Boat Review Date: September 2010
Author: Mike Brown
If you want a boat offering decent shelter combined with maximum room then runabout is the style for you. It is not terribly chic – currently walk arounds seem to have cornered the market in chic – but in a modest-sized boat is eminently practical. Which is by way of introduction to the Reef Hunter 5.1, a locally built boat with the runabout’s classic simplicity and space.
The Reef Hunter range comes in four lengths between 5.1 and 6.0m, this smallest model tipping the scales at under 500kg. Add motor and trailer and it is still an easy tow for most cars. Being from WA it is made of plate aluminium – a much harder material than the pressed eastern states boats use – but paradoxically the metal is still pressed. By an enormous machine of course, and this gives extra stiffness to the structure.
It was already impressively strong, apparently using kilometres of welding wire. Frames are seam welded to the bottom plates and the keel joint, by the time the keel bar and the internal reinforcing bar are in place, has no less than five welded seams holding it together.
Almost as an article of faith WA plate boats are self-draining; with the 5.1 that ability is optional. The buyer of the review boat had turned down the option, and the reasoning was the extra height of the sides was a greater benefit to him than the ability to wash down the deck at sea. Any water coming aboard collects in a sump aft and gets pumped out. The great benefit of a welded fully sealed deck remains: dropped coins and lead weights will not find their way under a timber deck to cause corrosion havoc in the bottom.
A big drawback of runabouts in the past was the difficulty in anchoring: you used to see people climbing over the windscreen to do the job, and paused to see if they would fall overboard. The Reef Hunter is of a different generation. It has an opening centre section of the curved windscreen, and a recess in the dash that lets you get close to the action – a simple action because the anchor deploys from a bowsprit as on most non US-built boats.
All of which makes the bow rail look a superfluous expense, but it will come in handy for beach launches or ramps without finger jetties. The rails are within the boat’s footprint so they are not de facto fenders. Unpainted gunwales handle that job.
The deck is flush from end to end, and pipe-framed mesh fences that double as foot rests retain gear stowed under the foredeck. They are well placed in relation to the seats (not always the case), which in turn give a driver room to stand. The seats slide on boxes with cave rather than door access, a general shortage of doors being typical of the Reef Hunter’s welcome simplicity.
Following that theme the side pockets continue around the transom making a shelf for the battery, and a pivot point for the folding rear lounge. In folded mode the cockpit is roomy, and steady beyond the average for a couple of wandering anglers. Part of the reason for this must be the lower centre of gravity delivered by the lower non self-draining deck.
Our deck had the optional carpet; without that option you get a chequer plate deck that gives good grip even if it does transfer heat. The answer of course is to put on a pair of shoes.
Power came from a 90hp Honda, a four-stroke of course. It gave acceleration more like a two-stroke, suggesting that cheaper power would still give acceptable performance. The builder suggests as little as 60hp, although if you regularly have more than two people on board that might be on the low side.
Our boat came on an excellent trailer. Pivoting jockey wheel, HDPE skids plus a rocking keel bogie, and everything galvanised except the tyres. It was an effortless job to haul the Reef Hunter back onto it. Very important, that: looking forward to hard work at the ramp takes the edge off the rest of the day.
Price as reviewed $46,950
Price from $39,000
Fuel capacity 120L
Motor fitted 90hp Honda 4-stroke