Surf and Turf – made for the land and sea

Raglan’s Manu Bay boat ramp is not for the faint-hearted, but it was a great testing ground for the latest vessel from FC Boats, as Grant Dixon from New Zealand Fishing News found out…

With just a small breakwater between the ramp and the rolling Tasman Sea, the Manu Bay boat ramp has a reputation for breaking boats, bones, trailers and tow vehicles. On the day we were to put the FC 680cc SeaLegs prototype centre console through its paces, there was oneand-a-half to two metres of westerly swell. No way I would have contemplated launching a boat conventionally in those conditions. But enter the FC 680cc SeaLegs. Backing the vessel off its custom made Voyager trailer, Max Christensen and his dad Ross lowered it to the ground, loaded the gear, lifejackets were donned, and we were ready. Raising the vessel again, Max lined up the ramp, totally unconcerned with the maelstrom of white water confronting us. We then drove into the foam, and once there was enough depth the motor was deployed and the wheels raised. Nosing around the end of the breakwater, we headed to the 60 metre mark, where we had a superb day’s fishing, filling the bin. The Raglan bar that morning had closed out, and as mentioned, launching and retrieving a conventional trailer boat at Manu Bay would have been fraught with danger. However, while there was a decent swell, there was very little wind – we just had to get out on the water. Had it not been for the FC Sealegs 680’s amphibious capacity, we would not have been fishing that day. Surf and Turf was destined for Golden Bay at the top of the South Island, where it will be used by owner Graeme Hockey for serious fishing missions chasing groper out wide.

FC 680cc Center Console - Limited Edition Sealegs, maximum fishing space. Sealegs is the ultimate pleasure craft.

This is the third FC Boats Graeme has owned, testament to his belief in the performance of these Hamilton-manufactured craft. The boat is essentially a FC 620 with a FC 700 transom added. It is powered by a Mercury 225hp Verado outboard, upgraded from the Mercury 150hp in the original plans. “It [Surf and Turf] is a heavy boat, with a 6mm bottom and 5mm sides, plus all the SeaLegs kit [around 500kg of extra weight – equivalent to five people], so the decision was made to go up in horsepower,” Ross says. FC Boats has a reputation for building no-nonsense, practical fishing craft and Surf and Turf fits the mould. Before starting on the project, Max and Ross spoke to several conventional Sealegs boat owners to get the vibe around the pros and cons of this style of craft. One of the biggest issues was the reduction in the cockpit fishing space due to the motor used to power the SeaLegs hydraulics and propel the wheels themselves. In this boat the Honda 22hp V-twin motor driving hydraulics is tucked away inside the centre console, leaving the cockpit uncluttered, as well as helping to distribute the weight more evenly. It can also be accessed from the front and back of the console. The exhaust for the Honda comes out at the stern, the pipes running under the floor. The transom has been designed so the rear driving wheels retract to a position that does not impede fishing. You fish over the wheels rather than around them. Another little trick: Ross lowered the wheels slightly when fishing at rest and they acted as stabilisers. Another first with Surf and Turf is a steering system that works for both the front wheel of the tricycle undercarriage and the Mercury Verado outboard.

FC 680cc Center Console - Limited Edition Sealegs, maximum fishing space. Sealegs is the ultimate pleasure craft.

Owner Graeme has some other requirements, one of which was a height restriction, so the boat would fit in his garage, resulting in Max creating a folding bimini top to accommodate this request. With the SeaLegs motor taking up the conventional storage area usually available in the centre console, other areas had to found instead. There is a large underfloor storage area in the cockpit – big enough to take three dive bottles and several sets of gear. The Icey-Tek chilly bin slides under the helm seat and there is storage for all the bits and pieces in the transom. Deep shelves run longitudinally, and 12 rod holders are placed strategically around the gunwales of the full walk-around. Several have been designed specifically for electric reels with deep water fishing in mind. Two small ‘gloveboxes’ are fitted into the gunwales; inside these are the plugs for the reels. There is room for six more rods in the rocket launcher. The gunwales have been coated with Speedliner spray-on decktread. Forward of the centre console is a casting platform. Another neat design feature is the way the Savwinch 1500 drum winch has been set into the forepeak, keeping the deck uncluttered, as well as protecting the anchoring system from the elements. The boat has good range, with a 200-litre fuel tank under the floor.

FC 680cc Center Console - Limited Edition Sealegs, maximum fishing space. Sealegs is the ultimate pleasure craft.

The bespoke FC Boats’ live-bait tank is a large one, having an estimated capacity of 200 litres. Max says the hull has been changed slightly to account for the unconventional weight distribution associated with the SeaLegs componentry. This has not affected the ride; if anything, the extra weight has probably improved it a tad. We headed out to the 60-metre mark, with a 10-knot offshore breeze pushing into the westerly swell – conditions the boat relished. The SeaLegs wheel assembly in the bow has little effect on the boat’s handling and the hull is relatively dry with its high drop-sheer lines. On our return, Max put the boat through its paces among the swells, which it handled with ease. Surf and Turf offers excellent fishing space. The gunwales are at a nice height with plenty of toe-room to give the angler safe purchase while fighting decent fish. The boat also features good electronics, including a Simrad 9 EVO III sounder-plotter with StructureScan, a GME VHF and Fusion Marine stereo.

FC 680cc Center Console - Limited Edition Sealegs, maximum fishing space. Sealegs is the ultimate pleasure craft.

The helm station is particularly well laid out, featuring not only conventional controls but the SeaLegs controls and instruments as well. Hamilton-based Voyager Trailers built a ‘roll-on, roll-off’ trailer for the boat. Ross says this adds versatility to the vessel, as it can be trailed to remote places that are good for fishing, but have limited access for conventional vehicles – Ninety Mile Beach is a perfect example. Surf and Turf is an impressive rig. I loved its versatility and appreciate the engineering that has gone into it. Max says just about every staff member had input into the boat, which is a testament to Kiwi alloy boat-building ingenuity.

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New Zealand Fishing News

Grant Dixon

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