- Sea Star Optimus 360 Take Command
- Twin 350hp V8 Yamaha outboards
- Comprehensive Raymarine electronics package
- Superb ride
- Long, lean and black
- Stealth fighter-like aura
- Multi-use vessel
- Custom layout
This custom Protector 12.5m RIB only just squeaks into her berth at Orams Drystack, but negotiating the tight approaches to the dock is a breeze thanks to Sea Star’s Optimus 360.
Waka Tere belongs to a keen sailor. The big Protector will at times serve duty as a committee boat for a local yacht club – she has a sturdy tow point aft to tow strings of yachts to and from the race course – but most of the time this impressive matte-black vessel will be used to ferry family and guests to and from her owner’s Waiheke Island home.
Once Waka Tere picks up her mooring at Waiheke, the mini-Protector dinghy that usually sits on her foredeck goes ashore so Waka Tere Iti, a new 5m Sealegs, can be launched off the beach to ferry passengers and supplies to and from the larger vessel. No-one gets their feet wet!
Waka Tere is a customised 12.5-metre Rayglass Protector Cabin SL with a pair of 5.3-litre V8 Yamaha 350hp four-stroke outboards, one each side of the walk-through transom platform. Waka Tere is equipped with Sea Star Solutions’ Optimus 360 joystick control system, one of the first vessels in New Zealand to feature this technology.
Westhaven’s Ovlov Marine managed the whole project, including fitting Yamaha engines and installing the Optimus 360 system as well as the comprehensive Raymarine Axiom Pro electronics package. Ovlov Marine’s Matt Jackson worked closely with Lindsay Turner at Rayglass Boats, BLA, Yamaha Motor, Lusty and Blundell and other suppliers to ensure the project’s success.
Waka Tere’s owner is a long-standing Ovlov Marine customer whose previous boat, an 8m Rayglass Protector, had been serviced and maintained by the Ovlov team. Ovlov Marine are Yamaha dealers and service agents and Matt had recently sold him a new Yamaha outboard for his tender, so he decided to go with Yamaha power for both Waka Tere and Waka Teri Iti.
Like the owner’s previous Protector, Waka Tere is housed at Orams Marine drystack when it’s not on the mooring at Waiheke Island. The engines’ lower units and SDS propellers are coated in Propspeed and the vessel’s underwater lights with Lightspeed, since Waka Tere might sometimes be in the water for three or four weeks at a time.
At 12.5m long the Rayglass is currently the largest boat in Orams Drystack and only a few dry berths are big enough to take her. The owner had to wait for a suitable space to become available and Waka Tere was modified to fit. All the stainless work is custom made and the team took great care when installing the radar dome and FLIR camera on the hardtop roof to ensure the boat squeezed into its dry berth. It’s tight!
When turning around in the fairway leading to and from Orams Drystack, Waka Tere takes up much of the channel, so manoeuvring her with conventional outboards would have been a challenge, even with the standard Protector bowthruster. The team at Ovlov suggested Sea Star Optimus 360 Take Command, a joystick steering system that allows precise, fingertip control at speeds below 10 knots, including 360-degree rotations on the spot and moving the boat forwards, backwards and sideways, or in any direction in between. Ovlov Marine is one of only two certified Optimus installers in New Zealand.
Docking made easy
Leaving and returning to Orams, the team demonstrated just how useful Optimus 360 can be by spinning Waka Tere 180 degrees through her axis and then shifting her sideways to nudge against the pontoon in an extremely tight space between two other boats.
Optimus 360 is programmable, to suit different boats and applications, and has a boost function, which increases the rpms to give more thrust when needed, in windy conditions, for instance. To take conventional control of the boat, simply move the Yamaha throttle lever to immediately disable the Optimus 360 joystick control.
With Optimus 360 there’s no need for a bowthruster, so the space usually occupied by one has been utilised for a large underfloor storage locker in the bows.
The V8 Yamahas are set wide apart, either side of the teak-covered walk-through transom platform. This configuration is an advantage for a system like Sea Star’s Optimus 360, because outboard thrust is vectored well away from the vessel’s centreline. With the thrust closer to the outer edges of the hull, the vessel is more responsive to joystick control inputs and the engines work less hard to put the boat where the helmsman wants it to go.
I wondered if the outside propeller would catch air as the boat leaned over in a turn, but this was not the case, even during full-lock turns at speed. There are no trim tabs, but lateral trim can be controlled with independent trim adjustments for each engine, another advantage of wide-set outboards.
Easy to install
Installing the Optimus 360 was straightforward, said Jackson: “The Yamahas are electronic, digitally-controlled engines and Optimus 360 is a ‘plug and play’ system.”
Sea Star Optimus 360 is engineered for powerboats with electronic shift and throttle engines, allowing you to use the existing electronic controls. It’s compatible with Yamaha and Suzuki twin, triple or quadruple (Yamaha ESP only) outboard installations, even those with cable controls (although installation becomes somewhat more complicated).
Sensors determine the Optimus hydraulic ram angles for each engine and Optimus 360 turns the outboards independently of one another, shifting back and forth between forward and reverse, while applying engine-specific throttle settings in response to joystick inputs.
There’s a fair bit going on, with the engines swivelling this way and that, changing gears and revving independently at different rpms, but ‘intelligent programming’ minimises the number of shifts required to complete a manouevre.
Speed-sensitive helm turns, wheel effort and steering response are all user adjustable and the system is compatible with third party autopilots, including the Raymarine autopilot installed in Waka Tere.
It all works seamlessly, offering amazing control and stress-free docking. One feature the owner loves is the ability to hold the boat stationary. Optimus 360 uses its own GPS antenna to ‘anchor’ the vessel, either head to wind or ‘heading up’, allowing the owner to position Waka Tere over deepwater pinnacles while fishing for hapuku and bluenose.
Waka Tere is fitted with a custom-moulded GRP cockpit island which provides ample storage, including a properly plumbed and vented gas locker, as well as seating and an aft-facing sink and food preparation surface. Like the rest of the boat, the island finished in black gelcoat.
As well as taxi and yacht club duties, her owner uses Waka Tere for boys’ weekends and extended cruises. Inside the open-backed hardtop, a Thetford four-burner stove and oven, plus a 12V Isotherm refrigerator, take care of cooking and food storage duties. Four bunk-style berths, two of them pipe berths, occupy the forward cabin and there’s a good-sized head with a Lectra-San toilet at the front of the cabin. The shower is in the cockpit.
1240 litres of fuel underfloor allows multiple commutes between Westhaven and Waiheke and range is not an issue. She also carries 180 litres of freshwater.
There’s no rocket launcher, but plenty of rod storage under the side decks and a pair of stainless steel rodholders set into the transom. There’s also a removable bait table and a custom timber cutting board for the bench, which will be used when fishing or sorting scallops. The stern platform is not only great for fishing, it’s also a boon for divers.
At 12.5m, Waka Tere is a large RIB, but 700hp on the transom ensures a top speed of 45 knots. There’s no lack of response from the big V8s, which sound amazing too, and the big Protector feels totally planted on the water, whether carving tight turns at speed or punching through the Waitemata slop.
The ride is superb and Waka Tere gives the impression her commercial-grade GRP hull could power through anything the ocean could throw at her. Hypalon tubes feature seven separate chambers for safety and the windscreens are toughened glass.
Tucked snugly inside the hardtop on a snotty day, and cruising at 24 knots, we were hardly aware of the sea conditions except for a bit of wind-whipped spray the wipers easily dealt with. The cockpit self-bails via scuppers.
The helm position is excellent, with comfortable Commander softrider seats, while the Raymarine Axiom Pro MFD that dominates the console fascia can also be seen from the cockpit. A Fusion entertainment system with LED-lit speakers and a Raymarine VHF radio occupy the communications console overhead.
As well as broadband radar, fishfinder and sonar pictures, the Axiom Pro touch-screen displays images from the roof-mounted FLIR camera and a full range of engine data, complementing Yamaha’s new Command Link Plus CL7 engine data display.
CL7 offers customisable engine and boat systems data for up to four outboards on one screen, along with a host of other multi-function display features, including sounder/fishfinder and chart-plotter, with the ability to connect to sonar, radar, an external camera and an external keyboard.
The roof-mounted FLIR camera and the radar dome are vinyl-wrapped to match the boat’s black and grey colour scheme.
For short trips there’s plenty of standing room under the hardtop. In taxi mode, the forward-facing cockpit island bench seat, sheltered by the hardtop roof and cockpit awning, can accommodate at least three people, while in good weather there’s room for three more on the foredeck bench seat in front of the cabin.
Teak side decks provide easy access forward with handrails on the hardtop roof and along the cabin sides for safety and a roof rack on the cabin top suitable for tying down large items. Waka Tere’s mooring line is fixed permanently to the bows.
Long, lean and black, just like a stealth fighter, Waka Tere not only looks purposeful, she’s also built and equipped for purpose, resulting in an impressive vessel that’s difficult to overlook.
With her occasional yacht club duties and regular trips to Waiheke Island and beyond, the big Protector should become a familiar sight on the Hauraki Gulf.