Boat Review Date: May 2012
Author: Mike Brown
$30,000 is the line a lot of boat buyers will not cross, and today’s review boat, the Stacer 489 Bay Master, offers an attractive package for – just – under that figure.
The 489 is a runabout, and the Bay is typically added by Stacer to the name of models under five metres to suggest the boat’s appropriate use. In WA terms, this is intended for places like Cockburn Sound, the Three Mile Reefs, and perhaps Rottnest in settled weather. And of course all the coastal inlets and navigable rivers are meat and drink to it.
At this size, a runabout makes a good case as an economy family boat. The 489 actually offers as much cockpit area as larger cuddy cabin boats more usually thought of as the family’s choice. Shelter is less comprehensive, but boating is an open air pursuit anyway, and who wants to take a young family out in poor conditions? The Stacer has formal seats for five – the rated capacity - and a carpeted deck that provides infinite alternative casual seating.
The all-important shade is provided by a standard Bimini – something a lot of eastern states’ boats omit. This is part of the overall fit-out , which is done at the Stacer factory, and includes a Lowrance VHF radio and sounder. No GPS, but in this boat’s areas of operation a GPS should mainly be decorative.
The 489 is a pressed aluminium boat, or rather its hull is. The side and fore decks are fibreglass, although it takes some looking to tell. It all integrates well and adds some smooth curves. Which leads in to saying that this is a good looking boat. Unlike earlier Stacers whose pods had the appearance of a welded-on afterthought, here it is all of a piece with the sides raking back from the transom. The pod has been given useful area, allowing people to sit on the transom with room left over for a swimmer to board.
A small but important improvement over Stacers of the past is the black rubber gunwale strip. It never made sense to paint the bit designed to contact the jetty; now the panic to fend off can subside.
Like just about all current runabouts the 489 has an opening windscreen panel, matched with a recessed dash and a lifting section of foredeck. This converts the most difficult of boat types to anchor into the easiest.
The rest of the windscreen is curved, with grab rails following the top edges. When standing they are at exactly the right height for the driver’s spare hand. Standing or sitting this is a comfortable boat. The reversible pedestal seats have thick, resilient padding that soaked up the ocean’s imperfections.
The review day resembled a summer’s morning, with a fresh easterly setting up short, steep corrugations. Not big frightening stuff, but potentially tooth loosening. Like most sea conditions this called for setting the happiest speed, which is not always a slow one. We found that the Stacer was happy over a wide range of speeds up to near our maximum. The only real difference in behavior as speed went up was creation of a bit of spray.
Stacer has a range of uses in mind for the 489, providing a ski pole socket as well as a catch tank. The tank could as easily be used as an icebox, extending uses further. The recommended power range goes up to 70hp, which would be ample for skiing.
Part of the charm the 489 would have for an economy-minded owner is its weight: just 390kg. The 60hp Evinrude ETEC we mounted would add only 109kg to that, and the aluminium trailer not a great deal more. Almost any car could tow that.
Weight and bulk has a lot to do with how often a boat is used: smaller boats get used more, especially when it is difficult to get a mate to come out with you. The Stacer 489 has a nice balance between decent size and ease of handling.
Price from AUD $29,900
Price as reviewed AUD $31,000
Length overall 4.95m
Fuel capacity 77L
Hull weight 390kg
Power range 50-70hp
Motor fitted 60hp Evinrude ETEC