Reviewed by Erwin Bursik [May/June 2020 issue of Ski-Boat]
THE Explorer 19CC has been a very popular offshore craft since early 2011. It’s a stylish and easily towable ski-boat that fills a niche for those who fish the inshore waters along the South African coastline as well as off Moçambique. The boat is so stylish that it’s now become equally as popular as a dual-use family leisure craft on inland waters.
It was, in fact, for this latter application that the 2020 edition of the Explorer 19 Centre Console has been remodelled.
Both her top deck layout as well as her hull design have been tweaked to ensure performance with a single outboard motor on flat water is maximised.
It was also with this application in mind that Geoff Courtis and Bill Harrison of Natal Caravans Marine asked me to take her to sea recently and play with her in the calm waters off Durban Harbour to give them my impressions of this new generation Explorer.
At Durban’s Natal Rod & Reel Club slipway we slipped her into the water under the watchful eye of her designer and manufacturer, Grantley Read, and with the doyens from Natal Caravans and Marine mentioned above in attendance. The boat was a big dose of “eye candy” — beautiful, sleek and elegant — as she drifted off her road trailer for a taste of saltwater.
The Explorer 19CC Sport was towed to the slipway on a single axle galvanised trailer behind Geoff’s Ford Everest. With her aerodynamically designed hull and marginal above deck console structure she towed like a dream and in respect of long tows to distant stillwaters and Moçambique, towing this 19ft craft should be a cinch.
We launched in the very early morning in order to make the most of some initial calm water conditions before the arrival of a strong south-westerly blow that was predicted. As we exited the harbour the remnants of the previous day’s moderate north-easterly was very apparent both visually and physically on the hull of the craft I was reviewing. The comparison of performance between the Explorer 19CC and the much larger SeaCat running alongside us as the photo boat was interesting. I immediately got the impression that this “sports car” I was driving was raring to be opened up so she could show her “big sister” a clean pair of heels as she virtually glided over the churned waters of the outgoing tide over Durban’s notorious “bar”.
During a lengthy photo session out in the deep water off Durban’s beachfront, and before the arrival of the imminent south-westerly blow, I was able to study this hull-over-water performance both through the eye of the camera as well as physically as Grantley put his new protégé through her paces in this unsettled water. It was interesting. Very interesting.
The Explorer 19CC Sport I tested was powered by a single 130hp Yamaha 4-stroke outboard that provided more than sufficient power for this craft. Grantley assured me she was not overpowered for her proposed use of pulling waterskiers, wake boarders and water toys on inland waters. He assured me that a pair of 60hp Yamahas would provide as much power as required for general offshore use including surf launching.
This ties up with the SKI-BOAT magazine review by Heinrich Klein of a 2016 model of the Explorer 19CC powered by twin 60hp Yamaha motors. In that review Heinrich mentioned that twin 50hp motors would even suffice for protected launch site offshore operations.
My initial feeling was that considering what I felt exiting the harbour and seeing how she performed with three people aboard during the photo shoot, I was going to have an enjoyable time putting her through her paces in a sea that was fast becoming affected by the strengthening south-westerly wind.
A close look at the accompanying photographs of this craft’s hull-over-water performance will show how the modified hull design pushes the water further aft and improves the hull’s lateral stability, even though a single motor usually causes propeller torque via induced lateral chine instability.
When I took over the helm of the Explorer 19CC I went to inordinate lengths to satisfy myself that Grantley’s design changes alleviated all lateral torque due to the single motor installation. The use of bow-up or down trim was extensively used at speeds from fast troll to very high speed at sea as well as in the flat bay water, to prove not only her use of hull-over-water performance and how spray was dissipated, but above all to ensure she had no sign of chine riding.
I love a good westerly wind for boat reviewing as it gives me still flat water at Vetch’s, moderate chop out off the beachfront, and then further out to sea the swell and full force of the south-westerly as it churns up the ocean.
In all my antics from emulated surf launching, through very tight turns and digging herself out of the hole she had absolutely no problem, with the Yamaha 130hp performing beautifully and as smoothly as one has come to expect from these motors.
During the simulated surf work while pulling this monohull around 360° to take an oncoming swell, wave or foamy straight on she not only got out of the hole and onto a plane with alacrity, but also showed no sign of cavitation or chine digging either in port or starboard turns.
Her response to throttle was immediate and she was out the hole and onto the plane in seconds. Most impressive.
Out in the rough water and in various degrees of chop I found that into the sea I could maintain a reasonable speed without being excessively pounded and was able to stay perfectly dry with the spray being pushed way aft. A forward beam sea ride was much more comfortable and again from this position the centre console helm kept us very dry considering the excessive speeds I was putting her under.
While testing her lateral stability with only Grantley and I aboard, I never had to ask him to use his body weight and position to obviate any sign of undue instability. I admit to trying hard to prove him wrong, but I couldn’t!
In the rough stuff, with marginal bow-up trim she ran with the wind with alacrity and showed no tendency to yaw. I must admit there was minimal swell, so it was no real test in this regard. However, after many years of owning monohulls I know yawing can be relatively easily controlled with bow-up trim, aft placement of crew and, naturally, speed reduction when cresting a following sea.
While weathering the south-westerly chop I did a lot of slow- to moderate fast trolling in figure of 8 trials, noting SOW and obviously comfort and fishability for those aboard. Even on the drift her rock and roll was not serious and slow trolling was very acceptable for a craft of her size.
Statistically her SOW was impressive, with 13 knots at 3 000rpm, 17 knots at 3 500rpm and 20 knots just sub 4 000rpm. According to Grantley, at full throttle this craft ran at 68 knots on the lagoon. I found she was up on the plane at under 3 000rpm. Saying that, I also took cognisance of her power needs when used as a pleasure boat with more crew aboard than one would ever take to sea.
LAYOUT AND FINISH
Grantley, arguably one of South Africa’s leading boat manufacturers, puts in an incredible amount of effort to ensure the craft’s external and above-deck design are immaculate. He is not scared of regenerating designs, especially for above deck facilities and layout according to market demand and his own personal desire to ensure top class standards for the finishes and the craft as a whole.
With the Explorer 19CC Sport Grantley realised the needs of the young family man who wants a craft he can comfortably take to the ocean to go fishing, and yet which is both aesthetically pleasing and practical to take to an inland water venue with family and friends. This boat can undertake the full range of watersports activities while being beautiful to look at and practically laid out for the demands of the rest of the family and friends who want to go pleasure boating.
Apparently there’s such a big demand for dual purpose craft like this that Grantley has also designed a side-seated console helm station for the Explorer 19 to enhance seating and onboard lounging facilities for family and friends. He’s cleverly done it in such a way to ensure that when the owner wants to take the Explorer out to sea to go fishing it is still practical.
My function, however, was to carefully evaluate this dual-purpose craft in terms of deck layout, fishability and sea keeping standards.
Although the deck layout includes a smaller centre console and windscreen and much more lounging space, it still ensures that the essentials for the offshore angler are provided. The aesthetic design and positioning of the necessary fish hatches, livebait wells and tackle storage areas that no fisherman can do without have been extremely well accomplished, and in most cases can be turned from a fishing requirement to a feature that will enhance pleasure cruising.
A close look at the accompanying photographs of the above mentioned features will show the practical but stylish design which allows for effortless transformation of this craft from fishing to pleasure boat.
The long-style lounge seating up front and space availability for wife and kids and watersports equipment aft of the centre console and the important tow rope binnacle on the aft roll bar finish off the stylish transformation from a fishing “skuit” to a beautiful pleasure boat one’s teenage daughters will be proud to be displayed on at the local watersport venue.
The craft’s beautiful, solid feel is noticeable and it is within this sphere that Grantley and his staff have risen to the next level on the path of boat building excellence. Grantley taking note of what the marketplace was looking for was a brilliant first step, but being able to design and present a craft that can adequately cater for two such different categories of boating is a big ask. However, this top class manufacturer has indeed ensured that whichever facet the boat is used in it will perform beautifully, be completely practical and will be visually pleasing. She’s great addition to a family’s assets.