Late last year we ordered a custom built boat from BMENQ in Cairns.
We sold the good old barra boat when I retired from charters because we needed something a little more chop friendly.
In between we bought and sold a 5.6 m Bonito as a stop gap.
Mostly so we could do some filming for our online fishing courses, while waiting to decide about the new build.
While the fibreglass Bonito gave a nice ride, I became increasingly frustrated about the placement of my “stuff”.
I’m pretty set in my ways with regards how I fish having been on charter daily for 30 years.
Plus our intention has been to travel with the boat far and wide. You have to be a lot more careful about damaging a fibreglass boat than a tinny.
We would have moved a few things around in the Bonito if we could have. For example the bait tank and sounder mount. But unlike a plate boat, you can’t just move stuff in a factory built (moulded) fibreglass vessel.
The new Custom Boat.
So we settled on a proven design. A Cairns Custom Craft Northwind.
This hull has been around for a while and we heard good reports.
We did call a charter operator that runs the vessel and inquired about ride etc. with glowing reviews.
Another deciding factor was that we had dealt with BMENQ before.
When considering a custom boat you MUST have it built by experienced boat builders.
BME NQ’s local Cairns team are DNV certified ISO9606. They are involved in the maintenance program for some of the most advanced, high tech and secure vessels in the country.
BME NQ built my brother’s punt (a copy of our blue barra punt) for charter use in 2016 and was very happy with the professionalism and finish.
They had just had a North Wind come off the build floor and we were able to take it for a test run.
While it had a big canopy and a slightly different layout to our preference, it rode well in the chop and we were quite impressed.
Cons of a custom boat.
Herein lies a problem with a custom boat.
You don’t always know what you are getting without taking it for a run first. Which is often impossible.
So be sure and do your homework.
A good hull will be popular and we do suggest a trial if you can find someone with the vessel.
Don’t make too many adjustments as it can change the ride and handling of the vessel!
We added a pod to give us a bit more room down the back and to compensate added a 100 L water tank up the bow.
The extra weight in the bow also gives us fantastic punching ability when the wind gets up.
As much as you may think you are a boat builder, you’re probably not. So don’t go too mad with the adjustments.
Especially with a small boat, any changes will affect it’s handling.
Custom boats are also more expensive. But you do get what you want.
Pros of a custom boat.
This particular boat was designed to tow behind our game boat for filming in remote locations.
Naturally carrying it’s own fuel would be a big benefit. So we included a 300 L tank.
We also carry 100 L of fresh water and have a custom built console control mount modified to suit our height.
We inserted a compartment to keep phones dry complete with charging ports.
And a rear rod rack to keep spare gear out the way.
Often front compartments are hard to open, so we had a lip included with extra wide drainage to keep the contents dry and avoid squished fingers.
The two largest are lockable to protect our camera gear from piracy if we go exploring a not so deserted island.
The seat backrest moves to accommodate facing forward or aft, depending on whether you are driving or fishing.
In short, you can design the interior layout to suit your fishing style!
Of course we have our naturally plumbed bait tanks in the rear – pretty much holes in the bottom of sealed compartments.
And a flow coated main deck with stipple finish that never gets hot. I perfected this floor in my barra punt on ply (video on how to make it here) so this is an experiment to see how it wears direct to aluminium.
The combing and casting deck are EVA Tread but the main floor is rolled on flow coat.
Even our first trip out we noticed a definite temperature difference between the EVA Tread and the main deck with the main deck several degrees cooler.
Now the EVA Tread on the casting deck looks amazing. But the flow coat doesn’t mark and super easy to clean as well.
And most important, the vessel sports two rear facing GARMIN 8412 units.
One set up for shallow water and one set up for deeper offshore waters.
I like to run my sonar on one and GPS on the other.
So I just swap them over depending on the application.
There is also a forward facing GARMIN 1222 XSV for use when I’m fishing off the forward casting deck.
If you’re not watching your sounder while you are fishing, you need to do our online course Sounder Skills 2.
We also included some Evolution 360 rotating rod holders from Exploding Fish.
This brilliant invention from Cairns local Jim McQuade solves all your problems when drift fishing or when the wind blows you sideways to the current.
Watch a video walk around of our new (as yet unnamed) vessel.
The vessel is built to survey.
Now this particular vessel has been built to survey.
While I don’t do charters anymore, I may do some Masterclasses with my online course students into the future.
To take paying passengers or carry freight you must have the vessel built to more stringent safety requirements.
And considering we are taking it remote, it doesn’t hurt to know you’re boat won’t sink even if it gets a hole in it.
Hence the sides are filled with foam and the deck is self draining.
Getting a boat built to survey can be a costly and time-consuming exercise.
Luckily the guys at BME NQ deal with commercial vessels all the time and were able to navigate the mine-field with ease.
The wrap was done by Nick from Marine Graphics Ink in Victoria and is pretty much the only addition (bar the electronics) not locally made.
We wanted to reflect the versatility of the vessel, for both inshore and offshore work, and Nick did an admirable job.
Some of Nick’s designs are amazing as he was very patient as we changed our mind several times.
Check out some of this other wraps here > boat wrap designs.
I have been waiting since the Sydney boat show in 2015 to get my hands on one of these engines.
Unfortunately for the barra boat, they have never made them in a 90 HP so I was always left with the G1.
People often ask me why I continue to run 2 strokes.
I spell it out at length in this previous past on 2 stroke vs 4 stroke.
In short they are cleaner and quieter than ever before, much cheaper to maintain, with more power and better fuel economy.
So I really hope you enjoyed the video walk around of our new vessel.
We might even run a competition to name her once we get her into service and see what she is capable of.
If you want additional fishing tips and tricks, there are plenty on the blog.
Here are a few you might like…