Boat Review Date: June 2012
Author: Mike Brown
Chivers Marine continues to expand its Shark series of aluminium boats downwards in size to probably the smallest model of all, the 4.7m Bull Shark. It is also the only one without the water ballasting feature, and this is understandable in a boat hardly intended for offshore use. One of the early examples is destined for something we have seldom seen in recent WA products: export. The Indonesian owner of a 30m expedition motor yacht chose the Bull Shark for his heavy duty tender in preference to a RIB.
This is almost heresy, RIBs being the boats with a soft finish that do not put the mother ship’s hull finish at risk This mother ship’s owner, though, realizes that inflatable tubes do not take kindly to having cray pots dragged over them, or being themselves dragged over rocks. Or, in extreme cases, being nibbled by crocodiles. Aluminium with a soft fender seemed to him to be the answer.
Aluminium boats’ rubbing strips are generally there only to protect the boats’ own paint, although with clear lacquer rather than paint this Bull Shark is less vulnerable. On the other hand its fender protects both parties. The white D-section rubber has plenty of give and transfers no colour of its own to a ship’s side. But fendering was only the start of the customising process.
The Chivers is a centre console in the sense that the wheel is on the centre line, but in most people’s language it is an aft console. The coxswain leans against an aluminium structure ahead of the motor when driving, and remarkably comfortable it is. He can keep an eye on his passengers, and they have the clear use of most of the boat. One large or two small passengers can sit on the seat box ahead of the console – the box is insulated for drinks or fish – and there is also a pair of reversible singles.
The reversing bit was inspired; you can face aft to chat with the driver and keep your face out of the wind, or turn the other way and see where you are going. There are also two quarter seats. These are aluminum boxes with no pretensions to being lockers; they are foam filled to put plenty of flotation aft to support the engine weight, and to carry the foam high in the interest of positive flotation.
To make up for this lost space, in the bow aft of the lidded anchor locker is another box that could be pressed into service for sitting, but is mainly a locker to supplement the stowage in the console. The shelf in the console has little room to spare because it is carrying twin batteries. The dash has been give plenty of area for a plotter, engine gauges, and switches for any accessories.
The gauges are for a serious motor: a 75hp Evinrude ETEC that can manage 35 knots without raising a sweat. With just the driver on board and that weighty motor both putting weight well aft, there was the potential for trimming bow high. To cure this, the fuel tank capacity was raised to 100L and it was relocated to right forward. It worked well for me. The boat was balanced so well that very small movements of leg trim had a satisfying response from the boat’s bow.
Playing with the boat it was easy to forget that it was only 4.7m long – not much more than a dinghy in many eyes. Its tough and rigid structure, with 4mm bottom and 3mm sides, had no sensations of the tinny, and there was enough stability for two of us to move around without concern. This of course is important in the tender role where inexperienced passengers, as often as not a full load of them, move around in just that way.
In the fun role the Bull Shark could win prizes. Quick handling and responsive, its hydraulic steering needing no effort, it was a first class toy. It’s not a boat you would want to take offshore, but within a five-metre’s normal stamping ground it is an excellent boat. It is possible to get a version of this boat, trailer mounted, for under $20,000. This tender version, infested with goodies, is noticeably dearer at just under $32,000, but it still looks like good value.
Price as reviewed $31,728
Hull length 4.7m
Fuel capacity 100L
Motor fitted 75hp Evinrude ETECH