Tested by Kevin Smith (September/October 2007)
AT A GLANCE
Length: 5.2 metres
Beam: 2.35 metres
Draft: +/- 0.86 metres
Minimum hp: 2 x 40 hp
Maximum hp: 2 x 70 hp
Fuel Capacity: 100 litres
Flotation: Foam bead-filled bottles
CATS, cats and more cats! In the past year there has been a huge influx of new and improved ski-boat catamarans onto the market. There are many different sizes and styles to choose from nowadays, and frankly, I can sympathise with anyone buying a new boat, because there are so many good craft to choose from.
Most of the boat tests that we do consist of only one craft. When occasionally there are two of the same craft to test, these would normally be in centre- and forward console versions. Well, between Suzuki South Africa and A&G Marine from Port Alfred, they managed to put four boats up for test on the same day. The centre- and forward console models of the SupremeCraft 520 are reviewed below, and the centre- and forward console versions of the SupremeCraft 530 will be reviewed in an upcoming issue of SKI-BOAT.
These boats are the old Supercats, which I had driven as dive boats in Sodwana many years back, and they were good boats then. I was keen to see if they’re still as good as I remembered them to be, so it was off to Port Alfred to meet up with Heath Mitchell from Suzuki SA, and the SupremeCraft team of Ryan Reynolds, Andrew Reynolds and Gerrit Cloete.
My first viewing of the 520s was at the A&G Marine factory in Port Alfred. This particular model still looks a lot like the original in that it has straighter lines and lower gunnels. The layout is simple, and both the forward- and centre console versions looked good for general offshore fishing applications.
Conditions for the test were relatively flat off Port Alfred, but there was a large swell pushing through, making the launch out of the harbour mouth quite interesting and good for the test.
Supreme Craft 520 Centre Console
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
The 520 CC comes standard on a sturdy galvanised breakneck trailer manufactured by them at their factory. The design is slightly different to that of the usual cat trailer: instead of a larger squared front, this trailer’s front is tapered like that of a monohull’s trailer. I quite liked that aspect because it was more streamlined and reduced the weight factor on the trailer.
Port Alfred has slipways into the Kowie, which makes launching and trailering very simple, but judging by the breakneck system on the trailer, I am positive that it would be fairly simple to offload and trailer on the beach as well.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
As these boats are being promoted by Suzuki SA, the 520 CC naturally comes fitted with twin Suzuki 50hp four-stroke trim-and-tilt motors. The days of four-strokes being exceptionally heavy and bulky are definitely something of the past, and these motors, swinging 14 pitch props, were said to be the perfect match for the 520 CC.
The controls were the binnacle-mount type with dual trim switches enabling you to trim both motors simultaneously, or one at a time. This is a handy feature to have, even on small motors. The steering system was hydraulic, which made handling smooth and simple.
On craft of this size you can run cable steering systems, but like I always say, rather fit hydraulic. It really makes a difference to the handling in all areas, and it won’t break the bank.
When I first saw the Suzuki 50hp four-strokes on the 520 CC, I was a bit concerned that the boat might be under-powered. Well, looks were definitely deceiving in this case.
I was pleasantly surprised at the “grunt” these motors had. From stationary, getting onto the plane was fast, and in a straight line you could trim her up and achieve a decent speed of 50-55km/h on the speedo. At this speed on flat water the motors revved up to 6 500 rpm and did not sound like they were over revving or over working.
Unlike the majority of our tests, we had to negotiate the surf at the Kowie River mouth, and this was challenging considering that the swell was pumping through at six foot-plus and we had to dodge surfers at the same time. This can be quite nerve wracking if one is are not at the helm, but Andrew and Gerrit whipped the 520 CC and forward console 520 SportMan through the surf with such ease that we did not even get wet!
For general South African surf launches, power through the surf was ample, as long as you don’t overload the boat. What I did notice was the craft’s ability to turn tight in the surf without picking up excess cavitation — something that is an essential when surf launching.
Offshore, in the larger swells and running directly into them, the 520 CC held a firm, stable and dry ride at a constant speed of 15-18 knots SOG. Running side-on to the swell, the ride stayed constant and a slightly higher top speed could be maintained. With the large swell pushing onto the stern, trimming the motors up slightly again created a good ride at a fair speed, with no apparent signs of the hull wanting to broach.
Out of the hole, fully locked to both port and starboard, handling again was good. She produced tight, quick turns and was reasonably stable without cavitation.
In the turns at high and low speeds, I found the centre console model rode level on both sponsons. Although there was no wind blowing to create a decent chop for the test, I still feel that the 520 CC will give a good ride in rougher conditions.
The hull did not bang hard for her size — even when I forced jumps off the swells — and when I observed her ride from the other boat, I saw that a relatively dry ride could still be maintained if it were rougher, because the spray curled straight down off the outside chines.
Being a centre console craft, this model automatically gives you a good 360 degree walkaround area for fishing. Deck space is plentiful and there’s also enough hatch space for the stowage of tackle, fish and other gear. At high and low troll speeds, the stability in the larger swells was good, and because of the four-strokes the noise factor from the motors was minimal.
On the drift she was again fairly stable for her size. Having lower gunnels these boats are well suited to general offshore fishing, spearfishing and flyfishing.
A practical and simple layout is what you get on the 520 CC. The false transom is a step-up area between the motors, housing a livebait well and dual roll bars with rod holders. A separate hatch for stowage/seating has been mounted in front of the livebait well, creating extra space to move in behind the console. The deck has a standard non-slip surface which simplifies cleaning at the end of the day, and has dual, flush-mounted fish hatches.
The console has a really good design to it, incorporating plenty of stowage space for gear, separate mounting sections for the well-positioned controls, ample space for gauges and sounders of most sizes, a windscreen and a T-top for protection and rod stowage. There’s also a built-in fuel box in the front which serves as a seating area. In the bow there are two easily accessible anchor hatches, as well as another two seating-cum-stowage hatches that cleverly cover the tunnel between the sponsons. All round stainless-steel rails complement this craft.
The 520 CC is a well presented boat with a good general finish to it. A&G Marine pride themselves on manufacturing their own boats and the majority of the trimmings, and at the end of the day they produce a genuinely customised product.
Craft of this size and style are nice all-rounders, suitable for a number of applications, from dam and estuary to offshore fishing. They handle well for their size and are easily manageable on the water and off, when towing.
The 520 Centre Console maintains a lot of the original look, and if you are not into the new high-tech designs and modern looks, then the 520 is for you. This is a boat that will suit the whole family and is also most affordable.
Supreme Craft 520 SportMan
Being the second of the 520s up for test, I had been able to study the ride and capabilities of this forward console model for some time before I tested her myself. Sometimes there is a vast difference in the ride between centre- and forward console versions of the same hull, but just from watching her performing in the surf and offshore, I could see that the 520 SportMan model was just as good as the CC.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
The 520 SportMan also comes standard on a sturdy, galvanised breakneck trailer manufactured by A&G Marine at their factory and has the same unique design. The only possible difference you might find would be the weight factor: with this boat being a forward console model, it would obviously be slightly heavier on the hitch of the trailer. If this was a problem, simply moving the axle forward slightly would lighten the load.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
Like the 520 CC, the forward console model was tested with the new Suzuki 50hp four-stroke trim-and-tilt motors. The 50s had no trouble getting the slightly heavier 520 SportMan going. The controls were also dual- and single-trim binnacle mounts, and the steering system hydraulic. I found everything to be positioned correctly, which added to the smoothness and simplicity of operating her.
As previously mentioned, rides can differ immensely between models, and with these craft I definitely found this to be the case. Watching her in the surf, the 520 SportMan had no problems with power or turning, and she even cut through one large foamy on the bow with great ease.
Once through the surf zone and upon driving the boat myself, I found her out-of-the-hole acceleration to be quick off the mark with very little cavitation, making this model very well suited to tricky, fast surf launches. This surprised me as, because she was heavier, I had not expected her to be as fast as the centre console. Average and top speeds of the two craft were equal, and in fact I found the forward console’s ride more solid at higher speeds.
At higher speeds into the swell with the motors trimmed up slightly, between 20 and 25 knots SOG, the 520 SportMan gave a soft, constant and dry ride. Running side-on to the swell she rode just as well, cutting through the swells with ease, and a slightly higher top-end speed could be averaged while still maintaining a comfortable ride.
Running with the large swell was again comfortable and stable for the boat’s size, with no signs of broaching or ploughing into the troughs — keeping in mind the prevailing conditions. Remember, though, that at the right time and place of a swell, all boats can broach or plough.
At high and low speeds I found the 520 forward console’s ride to be very soft. She also seemed to bank more toward the inside sponson on turns — a personal preference of mine. Considering the conditions, I found the general handling capabilities of the 520 SportMan to be good.
It’s all good and well having a boat that handles nicely, but if you’re an avid angler you also need a craft that offers reasonable to good fishability to complement the ride. Being a forward console model, this version has more open deck area, so it’s up to the angler to decide whether he wants walkaround space or more open deck space.
The 520 SportMan also has plenty of easily accessible stowage space for tackle, fish and other equipment in the hatches available. The spacious deck area starts from the forward console and stretches right through to the stern.
Both at higher troll speeds and slow, the 520 SportMan was easy to control due to her size, the revving was quiet and low, and the craft was relatively stable, maintaining a dry ride in the prevailing conditions. There was also the added bonus of the shelter afforded by the forward console. Although the boat is fairly small, you could still spend longer hours at sea in reasonable conditions. The SportMan version is definitely more suited to the fisherman who wants to stay at sea for slightly longer.
On the drift I once again found her stability to be good for her size.
The 520 SportMan has the same features as the centre console model — they’re just laid out differently. She also boasts a step-up false transom section, housing a decent sized livebait well and dual roll bars for trolling rods. The deck also has a non-slip finish, flush-mount fish hatches and a double raised hatch in the centre of the deck that houses petrol, plenty of extra space for equipment, and serves as a good seating area. As on the centre console model, the gunnels have built-in rod racks.
The forward console section is fairly low, but is still at an adequate height and is protected by a full windscreen. It’s comfortable for skippering when standing or when seated on the hatch. This area has more built-in cupboards for stowage and also plenty of space for gauges, fishfinders and whatever else you may require. In the centre of the console is a small walk-through area that provides easy access to the dual anchor hatches via the pull-out windscreen section.
Coming from the same hull mould as the centre console model, the 520 forward console’s finish is also good for her class. The top deck is neat and well finished off and, like on the centre console, A&G Marine manufacture the majority of the trimmings themselves at their factory.
If I had to choose between the two, it would be a difficult decision, as they are each well-suited to different applications. Some skippers prefer centre consoles, some prefer forward consoles — in this case you would need to test both to decide.
The 520 SportMan is yet another boat in her class that is well suited to many different applications, and is also a simple boat to handle on and off the trailer.