Boats in the 5m class can be just the shot for anyone looking for an easily handled, economical all-rounder and John Ford reckons this Seafarer Vamp has the goods to fit the bill.
When Lindsay Fry called time on crafting Seafarer masterpieces at his Surfers Paradise yard back in 2007, he gave first option on the business to fellow Queensland boat builders, The Haines Group, and they took on the challenge with enthusiasm. Already turning out classic models of their Signature range, the company had prospered under the direction of John Haines senior, the brand’s founding father and father of the current owners.
However, what should have been a marriage made in heaven was soon floundering in the wake of unfortunate management decisions that tarnished the Seafarer name. While claims that quality had diminished are arguable, some of the Haines Traveller models were rebadged as Seafarers, and the savvy boating public smelt a rat.
Even so, to this day, the Seafarer name is revered and a recent push to revitalise the brand is bearing fruit. The latest release is a 5.2m version of the venerable Vamp, which was one of the most popular and versatile in the range. It continues the tradition of a long line of
Seafarer models, all starting with V, in a nod to the deep-V hull designs.
The boat on test was the first example out of the factory and Derek Rodway, the enthusiastic Haines Group dealer from Good Times Marine at Taren Point in Sydney’s south, snapped it up. Sporting a centre consolea and multi-purpose seat, the Vamp retains the brand’s distinctive lines but relinquishes the traditional blue sides stripes for a cleaner more modern look.
The moulds for the original 5m Vamp were retired years ago so the new boat takes its hull from the Vixen, modified to accept the new open layout deck liner. This hull is one of the last of Lindsay Fry’s designs and includes a wider beam towards the bow and integrated swimplatforms that contribute to the extra lift. This solves the problem of the older versions of the Vamp that were known to drag their arse, and has also improved rear flotation is capable of carrying the weight of larger engines.
Lindsay is said to have produced only two of the new Vamps before the brand was sold, and in the changeover, the model disappeared from the range.
In a boat of this size, seating and fishing room are conflicting priorities. The fishos fight for easy movement around the boat while the family expects somewhere to spread out and relax when they get their turn.
Setting up the Vamp in a centre console style gives owners use of the full deck area to deliver what Rodway claims is the perfect 5m all-rounder. And he might be right. During our review, he invited along a bunch of his children and their friends for a teenage romp on the local snorkelling spots, cruised the coast and lolled around in the swell for a short fishing session. At the end of the day, everyone came home with a huge enough smile to confirm the boat’s versatility and performance.
A large multi-purpose box behind the helm serves as a sunpad, helm chair and storage bin, while forward of the console is a neatly moulded double seat with a removable cushion that will be a favourite position when underway.
More seating wraps around the bow, and while there are padded cushions easily removable for fishing, some padded backrests would be a more comfortable addition. Two storage bins and an esky in the seat moulding cater for either drinks and food or fishing gear as the mood takes you. The long shallow hold in the floor would make a decent kill tank and doubles as general storage in party mode.
Anchoring is a simple operation with an easily reached and good-sized anchor locker, a short stainless-steel roller and a stainless crosstree.
High sides offer good protection for the family and over-enthusiastic anglers while high and low side pockets add to the storage options. At the console, a high screen protects the driver and the surrounding grab rail is a sensible option for movement around the boat in rougher conditions.
The console is wide enough for a full complement of equipment and still allows enough room at the sides to pass easily. Good Time Marine had included a Lowrance Elite 9 which did the job well, but there is room on the dash for a screen up to 12 inches if you want to go larger.
A VesselView 403 monitors the Mercury engine and a remote Clarion control sends sound to a set of console-mounted speakers while the head is hidden safely away. There’s a battery tray and more storage in the lower section of the console and that generous cooler/dry space under the large seat, although it should be said that serious fishos might prefer to opt for a leaning post style seat, which will give more fishing room in the cockpit.
Live bait tanks sit either side of the engine well, with the starboard one plumbed ready for action and although there is no rigging table on the test boat there is room in the centre of the transom. Fishing room at the rear isn’t huge but there is space for two anglers to easily move around behind the central seat.
You will need at least 90hp to get the stoutly built 750kg hull to perform, but the 115 Pro XS Mercury is well up to the task, especially as the Pro version is claimed to produce 128 four-stroke neddies through its remapped CPU.
The wide seatbox at the helm might not have the secure feel of contoured buckets but it’s well padded and the addition of angled footrests let you get comfortable behind the wheel for a cruisey ride. If you prefer to stand, the wheel and controls fall naturally to hand and the screen still affords protection from the breeze.
Getting out of the hole was brisk and fuss-free with a quick transition to the plane (about 12kts) and very little bow lift. Low-speed cruise was 18kts at 3500rpm where fuel use was a very frugal 14lt/hr. Acceleration through the entire range is impressive and we were soon at a fast cruise of 32kts and 37lt/hr before hitting the 6000rpm maximum and 38kts (71kph).
The optional hydraulic Seastar steering was light and responsive, and while the Mercury lacks DTS (digital throttle and shift) it’s also easy to use and I managed to find the gears without grinding. The 15" Enertia Stainless steel prop was a good balance for acceleration and speed and showed no sign of cavitation at any stage.
It’s not the sort of boat that lets you set and forget the trim. It responds best to plenty of down-trim into the sea to keep the nose low for a soft ride as the sharp bow and deep entry part the waves more effectively. That said, the pronounced flare up front keeps it dry by sending spray wide and low.
Over chop and the small swell, the ride was typically Seafarer-soft and the surefooted feel soon inspires confidence that the hull isn’t going to do anything silly even in spirited driving. Steering was smooth and predictable and turns were sporty and precise with just the right amount of lean.
As something of a Seafarer tragic, it’s great to see the Vamp name re-emerging from The Haines Group stable and dealers like Goodtimes Marine getting behind the brand. The little centre console lives up to the original concept of a soft-riding blue water capable boat and with an entry price of $49,000. Fitted with the 115hp Mercury and a swag of options it comes to $56,900, which is great value and a great all-rounder.
HOW DOES IT RATE?
Fun factor 7
Design and layout 7
Quality of finish 8
Handling and ride 8
Stability at rest 7
Standard equipment 7
Value for money 8
Two on board; light fuel
90L fuel tank (calculations using 81L, leaving 10% in reserve)
|Rpm||Speed (kts)||Economy (lt/nm)||Range (nm)|
|3000 (planing)||11 (20kph)||11||81|
*Sea-trial data supplied by the author.Back to all Reviews >
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