Boat Review Date: February 2018
Author: Mike Brown
Western Australian-built small fibreglass boats are rare and, at one time, possibly endangered birds. The one-man band builder of Oz Runners though is fully employed constructing boats that have established their niche in Mandurah. Key features are simplicity of construction, huge apparent size within their modest dimensions, and excellent value for money.
The Oz Runner 450 is, as the name suggests, 4.5 metres long, though few would believe a figure that short. Its two metre beam is similarly deceptive: this is a roomy boat, happily capable of accommodating five adults. It is almost the definitive Mandurah day boat.
Mandurah’s boat population tends to get used for more of the year than Perth’s – which probably explains the clears (with zip out panels) below the Bimini. A big sunshade area makes sense any time of the year, but the clears would come into their own at speed in winter. Speed, though, seems low in the priorities of this style of boat. The 450 was good for 30 knots (a hint of the hull’s efficiency with just 40 hp available from the four-stroke Mercury) but much of its life is likely to be at chugging speeds on the Murray and Serpentine rivers.
We did take the Oz Runner out on the ocean – in WA every boat is expected to do its salt water duty – with more than acceptable results. The sea breeze was well established, and we headed into it at a time when we would normally have been running downwind. This is no fine bowed, sharp bottomed performer, but it did its job competently. It was a bit lumpy upwind without being uncomfortable; certainly no water managed to get up on that thoroughly raised fore deck. Running home it behaved smoothly like a considerably larger boat.
Construction is similar to the way ‘glass boats were built in the heroic days, meaning that two moulds do most of the work – and that holds down costs. It is different, though, in the detail. To start with the work is done by shipwright Kevin Pallot (well known for his Ocean Whalers), so resin-glass ratios are spot on, rolling out is correctly done, and so on. Instead of an air chamber providing the flotation there is closed cell foam under the deck. The finish pays attention to the small things: none of the dags and gaps at the hull and deck union, for instance, that used to be standard features on run of the mill trailer boats.
Seating is to a high standard. The two main seats are reversible swivels, adjustable for height and mounted on storage caves. They are very comfortable. Aft is a removable settee with back rests either side of the motor. To maximise useable space the fore deck is short, putting driver and offsider - and their weight - well forward. In a lesser boat this could result in trim and ride problems, but the Oz Runner’s full body forward was proof against these.
An extremely rare occurrence in runabouts is the presence of a shelf under the fore deck, getting extra value from the sheltered space. Other covered storage is in a glove box, with open stowage in side pockets.
The builder did not stint on the hardware. Besides the usual well, anchoring gets a bow roller and a split bollard. Where another boat might have to make do with the bollard for the forward berthing line, the 450 has a cleat at each shoulder; the little things to make life easier.
Continuing the simplicity theme, the fuel is stored in a portable tank. As well as saving a surprising amount of work and money, choosing not to have a built in tank avoids potential trouble. Fuel gets stale in storage, losing some of its lighter elements. It is also prone to contamination by condensation and even sludge. With a portable tank, left over fuel can be poured into the car or lawn mower (through a filter) if boating is off the agenda for a while.
This capable vessel retails for just under AUD $25,000; well and truly competitive. If runabouts are not your thing there is an equally competitive centre console version available.
Price as reviewed AUD $24,990