Time to rip and strip Nub Tub, e Captain’s Haines Hunter 445F, back to bare bones before building her back up to survey class, courtesy of Erick Hyland from Whitepointer glass boats in Cann River, Victoria. Erick shares his version of events…
The moment The Captain’s Haines Hunter 445F rolled into Eden, I knew they were in deep shit. They claimed it had a new floor and gel coat, but I reckoned if it was riding on its original stringers they’d be rooted, along with the transom. They weren’t built to last 40 years. I know this because I was taught in the Haines Hunter factory. Don’t get me wrong, they just built them to the standard of the day and nobody expected them to be sought-after classics 30 or 40 years later.
All the same, a well-rebuilt boat will last a lifetime. When it comes to materials and construction below the floor, there are plenty of options, many of which I’ve tried. These days, I only build a dozen boats a year, so I’ve got to get it right. If I screwed up just one boat, abalone divers Australia-wide would let me know about it – they make up 90 per cent of my customers. They’re known for being particularly rough on their boats, loading them up day after day, operating in huge seas and carrying huge horsepower. They work them to death. I reckon most abalone divers could fuck up an anvil with a cork hammer. So I think The Captain’s project boat is in pretty good hands. Anyway, I’ve used almost every boat building material (alloy aside) and this is what I’ve learned.
There are three main materials to consider when rebuilding a boat floor and stringers. Before composite and fibreglass, bond wood was the most commonly used material inside and outside the boat. I still use timber for the floor because I reckon it holds a screw better than the composite materials, but to be honest, plywood is only really good for building dog kennels. Many builders still use timber for stringers. They say it reduces noise and vibration and if treated right will never rot out. That may be true, but there’s a bigger reason: time and cost. I switched to ‘glass 15 years ago. There’s no worry about noise and vibration in a Whitepointer 263 hull that tips the scales at almost two tonne when it’s dry.
By the time the project boat arrived at the Whitepointer factory in Cann River, it had been well and truly scraped out. In fact, I think I saw daylight in a couple of spots.
First we masked areas we didn’t want ‘glass on then wiped with acetone before hitting with a gun pass of 600g. Then we laid two layers of 800g gram rovings overlapping at the keel, then another layer of 800g roving over the top, dusted with a light layer of chop strand in between. For a bulletproof finish, we hit it with a final gun pass of 600g chop over the top. In some areas, it’s now double the thickness of the original glasswork.
The stringers for The Captain’s project boat are based on the ones I use for the 5m Whitepointer Super Hornet and big 263 model. They’re a C-shape, forming a full box section when ‘glassed in. They’re made up of five layers of ‘glass using 800 roving and 600 chop. Once shaped to fit snugly into the 445, we glass them in around the outside edge with chop strand, two layers of roving and chop again over that, applied with the roller. Essentially, it doubles the thickness of the sidewall of the stringer. The commercial survey assessors like it that way. On my bigger boat (the 263), the stringers are also glassed on the inside section of the join, just for extra strength. The stringer box sections can then be foam-filled or left open to drain. On the project boat they’ll be fully enclosed and watertight buoyancy chambers, but with a bung for draining.
With your best interests at heart, this hit list of “bad shit to watch out for on the water and how to deal with it if it happens” (compiled by The Captain’s favourite seagoing sawbones, who has more letters after his name than the alphabet) should keep you safe and sound while you’re on the hunt.
Australia has some of the most spectacular and varied oceans, estuaries and rivers in the world. It’s the playground for The Captain, his crew and followers. Non-fishos feel sorry for the fish, but it’s not such a one-sided game. There are just as many elements out there hunting us. Epic forces such as the sun, wind, water and cold temperatures; and marine creatures with teeth, barbs, stingers and toxins they use for defence – or that sometimes just hang in their flesh. There are bacteria, viruses and parasites chomping at the bit to attach themselves to a juicy host.
If that doesn’t kill you, then maybe one of your drunk and/or weary crew will take you out by making a bad call at sea. After a bout of cellulitis in Alaska (read about it on page 120) The Captain ordered me to put together a hit list of potential fishing killers to provide a pre-emptive safety shot across the bow for watermen in their potential time of need.
This misadventure is a tragedy easily avoided. Unseaworthy vessels, faulty or nonexistent safety equipment, solo divers and a “she’ll be right, mate” attitude towards approaching storms all lead to drowning deaths. Every time you get in a boat, it’s important to ask and check safety gear and your dive buddies’ approach to “one up, one down”. I’ve been in some horrendously ill-equipped boats, had a few near-misses and the grey hairs remind me how easy it can be to walk the proverbial plank on board a boat with a reckless captain. EPIRB, radio, life jackets, flares and a dive buddy who won’t swim off like Dory in Finding Nemo are all lifesavers.
To treat a drowned mate, you need to perform Basic Life Support (BLS). No-one has ever regretted doing this simple course, even young kids have been known to resuscitate their parents with BLS skills. Drunks fall overboard, kids slip into rough seas, divers push their limits and black out, boats sink. You’ll earn a year of free rounds at the marina tavern if you prepare for these inevitabilities. Do a basic life-support course and keep your family and mates away from Davy Jones – that bastards’ locker is full enough.
Lacerations and grazes seem like a minor concern when you’re battling barrels or pulling crayfish from honey holes. But those cuts and scratches create an entry point into the largest organ of the body – that’s the skin for those who missed biology class, not your mainmast! It’s a “free entry” sign to millions of bacteria and parasites itching to dive, balls-deep, into your moist skin, then into your fat and blood vessels until they’re surfing the red currents through your body.
An innocuous cut exposed to salt, brackish or fresh water needs your attention. I’ve seen healthy, fit young blokes laid low in a hospital bed for days waiting for heavy-hitting antibiotics and their own immune systems to fend off these stowaways and recover. If you’re a little older, less robust and have a dicky heart, lungs or medical conditions like diabetes or liver issues, then meeting some of these organisms can lead to limb loss or death.
The first step is to clean your wound well with an antiseptic scrub and keep it dry and clean. (Warning: this may well end your fishing for the day.) If you develop heat, redness, oozing pus, tracking pain, swelling, lymph node enlargement, pain or fevers, then you’ll need more than your missus and a few beers. Go to your GP and get checked out. Antibiotic choice is very important in these infections, so don’t just grab the half-finished pack from your bathroom, as you’re likely to cause more harm. If you haven’t had a tetanus booster in a while, you’ll probably need one. A member of The Captain’s crew recently left a little cut unattended while overseas and developed a cracking case of blood poisoning. If only he’d invited a capable sawbones on the trip (like me) he may have been able to continue fishing the deep blue of the Alaskan coast instead of waiting for a sponge bath from a hairy, heavyset male nurse.
CIGUATERA: HORRIFIC HITCHHIKER
The legend surrounding ciguatera poisoning and how to test for it rivals that of Blackbeard’s infamy. Ciguatoxin is produced by dinoflagellates, aquatic organisms ingested by fish. Varying levels of the toxin are stored in fish flesh and cases of poisoning have been reported from barracuda, sea bass, chinaman (displayed above), groper, coral trout, mackerel, tuna, red bass, emperor, cod and moray eels, which have the highest toxin load of any fish. Fishermen from the Sunshine Coast north have a healthy respect for the toxin as they usually know someone with a horror story. Any hardy soul who spears or pulls one out of its hole and dispatches, fillets and eats it is braver than me.
Local knowledge around which fish in your area are risky is vital, as suspect species and fish size can change with location. Even seasonal change alters case identification and some reefs can be loaded while others nearby can remain unaffected.
If you’re poisoned, expect gut symptoms after 12 hours such as vomiting, diarrhoea and cramps; and within 24 hours, neurological symptoms including numbness, itching, imbalance and cold allodynia (pain from cold stimulus such as water). Oddly, some victims report a switching of the hot/cold sensation – so a cold beer might feel hot and a hot coffee cold. This switching of perceived sensations has led to extreme pain at ejaculation – try explaining that one to Mrs Blackbeard!
Treatment involves rehydration and simple pain relief. The symptoms should fade with time, but any future ingestion of cigutoxin will lead to recurrence and worsening of symptoms. Blackbeard supposedly once shot a man dead without provocation. When asked why, he said, “If I don’t kill a man every now and then, they forget who I am”. No-one forgets ciguatera poisoning, so I’m labelling this one a true bastard of an illness.
IRUKANDJI: THE MINI MURDERER
Tiny and rarely seen with the naked eye, just the name irukandji is enough to bring a tear to the eye of the most seasoned seamen in the north. The initial sting is such a trivial brush that you might even get your crayfish bundle back to the boat before you’re crippled with pain. Backache, headache, gut and chest pains, vomiting and sweating can all leave your average feisty fisho rolling on the deck screaming for hard liquor. Don’t uncork the rum just yet. That fast heart rate and rising blood pressure caused by the huge adrenaline release can lead to fluid on the lungs and heart failure. He needs medical care, fast. Get on the satphone to 000 and plan an ambulance pick-up point. The Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) recommends bathing the wound site with vinegar, although its efficacy is debatable with this bastard jellyfish.
While you’re waiting for the ambulance, spare a thought for Dr Jack “Handyside” Barnes. In 1965, in the course of research into box jellyfish venom, Dr Jack captured two irukandji, convinced they were the culprits menacing oceangoers north of Cairns. Like all good captains, he wanted to make sure his crew was safe and decided on a spot of DIY immunisation. Assembling his crew (one of them his nine-year-old son), he gave them each a lash of irukandji tentacle then did himself. Within minutes, all three were being rushed to hospital with classic symptoms. No-one died that day, but irukandji have claimed more than a few souls over the years. Beware and wear protective clothing in the water at stinger time.
EXPOSURE: THE OBVIOUS ASSASSIN
Those poor bastards of old would crew a wooden ship on long open-ocean voyages fuelled by diluted rum and weevil-infested biscuits. Their exposure to the elements was extreme, mortality rates were high and the ship’s surgeon or “sawbones” was more capable of cutting bits off than fixing problems. Today, conditions are much kinder, but even short exposure to cold water or harsh sunlight can injure or kill the weekend warrior in a 6m battlewagon.
Hypothermia (when core body temperature drops below 35°C– normal is 37°C) triggers shivering and adrenaline release, increasing your metabolic rate by up to five times. Peripheral blood vessels shut down to limit heat loss and shunt blood to your vital organs. As temperature drops, other organs cease functioning, shivering stops, muscles stiffen, the heart slows and can go into fatal rhythms, brain function declines and death follows.
In nearly freezing water, you’ve got less than 15 minutes, but even in water to 26°C, a few hours’ exposure can be enough. Staying warm is much easier than getting warm, so suit up. If your mate is cold, get him out of his wet gear and out of the wind. Wrap him in dry blankets, stash him in the warmest spot on the boat and lay on the hot drinks (or hot pies).
Sun exposure is the other main risk faced by boaties. Two out of three Aussies will develop a skin cancer by age 70 and I’d bet this stat is worse for fishermen. Almost all these cancers are due to sun exposure. Sunscreen and sun-protective clothing will reduce this risk significantly with SPF30 filtering more than 96.7 percent of harmful UV rays. Get a Buff, sunglasses, a legionnaire’s hat, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, long pants, boat shoes and a bottle of Cancer Council-approved sunscreen. Your skin will thank you for it and so will your grandkids. Basic sunburn simply needs cooling/soothing creams and time to heal. Remember: each individual sunburn increases your chance of developing skin cancer.
The cause of death of most pirates who weren’t hanged, massive blood loss from any cause will kill you if not treated quickly. For modern salts, the biggest causes of this are shark bites, propeller injuries and accidental impaling by a wayward spear. In the past few years, there have been a number of tragic deaths from uncontrolled bleeding in Australian waters.
As blood loss continues, the limited remaining blood cells cannot cover the extra workload and less oxygen is transported to vital organs. Life is not compatible without oxygen. On the water, your mate’s claret mixing with the bait and brine, you need to act fast. Stopping the bleeding is the priority. Put pressure on, or just above, the bleeder, using your fist or knee if required. It will hurt like falling on barnacle-covered rocks if your mate is conscious, but it’s a life-saving manoeuvre. If there’s another crewman, get them on the satphone to 000 to arrange immediate transport to hospital – they can also tell you where to put the tourniquet. Don’t use a tourniquet if bleeding control can be achieved by other means – it’s a final measure and potentially very dangerous. If you can control the haemorrhage, hang tight, follow advice from the retrieval coordinator and wait for the rescue crew. They’ll bring equipment and possibly blood. Survivors are alive today due to quick-thinking mates or good Samaritans.
Blokes die on average four years earlier than women, partly due to a reluctance to seek medical help or use preventative- health strategies. All men should have a healthy relationship with their butcher, their fishmonger and their GP. Find one of each you trust and you can look forward to more time on the water and with your family.
Sources: Electronic Therapeutic Guidelines, Australian Resuscitation Council, Advanced Trauma Life Support manual.
WORDS by Dr Marlow Coates, FACRRM, FRACGP, JCCA Anaesthetics Accredited, MBBS, BPhty, SMO Torres and
Cape Hospital and Health Service
The Captain’s phone rang earlier this year. It was John Haines Junior, boss man of Suzuki Australia and heir to the Haines Signature fortune. In his polite but matter-of-fact manner he asked, “what are you guys doing in June?”
“Let me check my calendar, John,” I stumbled. I didn’t want to look free as a bird, but I didn’t want to look unavailable, either, because he might have something tasty available, like a run on his new 788 centre console. So I played it cool. “Something with you by the sounds of it”, I offered. “Excellent, get your passport in order, you’re coming to Miami for the launch of something special,” he said. This was good news. It could only mean one thing: I’d be needing a brand-new Hawaiian shirt.
The special occasion was the launch of Suzuki’s biggest donk yet: a 4.4-litre, naturally aspirated V6 delivering 350HP. It tips the scales at 330kg, but the most distinctive feature is the dual props. Essentially, the props are spinning in , opposite directions. It’s not a new phenomenon, but having them on a high-powered Suzuki outboard is. They’re designed to reduce torque steer and improve stability. Props go up
to 31-and-half pitch, but you don’t want to bump the reef because there are six blades on this baby.
To test the theory, we jumped on a 24ft Gulfshore built by Gray’s Family boats in Florida. This thing chews up the chop, but only draws six inches of water. It features a sweet tower down the back and with a 2.6m beam has room for six guys. This rig would dominate on Sydney Harbour kings and then get you to Brown’s Mountain at about 75km/h, but you might fall out because there’s not a lot of freeboard. The numbers on the Suzuki were pretty tasty. At a cruising speed of 30km/h we were doing 3000RPM and burning 22L per hour, getting 1.4km for every litre.
The new outboard runs at a compression ratio of 12 to one, the highest-ever for a production outboard. At the business end, there are two injectors per combustion chamber in each cylinder, meaning a small amount of fuel and a high amount of air. The air is fed through a direct-air intake that uses two louvres to eliminate water and vapour.
IF YOU LOVE IT, SET IT FREEMAN
Just to be sure they were good things, we hitched a ride on an insane Freeman 3700 cat. This thing had four new 350HP Suzis bolted to the back of
the transom. It’s over six tonnes on the water, with a beam of 3.5m and a 2000L fuel tank, but we flew along the Florida coast at more than 110km/h. At that speed, we were burning over 400L per hour. Mrs Captain won’t be impressed when she hears we’re bringing one of these babies home.
After a long day testing, we knocked together a video for The Captain fans on Facebook. We made a bet with John Haines that it’d hit 20,000 views by nightfall. The loser would be shouting the bar for the night. We won the bet and also won the title for the best hangover by a considerable margin. John won the title of most money wasted on The Captain’s rum habit. By the way, our AA group is pretty disappointed in you, John.
PICK ME UP
If you like pick-up trucks and huge centre-console rigs, then Florida is the place to be. In fact, everything is pretty big in these parts. The tackle stores are bigger than Kmart and feature automatic weapons for sale. The highways are three or four cars wide, spiralling in every direction, but always somehow deliver us to the next serve of jalapeño poppers and giant nachos washed down with Budweiser. We stopped at every boat dealership with a 30ft centre console in the yard, but it got boring when we realised there was one on every corner. Our attention turned to one manufacturer: Contender. They carry a big reputation as a good sea boat with a 24.5 degree deadrise. Some of the fishiest crews we know roll in them, like Nomad Sportfishing and Eddy Lawler from Peak Sportsfishing. We got word that The Captain’s salty mate, Jason Hedges, had ordered one, so thought we’d check it out down Homestead way.
Contender wasn’t the eat-off-the-floor-type operation we were expecting. It was a sprawling factory and they clearly relied on migrant labour to get the job done (did Trump know of this?). Boats were being pumped out faster than kebabs from a Kings Cross kebab shop at 4am, but fortunately they looked just as tasty.
Jason’s rig, a 25T model with three-piece construction sat outside. A strip of masking tape with a number indicated it was his. We thought about reapplying the sticker to the 39-footer with triple Yammies, but a large rottweiler prevented us from getting close (sorry, Jase). We demanded that it be moved further up the production line in the interests of international relations. However, our chaperone looked at his watch and told us it was time to leave.
What do you do when you love boats but don’t have one? You go to the boat ramp, of course. We headed to the same ramp that Invincible, Contender, Sea
Vee and SeaHunter use as their local testing ground. We got distracted by a sweet “little” 28 Contender skippered by a former cop from New York. He’d lived a rollercoaster life in the Big Apple. Memories were tattooed all over his body, including the GPS marks of the twin towers, the birthplaces of his kids and some favourite yellowfin GPS marks. We tried bribing him with Contender hats to take us to some of them, but unfortunately he had a full crew and they were off to the Bahamas. So we sat around spotting manatees – an aquatic mammal that resembles a cross between a seal and baby hippo. Five minutes later, the biggest console we’ve ever seen rolled down the ramp. It was a 45ft SeaHunter fitted with quadruple Yamaha 350HP outboards. We were lucky enough to be loitering during their sea trials. The dealer had a soft spot for “Oss-seas”, so we hitched a ride around the bay, cruising at over 100km/h burning up 400L of fuel every hour.
The SeaHunter brand was created by Ralph Montalvo. He comes from the aeronautical world and is recognised for his use of carbon and Kevlar. Perhaps it was his previous career that inspired him to drop a 35ft console onto concrete. The boat survived and the video proved a YouTube winner. That wasn’t enough for Ralph, so he cut the boat in half and drove it around for the cameras. The Captain likes your style, Ralph.
The hull design features a padded vee-bottom with a stepped transom, perfectly designed for optimal sounder performance at all speeds. The boys from SeaHunter reckon they’re the strongest ‘glass hulls on the market due to a proprietary laminate schedule involving a chemical bond of Kevlar, vinyl ester resin, carbon fibre and other patented products with small letters next to them. The lightweight build gives the SeaHunter awesome long-range tour-ability.
Our ride was fitted with a 2800L fuel tank with a range of 1000km – that’s at a cruising speed of 65-80km/h, burning about three litres per kilometre. The long range is designed for chasing tuna and sailfish. The key to catching them, says our well-tanned skipper, Bernie, is live bait. The 45ft model features four live wells, designed to keep bait such as pilchard, herring or goggle eyes all in separate zones. Navigating to the fishing grounds is done with three 16-inch Garmin screens. The living area for the captain features an air-conditioned bedroom underneath the console.
The Captain doesn’t usually accept discounted project boats from manufacturers, but in this case was forced to “modify” his iron-clad rule. We offered the 445F project boat, three of our kids and even a collection of rare Series LandRovers in exchange. Strangely, the SeaHunter crew declined, dropping us back at the ramp five minutes later.
NORTH BY NORTH-WEST
In Florida we got our fill of deep-vee glass boats, Hawaiian shirts and Budweiser, but America was big and diverse. We wanted something different. So we pointed our compass in the opposite direction; north-west to where the sun never sets in summer: Alaska. It’s North America’s Cape York – and the flurry of bearded, boot-wearing fishermen carrying styrene boxes full of fresh fish through airport check-ins indicated the country was plentifully stocked. The wildlife is abundant and black bears roam wild like the salmon. Sadly, while we were there, a local kid lost his life after being stalked during a cross country run. That’s one of the reasons most people carry a rifle in these parts.
Our man on the ground was Travis from Ron’s Recreational Centre. He sells ATVs, motorcycles, Honda outboards and Stabicraft boats. More importantly, Trav had the keys to Ravencroft Lodge, a remote lodge on the east side of Prince William Sound. It’s an eco-explorer’s paradise, surrounded by glaciers and waterfalls cascading down the Chugach Mountain Range. There are no roads in, so you’ll need a chopper, kayak or boat to get there. We jumped aboard a Stabicraft 2500 Ultracab to nudge around the icebergs. I just wanted to cast a lure into the hordes of schooling salmon, or maybe drop a line in for halibut, but Trav had other plans – he wanted to show us puffins, humpbacks, sea lions and salmon sharks. The later species caught our attention. Salmon shark? Was this some kind of made-up species? Trav says they’re a relative of the great white and one of the fastest sharks in the world, having been clocked at more than 80 km/h. The salmon sharks are only around for a couple of weeks of the year – feeding on the salmon – before they head off into the Pacific. Trav teases them up with silver herring and draws them close to the boat for photo shoots, often with documentary makers who make longer and far more serious movies than The Captain’s crew ever will.
There are very few fibreglass deep-vee consoles in Alaska. “Aluminium is the material of choice for our world,” says Trav. He reckons most trips to the Columbia glacier involve bumping around icebergs that are crystal clear, incredibly dense and hard to spot. There are also floating logs and the rocky coastline to navigate. We rode aboard a 25ft Ultracab with a pilot-house design. The forward-raking cabin isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but Trav explains that it’s designed not to fog up in high humidity and cold weather. With a diesel heater it’s nice and toasty inside the cabin. Trav says he regularly goes out hunting for three or four days at a time, living out of the Stabi. Tempting, but sadly, our flight was waiting to take us home to Sydney.
LEG-LESS IN ALASKA
Unfortunately, one of The Captain’s crew didn’t make it to the puffin parade at Ravencroft Lodge. He was bailed up in an Alaskan hospital after copping a bad leg infection diagnosed as cellulitis. A minor nick had become infected and the rate of swelling that consumed his whole leg from the knee down was pretty damn scary. Many a limb has been lost to cellulitis and the doctor said that if the patient was over 70 years of age, or a diabetic, he’d be in critical care. You can read “How not to end up dead while fishing” in The Captain’s “Fatal Attraction” feature, starting on page 122.
The Captain tugs hard over his tow machines. Here are his top 10 adventure rigs.
Did you know more than 200k for your deep-vee machine built with 37 layers of ‘glass in the transom and fitted with hardtop, commercial-grade sounder, radar, pie warmer, oven, Engel fridge and twin 350 donks? Chances are your Holden Kingswood won’t get it down the driveway, let alone to Lakes Entrance for the hot sword bite. Time to upgrade the tow tug.
Here are 10 of our favourite tow tugs. We chose some because they’re fast, some because they’re cool and some that aren’t fast or cool, but that our accountant says we should. What a tugger.
Money’s no object, right? Then you’d have rocks in your head not to give the RAM 2500 a couple of flirty looks. Sure, they’re renowned for towing huge loads and, with a max tow rating a hair under 7000kg, it’s a reputation well earned. But they’re also powerful – as in strange haircut in a small Asian country powerful. The 6.7L Cummins donk under the bonnet boasts 370HP and a huge 1084Nm, so it’ll tow just about any boat you can hitch it to then punt out a 16-second quarter mile… we checked. Bundle that with a whole heap of towing tech like “haul-mode”, an automatic engine brake and one of the cheapest buy-ins for a full-size Yank tank and it makes a hell of a lot of sense. Expect to pay $140K for a new one.
The LandCruiser has been the alpha dog of Australian 4WDs since, well, since there have been Australian 4WDs. The current generation LC200 is hugely overdue for an update and it shows with an outdated interior and a laughably small tech package. But none of that matters because it’ll tow an honest-to- God 3500kg and laugh in its face thanks to a pants-tightening 4.5L V8 twin-turbo diesel donk purring under the bonnet. Towing tech is light-on, but with 650Nm available from just off idle, and enough room for a Shimano warehouse full of Tiagras, it puts up one hell of an argument. It’s also available in a 4.7L petrol donk that’ll convert money to noise without any annoying side effects like power. New versions are available from $85K, but you can pick up second- hand offerings in the high $30K range
LAND ROVER DEFENDER
Land Rovers might earn themselves a bad reputation, but they’re seriously ahead of their time. To this day, it’s still not really known how they managed to make a car out of alloy, cover it in oil leaks and still have it rust to bits. Regardless, they’re tougher than a boy named Sue and have a cult-like following for their rugged simplicity and quirky styling. Later-model years with the Ford- derived Puma engine all punch in at 3500kg tow rating, but if you’re happy to run the gauntlet with electrical gremlins in the older TD5 models, that rating can bump up to the 4000kg mark. As with anything tow-related, the longer wheelbase 130s will tow smoother and more stable than the shorter-wheelbase 110 and 90 models. They hold their value, so even a 20-year-old model will cost you at least $10K, with a two-year- old model costing northwards of $60K.
FORD RANGER PX2
You’d have to have your head buried in the sand not to notice how popular Ford’s updated PX2 Ranger is – and for bloody good reason. They’ve got the longest wheelbase in the class, making them one of the most stable platforms; the biggest donk in class with a 470Nm inline five-cylinder turbo-diesel; and questionable looks that have done more for fake bonnet scoop sales than another Fast’n’Furious ever could. Steer clear of the underpowered 2.2L donk and put yourself in a high-spec XLT, FX4 or Wildtrak with the 3.2L engine. You’ll pick up a heap of useful technowizardy like trailer-sway control, reverse cameras to help with hitching up and crash mitigation. Reliability isn’t their strongpoint, so aim at trading it in when the warranty period runs out. They’re rated to tow 3500kg, but with a GCM of 6000kg don’t expect to do it with more than a carload of mates. Earlier- generation PX1s can be picked up from around $25K, with new PX2s starting in the mid-$40K range.
You’ve probably heard the name VW Transporter before, but the actual tow tug is a little more diverse than that. It’s part of the VW T6 platform that gives you the option of everything from two-seaters (if you need the cargo space in the back), through to huge seven- seaters and even a long-wheelbase twin-cab ute thrown into the mix. 4WD models are available if you’re crazy enough to punt a modern Kombi down a 4WD trail. Towing capacities are 2500kg almost across the board, but tow-ball weight is a piddly 100kg, so make sure you load extra fuel behind the axle in your trailer. It’s hardly the most powerful or the quickest tow tug you’ll find, but if you absolutely need a van, the Transporter will still lug you to and from the ramp. You can pick up second- hand offerings for a few grand, with a top-spec 4WD new offering costing around $55K.
If you’re spending your 9-to-5 on job sites or rough terrain, the Iveco Daily 4×4 is well worth a look. It’s more truck than car, but offers a drivetrain that’ll handle a million beach launches, incredible low-range gearing for steep ramps and will make you feel like a lumberjack just ducking down to the shops for lunch. Tow rating is an industry standard 2500kg, but you can get the GVM upgraded to lug a huge 2800kg payload – although you’ll need to pony up for a truck licence and steer in to every weighbridge you come across. Even the outdated model is new and not super-common, so expect to pay around $100K to get your backside into the Italian stallion.
Tech is great, until it’s not. If you’re not after all the bells and whistles, and just want a hairy-chested tow tug to muscle your boat around like it owes it money after a bad weekend at the dogs, then Toyota’s 70 Series is well worth your attention. They’re a bit like Lego for big kids and available in everything from single- and dual-cab utes to station wagons and panel vans. They’re that basic, the rear doors still have ashtrays, and air-conditioning is an optional extra. The one thing that isn’t an option is the drivetrain, a single-turbo 4.5L V8 backed by a manual cog-swapping five-speed box. They’ll tow 3500kg with ease and definitely impress unsuspecting women as you drop it back a gear and roar past their hatchbacks. The cheapest way into a V8 ’Cruiser is an eight-year-old single- cab ute that will run you around the $30K mark, with new wagons, utes and troopies all closer to $70K.
Like the idea of a rugged, V8-powered 4WD, but think taxation is theft and Toyotas are for the filthy proletariat? Mercedes has you covered. The G-Wagen has been largely unchanged since the 1970s in terms of base vehicle and overall styling, but if you dig deep and come up with a cool $250K+, you can slide your backside into the leather-clad, AMG-tuned G63. The military-inspired interior is shod with enough cows to stock a feminist convention, but the real grunt is under the bonnet. Shoe- horned into the compact frame is a 5.5L twin-turbo petrol V8 that pushes out a grin-inducing 760Nm and 650hp. Your accountant and neighbours will hate you equally, but you’ll be towing 3125kg in what is essentially a supercar shoehorned into a tank. Let the hate flow through you. If the $250K+ price tag scares you off, you can pick up a second- hand offering as low as $230K!
Over the past 40 years, the trusty, rusty HiLux has been a constant feature at Aussie boat ramps, and the current model will continue that legacy. It’s
one of the most diminutive in its class – inside, outside, and under the bonnet, but it still packs Toyota’s legendary reliability and resale value. At 3200kg for the auto and 3500kg in manual when backed with the 2.8L, the HiLux boasts reasonable tow ratings – which drop considerably when paired with the 4L V6 petrol, 2.7L V4 petrol, or 2.4L turbo- diesel. But let’s be real – towing 3500kg in a 2000kg ute puts you in contention for a Darwin Award. The current shape is only just starting to trickle onto the second-hand market, so expect to pay around $40K for one, or pony up the $59K for a brand-new top-spec model.
All right, so it’s got the class of a drunken Irishman and the resale value of a battered sav, but the fact remains that if you’re haulin’ kids and boats
the Commodore SS Sportwagon puts up a convincing argument. Despite having a reasonably small tow-rating of 1600-2100kg, under the bonnet they’re packing 6.0L of American V8 fury, so you’ll have no problems pulling up the boat ramp – or sheilas with two first names. Sportwagons have racked up around a billion kays doing taxi service and with Aussie motor manufacturing coming to a close, may well be collector’s items in years to come. We say: affordable, comfortable, keeps the missus happy. You can get into a second hand Sportwagon for around $15K, while a brand-spanker will set you back a hair under $60k.
It’s not a matter of life and death. Nope, this is far more important than that. This is about Facebook likes.
Are you a bit confused about the catch-and-release code these days? What species are socially acceptable to fillet? What species should be set free? It’s enough to leave you holding your limp gaff in hand on the back deck, paralysed with uncertainty. Never fear, The Captain has written a new code so you know what to do when that billfish or bluefin comes alongside. It’s based on the world’s leading standard in social research – Facebook likes.
All swordfish must die. After all, you woke at 3am, spent $400 on fuel and haven’t had more than 100 likes on a Facebook post for 12 months now. If you happen to catch one, kill it, then jump in its mouth if possible and start snapping away. Send the photo to as many editors of fishing and boating magazines as possible. There is a downside to killing one of these goliaths – your boat will be heeling to one side. In this event, it’s OK to kill another one to trim out the boat for a joyous ride home.
Note: Be sure to include words like “beautiful beasts” in your Facebook posts and definitely reference the “life-changing experience with best mates” as well as “tributes to my long- suffering wife”. By Facebook standards, emotional posts outweigh ethical posts by at least 20 to one.
All marlin must live. Even though you’ve been fishing for 20 years to catch a marlin, resist the urge to kill one and bring it on board. If you succumb, and have to post your marlin murder to Facebook, make sure you mention that the fish died “of natural causes” or that it “came up backwards”. Follow that post by mentioning that you and your starving family consumed every piece of meat, including the eyeballs, on the very same night. Under no circumstances ever freeze a fillet of marlin or you will go straight to Facebook fishing hell.
All bluefin must die. Hanging a bluefin from the gantry is a guaranteed 100 likes on Facebook. A photo of you and your buddies bringing one over the gunwales of your 17ft Haines will score an instant 300 likes. Plus, you’ve got to have something to prove to Mrs Captain and your boss that the 24 hours of trolling on the weekend were 100 per cent worth it. If that’s not enough justification, just mention that those greedy Japanese long-liners have stopped plundering the Southern Oceans – which means, er, that you can.
All flathead must live. The humble and plentiful flathead has been a staple of Australian diets ever since Joseph Banks flicked out a Gulp! in Nuclear Chicken from the back of the Endeavour in 1770 and landed a nice 75cm dusky. Unfortunately, flathead is no longer a staple. Any flattie bigger than your forearm needs to be released. The main reason is this: it has babies. Yep, those ones breed – unlike giant swordfish, which as everyone knows are mysteriously created from seahorse dandruff. We recommend you spend over $10,000 on an Aquatech housing and a DSLR camera to get a shot of the friendly flattie boat- side, then post to Facebook for a solid 80 likes. Satisfied with your social-media handiwork, head to the fish market and spend almost $40 per kilo on some sweet flattie fillets.
Rule one: keep your eyes open. Peter Pakula shares his wisdom on reading the signs and finding the fish.
Electronic aids (sounder, GPS, temp gauge) certainly help you find fish, but they’re not the most important tool in your belt. They don’t tell you where you should be, they only tell you where you’ve been. Unfortunately, the oceans are in continual flux. Every part of your adventure is in new water and the SSTs you looked at yesterday will have changed before you can even punch the lat and long into your GPS.
The most important thing to analyse is what’s going on around you in the moment. This is mainly done with your eyes. As you become more experienced, other senses such as smell and feel come into play. You’ll be able to smell the sweet oily baitfish slicks that tell of recent action upwind. You’ll be able to feel what the current is doing by the way your boat reacts on turns and in certain directions. For now, though, we’ll concentrate on training your eyes. These are your most valuable assets when hunting for signs of fish life.
The fish we’re seeking can be grouped as predators, but in reality, just about every species in the ocean is a predator, each feeding on other creatures. They all have one thing in common: they want to use the least amount of energy possible to feed.
As currents smash into each other they force nutrients to the surface where sunlight interacts to help algae grow quickly. Juvenile fish feed on the algae and in turn the chain of predation continues up the line to the larger predators we seek. Our best indication of these corridors is temperature change. The greater the change over the shortest distance, the greater the concentration of life in this corridor.
Small baitfish are unable to travel through temperature changes – and associated salinity and oxygen levels – very easily. Larger predators take advantage of this “wall” to herd baitfish more effectively than in the open ocean.
When these currents interact with the shoreline and other structures such as reef, canyons and ridges, it has the effect of narrowing the corridors and intensifying the temperature differences. This is such a good place for a predator that they will often take up residence on structures and wait for the currents to bring food to them. Note that the predators here include many of the species we call baitfish.
Often these currents are part of oceanic eddies. The structure of an eddy is not uniform. The current is fastest along its leading edge and weakens towards the back and centre. The highest concentrations of phytoplankton, algae – and therefore the animals that feed on them and the rest of the chain of life – are along the leading edge of the eddy. The leading edge is also where the major temperature changes or breaks are found. Note that the larger predators do have a higher tolerance of temperature changes so a wide area may have to be explored to locate them. Using charts, wind direction, SSTs and recent reports, we can get some idea of where to go, for example, a set of canyons, a drop-off or really anything that disrupts the natural flow of currents (including tidal currents).
Now it’s time to check for signs that we’re in the right spot. Basically, any sign of life or water disruption. Current lines are easy to see on calm days – they’re the smoother water highways that wind through the ocean. Often there’s different-coloured water on either side. The edges may be marked with weed lines or other flotsam gathered by wind and current. Even in the open ocean, any sized flotsam is worth investigating. Hopefully, there’ll be an associated temperature change. On rougher days, the currents will cause some areas to be rougher than others, particularly on the edges of currents and over structure.
One less obvious sign is coastal shipping. These freighters run with the fastest current, where the best temperature breaks are, to save fuel and increase speed. Other signs include birds sitting, gliding or hovering expectantly. The higher the bird is circling, the deeper the fish are or they’re hopefully working on breaking fish. Bait also may be flicking on the surface or showing on the sounder.
In short, any form of life is a sign of a present food chain; and anything that differs from its surroundings. The ideal combination is structure with the current hitting it – preferably the front or edge of an eddy with a few signs. The more signs you spot in one place at the one time, the better your chances will be.