BY DAVE KRANTZ
The Surtees boats were borne from a unique vision of boat builder Neil Surtees, who couldn't find what he wanted and decided to start making his own more than 15 years ago… now they are exported all over the world.
The Northern Territory has arguably the best variety of fishing on offer anywhere in Australia. If you want a second opinion on that, ask me again. Because of this plethora of fishing choices, a lot of the boats sold here are aimed at anglers who want to do a bit of everything.
This is not the case with the latest version of the Surtees 6.7, designed for Darwin's BH Marine. It is unashamedly a hard core bluewater boat that can take the worst the open sea has to throw at it. Barra are no longer the only species that Top Enders think about, and the Surtees 6.7 is aimed squarely at the growing number of adventurous anglers who want to explore the wide blue yonder, travelling long distances to target the many exciting bluewater sports fish that swim in our tropical waters.
The River to Reef TV show recently took a whole fleet of Surtees boats - ranging from a 6.1 to a 7.3 - on a lengthy trip to test their capabilities and they performed flawlessly. Byron Hazell, the owner of BH Marine, has done plenty of longer trips in a variety of boats and was very impressed with how the 6.7 handled some of the rougher conditions. "It was the first time I have been across the Apsley Strait without getting up out of my seat," he said, referring to a notoriously challenging piece of water at the Tiwi Islands where big tides and rugged geography combine to create swirling currents and hazardous standing waves.
Surtees boats are made in New Zealand and spring from the unique vision of boat builder Neil Surtees, who couldn't find what he wanted and decided to start making his own more than 15 years ago. Fast forward to the present day and Surtees are making 400 boats a year which are exported all over the world and have created their own legend of reliability, toughness and quality.
They're great looking boats as well, with clean lines and neat finishes. As we pulled up at the BH showroom after a pleasant couple of hours on Darwin harbour a prospective buyer was attracted off the street by the test boat within five minutes and wanted to know if it was for sale.
The test boat was an open cockpit design with a centre console. The original 6.7 came with a cabin but Byron wanted to offer an open version as well for increased fishability. Nothing beats a full walk around design when it comes to bluewater sportfishing. A solid Bimini offers a degree of protection when required and folds away easily to leave you free to fish hard.
Although the test boat had a full open cockpit without a casting deck, you can customise the interior in a variety of ways. This includes adding a casting deck which offers an elevated view from the front as well as even more storage underneath.
The hull is made with 4mm plate sides and a 5mm bottom so it's pretty indestructible. There is a rear transom pod with a boarding ladder to access the walk through transom door. Inside there is plenty of storage with capacious side pockets and a variety of hatches and lockers depending on the exact configuration. Given the ability to customise the interior I think a rod locker would be a smart choice to complement the rod holders on the gunwales and rear bait board/rigging station.
There are twin underfloor buoyancy chambers incorporated into the deep V hull, along with six fully welded stringers, a fully welded plate floor and spray deflection chines. The hull design makes it pretty much impossible to bury the nose in even the wildest seas as the Surtees chine shape lifts the nose, allowing the widening hull to keep lifting up and forward.
Underneath is a key Surtees feature - twin ballast tanks that run along on each side of the keel. There is a door at the back which can be easily opened or shut with a lanyard depending on the sea conditions. When shut it holds in 380 litres of water for extra safety and ride quality. When opened the ballast simply drains straight out when you punch it up onto the plane. When at rest, the added ballast makes the boat very stable. This is a feature of all the Surtees hulls down to the 485.
Overall the Surtees 6.7 has a very soft ride, particularly for an alloy hull. It is right up there with some of the fibreglass alternatives around this size which is an impressive achievement and a testament to the quality of Neil Surtees' design skills. It grips well when turning and handles beautifully. Thanks to the ballast tanks the hull has a very fine entry, with 18 degrees dead rise at the stern, without sacrificing its excellent stability at rest.
The test boat had a big 225hp Honda four stroke on the back, but if you wanted to power it with something smaller a 150hp would do the job quite adequately. With the 225hp purring away we were able to hit a very comfortable cruising speed of 50km/h at just a touch over 3500rpm, with the motor sucking down an economical 24l/h. At 3000 rpm we were doing 40km/h and using only 18l/h. With the underfloor fuel tank holding 300l, these figures translate to an impressive range for longer runs. And if you want to get to your marks fast, simply push the throttle forward and hang on.
There are a host of standard features on the Surtees, and BH Marine supplies them on a sturdy Oceanic dual axle, braked, trailer with heaps of rollers that makes launching and retrieving a breeze.
To sum up, the Surtees 6.7 is an impressive bluewater performer that will take you offshore in style and comfort. Don't buy this boat if you want to chase barra in an inland billabong. But if your style is more catching hard-pulling pelagics, fishing marks both near and far, overnight trips to remote locations, or trolling up a billfish, then this lovely big beauty is right up your alley.
Check out the full range of options at BH Marine. A Surtees 6.7m package, ready to tow away, starts at $69,000.
BH Marine 08 8947 0552
SURTEES 6.7 SPECIFICATIONS
Construction: Hull 5mm Alloy
Length (LOA): 6.7m