Tested by Heinrich Kleyn (SKI-BOAT September/October 2011)
Craig Wilson (031) 305-8735 or 082 880 3111
Approx weight: 840kg
Rated min hp: 2 x 60hp
Rated max hp: 2 x 90hp
Power as tested: FC — 2 x 75hp Honda 4-strokes; CC — 2 x 60hp Honda 4-strokes
REGULAR readers would no doubt have seen our reviews of Don Jarrett’s offshore boats, the Benguela 530 CC in the November/December 2010 magazine and the Benguela 530 FC in the March/April 2011 issue, and may be wondering why we felt the need to review them again.
Well, in this instance we wanted to establish if different motors would affect their rides. Is it likely to affect their performances, you may ask? Indeed it is. Just take into consideration the weight factor and gearbox differences for a start.
Honda Marine Durban were keen to give them a run with the forward console craft fitted with 75hp Honda four-stroke engines and the centre console craft fitted with 60hp Honda four-stroke engines.
Craig Wilson, one of the co-owners of Honda Marine Durban, proudly showed me the different models at the Durban Boat Show in July, and I was very interested to see the differences for myself. It was the first time I would be able to test a craft twice with different engines in such a short period of time.
A few days later I got a call to say both the boats were ready to be tested, and we set a date to meet at the public slipway at Durban harbour.
Since I’d already tested the Benguela centre and forward console models, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was totally wrong. It’s amazing what a difference colour makes to the overall look of a boat, and these boats looked like totally different craft with the Honda four-strokes on their transoms.
When I saw them waiting for me at the slipway, once again I was struck by the quality of the workmanship. Angler Boats have a reputation for building top quality boats, and once again they lived up to that reputation.
In short, the boats looked stunning — all very neat and tidy. Style and finish are vital in the market in which Angler Boats has traditionally been involved, and they have always been a trendsetter in this arena, making a splendid impact on the marketplace.
Naturally, the conditions in which we test a boat play a large role on the performance of the craft on the day. If the sea is big and all over the place, it’s difficult to take photos, but easy to make the boat perform and to put her through her paces. If the conditions are calm, then it’s the other way around — taking photos is easy, but getting the boat to perform out of the ordinary is a challenge.
The last time we tested the Benguela boats the sea conditions were horrific. Just before this test we had quite a few cold spells with strong winds, lots of rain, lots of snow in the mountains and all the Vaalies freezing their butts off. Thankfully, the weather gods gave us a break on the test day, and there was no wind, although the sea was a little all over the place. The sky was still grey, with the cold front having just passed through, but we had to make the most of what we were given — and this we certainly did.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
As mentioned in the previous reviews, it’s dead easy to load and offload the Benguelas on the slipway or on the beach because their trailers are made inhouse at Angler Boats and are supplied to the dealers. This makes it a perfect buy for the customer because the boat is loaded onto the customised single-axle galvanised breakneck trailer at the factory, and the package is ready to be hitched up and towed away. Fuss-free.
On the test day I found, as usual, that the Benguelas fitted perfectly onto the trailer, and slipped off the rollers into the water hassle-free. Reloading them was also easy. You could either drive the boat up or winch it up by hand — in both cases very simple. Beach launching would be just as easy, I’m sure.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
The Benguela 530 FC was rigged with two 75hp four-stroke Honda outboards with sidemount cable controls, and the Benguela CC was fitted with two 60hp Honda four-stroke outboards, also with normal sidemount cable controls. Craig had fitted hydraulic steering systems to these craft, which makes the cable controls ultra-smooth and easy to use.
From past experiences I’ve found that if you can afford to spend that little bit extra to fit hydraulic steering, it will make your life at sea that much more enjoyable. Both these sets of outboards are of the new generation Honda engines that are powered with the Blast system. (See the review on the Honda BF115 on page 131 of this issue.)
PERFORMANCE — FC
Depending on how the skipper has rigged his boat, going from a centre console to a forward console can be quite an adjustment. In this instance there was not a big difference in power, but one is aware of the differences with regard to the noise and smell. We get spoiled these days with the four-stroke motors which are odourless and silent.
Out the hole the Benguela 530 FC got onto the plane in less than three seconds. This is fairly fast if you take into consideration that your weight displacement is totally different compared to the CC. The ride of the hull is more or less the same, and I could not get her to cavitate while turning. Her turning circle was tight, and that makes her ideal for surf launching off the beach.
Running out with the swell, she performed just as well as she had in the calmer waters. The 530 cut through the chop and swell smoothly, without having to change the trims, and I was still able to keep the ride dry. She rides very proud and that also keeps most of the spray from the bow under control. Staying dry is a big priority for me.
Another characteristic that I was impressed with was that, when dropping over the swell and chop, her hull didn’t bang. She reacted instantly both when accelerating and when I had to tap down for a swell, making it easy to control her ride.
For a craft of her size, the 530 is a relatively wide cat, which helps her lateral stability. She did not roll with the side-on swell, whether stationary or while running at a fairly high speed.
Turning to port and running with the swell, I could maintain a constant speed without ploughing or broaching into the trough, easily accelerating out of the troughs again with the ample power of the twin 75hp Hondas. As she was fitted with the hydraulic system, steering under acceleration was made simple and easy. Although the new cable steering systems are a lot better than the old ones, my preference would definitely be to go for the hydraulic version.
When running directly into the swell, the Benguela 530 FC again handled exceptionally well for a craft of her size. If you ride a boat like a gentleman, not a cowboy, you can create a comfortable ride even in the worst of conditions. At a reasonable speed, as well as when accelerating and decelerating, the 530 was able to slip softly and easily through the chop, without sending shock waves through my bones.
Smaller boats usually handle well in fairer weather conditions, but because of the good general handling of the 530, I am confident that she would maintain all these characteristics in an even rougher ocean. Having all the extra bells and whistles definitely helps when you need to change your ride to suit the conditions.
When stationary in the rougher conditions, very little water flooded over the false transom, and even when it did, the water drained fairly fast and that is even with slightly heavier engines than I had for the first set of tests. At slower speeds, from idle to a trolling speed of 2-4 knots, the Benguela 530 FC maintained reasonable to good stability in all directions.
For her size, the Benguela 530 FC has plenty of deck space, which is great from a fishing point of view for manoeuvrability around the boat. For general offshore fishing you could comfortably fish two to three anglers. These craft also work exceptionally well for deep sea flyfishing, the deck space and stability being the main plus-factors in this facet of angling. The Benguela 530 has comfortable, high gunnels which I found easy to balance against, making it more comfortable when fighting fish or when jigging.
In general, I could not fault the performance of the Benguela 530 FC. Not once did I feel unsafe or that she wanted to lean over to one side. As with her sister, the CC, I felt she was under control all the time, and with the slightly bigger motors I would rate her performance as outstanding.
PERFORMANCE — CC
Next up was the Benguela 530 CC. I had high hopes for her and for a sea that would allow me to perform the full range of on-water trials needed to gauge her overall performance.
I watched very closely as Craig skippered her through the harbour mouth, all the time trying to keep up with her while skippering the photo boat. I also took careful note as I photographed her during the ensuing display exercises, to get an appreciation of her hull-over-water ride. At the same time I noted how she was spreading the cleaved water in the prevailing conditions. I would eventually add my onboard evaluation to these observations to obtain as clear a picture as possible of this hull’s performance.
After sheltering in the lee of Vetch’s Pier, we were eventually able to swop boats and I had the Benguela 530 CC under my control.
This craft, with her seemingly rounded bow profile and sharp bow/shoulder design, adopts a marginally bow-up stance as she takes on the head sea. On board I could see why I battled to keep up with the Benguela 530 on the exit run, as she not only easily moves through and over the oncoming heavy chop, but does so with an amazingly soft ride. This ability to top a crest and not pound down on landing allows for a more constant SOW to be maintained, without throwing the crew around or giving all aboard a drenching. Sure, in many instances we did get wet, but I doubt any boat without a full cabin or surrounded by full clears would have been spared.
As I moved her from a direct head sea to a starboard beam sea and ran the shoulder of the swell that traditionally moves into this area because of the shallower water, I was able to up the throttle and make this craft come alive as we raced in towards the Umgeni mouth. She rode beautifully, requiring only moderate lateral trimming to hold her starboard sponson tight into the building swell and against the tangible wind-blown chop.
The fun part of this test was the long run back to the harbour entrance. After repositioning the crew so that the weight was marginally aft, and trimming out the motors a tad, I started the rollercoaster ride back to port ahead of a now gusting northeasterly which was having an influence on the sea.
It is in this type of sea that all the oddities of a craft’s hull design tend to show up. Yawing, broaching, digging in, and such like. I am pleased to report that the Benguela 530 centre console passed with flying colours.
As we raced forward I never once felt scared, never felt the craft wanted to do her own thing or that I had to fight against her. She pulled out of the slide down the big face of the following seas without any tendency to yaw or dig in, and what could have been a bad run turned out to be quite fun.
A series of trolling trials and simulated surf work was easy and gave me an insight into what the craft is capable of. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to follow a set that peaks over Limestone Reef, then turn her fast enough to get over the following sets that continually bombarded this area.
Furthermore, using the block on the end of Vetch’s as protection and as a marker, I was able to wait for a break and then bounce out and, bearing to port, run the swell line and make it out. With both these boats — the forward console with the two 75hp motors and the centre console with the two 60hp motors, I will say with confidence that they have more than enough power for any conditions.
DECK LAYOUT — FC
Let’s start at the stern … Above the false transom, Angler Boats have fitted two steps, just in case you have to get into the water or onto the boat from the water, for some reason. The false transom is fairly high, so the likelihood of water washing over the deck is slim.
The livebait well has been fitted into the false transom, with battery compartments on both sides. The well has a window so that you can keep an eye on the bait and has a bait pump that keeps on pumping all the time while travelling. The deck draining holes are fitted into the corners on both sides.
Fuel hatches are fitted in the middle of the deck with fish hatches set into the deck. On both versions of the craft, very neat rod holders are set into the gunnels.
There are two swivel seats behind the console — one for the skipper and one for crew — and these seats have been reinforced to be able to carry some of the bigger fishermen around. I have seen many similar seats break, but these are made to last.
On both sides of the console there’s storage space with a walkthrough area to the anchor hatch in the front. In the sides of this walkthrough they have made storage space for tackle — a nifty idea. On the deck in the walkthrough area there’s a space where you can keep either your refreshments or your bait cold.
The anchor hatch is also something special: it’s so big that it would be easy to get your anchor in and out of the hatch. If you’re jigging, this hatch is big enough for somebody to stand in and fish from if both the doors were opened. Don really thought of everything when he put this boat together.
DECK LAYOUT — CC
There are only so many variations one can make to the deck layout of a 5.3 metre craft, so it is more the actual design of the top deck moulding and finishes that make a world of difference. Don has positioned his helm station/console reasonably far forward, thus providing a good sized aft fishing deck, while still having a seat in front of the centre console and space to move between that and the seating right in the front.
The centre console itself was quite spacious as no instrumentation other than the rev counter had been fitted. The steering had been positioned fairly far to the port side which is a little unusual. However, it’s very practical, as it allowed more space for the binnacle-mounted levers and forces the skipper into a midships position, within the full protection of the windscreen.
The rod racks on both sides are fitted under fairly high gunnels. They proved practical for storage of the various styles of rods being used.
I liked the full transom which had motor wells, a transom step and a good sized livebait well incorporated into it. The main deck area has a more than adequate array of stowage hatches, both under the seats and within the confines of the centre console. The below-deck fish hatches are of a good size, easy to access and held in place by very neat hardware.
In the rough seas we experienced I found the seating proved great, both to sit on and to support oneself against when being thrown around. One’s ability to move around the craft, hang on and even fish was impressive.
What more can I say? The Benguela 530 FC has the Angler touch — she’s neat and tidy, and well finished off like only an Angler Boat could be. They have very high standards to maintain, and they certainly haven’t dropped an iota on this boat. Having the boats rigged out by Honda Marine adds even more class to this vessel.
When it comes to the finishes built into the top deck mouldings, as well as the added fittings and hardware, the “Don Jarratt touch” is blatantly obvious. His years of pandering to the fastidious requirements of the leisure boat market have provided him with the ability to produce pretty and functional craft.
It was these niceties of finish in the moulding, fittings and upholstery that I really appreciated. It’s very difficult to describe this quality in a few words, but when one gets onto any of these two Honda rigged boats, the finishes — be they nicely curved mouldings or great quality extras — combine to make the Honda Benguela 530 very special craft.
Having seen these boats through all their construction and finishing stages, I know that their beauty is a lot more than skin-deep. If that’s not good enough, Honda has a reputation to maintain as a premier boat dealer, and I have no doubt that the Honda Benguela boats will only enhance that reputation.
Both the Benguela 530 CC and Benguela FC fit into a range of offshore fishing boats that has a lot of competition, but Honda Marine Durban is not perturbed. They know that their boats are top quality craft. Now that the sea trials have been completed and passed with flying colours, Craig knows he has boats that are indeed worthy of being added to the Honda range — lovely craft which carry his personal guarantee and stamp of excellence.
Honda Marine have raised the bar on the quality we can expect from boats, and others who follow will have to work very hard to meet that standard.
The Benguela 530 FC and CC fitted with the new generation Honda four-stroke engines are among the better and more stable boats in their class in South Africa. If you’re in the market for a good boat, and if high quality and top workmanship are important to you, these craft are definitely worth a good look. •