Tested by Erwin Bursik (May/June 2009)
EFFERVESCENT — AND VERSATILE TOO
I WATCHED with a good deal of interest as the Rodman 1040 Effervescent accelerated from a steady troll, dug in her transom, lifted her bow and climbed extremely quickly onto the plane.
I could hear the turbo kick in as skipper Luke Bassett edged the throttle levers forward, allowing this craft to free herself of the confining sea water and effortlessly ride the ocean at a speed in excess of 20 knots, showing off her beautiful lines to all who were watching.
We had waited for six days to find a break in the weather as the first of the autumn fronts dragged itself up the KwaZulu-Natal coast, bringing with it a lot of rain and heavily overcast skies. Finally a day arrived with clear skies and a calm ocean under a light southeasterly wind.
Although it was not really enough wind to test a craft of this pedigree, I was thankful that she could show off in front of the cameras to optimum effect. I, on the other hand, would experience later that morning what she felt like when I was able to take over her controls and spend a few hours playing with what I could see from a distance was an awesome, spirited sportfisher.
Her new owner, Marius Colyn, who had recently upgraded from a ski-boat, was understandably extremely proud of his new craft and extolled at lengths her performance during the recent SADSAA Billfish Classic. For that event he had travelled from Durban to Richards Bay by sea, and even in the massive seas that resulted in the competition being called off on one of the days, he maintained the craft performed better than he had ever hoped and far exceeded his expectations.
Talking independently to the skipper, Luke, who has had a lot of experience in big seas off Cape Point, he reaffirmed his delight at how this 34-foot craft handled the big water.
The new Rodman 1040 wasn’t even in the planning stage when, together with South African importer and agent Laurence Steytler, I visited their factory in Vigo, Spain, during 2003, or not that I was made aware of anyway. At that stage I was introduced to 8-, 11- and 12 metre walkaround models, in addition to seeing the first FisherPro nearing completion.
What I noticed immediately on the Rodman 1040 was that the factory have taken heed of many specific requirements of the serious offshore gamefishing fraternity and have made suitable adjustments to the interior of the craft. I say this because as I climbed aboard Effervescent, I imediately noticed many small details that have been incorporated to enhance her fishability, most of which will be highlighted throughout the review.
Rodman have used their basic, well-proven hull design for the 1040, but have remodelled the entire upper structure to give this craft a sleeker, more streamlined appearance and, dare I say it, a more sportfisher-like look. When she was planing past me while I photographed her, she looked incredibly beautiful, with her moderately low-profile ride and her strong shoulders working the water’s surface to provide a fast, soft ride.
Powered by twin Volvo 260hp D4 turbo-charged motors, this craft is fast out of the hole and has a top speed of 27/29 knots at 3 500rpm. I found that within the comfort zone of 17 to 22 knots, at 2 500 to 3 000 revs, she cruised beautifully and was consuming between 9 and 11 litres of diesel per motor as displayed by the fuel-flow meters. Apparently, during the Durban to Richards Bay run, she used 180 litres of diesel for the journey while running at about 20 knots.
After taking control of Effervescent I gradually eased the electric-controlled throttle levers forward as I began to get the feel of this craft. When I got behind the helm, the first thing I did was raise both hydraulically-operated trim-planers. Only when the speed began to creep up did I begin playing with this device. Initially I required lateral stability, and then — as we got onto the plane at just over 14 knots — I adjusted her bow-up/down angle to maximise the ride in the small chop we were experiencing.
She responded very positively to minimal amounts of trim, and once set I found I hardly ever had to reset or fine-tune her trim, regardless of the direction in which I was travelling or the speed at which we were travelling. I found this aspect of her over-water performance very interesting for a craft of this size. Generally, smaller sportfishers in the 28-36 foot category tend to be more sensitive than their bigger sisters, especially with regard to lateral stability and running bow-up in a following sea.
Considering what little challenge the effectively flat sea had to offer, there was no point wasting diesel bolting around the ocean for no other purpose than to experience the joy of being on a very nice craft. Because of this, I independently questioned both the owner, Marius, and the skipper, Luke, on their experiences with Effervescent during the SADSAA Classic where I know there were some serious sea conditions to contend with.
Each of them provided me with information that allowed me to correlate their findings with what I was able to ascertain from my time aboard the Rodman 1040. The above information, along with the fact that the Rodman 1040 reminded me a great deal of the Rodman 1120 that I originally fell in love with in Spanish waters, led me to draw very positive conclusions about her performance. Indeed, I’m not at all surprised of the extremely positive reports of her big sea performance off Richards Bay.
To amuse myself I spent a lot of time trolling between three knots (one motor in gear and the other idling in neutral) and four knots with both motors in gear, right through the range up to the top-end marlin troll speeds of 8H to 9 knots. Little needs to be said about the very slow troll speeds, other than that I feel one could just get away with trolling a strong livebait.
As this particular craft had not been fitted with trolling valves, only a good head wind would have allowed me to get a speed over water below three knots, so trolling livebait for ’cuda, for example, may present a bit of a problem. Sportfishers in general are designed to troll at the slightly higher speeds required for pulling lures, such as the deep-diving varieties and right up to big lures for billfish. This is where I felt this craft came into her own.
At 5H to 6 knots — sailfish trolling speed — she threw an almost perfect wake that would have allowed me to pull a full spread of seven strip/softy combinations, all in clear water and, more importantly, fairly close to the transom of the craft. Pulling faster for marlin with konas would require the spread to run a little further back, because from 7H knots the wake begins to spread out quite quickly.
In saying this, and bearing in mind the conditions and the visibility of the wake that was so distinct, I could have found “blue holes” in which to settle lures right up to 9 knots.
With regard to this craft’s performance on the water, the final test was her slow-speed manoeuvrability. Firstly, the fun part of boat skippering — backing up on a big fish. Despite the fact that she runs her props in a tunnel, the Rodman 1040 not only backed up beautifully and fast, but was also able to slip her stern to port and starboard with remarkable ease. As Marius says, the big marlin they released during the SADSAA Classic presented no problem during manoeuvring when the fish was close to the boat. There is no doubt that the electronic fly-by-wire controls assist hugely in this department.
This brings us to manoeuvring the craft in and out of her moorings. Luke made this task look very easy with Effervescent — a sure sign of a good, experienced skipper.
I said earlier that fishability has been an important criterion in the design of this craft, especially in respect of the fish deck layout. The cockpit area is spacious for a craft of this size and is uncluttered by extras, apart from a centrally situated livebait hatch built into the transom. This clear deck allows for the mounting of a substantial fighting chair and enough room around it to conveniently work the deck. Two good-sized underdeck hatches provide for fish stowage. Alternatively, this space can used be to keep fenders and ropes neatly out the way when out at sea.
Surrounding this cockpit, the gunnels are at a great height and are practical. Not only do they offer support and protection while fishing, but they are also set at a suitable height to offer seating to the angler who is watching the lures during quiet periods.
A substantial marlin gate gives access to a substantial marlin/dive platform along the transom, as well as a transom ladder, both of which can be useful during serious fishing, as well as for diving and swimming, if the need arises.
I must at this point emphasise the practical aspect of the walkaround feature that Rodman have perfected in their design of these craft. Nearly six years after I was first exposed to this concept by Rodman, I have come to the stage — after being initially unimpressed — where I can honestly say I think that having a craft with this design feature really is an advantage. Indeed, the walkaround expands the overall “out-of-doors” area of the craft, both for fishing and social activities.
To me the minor loss in cabin/saloon width is more than compensated for by the extra outside use area. Let’s face it, 90% of the time one spends on a craft of this size, both during fishing and social outings, is spent outside.
For sportfishermen the next area of importance is the flybridge. On the Rodman 1040 this area is reasonably compact, but it provides adequate space behind the upstairs helm station to skipper the craft and to swing around and view the deck, watch the lures and effectively back-up when the need arises. On the way back to port there were four of us upstairs, all comfortably seated in the shade of a retractable awning.
One of the nicest aspects of the cockpit/saloon area is the wide doorway between the saloon and the deck when the sliding solid doors are wide open. This not only makes the saloon area seem a lot bigger, but also puts an airiness in the saloon/downstairs helm station, which I like. Besides, if a few reels scream, two big men, relaxing in the comfort of the saloon, can bolt out side-by-side to get the rods.
Many aspects of all craft are a question of compromise. On the Rodman 1040, in order to have a downstairs helm station, the designers have had to sacrifice seating on the port side of the saloon in which they have situated the galley area. On the starboard side, comfortable seating is provided in horseshoe style, with an oval table in the centre.
I could go on forever about the pros and cons of having a space-consuming helm station in the saloon, but the bottom line is personal preference. I prefer this style, because in inclement weather — and on the long runs to/from the fishing grounds — the owner/skipper can socialise with those aboard instead of sitting upstairs all alone.
Something else to consider is that over the many, many hours I have spent aboard sportfishers, the time I spend in the saloon is minimal. When I do go in there, it’s usually to check the instrumentation — sonar/GPS — to “see” what’s happening. I must say that the Ray Marine instrumentation on Effervescent was impressive, and it was easily visible from the cockpit door into the saloon.
Upfront there’s a spacious main cabin which is very nicely appointed, plus a second cabin with two single berths. The bathroom facilities aboard consist of a hot-water shower, toilet and a basin set in a counter-top.
So often when I consider imported craft — beautiful as they look — I wonder what lies behind the fancy finishes. When it comes to the Rodman’s interior and her very nice cherrywood finishes, I can honestly say I have seen behind her attractive façade, and it is indeed more than skin-deep. During my visit to the Rodman factory I specifically inspected not only the pre-made components, but also how they are built into each craft. The excellent cabinetwork and the way the staff meticulously install this jigsaw puzzle of components impressed me immensely.
I enjoyed skippering this 34-foot sportfisher a great deal, because it seems to me that she is the ideal-sized craft for our waters where she can be used for both gamefishing and serious marlin fishing. Taking into account the upfront open area, accessible via her practical, wide walkaround facility, she is also spacious enough to have a really great evening on the water when it comes to social entertaining and booze cruises.