There was a whole lot of new for me when I met Andrew Stephen from Melbourne’s new Melbourne Marine Centre. I hadn’t met Andrew before, I hadn’t heard of the new business and I hadn’t seen a Northbank boat before.
Maybe this is an artefact of spending too much time in Queensland, but I was familiar with the Mercury 115HP new four-stroke. A few months ago we put it head-to-head against the existing 125HP OptiMax at the National Watersports Centre at the top of the Patterson River, where it gave the Opti a solid touch-up on most parameters.
This time, we were in the lower Patto, on the other side of the weir which separates the NWC and the tidal water.
At first glance, it looks like the Northbank 550 – the cuddy cab that we tested - is styled to be the perfect complement to the Mercury. With white gelcoat and black accents, this is a seriously good looking rig with the new style 115 four stroke on the transom. With a couple of red pin-stripes, you could call it a factory designed Mercury boat and everyone would nod and agree. But I digress.
Andrew is a new marine dealer but no stranger to the marine industry, working for wholesale-based companies before deciding to try his hand at the pointy end of the supply chain. The test boat was impeccably clean and prepared for evaluation and I dare say that if his attention to detail is the same with his customers, then there’ll be a band of happy purchasers as time moves forward.
If I was to use a phrase to describe this boat, it’d be a ‘classic bay snapper chaser’. With protection from the weather, places to store your rods, baits and catch, and a price tag that puts it well within the reach of a family towing with a family car.
Northbank hulls are designed and built in South Australia. Touted as being built with the ability to handle short, sharp chop and designed by naval architects, the 550 is a foam filled fibreglass hull that’s the second smallest in their range and ticks all of the boxes – from good looks through to practical layout and performance. We think that as east coasters learn more about them, they’ll fall in love with their key features and simplicity. Northbank boats build hulls up to a 750 Hard Top size for serious offshore fishing.
The test day out of the Patterson River could only be described as ‘frightening’. With a nasty south-westerly gusting to around 30 knots, we were limited to some wave jumping around the river mouth and surrounds. As expected, the Northbank’s 21 degrees of deadrise meant that if the boat landed evenly, it landed soft, which made VFM staffer, Peter Jung very happy. There may have been some whites of the eyes showing when crossing the ‘bar’ at the front of the Patto!
Internally, the layout is smooth and practical. The seating for both the driver and passenger is comfortable. The helm seating can be readjusted to become a great place to keep an eye on the rods when you’ve got a spread set for snapper. The bait station keeps the messy work localised and the underfloor kill box even comes with a couple of stainless steel gas struts to make it easy to put your catch on ice. This has been designed by an angler.
Hemmed in by two bait tanks, the workstation is practical and removable.
Like many boats of this ilk, the fold down rear bench seat is great for travel and stowed for serious fishing.
At the helm, there’s room to flush mount reasonably large fish finders and GPS units.
The front cabin is deceptively spacious due to the open design. Sure, there’s not enough room to throw a dinner party in there, but if you need to get the wife and kids out of the elements, then it does the job just fine. An excellent feature, however, is the walk-through anchoring system that allows you to open the windscreen and a front hatch to get access to the anchor. Itmakes deploying and retrieving the pick a cinch.
This hull is paired with the new Mercury 4-stroke 115CT outboard, which we’ve looked at in detail in previous issues (see the QR codes hereby for our videos on this outboard). Moving forward, the 4-stroke is the only sensible option when it comes to powering this hull with a Mercury outboard. Watch the video we created last year (via scanning the QR code), but in summary, the new 4-stroke is lighter, has better torque, is lighter, quieter and uses less fuel that its OptiMax bretheren.
Travelling on a Dunbier twin-axle trailer, Andrew demonstrated the ability to launch and retrieve this boat single handed. Fully rollered, the trailer allows the boat to be driven on and although brakes, it can be towed by most family cars. I’m a fan of twin axle trailers. They may use a little more fuel and have a higher purchase cost, but the overall ride and peace of mind outweighs any disadvantages.
Best of all, if you drop in and see Andrew at the new Melbourne Marine centre, I’m sure you’ll get top level customer service. They are eager to please, meticulous with their fit-ups and are striving to create advocates for their business by making their customers happy.
If you want to check out the Northbank boats, give them a call on (03) 9703 2003 or visit www.melbournemarine.com.au . Packages start from under $50,000. As tested, this rig would sell for $57,587.
Height on trailer2.05m
Length on trailer7.1m
Max HP150HP (2-S)
Max HP130hp (4-S)
Transom lengthXL (25”)
Click the QR code to see the video footage from the boat test day.
Click the QR cove to watch the 115 4-stroke versus the 125 OptiMax video.
Click the QR code to watch Mercury’s Steve Miller talk about the new Mercury mid-range 4-stroke engines.Reads: 6180