By Alex Julius
Territory Marine’s River to Reef 500 Tommycut wins out in stability, ride, comfort, dryness and strength. It’s a versatile boat that is magic on barra water and well able to cope out on the blue… and there are a myriad of optional extras that you can go for, which is exactly what AJ did.
If you were to nominate a boat configuration that is the most popular amongst the army of boat owners who fish both our tropical estuaries and inshore coastal waters, it must surely be a 5m aluminium V-bottom with a side-console.
That 5m of bow-to-transom length is not at all too large to tow across dirt roads and launch in tidal rivers and billabongs. Similarly, it is not too small to venture offshore for some coastal bluewater fishing. The side-console just seems to have evolved into 5m V-bottom boats for the tropics; at least it has so more than any other helm position.
Territory Marine’s River to Reef Tommycut conforms exactly to that format. It is spot on 5m in length and it has a side-console steering station, leaving considerable open deck space.
There are four models in the River to Reef range, and each is named after a famous Top End waterway: the 400 Magela (named after the iconic Magela Creek way downriver on the East Alligator); the 450 Wildman (named after the fish-rich Wildman River which marks the western border of Kakadu National Park); the 500 Tommycut (named after the home of monster run-off barra, Tommycut Creek, which is one of the two tributaries of the Mary River); and the 550 Nourlangie (named after that famous upstream tributary on the South Alligator River, Nourlangie Creek). These are plate-aluminium boats that meet a growing demand – particularly in the Top End – for tough, versatile, small-to-medium trailer boats that work both for barra and bluewater, to varying extents either way (depending of course on size).
I was interested to learn that the River to Reef range was designed by legendary New Zealand boat designer, Scott Robson. In case you didn’t know, Scott Robson designed those practically-indestructible, unsinkable, and super-soft-riding Ocean Master boats. As with the superbly-finished Ocean Masters, which price-wise come in (justifiably so) at the very top end of the aluminium-trailer-boat market, the River to Reef range exudes a high-quality finish but in a more-traditional format.
Every River to Reef boat is built bare-bones hull in Ocean Master’s Wakerley Queensland factory, then sent to Darwin to be fitted out by Territory Marine which has full steel and aluminium fabrication facilities, a modern marine and auto upholstery unit, and a 14.2m spray booth. They build super-tough boat trailers too.
Standard fit-out for the Tommycut side-console includes three cushioned seats and pedestals, hydraulic steering, navigation and stern lights, battery and battery box, bilge pump and switch panel. Built into the hull standard are the forward anchor-well, raised casting platform with a huge underfloor compartment on a gas strut, mid-section underfloor storage compartment, extra-long side pockets, full-width transom deck with open compartments and underneath storage, bow and stern side railings, and external engine mount with steps either side.
There is also an endless array of options on offer, and you can see plenty of those in the customised Tommycut that I’m currently fishing from. If the truth be known, I have two of these boats, as we operate one at our Arnhemland Barramundi Nature Lodge. That one is not nearly as tricked up as my personal Darwin=based Tommycut. The Tommycut 500 can also be ordered in a tiller or rear-console version. The Hull This is a solid boat, with ample ribbing and bracing along the inside of the hull, together with 3mm sides and a 4mm bottom. I’m not sure what the deadrise is at the stern, but there’s plenty of V. As in all four models, the V-hull design incorporates a wide, almost-flat, reverse chine, which stays wide from the stern for at least two-thirds the length of the hull. After that, it progressively narrows all the way to the sharp entry at the bow. This is a very clever design feature which has proven itself in several trips where the going was bumpy. To cap it off, there are two additional planing strakes welded either side of the pronounced, tubed keel. On The Water I’ve spent many a breezy afternoon crossing Darwin Harbour in the Tommycut. Although these are partially-enclosed waters, seasonal hovering storms and often tide-against-wind conditions have given this boat a fair test – certainly enough to evaluate its positive ride comfort and its excellent spray-deflection considering its 5m length. I’ve also driven the Lodge boat offshore along the Arnhemland coast, and have never felt less than confident with its performance. It’s not the sort of boat you’d go belting 50km out to sea in a 20 knot wind, but it’ll stitch up the big estuaries and allow you to play out on the blue when conditions are friendly. I certainly plan to take it out sailfishing off Darwin later this year. Although rated to 135hp, my boat is fitted with a 90hp Evinrude E-TEC which zaps the plate hull straight up on the plane, even with three adults onboard plus a 110L tank of fuel. At full throttle, with just two aboard, it’ll nudge 60km an hour (on the GPS) at 5100rpm. That’s to be expected with the light-weight, high-performance E-TEC, but what was most impressive were the 36kph I get at just 3500rpm and 43kph at 4000rpm. Operating at these levels ensures good fuel efficiency, with ample speed, and engine noise levels pleasantly low. And can you imagine the performance of the River to Reef Tommycut with a 135 E-TEC on the back. I’ve also enjoyed operating the engine at its lowest revs, 500, when trolling slow for barra. The boat crawls and the E-TEC purrs quietly…about all you could ask for really. It All Makes Sense In the end, it all makes sense. The River to Reef hull is a modified version of the Ocean Master hull design. In that hull design, you have two wide sponsons with a sharp, narrow V squeezed between them. In a short, steep sea, the V entry cuts the water fine (so no slap) and then the buoyant sponsons cushion the ride as they make contact. That principle is not so pronounced in the River to Sea hull, but those big chines either side work, to a degree, the same as the Ocean Master sponsons. Combined with the deflecting planing strakes, they also account for how well spray is kept out of the boat. At rest, stability is excellent…again thanks mainly to those wide, flat chines. The Verdict Make no mistake about it: this is an outstanding and versatile 5m boat for fishing the tropics. It can be tricked up as much as you want because all River to Reef hulls arrive in Darwin bare-bones. There are plenty of boats this size that are ultra-comfortable inside, with plenty of room to fish when casting or trolling inland waterways for barra. However, I suspect you’d have to look around the same stable to find a more-stable V-hull with such a comfortable and dry ride. Contact Territory Marine:
PH: 08 89329444
Web:www.territorymarine.com.au SPECIFICATIONS SIDE-CONSOLE VERSION LOA: 5.1m Beam: 2.2m Depth: 1200mm Draft: 300mm (approx) Bottom 4mm Sides: 3mm Transom: 4mm Fuel Tank: Up to 120L Hull Weight: 400kg Max HP: 135hp Recommended HP: 90hp Price: From $44,900.00