- Garmin electronics
- Epic trailer with Balex Automatic Boat Loader
- Twin Yamaha 115hp four-strokes
- Soft riding
- Practical cockpit layout
- Flooding keel adds stability
- Worthy prize
- Smart paint job
- Primarily a day boat as reviewed
- Very well equipped
With each new edition of the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show the gate prize seems to be even more impressive than the year before.
The prize for this year’s show, May 18 to 21, is an awesome boating package comprising a new Surtees 700 Game Fisher on a deluxe, dual-axle, alloy-wheeled Epic trailer with Balex Automatic Boat Loader system. The hardtop rig is powered by a pair of 115hp Yamaha four-stroke outboards and features the
latest Garmin electronics package. All up, including a comprehensive range of equipment and safety gear, the prize is worth more than $150,000.
Boating New Zealand picked up the gate prize from Surtees dealer Fishing Boats NZ on Auckland’s North Shore and towed the rig to Gulf Harbour where we put it through its paces. Seven-metre boats take up a bit of road space and can be a little daunting to tow, but this rig trails very well. Weighing in at just under two tonnes (dry), we towed it easily enough behind a diesel station wagon with a 2.2 tonne towing rating.
Launching the boat was a doddle thanks to the Balex Automatic Boat Loader. The more I see this innovative Kiwi-built system in use, the more I’m convinced it will become standard equipment on trailer boats everywhere.
Launching the boat, and later in the day retrieving it, were essentially one-man operations, thanks to Balex’s user-friendly remote control and super-easy operation. The Automatic Boat Loader controls the boat during launching and pulls it back onto the trailer straight and true when retrieving. We didn’t even get our feet wet.
On the water the Surtees 700 Game Fisher impresses as a fast, soft-riding, blue water capable sport fishing boat. The hardtop offers good protection, there’s a wiper for the driver’s side of the windscreen and there’s enough space inside the forward cabin to sleep two if you want to camp overnight. The prize boat is set up for day fishing, but you could easily overnight in it if you wished. A toilet is something the new owner can add – there’s space for one between the v-berths and a privacy curtain is supplied.
Access to the Lone Star drum winch and anchor locker on the bows is excellent through the large acrylic forward hatch. Big forward hatches are a Surtees specialty: no need to sidle around the hardtop to inspect the bows.
Smart-looking in its blue paint finish, this is a serious fishing machine ready for business. The cockpit is wide-open with chequerplate floors giving secure footing and wide Octi-grip faced coamings for grip in the wet and seated comfort while waiting for a bite. The gunwales offer thigh support, the full length, neoprene-faced and tube mat-lined side pockets are usefully wide and there’s plenty of freeboard for open water work. An underfloor wet locker with drains and bungs will swallow dive gear or other large items.
The transom area is sensibly designed and well-appointed. The bait station can be removed in favour of a ski-pole if desired. It features a drop-in PVC cutting board and three rod holders to complement six through-coaming rod holders and a rocket launcher across the back of the hardtop roof. The boat is also supplied with a rear awning for additional sun protection, which along with the fore-cabin courtesy curtain, was stowed away for this review.
Surtees has a safe and tidy solution for start and house batteries. Three batteries are housed across the transom on a shelf protected from the elements by the rear seat, which folds up to provide a flush
transom. The rear seat can accommodate two people and serves as a handy step for getting in and out of the boat.
The transom step-though is on the port side, with a folding door. It opens onto a full width swim platform with a T-style boarding ladder and handy grab rails on the port side to make leaving the water easier. Twin fuel filters under the coaming on the starboard side are easy to monitor and there’s a saltwater washdown on the port side which, along with the live bait tank under the step-through, is fed by Jabsco pumps. A Rule 2000GPH bilge pump deals with any water in the cockpit.
Another feature of the portofino transom is the simple cord and cleat system Surtees uses to operate the spring-loaded gate for the boat’s flooding ballast tank. All Surtees boats feature a flooding keel, which provides enhanced stability at rest. When filled with the gate closed, the extra weight of water carried along the keel in the ballast tank enhances rough water handling and stability.
When empty with the gate closed, draft is reduced for beach launchings and bar crossings. Sealed chambers provide positive buoyancy.
In normal operation, the gate is left in the open position so the flooding keel empties and fills of its own accord. Launch the boat onto the plane and 380 litres of water ballast empties in a matter of moments.
There’s plenty of outboard motivation for the Gate Prize Surtees 700 Game Fisher. Twin 115hp four-stroke Yamahas provide blistering hole shots and hang on admirably in the turns. The boat is capable of over 40 knots – not quite as fast as it would be with a single engine of comparable horsepower, but plenty fast enough. Fuel consumption at cruising speeds was around 36 litres per hour in total. The boat’s 280-litre fuel tank was full.
This is a variable deadrise deep-vee hull measuring 21 degrees at the transom. The entry is fine with a shallow forefoot, which helps provide the soft, forgiving ride. Spray rails have been welded to the chines forward to turn down spray and the chine flats widen towards the transom.
We noticed that moving bodies about the cockpit while the boat is underway does affect its attitude. However, as is true when the boat’s at rest, filling the ballast tank when underway mitigates any tendency for the 700 to lean over.
We experienced 12-15 knots of wind and the usual Hauraki Gulf chop – hardly heavy seas conditions – so we kept the gate open most of the time! Lectrotab trim tabs are useful to counter windage and passenger loading.
As mentioned, the 700’s ride is very good. The bow makes easy meat out of a head sea and plenty of engine trim up gives a relatively dry and comfortable ride with a following sea. The 700 Game Fisher is excellent in a cross sea as well, if a little wet at times, though in a hardtop with a windscreen wiper a bit of spray is a very minor niggle.
The rig cruises nicely at 25-30 knots. It took me a little while to find its sweet spot, but once I got the engines properly synchronized and the combination of engine revs, outboard trim and trim tab positioning right, the 700 Game Fisher was a fast and very comfortable traveller. Quiet, too.
This vessel is superbly equipped, thanks to a long list of generous sponsors. The electronics package is worthy of special mention and includes a Garmin VHF radio, Fusion Bluetooth head unit and speakers and the latest Garmin GPSMap 7412 MFD.
The new Garmin is packed with high-tech features, including a high-power 1kW transducer for superb fish finding performance, GPS mapping and XHD Radar. We were fortunate enough to have Kieran Andrews from Garmin onboard to explain some of the more technical features and offer advice to Boating readers on how to get the best from their electronics, regardless of the brand (see sidebar).
Whoever takes home the Surtees 700 Game Fisher after the 2017 Hutchwilco Boat Show will be impressed, probably blown away. It is a superb package and a worthy grand prize for this year’s show: to be in to win, simply buy a ticket to the show and register at each of the Gate Prize booths. Each qualifying entry goes into the draw and the lucky winner will be announced on the last day of the show.
Garmin GPSMap 7412
It’s possible the Garmin GPSMap 7412 is packed with more features than most owners will ever make use of. But as Kieran Andrews from Garmin NZ points out, modern marine electronics are more user-friendly than ever before, so it’s much easier to take advantage of their features.
The touch-screen GPSMap 7412 aboard the Hutchwilco Boat Show Gate Prize is intuitive to use and can supply a dizzying array of data from a variety of sources. The 12-inch Garmin MFD displays dual Chirp sonar, XHD high-definition Radar with a nominal 42nm range, top of the line mapping and navigation functions, GPS data and Garmin’s SideVu and ClearVu sonars when the appropriate transducers are fitted.
Charting includes separate navigation and fishing charts, the latter with more detailed depth contour information from a bathymetric chart. Users can also create custom bathymetric charts using Garmin’s Quick Draw Contours function. It takes real time sonar returns to create a picture of the bottom. Over time users can create their own hyper-detailed charts of favourite fishing areas
The network and Wi-Fi capable MFD accepts a range of NMEA 2000 and 0183 inputs, including Yamaha engine data and fuel flow, as well as media from the Fusion stereo. Using the combinations tab, users can set up their own favourite custom screens to display any mix of data. Split screens are easy to configure with different-sized windows, depending on which set of data is most important.
All the unit’s major functions are accessed via menus and virtual buttons.
Equipped with a powerful 1kW transducer, the Garmin GPSMap 7412 utilises Chirp sonar for improved separation of targets in the water and enhanced detail. Chirp sonar transmits and receives simultaneous bursts of sonar pulses across a range of frequencies.
This unit has selectable high and low frequency Chirp modes. High frequency Chirp is great for identifying targets down to 300m; low frequency Chirp is good for water up to 1000m deep.
See an interesting mark on the sonar screen? Simply put your finger on the mark and the unit will set a waypoint on the electronic chart you can navigate back to. Easy.
Kieran offers two bits of advice for getting the best from any MFD. Play with the unit until you are completely familiar with it. The Garmin can be used out of the water so you can familiarise yourself with its many modes and functions at your leisure, just be sure to disable the sonar to avoid damaging the transducer – there’s a menu option to disable it.
It takes only a short while to learn to operate the GPSMap 7412 because “it’s just so easy to use,” says Kieran.
His other advice is to use the manual gain when operating the sounder/fish finder. While ‘auto’ mode does a reasonable job under most conditions, manually adjusting the sonar gain will give you the best possible picture of what’s in the water column.
Adjusting the gain removes clutter, leaving only fish targets, gives a more accurate indication of bottom type, and allows you to identify thermoclines. A small adjustment to the gain can make
a big difference to what you see on the display, so be prepared to make adjustments, says Kieran, whenever you identify something of interest on the sonar display.