Boat Review Date: October 2010
Author: Mike Brown
Sometimes simplicity can be more impressive than ingenuity, and Plaka boats fit into that category. Half a dozen or so roto-moulded pieces of polyethylene, variously welded and bolted together, some well-chosen fittings, and you have a boat with outstanding sea keeping, stability and capacity for its dimensions. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course, but that’s the principle.
The review Plaka is 4.6m by 2.0m, and most opinions would call that a small boat and a very small centre console. But despite the modest beam, some of which is consumed by the semi-circular sectioned buoyant sides, there is plenty of deck space. And the boat’s stability makes every particle of it useable. Stand on top of one of the sides – two of us did that at the same time – and the resulting list is not even close to worrying.
The bottom’s deadrise is 24deg, which makes the achievement even more noteworthy. It all works because the boat is shaped and works like a rigid inflatable, vast buoyancy coming into play as soon as it starts to heel or list. The bottom is more than just sharp: it shows considerable thought in its shape. A deep, bulbous keel is moulded in, tapering up as it runs aft from the forefoot. This puts the bulk of its buoyancy where it is most wanted.
The simplicity motif extends to the seats: a pair of boxes, one spanning the beam ahead of the transom, the other ahead of the console. Because they are moulded the tops have had shape put into them and, with the give inherent in plastic, they are acceptably comfortable. The rear box takes the battery with plenty of room left over. The forward one has a removable liner with an air gap between it and the box. This would make useful insulation if using the liner to contain ice slurry.
The console itself can easily hold the life jackets and flare container. Storage is completed by an anchor well simply made by a metal plate pounding off a section of the bow, and the space between transom and rear seat that can take a rank of portable fuel tanks.
The nearest things to luxury on board are the carpet and the T-top Bimini, although the latter is an optional extra. But the necessities are here: grab rails for the rear seat and the console, side and bow rails, beefy cleats, and well placed controls. The heavy-duty cruciform bitt in the bow is especially appropriate: Plakas are popular tenders, and they need strong points for attaching towlines.
Other typical users of these boats are divers, crabbers and cray pot pullers – people who appreciate the steadiness. You will see a lot of them kept permanently in the water, because marine growth finds it hard to get a grip; the occasional snorkelling session with a sponge clears it. Because Plakas satisfy survey requirements without modification, large numbers of them are in commercial use.
Among other things the survey authorities like about the Plakas is their flotation. The cavity between the inner and outer skins of the hull is foam filled, so that short of complete shredding it is unsinkable. Not a point that they worry about, but these boats are almost indestructible in other ways too. Colour goes all through the material, so minor scratches are almost undetectable, and major scratches or penetrations are fixable invisibly.
They bend if they hit things so major damage is hard to get. The material is soft so they do not hurt any fibreglass boats they lie alongside, and it is UV-stabilised for an indefinite life.
The 4.6’s power range is from 30 to 60hp. Few owners are looking for great speeds so a 40hp motor suits most, and it delivers a 20-knot performance. We had more, a 60hp Yamaha four-stroke that pushed performance up to 30+. With this much urge the 4.6 became close to exciting and responded to subtle dabs of power trim.
Practicalities are always going to be more important than excitements with a boat like this, and there would not be many boats that emphasise more the simple side of boating life. Squid ink washes off with a bucket of water, you could tow it across a beach for hundreds of metres without harm, the world’s clumsiest driver could park it by touch: this is the set and forget boat.
Price from $17,750
Price as reviewed $24,990
Hull weight 310kg
Power range 30-60hp
Motor fitted 60hp Yamaha 4-stroke