Test by Erwin Bursik (January/February 2007)
ON the waterways of Vigo in Spain I was introduced to Rodman and the magnificent range of craft they build, from sportfishers and cruisers to patrol boats. Furthermore, they allowed me to play with three offshore fishing craft that they had available at the time — the Rodman 1250, Rodman 1120 and the Rodman 800 — to my heart’s content, both in the waters of the estuary, as well as the north Atlantic Ocean where it pours into the Bay of Biscay.
The Rodman people are obviously men of great faith, to allow this chap from Africa to have carte blanche use of their craft. And, boy, did this African enjoy playing boats in the Spanish waters.
After a lot of time on the water, I decided that my personal favourite of the three was the 1120. I found myself drawn to her above the other two, although they’re also both splendid craft.
Nearly four years later, after subsequently being aboard the Rodman 1120 off Cape Town once, Laurence Steytler, Rodman’s agent in South Africa, asked me to run the new Rodman 1170 that had recently arrived in South Africa and was moored in Durban.
This craft was imported from Spain for Paul Trimborn, son of South African cricketing great Pat Trimborn, who has since taken delivery of this magnificent craft and called her Blue Label.
I was extremely keen to experience this new Rodman 1170 out on the ocean, especially when I saw Blue Label lying alongside an 1120 at Wilson’s Marina here in Durban, and saw that visually she only differs marginally from that craft.
The ocean that day was not nice. A big north-easterly had pumped the previous day and had only marginally abated when we met it head-on crossing Durban harbour’s notorious bar.
Following an outflowing spring tide, we cruised effortlessly between the north and south piers at about 17 knots until the white caps could easily be seen. After reducing throttle a little and lowering her bow to cleave the bar’s undercut waves, the Rodman 1170 made excellent progress through the turbulent water to the slightly more regular sea that was running out deep off Durban.
It was while running in these rough seas that the familiar feel of the Rodman 1120 that I’d experienced four years ago returned. It was such a pleasure to be back behind the wheel, so to speak, of a craft I had bonded to so long ago.
There was, however, one major difference, and that was her stability. When I first viewed her on the moorings, I noticed she was not only slightly longer than the 1120, but was also considerably wider in her beam. Laurence says that the 1170 is the result of a total redesign of the hull, and is not just an extension of the 1120’s mould.
In short, the best of the old and of the new have combined to produce a spectacular riding hull.
My first exercise was to troll her in the really rough stuff and put her through 360º on a big circuit to judge the way she not only retained SOW momentum during sailfish trolling speeds of between 5 and 6 knots, but also to see if she would pull big konas at slightly faster speeds of 7-9 knots without overreacting to the sea, both laterally and longitudinally.
Tossing around in rough water on an unstable craft tends to have an enormous whipping effect on the outriggers, which in turn affects the action of the lures within the spread being trolled, be they sailfish- or the bigger marlin lures.
I am pleased to say that the Rodman 1170 was surprisingly stable throughout this extended exercise and made “riding” the fly-bridge comfortable. I also watched the SOG very carefully to see if the effects of the sea, especially in a head-on and following sea, would cause much fluctuation in the craft’s speed, thereby transferring that effect to the lures in a spread. The margin of speed fluctuation was minimal, less than half a knot, which was excellent considering the sea we were trolling in. Furthermore, the craft was pushing out a fairly tight wake, especially at the lower troll speeds.
After these trials had been completed, I set a course for Umhlanga Rocks with the wind and sea on the starboard forward beam. She loved it as I eased the electronic binnacle, dash-mounted throttle levers forward, heard the turbo-chargers coming into action and experienced the speed and thrust increasing as she edged her way up to 27/28 knots at a little over 300rpm.
“She can do 35 knots in flat water with throttles wide open,” Laurence assured me, and later proved this to me when he gave the craft a workout on the long run back to port.
For my part, speed is an unnecessary luxury. I enjoy a cruising speed of around 20 knots so as to maximise the comfort for the skipper, the crew and, most importantly, the boat herself.
At a cruising speed of 20 knots, the Rodman 1170 made excellent progress up the coast with a very special ride after I had set her trims to make her ride reasonably bow down.
Rodman craft, as I mentioned in earlier boat reviews — as well as my original findings on these craft when in Spain — have prodigious bows with a very finely-chiselled, knife-like profile and heavy flared shoulders to take on the might and wrath of the north Atlantic.
It is with this sea-working bow and hull that she has established a reputation for excellent performance in heavy seas. I found I had to push her really hard to get her to crest a wave and crash down on the other side, forcing her bow to scoop up the next wave and toss it over the craft. At normal cruising speeds she is beautifully comfortable, taking the full on head sea at approximately 18 knots without seeming to be under any pressure.
On a reciprocal course I trimmed her nose fairly far up and eased open the throttles. She loved it, almost sliding down the face of the big easterly swells, but having sufficient bow flotation to ensure she did not bury her nose into the crest we were following. Her beautiful run under these conditions is attributed to the strong keel Rodman have incorporated into their craft. It not only helps to prevent yawing, but also has the tendency to self-correct the craft’s line of run without the skipper having to fight the wheel. Watching her bow while running down a swell, one can see she will pull marginally, generally to port, but then straightens herself out to follow the course originally set before going into the slide.
Having reviewed a number of American-style sportfishers of late whose bows tend to be less prominent than the Rodmans, it took me some time to establish the craft’s ideal trim in the prevailing rough water. Once I had worked out that there was an optical illusion which made one think she was riding more bow-up than the hull was actually riding in the water, I was able to use the trims to fine tune her ride to my idea of a perfect ride.
With Rodman running their crafts’ props in tunnel-like scoops in the hull, in Spain I was initially sceptical regarding her ability to back-up and slip the transom to port or starboard at speed to follow a big fish. However, when I reviewed the Rodmans in Cape Town, Captain Johan van der Berg proved to me that with the correct technique they performed well.
This came to mind as I went through the exercises of backing up the Rodman 1170 in rough water. With the help of electronic fly-by-wire controls and strong but short bursts of power, I could get her to react exactly how I wanted her to. Subject to designer’s argument, I am also convinced that with the aid of the prop tunnels and with the trim right up, she tends to lift up her stern when reversing quickly and therefore does not take as much water over the transom.
Manoeuvring at low speeds, like while mooring the craft and during boat-to-boat transom transfers, again with the fantastic assistance of electronic controls, she reacted superbly.
This new Rodman 1170 is powered by twin 310hp D6 Volvo Penta motors that supplied impressive low-down torque, as well as a very even acceleration curve during speed trials. Even at moderately high speed, the motors had sufficient power in reserve to make any increases in throttle very noticeable in speed and thrust.
What is very apparent in the redesign of this model is the additional practical working space that has been achieved by widening the craft’s beam. Firstly, the saloon/helm station is far more roomy and the fly-bridge is more comfortable, both for the skipper as well as those keeping him company up top. Then, secondly, there is the additional width of the walkaround. On this craft, strapped into a Black Magic harness and “vas” into a big yellowfin tuna, side-stepping along this walkway even with size 12 wellies would not only be very practical, but would also make the angler feel safe.
On the social side the movement of guests aboard the craft to and from the bow area has also been made a lot easier and safer.
From a fishing point of view I found the cockpit area to be very fishable, despite the fitting of a big fighting chair. There is enough room on the deck and along the transom for the wireman and crew men to work comfortably when handling a big fish. Furthermore, with the chair’s footrest removed, light tackle anglers will have a lot of room to practise their sport and to have ready access to a big livebait well situated in the transom.
Two big fish hatches are provided with flush-floor hatch tops that will hold a good quantity of fish — even reasonably big yellowfin tuna.
The work station for tackle and bait make-up is practically positioned on the saloon side of the fish deck with both a plumbed basin and a bait holding insulated cold box that can be cleaned via a waste outlet.
In the aft end of the cockpit there is also a hatch giving access to the engine compartment. It’s not massive, but was still practical for me to get into the engine room, which is spacious enough even for a big guy to do the necessary pre-trip checks. There is also a hatch in the floor of the saloon that provides a quick and easy view of the front end of the motors as well as the filters.
I was pleased to see that the internal design of the saloon area, as well as the cabins and bathroom, have largely followed the design of the Rodman 1120, except that with the boat’s added width the area has been increased, thus making the entire internal facilities more comfortable and practical to use and enjoy.
The skipper’s domain, the helm station — both in the saloon and up on the fly-bridge — is spaciously designed and includes a helm and instrument console that is not only practical to use, even in rough seas, but is also visually pleasing.
I have said it before and it is worth repeating: Rodman builds its craft for the exacting European standards demanded for the cruising market. The net result is that workmanship of all internal design finishes and furnishings is of a high standard. Not only do they look wonderful and feel solid, but I saw the components in the factory before they were installed. Indeed, the manufacturing process and the materials used were excellent.
I also watched them install some of these pre-made sections and witnessed the painstaking attention to detail that the Spanish workers pride themselves on when finishing these craft.
Downstairs comprises of a head — toilet and basin — double bunks in one cabin and the master cabin, which is superb. The ability to access the double bed from a one-step-up side platform makes it so much easier getting on and off this craft’s bed than trying to climb up from its foot end. Cupboard space is more than adequate and there is a convenient side ledge running the length of the cabin wall for convenient storage of incidentals. It’s truly a master cabin that will delight the lady of the craft.
After a number of hours aboard Blue Label I had to concur within my initial feeling — my affinity to this size Rodman had not diminished. If anything, the bond had grown stronger.
In my eyes the Rodman 1170 is a great fishing machine, and yet with her walkaround and increased saloon area she’s a craft that an owner can also very effectively share and enjoy with family and friends for social use. She’s a 36ft sportfisher and a boat for all seasons, is the Rodman 1170.