THE LITTLE BIG BOAT

About four years ago, we took a family holiday to New Zealand. Whilst driving around Hastings on the lower North Island, I spied a boat in a dealership, and just had to stop. It was the sexiest “tinnie” I had ever seen. I didn’t believe that an aluminium boat could look so good. I’d had my first taste of Kiwi-Kraft, and instantly fell in love. After we returned home to the normal hustle and bustle that 6 children and a business creates, I soon stopped dreaming about that boat, and got on with life.

At the time, I owned a second-hand speedboat that we used for water-skiing on the local dams, but being an avid fisherman, and my wife being keen to try her hand at it, we decided to sell the speedboat and buy a fishing boat. The kids were none too impressed, as they thought they’d be losing their beloved dam activities, so in all fairness to all concerned, we took everything into consideration before making a final decision.

Having 6 children, safety, stability, and reliability were major factors. We were all keen on skiing and “biscuiting” around the dams, but my wife and I also wanted to be able to fish, and fish well from the boat. Another major factor for us was towing capabilities - the coast is some four and a half hours from our home in Mid North-Western NSW, so the weight factor and cost of towing behind our 4WD had to be considered. Lastly, the boat had to look good – my wife (not to mention the teenagers) wasn’t going to be seen dead in anything that didn't.

We were able to narrow our choice down to aluminium, as fibreglass was simply going to be too heavy for us to be towing so far, but we still wanted it to ride like a well-built fibreglass craft. So then our hunt started in earnest, and we looked at a multitude of magazines and websites, and every conceivable aluminium boat that was ever made. Many of these had good reputations, and good features, but didn’t quite fit our tough criteria. Of course, we visited the Kiwi-Kraft website, and looked at their entire range, and were impressed with every single feature of their line.

Other than my one glimpse in New Zealand, practically sight-unseen, we decided that the Kiwi-Kraft was going to meet our every need, and some. And after talking to Rodney Harris at Kiwi-Kraft in Invercargill, we chose the standard 5.9 Sports package, a slick-looking, well-appointed craft, with all the craftsmanship and good looks that anyone could want. We added to the standard hull twin batteries with battery and oil tank cover, under-floor storage tank, radar arch, fillet board, twin king/queen seats and removable rear bench seat. We had her painted white, with grey graphics and matching upholstery and carpeting.

The whole process of buying the Kiwi-Kraft was smooth from start to finish. Rodney Harris was able to answer our every question, and made our purchase an absolute pleasure. During our boat’s manufacture, Rodney continually kept us up to date with each stage, and sent plenty of photos as he went along. It was very exciting watching our boat being built from the ground up.

We took delivery of our boat in July 2004.

The first thing that impressed us the most was the finish of the boat. The finish, and especially the welds, on the Kiwi-Kraft have to be seen to be believed. Working in the commercial construction industry, we often deal with welders, and every welder who has seen our boat has commented on the superb finish and craftsmanship - every weld is perfect, with no signs of production-line manufacture.

As far as safety is concerned, the Kiwi-Kraft has it all. Being a pontoon design, the boat just sits on the water - it even looks unsinkable. There is no pitch or roll, even in the biggest swells, or with 3 or 4 fishermen standing on one side, and a marlin hanging off the line. Add to that the deep V, and you get the smoothest of smooth rides, with perfect stability at rest. And trust me, we’ve tested it to the limits. Several weeks ago, on a deep-sea fishing trip, in conditions most sane fishermen wouldn’t even consider going out in, our Kiwi-Kraft 5.9 Sports blew everything away. Heading in from 500 metres of blue water, (about 25 km off the coast) with a 25 knot North-Easterly tearing at us, and 2-2.5 metre washing-machine chop, we flew back to home base doing 5,500 revs, overtaking anything else on the water, and laughing all the way. Never once did we “bang” into a wave, pitch or roll, get airborne or even look like losing the straight course we had chosen. There were four of us on board (all adults), and our good friend, an extremely experienced driver, was at the helm, and rode the sea like our boat was a motocross bike, screaming and “yahooing” like a cowboy all the way. It was the greatest ride of our lives, and certainly proved everything that we thought the boat might have ever been capable of doing.

The kids love our boat too. We chose Suzuki’s 140 HP 4-stroke engine, with a 4-blade 19° pitch stainless steel prop, and after having had a ski pole specially designed and fitted to the top of the boat’s fillet board rail, we can pull any skier out of the water with ease, and haven’t skipped a beat on our visits to the dams. The Suzuki is the perfect partner to the 590 Sport - perfectly weighted, and perfectly powered. We had a combination outboard cover made by Outboard Covers Australia, which includes a splash cover and full motor cover, and recently added a Permatrim, which sees our boat pop our of the water to plane in an instant. We also designed a bimini cover that fits to the radar arch, and a full-length fitted boat cover, both of which were made locally.

Electronically, after much research, we chose matching Navman Fish Finder and GPS, and a Navman VHF radio system. And just recently, we added a UHF radio and a marine CD/MP3 AM/FM stereo system with 4 channel amplifier and room for a subwoofer. (My wife loves her music). We are extremely happy with our choices, which have helped to make fishing an absolute delight for anyone on board.

Towing is also a breeze. A Boeing multi-roller twin-axle trailer makes the whole towing and backing task too easy, and when we come back in from a hard day’s “hunting and gathering”, we simply drive the boat straight on to the trailer, and take off - no dramas at the boat ramp for us.

The only other major things we’ve added is a set of Reelax 5 metre fibreglass outriggers, and downrigger, and don’t we look the shit when we’re all rigged up!

When we first bought our Kiwi-Kraft, our initial fishing trips to the coast saw long, lazy days spent baiting up hooks for the kids on the river, catching bream and flathead, and the occasional “strange” specimen. But the more time we spent on the water, the greater the pull of the open ocean, and after a couple of months, we ventured across the bar. The Kiwi-Kraft rides the bar like a dream, slicing through the swells, and landing softly every time. We even had a 10-foot rogue wave stand up vertically in front of us on one crossing, but our boat simply glided down the other side like it was nothing.

Crossing the bar confidently has certainly opened up our fishing possibilities, and we started heading out to close-by reefs for snapper and bigger flathead, and anything else we could get our lines on. We soon ventured even further, visiting the haunts of yellow-tail kingfish, and being sawn off by the occasional shark or wily mackerel.

Our “cowboy” fishing mate on the coast, an expert fisherman who has been featured in several fishing magazines, and who has had the opportunity to drive and be on board many, many boats in his time, tells us, and anyone else who might listen, that our Kiwi-Kraft is the best aluminium boat he has ever seen or driven, and that his only regret is that the day we came roaring back from the shelf in horrendous conditions, there weren’t 30 other boats on the water to witness it, and if there had been, 29 of them would have put an order in for one there and then. He has renamed his own very capable fibreglass boat “The Garden Gnome”, and plans to turn it into a garden bed, as he now fishes with us in our Kiwi-Kraft at every opportunity.

Since buying our boat, we had spent hours pouring over fishing magazines, and getting more adventurous by the day, decided we night like to try our hand at some real pelagic fishing. During a 2-week holiday to the coast at Christmas 2004, we met up with an avid marlin hunter, who patiently showed us all the tricks of the trade. When we thought we’d mastered several knots, and hunting techniques he had taught us, we started hunting down the black marlin, which frequent the waters of our favourite coastal spot. Full of confidence in our boat’s capabilities, but having absolutely no idea what we were doing, we set off across the bar in search of these creatures, and within two days, I caught my first black marlin – a 50 kg acrobat – he was small, but I was hooked. Unfortunately, we had to return home a couple of days later, so catching another wasn’t possible, and it wasn’t until the following marlin season (Christmas 2005) that my wife caught her first black marlin – we think he was about 80 kg, and gave her a great fight.

Only a few weeks after this, we took two of our youngest children out to the marlin grounds, but the marlin season not being particularly good this year, they had to be satisfied with catching a couple of monster cobia – our 10 year old’s fish was about 30 kg, and our 11 year old’s about 20 kg. No marlin, but a couple of great fights, and beautiful eating. The day after, Mum caught her first cobia, a measly 15 kg by comparison.

Most recently, our Kiwi-Kraft has taken us out to the continental shelf, about 25 km off the coast, where I caught my first blue marlin. Weighing in at about 110 kg, he was somewhat smaller than the 200 kg fella we had hooked but lost 2 weeks before, but a magnificent specimen nonetheless. No doubt my wife, with her fishing history, will better my catch next trip in a couple of week’s time.

Without a doubt, our Kiwi-Kraft 590 Sport is one of the best, safest, most versatile, and user-friendly craft on the water today. We have gone from toying in the river, to playing with the big boys, and she handles every situation with ease.

There is one major downside to the Kiwi-Kraft, however - we spend far too much time talking to people at the boat ramp about it, and not enough time fishing.
Sharon Harris


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