortable with seats supplied from BLA that have a lift-up bolster at the base. It allows you to sit normally at the helm with the bolster down, or to raise it up and stand, leaning back against the seat.
The driving position was really good, with the instruments and throttle controls within easy reach.
Overall, the boat was a pleasure to drive, and with 300hp behind you, who could really complain! The boat was very easy to drive, very predictable and in fact the kind of boat that nearly anyone could drive. One thing I noticed was that the boat loved plenty of trim, and with the gentle rolling swell off the Tauranga coast, we got plenty of air under the hull and landing off the top of the waves it was a very gentle ride; something that Surtees really pride their boats on.
Drop-down windows are built in behind the helm and passenger seats, so you can easily converse with the crew in the cockpit when they’re hooked on that bigger marlin. A new feature is that the rear side windows now slide forward.
Another neat feature that I love on Surtees boats is the trailer catch/hitch. It’s something that is featured on all Surtees boats and essentially what it is, is a hook that has been built into the towing eye in the bow, and with a catch on the trailer. It allows the boat to be driven straight onto the trailer and the catch locks into place when the hook makes contact. Basically you could retrieve the boat onto the trailer by yourself, given the right ramp and jetty conditions.
Overall, I loved the 7.3 and it was pretty hard to fault. It’s built exceedingly well and members of the design team have made every effort to deliver a product that will meet their customers’ needs and then some. If you’re after an exceptional alloy hardtop with a whole range of options and features, then go and check out this boat at the next boat show.
- Model: Surtees 7.3 Gamefisher
- Price as Tested: $144,354
- Packages from: $100,000
- Designer : Surtees Boats
- Material: Aluminium
- Type: Hardtop
- LOA: 7.3m
- Beam: 2.5m
- Deadrise: 18 degree
- Hull Configuration: Mono
- Trailerable Weight: 2000kg
- Height on Trailer: 3.1m
- Engine Capacity: 225-300hp
- Power Options: Outboard(s), Diesel sterndrive
- Fuel Capacity: 300L