Boat Review Date: January 2009
Author: Mike Brown
In many ways Trailcraft is the Quintrex of the plate boat world, building a model and a length to suit almost any trailer boat buyer. They are no longer the old Ford equivalent, though, and a lot of customising is now available -including choice of colour. At the same time, they reduce customising demand by offering the boats in a choice of two trim levels. The CV added to the name of the reviewed 485 Freestyle means it is the economy version.
It was not easy to spot what had been deleted. The buyer of this one had opted for a bait board and power wash-down, but other than that few people would ask for extras. Even full carpeting, the lack of it being an obvious cheapener, was standard.
Freestyle in Trailcraft-speak means runabout: like chardonnay, a style that is not fashionable but enormously popular. And, like chardonnay, there is a lot to like about it. Whilst providing reasonable protection - and a lot more than a centre console does - a runabout maximises cockpit space. It makes a 4.85m boat effectively a lot bigger, and gives a lot of flexibility.
This is the everything-boat. Fishing, diving, stooging about, towing casual skiers: whatever your way of spending a day, the 485 Freestyle will give it a go.
The dealer supplied our 485 with a 60hp Mercury four-stroke. This is only two thirds of the maximum power, but ample for everything including skiing. The price with this motor is AUD $28,500, which is well down the scale for boats of this size. Substituting a two-stroke drops it down a thousand more. That price gets you into a boat capable of visiting Rottnest or fishing outside the five-mile reef.
The 485 has a pair of swivel seats at the windscreen, and a folding lounge aft that would seat two more adults or three kids. Official maximum capacity is five people, and they would certainly not crowd the boat. There is ample room for two or three anglers with big elbows, and deck space for any amount of diving gear. There is a boarding platform on both sides of the motor, the port side one equipped with a raked ladder with deep treads.
No Targa arch and Bimini on the 485, but a good traditional canopy. It shades a big percentage of the cockpit and ours was free from rattles. This would partly be due to the curved windscreen: the canopy base wraps around it, giving three-dimensional bracing to the rest of the structure. The front face slopes shallowly aft, making for convenient standing by the driver when the panel is unzipped and furled.
The driving position is set well forward, maximising cockpit length and creating a short foredeck, which in turn means that with the windscreen centre opened there is no stretch at all to handle anchor or berthing lines. In some runabouts, the positioning of the forward seats puts weight far enough forward to mar the trim and cause some scary moments in turns. The 485 has enough buoyancy in its shoulders to have none of these problems. For minimum drag, though, in speed restricted waters you would probably want some passenger weight aft.
One of the advantages of the big production runs of Trailcraft is the details of layout get perfected and settled. Things like relationship of wheel and throttle to the driver’s seat are dead right, and all the essential fittings are in place. On the foredeck, instead of just a single cruciform bollard for anchoring and berthing, there are three. Down aft, where sometimes the grab rail is expected to be used to carry a line, there are two more cleats. Forward there are more grab rails, handy for beach launches.
One thing Trailcraft has not incorporated in its production is the masking of the gunwale rubbing strips before painting. Inevitably, paint is going to get rubbed off.
We had a very brisk sea breeze on review day. It was weather that a 485 owner would probably choose not to venture out in, but it was all the weather we had so we went. The 60hp showed it was well up to the job by willingly adjusting our trim in response to the buttons, and it was a day for getting the trim right.
There were no surprises at all in how the 485 handled, which is another sign of a developed boat. Head seas delivered jolts through the seats – one of the downsides of runabouts – but slowing, and dropping the bow mitigated that. Following seas, the kind most west coast boating experiences, showed exemplary behaviour: straight tracking with barely any wheel movement called for.
The 485 comes on a trailer built by Trailcraft themselves in I-beam section rather than tube, and with everything but tyres and mudguards galvanised - and the mudguards are plastic anyway. The trailer should last as long as the boat.
At a time when people are reluctant to pull on big debts, the 485CV Freestyle could be just the kind of boat to consider.Lowdown
Price, as reviewed AUD $28,500
Price from AUD $27,500
Hull length 4.85m
Length overall 5.25m
Hull weight 495kg
Max power 90hp
Motor fitted 60 Mercury 4-stroke
Fuel capacity 120L