Not so long ago, a boat builder of repute reached out to The Captain, saying,  “If you blokes come across a good performing hull, between 20ft and 23ft long, give me a call. I want to replicate something with a sweet, soft ride, big internal capacity and commercial-class chops.”

Mr Boat Builder, look no further. We’ve found what you’re looking for. It’s a 21.5ft Smuggler sitting down in Refuge Cove and currently owned by pool builder and landscaper John Woollard from Aspendale, Victoria. However, prying it out of his hands to flop could prove a serious problem, because John is very attached to his Smuggler — as, indeed, is The Captain. He’s owned the boat for 15 years and spent almost two of those years rebuilding it.

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SMART SIMRAD FIT-OUT

The custom work extends to a new dash reconfiguration to fit twin 16-inch Simrad screens, a new rear transom with live-bait tanks, new seat boxes and Rae-Line seats. Boat builders should pay attention to John’s custom dive door. It mirrors an Edencraft configuration, but with the clever addition of a piano hinge along the inside bottom edge, so the door pivots inwards to load eskies and bring in big fish. The advantage of the hinged door is that it doesn’t sit loose in the boat – not ideal when you’re flying around at 40-plus knots, which happens quite often.

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_dsc4206At the ramp, it’s a head-turner: the classic lines and swept-back windscreen dipped in Jeep black and Jeep graphite grey paint is enough to make any southern fisho go weak at the knees. Kids at the ramp reckoned it might be Batman’s fishing rig. The numbers back up the stovehot appearance: 21.5ft (6.4m), 30-degree deadrise, huge deck space and 280 litres of fuel. They’re Cootacraft Bad Boy-like specs, but this 6m-plus rig tips the scales at only 2.2 tonne.

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BACK IN BLACK

The cool colour scheme extends all the way to the motor. When we ask John what’s going on down back he smiles.  “We’ve got an Evinrude E-TEC 250HP — it’s painted black so people don’t give me shit. But in truth, I’ve had that motor for a long time and it’s never given me any grief other than the time I accidentally put 200L of diesel in it and it went BANG! Since then it’s had a rebuild and a new powerhead — and hasn’t missed a beat.”

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We reckon the blacked-out E-TEC 2-stroke is a nice match to the 30-degree timber-free hull. Throttle response through any rev range is as good as any donk on the market. John’s good mate Dave Torrelli (a multiple Cootacraft owner and deep-vee fiend) jumped behind the helm to show off the handling characteristics of the Smuggler, impressing all the onlookers at Refuge Cove, other than a few who couldn’t bear the fumes. The supersoft ride is the main reason John made the decision to undertake a full rebuild.

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SMUGGLER FIRST IN LINE

John’s favourite feature of the boat is the twin 16-inch Simrad screen set-up. “I spent a lot of time researching the American sites and forums and they all talked Simrad up.” His Smuggler was the first in Australia to be fitted with a BM175 high-wide transducer and John said it was a game changer for his fishing productivity, clearly marking snapper in the bay and gamefish offshore. The whole set-up is plug and play, and dead easy to use. The screens also offer easy access to fuel-burn figures, though sometimes I don’t want to know!”

The screens are complemented with a Simrad radar. John muses, “the way Port Phillip Bay is these days, there could be hundreds of boats out there at night.” Adam Davey from Davey Marine did the wiring and installation and John describes their attention to detail as: “next-level, possibly bordering on obsessive compulsive disorder. Every wire is labelled and the fit-out came with an A4 laminated sheet detailing every fuse.” The Captain’s crew reckon Adam is the type of bloke who labels his milk in the company fridge – and god help anyone that touches it because it’s wired to a float switch that’s connected to his mobile phone.

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SHE’S NO DRIVEWAY ORNAMENT

The Smuggler looks just as good off the water, rolling on a sweet Transtyle alloy trailer with black rims. It came recommended by John’s charter mates, who do thousands of kilometres up and down the coast every year. Keeping the overall weight down was also a priority. On the weighbridge, she tips the scales at 2.2 tonne, easily towable with his Jeep. John’s 1998 Smuggler is no driveway ornament either. He’s boated tuna to 106kg as well as a few marlin. He’s also hooked the admiration of The Captain’s crew, who are mightily impressed with John’s effort in taking a classic and turning into something super-cool, but then working it hard on the water. The Captain salutes you, mate. We promise not to call you Captain “Budgie” Smuggler.

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HISTORY OF THE SMUGGLER

By Nick Davys, Tidal Marine & Co.

Smuggler boats were originally built in New Zealand by Keith Smith and relocated to Labrador on the Gold Coast in the 1980s and ’90s. Smuggler also built a 5.4m bow rider and a 9m cruiser. The moulds for the 6.4m and 5.4m models were later relocated to Western Australia.

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The 6.4m model measures 6.4m long — unsurprisingly — and 2.4m wide, and has a 30-degree deadrise. Back in the day the hull was rated to 225HP and built as an inboard or single/twin-installation outboard on a pod. One unique feature on some models was the flood ballast chamber run through the middle of the hull for stability at rest. They were regarded as an exceptional offshore race boat, often found at the front of the pack.

The hull was moulded from a Bertram 20 Bahia Mar — along with a completely redesigned top deck. The later models are now regarded as classics with their rounded windows set in the bow, dual bucket seats on top of eskies, abundant fishing room and full-width foldaway rear seat.


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