..strange they might be but these cylinder boats set a completely different standard of safety, stability, performance, and ride softness. They are literally in a league of their own..
Introducing one of the most unusual craft we've tested this year, but a boat that has a real link to F&B's activities. This is the big brother of the highly successful OCEAN CRAFT 3.4 fishing dory we tale away with us on the 8.2 cruiser "Far Away". Again, it's built using the unique cylinder design concept that CALOUNDRA boat builder Mike Jessop has patiently and thoroughly kept developing with spectacular results. Peter and Ruth joined forces to "test" this craft as both were curious to see how it performed compared to F&B's smaller version.
Well, if they give away prizes for originality, fresh thinking and initiative, Caloundra boating enthusiast and boat builder Mike jessop would almost certainly take home the prize.
Mike is the epitome of the small, struggling boat builder fighting to develop an unusual product against a sea of mediocrity and indifference.
What makes Mike's Oceancraft different, and the fundamental reason he's survived so long in a very difficult industry, is simple: his Oceancraft work, and a steadily growing group of owners swear by 'em.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the fundamental principle of this design concept, whilst as ugly as sin, overrides aesthetics with the sheer excellence of its performance. And make no mistake - these Oceancraft are amazingly well performed at virtually everything except appearance.
That's probably a bit unfair really, because Mike's not setting out to build a Haines Signature, is he? Indeed, Mike also epitomises the great virtue of aluminium boat building ie, to take a superbly ductile material and wring its neck to produce shapes and craft that would defy the best fibreglass and wooden boat builder. Mike Jessop has probably done more than most boat builders to work with aluminium to such an extent that he's created a product that utilises all the best features of this material, and abandons all pretence at being anything other than what it is - a 100% effective, utilitarian workboat.
Recently, he rang to let us know that the 6.Om boat was finished and he was powering it with a 70hp 2-stoke Tohatsu.
"Would we like to take it for a run?" he asked. It took a month or two to bring everything together, but we're very glad we did, because this is a boat that deserves much wider exposure than it's had. Sure, it's obviously not for everybody, but there's a growing charter and commercial world out there where this boat has enormous application and potential.
As long term readers will remember, back to the years 1999-2000, F&B ran the extremely successful project boat "Shutterbug" which was a genuine 7.2m Ocean Cylinder and of course a much more sophisticated craft than this, but the principle nevertheless was exactly the same, albeit coming from a different direction.
We hammered that boat in all sorts of weird and wonderful conditions and it never put a foot wrong - and this is a characteristic that applies to this boat, too.
Ruth at the helm with Mike Jessop, the Oceancraft founder and builder. Things might be a bit strange, but hell, when it all comes together as well as this - who cares? Incidentally, if you're one of those F&B readers planning a fishing expedition around OZ, stop asking me what I think you should take: Here it is!
Well, Mike hasn't been sitting on his hands on this issue, either, and over the last couple of years, has been developing the freeboard side system you can see here.
Interestingly, it is essentially a folded U shape, or 'channel section' that is then down welded to the top of the cylinders thus creating genuine coamings, genuine freeboard and another layer of storage space accessed via a variety of hatches or openings.
Obviously enough, from a fishing viewpoint, it also allows a whole raft of fishing options to be developed including a mass of different rod holders, rod racks, bait boards etc. But understand if you will, Mike is more of a spearo than a fisho, and his business has grown apace over the years because of his close affinity to the East Coast spear-fishing community, so most of his craft are built with a background of spearfishing in mind.
Nothing wrong with that either, because in just about every other sense, spearos and fishos share common requirements on many aspects of their boating - especially where there is a commercial or charter edge involved.
Charter skippers and spearos alike really can't be fussed with spoofy carpet and comfortable armchairs they are only interested in keeping their feet dry and having a work boat that will deliver the crew, the fishos or the equipment, safe and sound as the job demands.
It's the classic difference between recreation and commercial - and Mike Jessop has nailed it on the commercial side at the expense of building a spoofy looking or fitted recreational platform.
As it stands, the fishing model we tested is 6.Om LOA, with a legally trailerable 2.4m beam, with a base weight (wait for it!) that starts at 280kg and them builds up progressively depending on what you add to the basic cylinder platform.
As it was tested here, it obviously weighs a lot more than 280kg. In fact, it comes in at approx 400-450kg (the) largely due to top channel sections, a greatly enlarged transom arrangement, bimini, canvas, boarding ladder, centre console and pedestal seat.
On a trailer, the complete rig comes in at approx 1,100kg (tbc) with the 70hp Tohatsu and about 50L of fuel. So we're not talking about a heavy weight cruiser here, we're talking about using aluminium to its maximum efficiency by creating ultra buoyant and very strong 2.5mm cylinders that create catamaran -
Mike is unabashed about producing a boat with commercial leanings for people who essentially want to keep their feet dry and don't need to waste money on unnecessary fittings. As a result, the total package price for this 6.Om craft includes GST, so you sure as hell 'aren't paying for any fancy overheads' are you?
This is such a classic picture. RC has the boat trimmed perfectly. Note how the cylinders are turning over the bow wave back down into the water, so the aft cylinder sections are actually getting lift off the centre, deep vee sections - whilst the cylinders are running on a 'featherbed' of wash. No wonder it is so soft riding in rough conditions for a boat of this length. And yes, the spray dodgers are a give-away; it can be wet in strong wind conditions.
Obviously the boat can be dressed up - outdoor carpet on the cockpit sole, a nicer set up on the centre console, multiple pedestals and a brace of Reelax skipper's chairs, in addition to proper Reelax side saddle seating for passengers.
Look, pull out your cheque book and decide how much you want to spend because it's that sort of a product. For most spearos and fishos alike, they'll take it as it is and to hell with wasting money on unnecessary soft options! But for those who do want a little more comfort and/or need to convince Mum it's a good idea to purchase one of these strange craft, then just budget another couple of grand for the soft options.
This also applies to the issue of paint work - do you want to bother with painting the hull? Aluminium boats like this don't need it, so perhaps just a clear lacquer finish will suffice .... or alternatively, you can put your hand up for a really nice paint job if you so prefer. Just give the man the money, dear.
It's all a bit weird in the beginning, because it's not like any other boat you've ever driven - but after about 5 minutes, you stop thinking about what it is, relax and settle back to enjoy the experience. The ride is uncannily soft, because the deep vee is far deeper than you could possible have as a deep vee in its own right. If you had it this deep it would just fall over from one side to the other but because this is a cylinder type boat, it can't do that. So that when the boat lifts up and runs along the water, the deep vee cuts through the rough stuff like the proverbial, whilst the cylinders keep the boat in good shape.
Indeed, as a 6.Om hull, I don't think there would be any other monohull boat in Australia with anything like the stability (dynamic and static stability at that) approaching the 6.Om Oceancraft.
The boat itself is rated for no less than 15 people - but in an emergency, it can carry even more. Mike reckons it does 15 people on its ear. Needless to say, he does have a Party boat version of this hull concept and
As a trailerboat fisherman, it is a beauty - but it is utterly different from anything else on the market. With sit-on topsides and one pedestal seat it's hardly going to make it in the family stakes, but on the other hand, it is easily the safest boat of its type produced in Australia. So as far as the family is concerned, if safety is paramount, the boat wins hands down. All you've got to do is convince Mum!
Go on - let your imagination go ... just IMAGINE what you could do with this layout. Rod holders here, kill tank there, live bait tank against the transom, camp stretchers along the cockpit for overnighters in croc country. . the mind boggles!
From a fishing point of view, it will go anywhere - whether you want to work up at King Ash Bay or out of Stannage Bay, go and explore the Barrier Reef or if you work your way around Tasmania, this boat could handle anything like that as it has such inherent seaworthiness and safety.
In terms of performance, the 70hp Tohatsu 2-stroke was hardly the best engine Mike could have chosen to impress, as it's a rattley, old-style 2stroke that really should have been pensioned off years ago. However, Tohatsus enjoy a reputation for longevity and cheapness, and the combination of the two elements make certain that it will stay around for a bit longer yet.
Nevertheless, compared to a modem Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda 4-stroke, let alone the really sophisticated 4-stroke engines such as the Verado from Mercury or even the DFI 2-strokes from Mercury or Yamaha (or Tohatsu themselves) the carburettor 70hp Tohatsu seems a bit like a blast from the past. Nevertheless, it certainly demonstrated that you don't need a lot of power to push Mike's Oceancraft 6.0m.
It returned an average 26 knots top speed with a very nice cruise around the low 20's without any drama, with 3 of us onboard, and including the bimini and front canvas. So given there's not a lot of weight in this boat, there's also no reason to power it excessively as some people are want to do. Mike reckons the 115hp class of engine is perfect and I tend to agree with that, because all of the outboard companies have excellent 115's and that would provide heaps of power for this hull. You certainly wouldn't need any more unless you were carrying SCUBA divers and/or their bottles. Bearing in mind this boat can easily carry 6 divers and a skipper for the day - or alternatively one fishing guide plus 6 fishos, we'd reckon the power on the transom should increase pro-rata to the displacement.
In a year or two's time when the writer dreams of building a 13-14m long range cruiser to further explore the Top End of Australia, the dory that we'll use will once again be one of Mike's strange Oceancraft.
But the word "strange" only applies when you compare it to what we all consider to be a conventional shape and style of boat. Other than that, forget it - strange they might be, but these cylinder boats set a completely different standard of safety, stability, performance, and ride softness. They are literally in a league of their own.
It's not for everybody, that's for sure - but for a particular group of fishermen, divers, adventurers and explorers, you simply can't go past them.
For futher information about the Oceancraft 6000, please give Mike Jessop a call on 0416 293 686
This has merit and application in all sorts of places and operations. It may not be everyone, but for some, it is perfect.