Like Q taking 007 aside in the weapons laboratory of MI6, I was introduced to Project Carbon in a separated, but very serious looking corner of the company’s Invercargill home base almost a year ago.
I was under no illusions; this was top-secret project and needed to remain so. Stabicraft had identified an opportunity to do something a bit special and was keen to surprise the market as close to the 2015 Hutchwilco Boat Show as possible.
That something-a-bit-special was to introduce the use of carbon-fibre and an appropriately high-tech design ethos to a brand new pair of 4.85 metre sportfishers.
The 1600 Fisher and 1600 Frontier boats you see adding so much colour to these pages are the result of this re-imagination.
Both the Fisher (background) and the Frontier (foreground) performed impressively in conditions that tested our resolve.
The confident adventurer
My first look at the finished product came as Fisher and the Frontier rolled into the drink at the Omaha boat ramp as we readied ourselves for the 30nm road test to the Mokohinau Islands and back.
We knew we were being ambitious. The weather was not ideal and the running distance was right on the edge of the boats’ twin tote tank capacity. That was point of course, this was not supposed be the typical harbour cruise boat test, rather a true adventure along the lines of that an owner might consider.
With teams of two on board we headed on our way. While it was calm enough as we left Omaha Bay the grey skies suggested things were probably not going to stay that way. More about that later…
It’s important to the company that all its boats are immediately recognisable as Stabicrafts. The typically angular look and that unmistakable Stabicraft Red achieves this.
The use of carbon-fibre is most apparent in the 1600 Fisher’s dash.
Even so, it’s equally apparent something new is going on. That something new is hard to put your finger on immediately. The boats are somehow cooler, almost predatory, even hungry.
Although clearly modest in size the boats look bigger and more confidence inspiring than a clinical look at the specification numbers would suggest.
Both boats enjoy recently developed and successful Stabicraft features such as the Wing Style coamings, which offer extra protection on the rough days, the Game-Chaser transom, for more efficient and high-speed reversing and the Arrow pontoons. As the numbers demonstrate both boats share identical hulls. The differences are all in the topsides.
The cuddy cabin-sporting 1600 Fisher is obviously the more conventionally styled of the two boats.
As Stabicraft points out, the big changes implemented as part of Project Carbon can mostly be seen in the construction of the bonnet and console areas of the boat.
The carbon-fibre panelling through the dash in particular, has taken the styling of these boats up several notches on what most fans of Stabicraft will be familiar with.
Sitting in the custom bucket seats behind this comparatively high-tech dash, its easy to imagine the boat will be faster and perform more responsively than you might otherwise expect.
It’s an open boat so the visibility is excellent yet the protection from the elements offered by the generous curved windscreen was surprisingly good. And we certainly got to test it in conditions, which often threatened to drown us - and would have done in lesser craft.
Ergonomically speaking, the Frontier’s console is one of the best for this style of boat the writer has trialled.
Centrally located in a carbon-fibre panel the dash features a single Furuno navigation system. For the quality of this fishing platform I thought the unit installed was a little under done but there’s plenty of room to upspec to something more in line with the boat’s ambitions.
I really liked the overhead bimini-styled rocket launcher. It looks smart and is at a height most will find manageable.
With a nod to those who would love gaze at one of these craft in the secure confines of a garage, unbolting and folding this unit away is a two-minute job and reduces the boat’s overall height enough for most home sheds.
The primary storage in the 1600 Fisher is forward, underneath the cuddy cabin dash. It’s kept very simple with just a solid bar, which doubles as a footrest, to keep tackle boxes and bags in place. In my mind simple and functional is exactly how it should be.
There’s no need for bunks or extra seating in this boat. My only suggestion would be the addition of a waterproof cover to help keep clothes and bags completely dry on the rougher days.
The ability to swivel the twin bucket seats to take in the fishing space is awesome.
As a fishing platform the 1600 Fisher offers surprising space and plenty of rod holder options. Keeping it uncluttered is the key.
Pontoon boats are often criticised for the snugness of their fishing spaces but I really didn’t notice this as an issue in the 1600 Fisher. Keeping the floor space uncluttered really helps.
As expected there is a decent collection of rod holders, some fixed and some adjustable, as well as clever drink/lures holders for added convenience.
To quote Stabicraft itself, the 1600 Frontier is just as innovative. I am a huge fan of centre console fishing boats and this company has been building some of the best for quite some time.
To put it simply, the 1600 Frontier is a hot little fishing boat offering more than enough space and options to satisfy the most inventive of modern anglers.
The centre console 1600 Frontier is a lure and fly fisherman’s dream. Combining full width walk-around space with Stabicraft’s famous stability at rest is a master stroke.
I love the console setup, which is a feature difficult to get right on a centre console boat. Ergonomically speaking, it is pretty close to perfect.
A 70L Icey Tek chilly bin pulls double duty as a seat for the driver. Forward of the console a dickey seat offers a comfortable backside place for a second angler if he or she wishes to sit down. There’s storage here too.
As with the Fisher, Stabicraft have been generous with rod holder allocation, including those adjustable ones.
A change in the weather
So, as I said, the plan was to blast out to the Mokohinau Islands and back to really test the sea handling capabilities of these relatively compact vessels.
My nervousness about the grey skies was well founded, as it was soon apparent that the MetService’s 10 to 15-knot forecast was off target. By the time we were running past Little Barrier gusts of 18 to 20-knots were becoming more consistent and with the outgoing tide things had cut up quite rough.
Still, this is what we were here for, to test these boats beyond normal range.
Conditions continued to deteriorate and by the time we where ready for the turn home we faced quite a daunting challenge. Even so, we maintained 20 knots through all but the biggest holes and stayed remarkably dry.
Of the two boats I preferred the Frontier’s ride. This is often the case with centre console boats. The more balanced weight distribution of this configuration has its greatest effect when travelling at speed through choppy conditions.
The centre console keeps its nose higher than the more traditional cuddy cabin version and quite ironically, enjoys a slightly drier ride.
Even though the conditions were challenging I thoroughly enjoyed my day on these two impressive new boats. This sea trial has left me excited about the fishing-orientated mission we have planned with Project Carbon next week.
To be honest, I’d be keen to see Stabicraft take the carbon-fibre approach further. It would be interesting to see more of the topsides, even the coamings done in this super-strong, ultra-light and attractive product.
Regardless, I think Stabicraft can be justifiably proud of this first foray into the carbon-fibre world. Both these boats look fantastic and enjoy performance to match.