The way the Senator behaves gives the impression it would be completely unflappable – easily capable of handling whatever long-range offshore adventures Dan has in mind.
- Immaculate finish to the hull
- Trailerable boat
- High quality construction and presentation
- Good-looking vessel
- Economical cruising
- Reassuring handling and ride
After reviewing the Dickey Semifly 32 last year I’ve become another of those writers who anticipate nothing but the best from this Napier company. It’s a nice place to be – all you have to do is step aboard with a notebook, clean shoes and high expectations.
The Dickey Custom 950 is at the top end of the company’s trailerable sport range and it has pitched this at the twilight zone – between a launch and a large trailer boat. It’s an ambitious target as few that venture into this market get the precise combination of launch-like, solid feel in a boat that’s nimble enough to be trailered without the entourage of a house-moving company.
Along with the high expectations, the clean shoes and notebook I’ve learned to take notice when the Dickey team puts its mind to challenges like this as the results are likely to be spectacular.
The first thing the expectant reviewer notices about the 950 is its hull design – it’s from the 28 Semifly ancestry. If you are going to have ancestors make them good ones. The hours of designing and detailing put in by the design team back in 2008 on the original Semifly 28 hull achieved that rare condition of timeless design.
The distinctive plumb bow, sweeping sheer and chine detail capped off with a well-proportioned pilothouse give the 950 the aspect of the elegant, modern classic evident throughout the Dickey range.
Like the others from this stable, the boat spans the family-to-fishing spectrum well. While different owners all have different ways of using the boats, they all agree on the magic feel behind the helm.
Due to the alloy construction method and the company’s customer-service mantra, each boat can be customised. Owners have significant input into the set-up. This latest Custom 950 is for a North Island-based owner and there are some unique refinements in the cabin layout access and deck configuration details.
The 950’s hull comprises CNC-cut alloy panels laid up in an interlocking lattice framework that doesn’t look unlike the structure of an ice-strengthened ship. This makes for a lightweight but strong structure with full-length longitudinal girders, traverse bulkheads and frames at 650mm centres.
Two of the larger longitudinals become the mounting structure for the engine and this plugs the power straight into the hull. The result is a seriously strong structure, built to last and which won’t flex or twist in even the biggest seas, making this a truly offshore-capable trailer boat.
On top of this base structure are many hours of work in the finishing and detailing. The aluminium skin’s thickness varies throughout the vessel, with the lightest section being 4mm on the topside and the heaviest 12mm in the hull girders.
Even a close inspection from the dock will have you fooled into thinking this is a glass fibre composite hull. To prove it they’ve painted the hull in dark blue gloss that would show any bad workmanship a mile off.
The 950 has the DPH Volvo 400 D6 diesel running through a H3 duoprop stern drive. Immaculate in its livery, the engine lives under the aft deck and is accessed by a substantial hatch on an electric hoist.
With the hatch open it’s a mechanic’s dream as there is plenty of room to get around, and with white bilges any potential leaks will be spotted well before they become an issue. All the filters and intakes are easily accessible and this engine would be a pleasure to service.
Ahead of the engine bay is the pump room. It contains all the tankage, pumps, electrical brains and batteries. Access is under the stairs that lead down into the cabin from the saloon. The power plant is fed by a 550-litre diesel tank. Combined with the economy of the design, this gives the Custom 950 a 300-plus nautical mile cruising range.
A walk through the 950 is a feast for the senses. Starting at the game fishing transom, which cleverly hides the cutaway stern and sterndrive, there is a simple stainless rail that hinges down to become a boarding ladder for the swimmers.
All the wet fun of the transom is separated from the commodious cockpit by a walk-through transom on the starboard side of the professional-scale bait station – complete with live bait tank, tuna tubes, rubbish bin for the fishy stuff and high-density cutting board.
The aft deck’s covered in durable Deck King and is cambered to aid self-draining. Deck King is also used on the wide coamings designed with the fisherfolk in mind. The central console is the dominant feature of this particular layout. It contains a Swiss Army knife-like array of fish bins, seats and drained rod holders.
In addition, it narrows the deck space to the surrounds, which makes it infinitely safer in a rolling sea as there is always something on which to brace yourself. At the forward end of the cockpit is a comfortable aft-facing seat that contains a large, top-loading Isotherm freezer to keep the crew fed.
The transition into the saloon is seamless with the folding doors swung open in summer mode. In winter, when the Eberspächer diesel heater is going, it will be quiet and dry. Immediately to starboard is the galley with hob, sink, fridge and oven surrounded by ample storage space. To port is the saloon with a comfortable booth set up for meals with a view.
The helm station is to starboard and contains a suite of Garmin instruments including plotter, radar and depth sounder. All the information is easy to read at a glance and is nicely shielded from glare by the dash trim.
Switching is controlled by the CZone system. It intelligently tracks through cruising, dock and hibernation modes, sending all the information back to the Sentinel app on your phone, which can remotely monitor the systems. It takes the human factor out of arriving and departing the boat, which has to be a win for those prone to absent-mindedness.
Stepping down into the boat’s accommodation section there are some well thought out spaces. In day mode there are two generous settees along each side with ample storage beneath.
Come evening the port settee converts to a twin bunk bed layout while the starboard settee has a pull-out converting it into a double. A long hatchway extends forward to the windscreen – effectively delivering comfortable headroom to most of the cabin.
Forward of the cabin is the shower/toilet which takes advantage of the high freeboard and plumb bow of the famous Dickey lines. For the summer months, both the toilet and cabin have hatches for ventilation at anchor and both side windows slide open for good airflow.
On the Water
While the Dickey construction and presentation are always immaculate, it is the ride that sells them as quickly as they can make them. Our review day had conditions that would put this ride to the test – a small dying east swell opposed by a snotty Norwest chop. The sort of day when most trailer boats stay on the trailer and the owners leg it to the pub. No such luck for us as we headed out to put the new boat through her paces.
Within minutes it’s obvious that while this boat can be transported on a trailer easily enough, her demeanour is that of an offshore-capable launch. There is none of the ‘pingy’ trailer boat feeling – only the sure-footed weight of a launch.
Upwind we were able to trim the bow down and get the deep vee sections of the bow to cut the chop with no hint of pounding. Downwind with trim up, we were able to keep her tracking without any big nose buries that rattle the cutlery draw.
Crosswind was a matter of dialing up the trim on the Zipwake controller to keep her on her feet. We were able to maintain a good cruising speed in conditions that would slow many trailer boats to an uncomfortable crawl.
Out of the blocks the Volvo 400 D6 has plenty of power, but thanks to a well-insulated engine room the sound in the saloon is more like a distant throb. The light, stiff hull mixed with a long waterline length means for economy, which facilitates offshore cruising.
Between 19 knots and 27 knots boat speed fuel consumption remains constant at around 1.66 litres a nautical mile. This is a large sweet spot that allows for a considerable range of sea states that will keep the family in all-day comfort or get you back from an offshore fishing trip when it cuts up rough.
While the Dickey Custom 950 straddles the zone between trailerable boat and marina-based launch, she is by no means a compromise. Her design, construction and finish are in keeping with the high standards of Dickey boats but it is her ability to fill a tricky dual-purpose niche and still ride like a 1970s Cadillac that is most apparent./>