Trailerboat Fisherman test report, July 2012
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Grey Nomads wanting to go around Australia now have a very different kind of ‘caravan’ to enjoy their grand trip.

After forking out heaps of dollars on big horsepower plus fuel bills some boaties are saying “enough!” They’re not exactly protesting outside parliament but they’re not happy with the high-speed approach to boating and looking for something different.

This is where the new Deltacraft Islander 700 comes into the picture. This is an Aussie production boat that goes unashamedly after the slow lane.

And while it references an early era of boating, the Deltacraft Islander delivers a very modern style of craft with heaps of comfort and mod cons like a walk-in bathroom with hot water shower and TV/DVD player.

This is a second-generation Deltacraft Islander. A smaller 5.7m model was in production from the 1970s and 1980s and was most popular. There are literally hundreds of these early fibreglass cruisers dotted around Australian bays and harbours and they keep a lot of people happy.

Steve Leonard, the man who created the first Deltacraft, is also behind this new 21st century version. However, he’s quick to explain this is a totally new boat, much bigger and more trailer-friendly.

The first model came out of a market response to the Middle East fuel crisis, but this one comes out of concern fuel costs are just too high.

Steve says mainstream boat builders have overlooked the fact some boaties are happy to go slower. And this is what the 700 is all about – gliding along at five to six knots in an unhurried, relaxed manner. As I found out on a recent test, it’s a rather nice way to spend an afternoon.

Launched earlier this year the Deltacraft Islander 700 has enjoyed good sales from the word go. And one of the reasons for that is the water-ballast feature built into the boat. The hull takes aboard the equivalent of 360kg of water ballast into a for’ard tank when launched. This delivers a huge amount of stability that’s appreciated whether cruising along or when fishing.

And then there’s the great fuel economy. Either with the standard 20hp or optional 30hp Volvo diesel the Deltacraft delivers a range of 800 nautical miles on the 88-litre fuel tank. And that is still allowing for a decent safety margin. Meanwhile, you have a spacious cab cruiser with full standing headroom (1.9m) to enjoy your day on the water.

Incorporating a rear landing deck and big cockpit, Deltacraft Islander is essentially a floating caravan! It functions like a caravan on the road, especially with a 240-volt power point for caravan parks. You get a hot water service as well as low-draw LED lighting to save power.

And yes, the Deltacraft does suit fishing. She might be slow, but she is very stable and provides plenty of cockpit space and rear ‘fishing’ deck.

Speed is not a necessity of fishing and you could add rod holders and racks. Admittedly, this isn’t a boat you want to do long-hauls to the Shelf (too slow), however, it’s quite at home fishing local bays and headlands. Design: As you can see this is a round bilge, production fibreglass cruiser with integrated keel, separate hung rudder and shaft-drive diesel motor. Length overall is 7m counting the anchor roller and transom deck, while the beam is a generous 2.45m, making her legally trailerable night, or day.

This Deltacraft incorporates very modern computer-aided design features and has noticeably more fullness in the bilge area that helps reduce ‘rock and roll’ when at rest.

The keel also is a special low-drag design that ensures the Deltacraft Islander is a very efficient vessel through the water.

There’s no denying this is a BIG trailer boat with a weight of 1540kg. However, thanks to a special custom-built trailer, on-road weight is 1950kg (dry).

This means you don’t need electric/hydraulic over-ride brakes. However, my guess is anyone planning to do long trips on highways will go for the serious braking gear because loaded weight will exceed two tonnes.

People who are just trailing locally could opt for mechanical brakes, provided they keep trail weight under two tonnes.

Talking of trailing, this boat does suit marina berthing or moorings during the holidays. Having a shaft-drive engine means she is well suited to in-water mooring for long period of times.

Large image Launching/retrieving is no different to other trailer boats, however, you do need to sink the trailer slightly deeper. A draft of 600mm (2ft) means some limitation on shallow ramps but in most cases it’s not going to be a problem launching.

I might mention the water ballast function works really well and quickly! The water is dumped on the ramp as you haul the boat out.

Structurally, these Deltacraft boats are tough. Think baby ice-breaker and you get the idea! You get a massive one-piece fibreglass hull with gun-laid fibreglass varying 9mm-12mm in thickness. Within this is a one-piece hull liner that incorporates the cockpit and cabin furniture and gives the craft added strength.

The hull also features three fully-glassed marine ply bulkheads, seven underfloor bulkheads and has vinylester resin to ensure it has a protective barrier against osmosis.

Deltacraft Islanders are built to commercial standard and can be ordered to survey if the buyer wants to go that route.

Suitable tow vehicles would be long-wheel base four-wheel drives such as the Mitsubishi Pajero (2500kg), Toyota Prado (2800kg) or Nissan Pathfinder (3000kg).

Performance: It’s not every day you test a trailer boat where the drinks stay on the cockpit table! Or that you don’t blast off in a flurry of spray. But getting along at five to six knots is nice and surprisingly relaxing. Underway, we chatted in a relaxed fashion, took turns at driving the boat and enjoyed a cool drink.

Frankly, there’s not much to report on handling simply because the Deltacraft doesn’t jump out of the water. So there was no need to measure hole-shot performance, trimming and all those aspects of get-up-and-go boating.

Operating at ‘displacement speed’ you hardly notice any change in speed, or passing boat wash. The ride is remarkably smooth and it feels much more like you’re aboard a large cruiser, with a very steady motion. Typical boat wash isn’t a problem and there is very little roll. Especially if you’re suffering back problems, you are going to be pretty happy aboard the Deltacraft.

Conversation levels are normal because the water-cooled diesel is located within a double-insulated engine box, ensuring it’s very quiet. It’s expected to get even better once the motor runs in.

Keep in mind the whole motor installation is below cockpit floor level so it doesn’t intrude on floor space.

The helm station is certainly comfortable with a raised pedestal seat, which is well protected by the windscreen and hardtop. It’s very much old-school boating, however, you could add a modern Raymarine Sport Pilot with hand remote if you became sick of steering.

The helm station includes a sloped dash with motor gauge set, stainless steel wheel, six ganger switch panel, VHF radio and moulded footrest. There’s also an electric windscreen wiper for bad weather, plus LED navigation lights.

On this particular test boat an optional sounder/GPS chartplotter was mounted on the underside of the headliner.

You have narrow but useable side decks for access to the bows, however, most people will find it much easier to attend the anchor from the safety of the cabin fore-hatch in the front area of the cabin. From here, you can easily reach the bow anchor well and anchor bollard. An electric anchor winch can also be fitted as an ex-factory option.

Power: Despite its heavy displacement, Deltacraft slips along surprisingly easily with very little horsepower. This is why you only need a 20hp three-cylinder diesel to achieve hull speed.

We had the optional D1 Volvo 30hp, which gives you slightly more speed but essentially, it only means a slightly better fuel economy.

However, for my money the D1 Volvo 20hp does the job nicely and it’s what most buyers will go for.

The motor drives a four-blade Porter propeller via the 25mm stainless steel shaft and has a ‘dripless’ Volvo shaft seal to ensure no leaks. The four-blade propeller ensures the Deltacraft Islander has really good reverse power when you need it!

The package also includes two 100amp hour batteries and with the 115amp/hour power of the motor you will have absolutely no problem getting the power to run lights, radios and accessories.

The standard boat also comes with a 22-litre stainless hot water tank, 88-litre cold water tank and a specially made alloy 88-litre fuel tank.

Deck/cabin: The Deltacraft is built for coastal boating conditions and comes with solid deck hardware, including bow anchor roller, bollard, stern quarter cleats and fibreglass hardtop. You also get a rear, Porto-Fino style transom platform with folding boarding ladder and doorway to cockpit.

The cockpit features a large U-shape lounge with room to seat eight people quite comfortably. There is a folding dining table and this stows into a dedicated port locker, which is a good idea when you start fishing.

By the way, zip-up vinyl clears around the cockpit are other good factory options that can be considered when cruising.

Large image Moving for’ard you find the companionway to the cabin with lock-up door. Here you find the whole portside bulkhead hinges back to open up the cabin and provide a servicing area for food and drinks. The back of this bulkhead has double-tiered timber shelves, which is an excellent utilisation of space.

Stepping a few steps down into the cabin you find plenty of headroom and clean galley to port with imitation granite bench top, sink, pressure water, cupboards and electric fridge.

The compartment opposite has a flush toilet, sink and hot/cold water shower. The rest of the cabin features a large U-shaped dinette that easily could seat five to six people for meals or drinks. The dinette converts to a double berth and with the cockpit seats provides sleeping for four adults in total.

Other interior features worth mentioning include a moulded cabin liner for easy cleaning, privacy curtains and teak timber trim. The standard package also gives you toughened safety glass windscreen, stainless steel bow rail, cockpit cushions and a transom shower.

From a fishing perspective the cockpit is quite roomy once you stow the dining table. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how fishing accessories like rod holders, raised bait board and even outriggers could be mounted to this little cruiser.

The rear landing deck makes a great spot for calm-water fishing and some owners may want to further expand on the idea by adding a safety rail similar to what have been used by Whittley trailer boats. And on that subject, why not fit a stainless steel barbecue here so you can cook up those flatheads and snapper you catch after a day’s fishing.

Verdict: I doubt the Deltacraft is going to cause a revolution in mainstream boating, however, it is sure is going make a few more boaties stop and think! Already there’s a niche market of boaties who are inclined towards this concept and the market is gradually growing.

Amazingly, the Deltacraft Islander 700 is the only production boat that’s really catering for this market. It’s a very well-targeted product that works well for trailing, in-water mooring or a combination of both.

It represents pretty good value when you consider how it allows you to enjoy the whole waterway including the no-wash and eight-knot speed zones!

This boat handles slow speeds really well so you find it easy to poke around every little bay and inlet enjoying the view, and even trolling a fishing line.

Yes, it takes a little longer to get places but eventually you’ll find a quiet little beach where you can anchor up, enjoy a swim, a long, lazy lunch or afternoon snooze. Boating doesn’t get any better than that!

There’s a solid ballast version of the Deltacraft Islander 700 if you don’t want to bother with trailing. That means an immediate saving on the cost of a trailer, but then again it means you’re up for the cost of annual slipping and mooring.

Leonard has already done an open deck version of this boat for boat hire use and we reviewed that back in May/June Trailerboat Fisherman last year. That boat might interest some owners, especially with a 25hp four-stroke outboard, however, to my mind the Deltacraft concept really works best with diesel power. It sort of goes with the territory!