BOAT REVIEW Aluka 823 Walkaround

May 2023 Trailer Boat Reviews
Words by Norman Holtzhausen, Photography and video by Roger Mills.
Build Quality
MODEL Aluka 823 Walkaround
DESIGNER Noah Thompson
BUILDER Aluka Boats
LOA 8.23M
ENGINE Suzuki DF350 duoprop
Max Horsepower 350hp
Passenger Capacity 6 people
DEADRISE 18 degrees
  • Well finished
  • Comfortable at rest and underway with overnighting credentials
  • Striking paintwork and assertive styling
  • Large diameter railings add a sense of extra security
  • Transom cage is perfect for fishing, and dry, too

Boat shows stimulate interest in boat ownership, and their timing is ideal for launching new brands and models. And so it was that Aluka Boats launched its first model, the Aluka 823 Walkaround, to coincide with the Auckland Boat Show in March 2023.

The high-roofed pilothouse-style cabin with forward-sloping windows is certainly different to most traditional enclosed cabin boats, while the striking black paintwork and bold graphics add to the impression that this boat means serious business.
Founder of Aluka Boats, Blair Stapleton, has owned boats for many years but was never quite happy with their configuration. He wanted a boat with a large family-friendly cabin space, and a high-sided walk-around layout. Fishing would be the boat’s main function, so it needed to have good access around the cockpit, but with child-friendly high sides. At the same time, performance was key – time spent getting to and from the magical spot-X is wasted time, so he wanted a boat that could get up and go when required.


Since he could not find the boat of his dreams, he decided to design and build it himself. He engaged naval architect Noah Thompson to design something to his specifications, and the Aluka 823 Walk-around is the product of that collaboration. Something like 750 hours of welding went into producing the finished vessel, and we had a chance to try her out just over a week after the boat show.
Since the boat was already in the water when I arrived at Tamaki Marine Park, I did not see her custom triple-axle alloy trailer. However, with a beam of 2.7m she is trailerable within the Category 1 oversize restrictions. Her stunning black hull sides and fetching gold trim was also not immediately apparent alongside the wharf, while her white cabin sides and polished aluminium rails glinted in the sunlight. Designer Noah Thompson joined us for the sea trail, and we quickly got underway since we faced a slow first stage down the speed-restricted Tamaki River.

Once we were on the water, I had a chance to chat to Thompson about the design brief. He said that performance was important to the owner, and hence the boat has a relatively high 18-degree deadrise. When combined with the Suzuki 350hp four-stroke outboard, which features a Duoprop counter-rotating propeller system, this gives the boat a top speed comfortably in excess of 40 knots. Importantly though, she also planes efficiently at 13 knots and cruises at around 22 knots with the engine really just ticking along at 3750rpm. This gives a fuel burn of around 1.2 km per litre (1.86 litres per nautical mile) – pretty good for an 8m-plus boat. To counter any tenderness from the deep V the boat comes with Zipwake automatic trim tabs, and we found these worked very well when we could open the throttle up.

Thompson explained that he favours larger diameter rails than is usual, for rigidity, safety and comfort. Certainly, the rail all around the boat is extremely sturdy and high enough to provide security for adults and children alike. The entire deck inside and out is surfaced in Ultralon foam decking, which is smart-looking, functional and extremely kind on bare feet in all kinds of weather. The teak colour option complemented the black and white of the boat, and the Suzuki DF350 four-stroke hanging off the back was also in the optional white livery.
The slow ride down the river gave me the perfect opportunity to look over the boat and literally walk all around. The forward deck is easily accessed around the sides of the cabin, with the anchor fitted into an under-deck fairlead and controlled by a hidden Maxwell drum winch. This removes any hazard to toes or fingers when operating the winch, while a flush-fitting hatch cover provides ample access for servicing.

The brow of the forward-raked cabin hides a pair of Hella light bars for use when coming into a marina at night. The rake was a point of difference specified by Stapleton, and he says it gives less glare on the windows while also providing a lot more room in the wheelhouse. Also hidden under the bow is a bow thruster – always useful when manoeuvring into tight spaces in a high-sided boat.
The boat is fully set up for game fishing, hence a Garmin GMR18 radar on the roof for finding birds in a workup, Douglas outrigger bases on either side of the cabin, a bait station with tackle drawer in the transom, live-bait tank, and the obligatory rocket launcher-style rod holder along the back of the cabin roof. Removable rod holders on brackets fit the shelves inside either gunwale – a clever touch. This allows rods to be stored upright while the boat is being trailered or stored in a dry stack.

The stern features a wide fishing platform that allows free movement across the full width of the boat (while the motor is down), and once again features those family-friendly high and secure rails to keep little ones on board. Wide boarding ladders either side swing down from a locking section of the platform cage, and a huge section of the transom can be swung open to provide a comfortable walk-through door from the cockpit onto the platform.
On the port side of the cabin door is a fully enclosed shower and toilet cubicle, with running hot water provided by a 12V hot water cylinder. A 120-ltre freshwater system and an 80-litre holding tank make this boat perfect for weekends away. On the right-hand side of the main cabin door is a handbasin with hot and cold water. The fan-fold door to the cabin can be clipped neatly out the way when not required.

Stepping into the cabin we found the port side has a dining table with seating for three. The table drops down and converts into a three-quarter berth for overnighting. The front seat has a reversible backrest, so can be used for passengers facing forward while underway or facing the table while at rest. The starboard side has a modest galley, with a three-burner LPG hob and oven unit, plus a 12V fridge under the counter.

The skipper’s seat is large and comfortable, with a footrest for additional support. The helm is very neatly laid out, with a massive Garmin 8416 multifunction display providing sounder, chartplotter and radar display options. This is complemented by a Suzuki digital display unit to provide all relevant engine data. All electrical devices on board are controlled by a power distribution module and electronic switches, with a simple and logical graphical control panel. Controls for the drum winch, Zipwake trim tabs, as well as the bow thruster, complete the dash layout.

The forward cabin features a huge 2.1m vee-berth double bunk, and the cabin has great head height. The finish on the whole boat is very good, with every single aluminium surface either highly polished, painted, or covered with Ultralon decking. This is a stylish boat that will appeal to far more than just hard-core fishermen. It would certainly earn brownie points with the significant other in your life.

By this stage we had reached the mouth of the Tamaki River and made our rendezvous with the photo boat. Opening the throttle had the boat leap forward, and it is obvious that Thompson has achieved his design brief in terms of performance. She accelerates very well, and while we did not try for the top speed, we were soon skimming along very comfortably in the mid-30-knot range. Her relatively deep-vee hull effortlessly cut through the chop and even a sizeable ferry wake, without excessive lifting or any crashing.
Once we had the drone up in the air, we threw the boat around a bit for some dramatic photos and video footage. Steering was positive but the small sports-style steering wheel proved to be hard work. Stapleton said he had a larger diameter wheel on its way, which will greatly reduce the steering effort required. The Zipwakes did a magnificent job stabilising the boat, although we turned them off while doing the hard turns to stop them trying to keep us level.

At rest, the boat was extremely comfortable, and certainly fits the family-friendly bill. Although there was some tenderness at rest, it remained in the ‘very comfortable’ range, no matter how we moved around. The stern platform is well clear of the water so your feet would remain dry even in a moderate sea. Walking around the sides of the cabin felt secure and safe, and that hidden fairlead and anchor means that fighting a large fish can be undertaken right around the boat unimpeded.

Stapleton has certainly achieved his objective in terms of building his ideal boat. Taking it to the next stage of turning it into a brand and building boats for other people is the logical next step for him. Aluka Boats has collaborated in a manufacturing plant in the Bay of Plenty to build future boats, and their next model, the 923 Adventurer, is already on the drawing board.