Tested by Heinrich Kleyn (SKI-BOAT May/June 2009)
Length — 7.2m
Beam — 2.55m
Min hp — 2 x 90hp
Max hp — 2 x 225hp
Buoyancy — Foam-filled
Power as tested — 2 x 150hp 2-strokes
IT took a while to organise, but eventually Ernie Magson from Magson Marine in Strand, Cape Town, and I coordinated our schedules so that I could head down south from Durban to test a few of the boats they manufacture.
At their premises I was pleasantly surprised to find a very-well-established showroom with a spares’ department that caters for all needs, and one of the neatest workshops I have come across in the marine industry. It is clear that Ernie Jnr had a very good mentor in his late dad, Ernie Magson Snr, who taught him everything he knows.
Half-an-hour after I arrived we were off to the launch site.
The first boat up for testing was their 230 Billfish. The Billfish range has been on the market for the last 21 years and was originally developed for the commercial market.
Ernie is very excited about the Billfish range, and with this as a basis, Magson Marine tries to cater for the divergent needs of deep sea fishermen, at the same time keeping up with modern developments. When I first saw the 230 Billfish standing there on her trailer, waiting for me to test her, she looked quite superb and I could appreciate Ernie’s excitement about this boat.
On looks alone, she was a winner.
This was Cape Town, so naturally I was expecting it to be windy. My mouth dropped when we entered the harbour — not a breath of wind and the sea was as flat as a pancake. We had to go out into the bay area to find some swells so that I could at least give the boat a proper test.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
We towed this 23ft boat through traffic to the bay, and she handled easily on the double-axle breakneck trailer. Launch-wise, the Cape is known for the surges they experience at their protected slipways, but the 230 Billfish slipped of the trailer with ease.
When we returned after the test, I suggested to Ernie that I would like to re-trailer her on my own. Ernie’s eyes grew big, but he didnt say a word — just went and reversed the trailer onto the slipway until it was halfway in the water.
I drove the Billfish slowly, closer to the trailer, got my timing right, and as easily as she had slipped off I managed to put her back in position on the trailer — much to Ernie’s relief. It turns out he had the impression that skippers from KZN only know how to launch off the beach, with no slip experience.
Re-trailering the 230 Billfish was a cinch, and perhaps I scored one for KZN skippers at the same time!
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
The 230 Billfish I tested was fitted with 2 x 150hp Yamaha two-strokes with binnacle-mount controls. With this size boat you have to go for hydraulic steering. Needless to say, with this combination of motors, controls and steering, the handling of the boat was very smooth and easy.
The Billfish can be fitted with a wide range of motors, from 2 x 90hp up to 2 x 225hp.
When I looked at the boat’s deep-vee in the bow, I immediately got the impression that she would ride well. I was not disappointed. This boat is clearly designed specifically for the offshore fisherman, and this is the type of craft that can handle big seas with ease.
When we did find some swell, I did not experience any broaching in a following sea or when turning to port or starboard.
She has a very comfortable, soft ride at any speed and is very stable when stationary, even if everybody moves to one side of the boat. Another good characteristic of this 230 Billfish is her dry ride — at whatever speed we were cruising.
It was just amazing to feel the power behind those two 150hp Yamahas and experience the ease with which they pushed this boat through the water. From standing still to getting her to glide through the water took no more than four seconds.
I tried to simulate a turn in the surf, and she handled it all with ease — even after a full-lock turn and getting back on the plane at full throttle. For this reason I think it will also be easy to launch her through the surf. The little cavitation that I did experience was as a result of the enormous power of these motors — probably a bit too much power for this craft. Other than that there was no cavitation whatsoever.
Her all-round performance was excellent and I could not fault this boat at all.
Ernie emphasised that Magson Marine does its utmost to please its clients, and in line with this the 230 Billfish can be custom-built to the requirements of the customer. The craft I tested had a lovely centre console with a lot of storage space, as well as a stainless-steel T-top. Behind the console there’s a seat for the skipper to lean against or sit on, with a work-station behind that which makes it easy to work on when you’re busy chumming or cutting bait.
Another padded seat is situated behind the work-station. On the front of the console there’s another seat for crew members.
All round the boat the gunnels are padded so that your knees are protected if you lean against them. Rod holders and tackle storage space are also provided underneath the gunnels.
Two safety containers are fitted out of the way in the bow, but are still easily accessible if needed. The boat also has a smaller fish hatch in the bow. The false transom prevents water from running onto the deck at the stern, and has a built-in livebait well.
This boat’s entire layout had been customised for its new owner — everything was in its place. She was shipshape and ready for the open sea.
Space on the 230 Billfish, and her stability — the two important pillars of fishability — get top marks on this boat. The comfortable height of her gunnels adds to the ease at which one can use her for bottomfishing and vertical jigging, and her stability at slow speed is great for trolling for gamefish. She’s an easy boat to move around on, without feeling nervous about falling overboard.
Overall, she’s a very comfortable boat from which to fish. Top marks!
She is also a very dry boat that will easily handle big seas, but floats in very little water and would also be suitable for inland dams and rivers.
Further north up the east coast, she should easily handle our surf conditions with ease, making her suitable for places like Sodwana too.
Looking at the finish, it is clear that Magson Marine have been doing this for years. Experience counts for a great deal, and the excellent finish on the boat is proof of this. She has a shiny, smooth, glassy look with a modern design, and when you’re in the water it seems as though the gelcoat lights up.
She’s not just a pretty face, though — there’s a very solid boat underneath the gel.
From the showroom to the workshop and all the way to the factory, the Magson people look after their customers. They build an excellent, tried-and-tested range of boats that are definitely worth looking at. A lot of time, money and effort went into the different designs, and Magson’s crew can be justifiably proud of their products.
Having tested the 230 Billfish, I can understand their pride. Indeed, I could not fault her in any way.