Tested by Erwin Bursik (May/June 2004)
CAPE TOWN’S Victoria and Alfred Waterfront was all lit up, with its beautiful lights reflecting on the calm waters of the Cape Grace Marina, on the evening I arrived to view the Spanish Armada.
Indeed, the Spanish Armada has arrived. Lying at their berths, the Rodman 1250, 1120 and 800 looked magnificent. New, clean and sparkling, they picked up the reflections, tranquillity and ambience of the surrounding marina. It was wonderful to see them again after getting to know them so well at their home port of Vigo in Spain. There is no doubt that seeing most boats, especially big sportfishing craft “in the flesh” is infinitely more breathtaking than seeing them in a magazine.
These three Rodman craft had recently been offloaded from the ship that brought them to Cape Town, and had already undergone sea trials and the necessary inspection by the authorities. They were now at my disposal to review in South African waters and under South African conditions.
Following a number of beautiful days in Cape Town, the DSTV weatherman predicted rain for the day I was due to review these craft. The weatherman was wrong on two counts — the rain didn’t arrive and the “light wind” predicted, turned into a monster south easter, howling at 25-plus knots. In KZN we moan about the “beastly eastly”, but it pales in comparison with the Cape south-easter.
Before I wax lyrical on the Rodman 1120, there are two aspects relating to the Rodman 1250 that I reviewed in the January/February 2004 issue of Ski-Boat that need to be addressed.
Firstly, I said that trim tabs would be a possible extra worth considering. Laurence took heed of my comment and had them installed on the Rodman 1250 that has arrived in South Africa. The slight lateral instability that I experienced in the flat waters of Vigo at speeds of 27 knots and more, has been overcome with marginal assistance from the trim tabs.
Secondly, I made a mistake. I hate comparisons, but despite this stuck out my neck and said that the 1250’s fishing deck is not massive. In actual fact, square metre for square metre, the Rodman 1250’s fishing deck area is larger than many other sportfishers in her class.
Now to get to the Rodman 1120. I have to admit I became quite attached to this 36ft sportfishing craft while I was playing with the Rodman craft in their home waters of Vigo, Spain.
Some four-odd months have passed since then, and I must admit there was a fair degree of anticipation as the date approached when I could again review this craft and her two sisters.
A number of questions plagued me before I arrived in Cape Town. Had my initial assessment of the craft been swayed by the overwhelming magnitude of the Rodman factory and my reception by their staff? Was the reputation and history of the North Atlantic’s ferocity having a bearing on the design and ride of the craft? Had the proverbial beauty of the night faded with the coming dawn? These and other questions would all soon be answered.
As I stepped aboard the Rodman 1120 where she lay moored in the Cape Grace Marina, all my doubts fled. I knew that the craft is indeed great and that I would not change my mind when I got her to sea. At the end of two days of testing, this was once again confirmed …
Slipping moorings and stowing the fenders was the first exercise that highlighted the benefit of this craft’s walkaround concept. The south-easter was growling, and skipper Johan van der Berg had reasonably inexperienced crew aboard, making the exit from the moorings tricky. However, this was not nearly as tricky as when we returned many hours later. The walkaround feature enabled the crew to run up forward to fend off when necessary, a feat that would have been far slower and much more hazardous on a conventional sportfisher under the same conditions.
Onn the subject of this aspect which differs so from other craft, while out at sea and in the teeth of the wind, I personally walked forward as if to deploy an anchor, follow a fish, or just get some solitude from the rest of the crew, and I found it extremely practical and safe. What’s more, even drifting side-on with that wind, it was totally dry.
Yes, I do think the walkaround is an advantage, especially if the craft is to be used for all round sport- and bottomfishing as well as socialising.
In the relative protection of the breakwaters of Granger Bay, and under the magnificent seamanship of Capt. Johan van der Berg, I was able to step across from the Rodman 1250 to the 1120 with ease during a stern to stern manoeuvre. It was then, as I slid in behind the wheel on the flybridge, that my fun began.
I swung her bow so that I was running with an aft beam sea, and the Rodman 1120 came alive. As the turbos on the twin 285hp Volvo motors kicked in and the rev counter began to climb, I got a strong feeling of déjà vu. Indeed, this was the craft I had enjoyed so much in the moderate Atlantic Ocean off the coast of northwestern Spain. At that moment, I knew I had not been wrong the first time I skippered this craft.
Volvo 285hp diesel inboards are designed to rev up to 4 000 rpm, and later in the morning when I undertook some speed trials in relatively protected waters, she achieved her designed top speed of 30 knots quite easily. What surprised me, was that during the trials I was either running directly into the strong south-easter or with it, and the GPS readings I took varied only marginally at maximum speed — only one knot difference. Into the wind I got 3 900 rpm and just under 30 knots, while with the wind I achieved 4 000 rpm and fractionally over 30 knots.
However, back to the rough water … After running for quite a few kilometres the swell under the heavy chop began to get bigger and the sea more interesting as the swell seemed to be coming in from the south-west. This allowed me to change course slightly to get the wind and chop on her transom. Setting her at a comfortable speed of 21 knots at 3 000 rpm and with a very slight bow-up trim, she rode the sea very comfortably. Tracking a straight course, even with the swell coming onto her bow quarter, was easily done, a factor which I attribute to the aft keel, an inherent part of the Rodman design.
While still up on the flybridge, I swung her bow to face the wind for the long run home. At one stage during this manoeuvre home, she had to get the wind and sea on her starboard bow quarter, and I was ready to duck as a puff of wind-driven spray flew up. We managed to miss it, and by then her big flared bow was already clearing the chop and throwing water and spray aft.
I eased off a bit on the throttle, bringing the revs to 2 700, which gave me an SOG of 15 knots — a speed I was able to comfortably maintain. I just found the wind and speed — effectively giving me 40 knots of wind in the face — unpleasant, so I slipped her into neutral and took control of the helm station in the cabin. This change merely required me to touch an electronic pad on the Volvo controls, and electronic throttle/gear selection controls downstairs took over.
From the comfort and protection of the main helm station we continued the run towards Table Bay docks until we reached water that was sufficiently protected to provide marginally fishable conditions.
It was in these conditions that I proceeded to test how she would handle trolling speeds between 5 and 7,5 knots, i.e. the speed one would use to troll for gamefish and marlin. Not only did she handle this test very well, but I also found her lateral stability surprisingly good, thus enabling me to work the deck without being thrown around too much. Up to about 7,5 knots, this craft throws a very light white water wake that was even fishable in direct side-on seas.
Laurence has had trolling valves fitted to his craft, and although there is much debate regarding the use of these in tight manoeuvres, they were extremely useful for slow trolling. Trolling valves basically allow hydraulic oil to bypass the gearbox, thereby providing slip (almost like a slipping clutch on a motor vehicle) which, in turn, reduces the propeller revolution in relation to the motor’s rpm.
For example, on the Rodman 1120, after gear selection, at idle without the trolling valves being adjusted, we were achieving 3 to 4 knots SOG, and with the valves, 1,6 knots. For the uninformed, it is generally unwise to shut down a big diesel engine when a craft is still under power with the second engine. The wind-back effect of the propeller on the gearbox can cause very expensive problems.
In rough water, but more importantly in the small chop, this craft drifted well side-on to the wind. This would allow bottomfishermen to fish along the length of the walkaround rather than forcing the skipper to try to hold the transom into the wind as would be required when bottomfishing on a conventional sportfisher.
Finally, after watching Captain Johan handle these craft in very tight manoeuvres in the marina, I realised what I was doing wrong in Spain when I was unable to get the craft to swing as quickly as I would have liked when backing up. Simply put, I was being too gentle on the throttles and gearboxes. Following Johan’s example and using quick bursts of power I was able to improve my performance rather than the boat’s performance, to achieve the required speed and manoeuvrability during backing up trials.
The Rodman 1120 is designed for European cruising standards that demand a high standard of interior design and finish. In this area the layout of the main salon, which incorporates a helm station, is efficient in space utilisation and is very comfortable for practical use. The thought that has gone into this and the years of experience by the designer are evident. The galley area is well positioned and has adequate space and facilities for a craft this size. The master cabin up forward is comfortable and private and of a good size that will delight the owner’s female companion, as will the spacious and efficiently designed bathroom (heads). I have a phobia about small cramped heads on boats, which are often almost claustrophobic. Happily the Rodman 1120’s facilities do not fall into this category.
In addition, there is also a second, smaller cabin.
When doing boat reviews, I am often criticised for not writing about the clever little touches and storage areas provided by the builders. My view is that photographs and brochures show most of these if one looks carefully enough. Also, I do not have the space in this forum, and could never do justice to these aspects in writing. A far better idea is to make a date and see all these for yourself.
On the fishing deck, Laurence has done a lot to make this craft fishing friendly, and it will be even more so once he has had the fighting chair and outriggers fitted. This will be done once the craft have made their way from Cape Town to Durban. The Rodman 1250 is making the trip by sea and the others by road transport.
A further cockpit luxury is the awning that slides out from the main cabin. This can either be partially extended, or pulled out to cover the entire deck. It provides plenty of shade, and is very quickly stowed after a hook-up, thus allowing the skipper to view the deck.
While these craft come from the factory with a Bimini fold-away top on the flybridge (a standard requirement for the European users), Laurence has already commissioned the design and manufacture of a substantial T-top to which clears can be attached on request.
On the subject of the flybridge, I found the helm station upstairs to be comfortable and extremely practical, especially when it comes to watching the cockpit area while fighting a big fish. I also like the access to the flybridge. To get to the top one has to pass through a hatchway in the flybridge deck and the support one gets during the critical stage of clambering up onto the flybridge is comforting, especially in very rough conditions.
The Rodman 1120 is a beautiful craft, fitted with all the luxuries, including air-conditioning and generated power, that one would only expect on bigger craft. It is a craft that will suit a wide range of boaters, from those who only occasionally indulge in a bit of inshore fishing and use their boat for family fun and entertaining, to the marlin hunters who require their craft to work extremely hard. I believe this 36ft sportfishing craft has the capabilities to be a boat for all seasons.