Westerberg 7m Southerner
THE name says it all – Serious Ali.
The seven-metre Southerner Cabin boat built by award-winning manufacturer Westerberg Marine, of Albany, is a no-nonsense and rugged fishing rig. Strong enough to withstand the big swells and rough seas of the Southern Ocean off Western Australia’s south coast.
When I say rugged that in no way refers to the standard of build. In fact the roof of the hard-top cabin features the curves and smooth finish found on fibreglass vessels. Much of the welding around the vessel is visible so you can check out the quality of workmanship coming out of the Westerberg factory on the harbour front.
I was out on a glassed-off King George Sound with Westerberg’s workshop foreman and qualified shipwright Drew Mayfield at the helm. Powered by a Honda BF225hp four- stroke motor, Serious Ali is a 40-knot boat and consumes 75 litres of fuel an hour at that speed. The conditions allowed us to do that sort of speed but of course you’re going to make a dent in the 330-litre fuel tank so we pulled the throttle back to a more economical 20 knots, using just 12 litres an hour sitting on 4000rpm.
That’s the sort of speed the locals here are more accustomed to because of the often rough conditions, plus the fact they might be heading out 30 nautical miles to fish in depths of up to 300 metres.
I’m told it’s not unusual to travel 130 kilometres on a day’s outing so fishers are looking for a good ride and economical running.
This is snapper winch country and on all Westerberg craft special lugs are welded onto the side grab rails to firmly screw the winches in place.
Measuring 7m, with a beam of 2.45m, there is plenty of room in the cockpit to fish half a dozen people, but you could quite comfortably drift with four anglers on the same side.
The deck is uncluttered and finished in checker plate aluminium. It’s easy to wash down with the built-in deck hose, but during the hot summer days you would either wear non-slip shoes or throw rubber matting down to protect your feet from burning on the plate.
There’s no fancy paintwork to scratch apart from the two-pack name and stripe work on the outsides so pushing craypots or fishing tackle boxes and diving gear around is not going to cause any concern.
This vessel is built to be a workhorse, designed for fishing and diving. The aluminium has an anodised appearance after being treated with a product called Nyalic, a tough UV resistant polymeric clear coat. It provides protection against salt water corrosion. It’s pretty common on New Zealand-built vessels and it’s tough. If the bodywork does get damaged it’s easily touched up with the clear coat and does not stand out as much when trying to match original paint work.
Keep it simple but strong is the theme on this vessel.
The cabin up front is designed for storage not sleeping. The door is lockable so you can pack up your valuable fishing gear and personal belongings for any long-distance destinations.
Twin shelves are constructed into both sides of the bow to keep safety equipment off the deck and there’s room for a few swags or sleeping bags if you plan to spend a few nights offshore. The same checker plate flooring is used in this section up front.
A hatch in the roof provides natural light and ventilation.
Standing at the steering wheel you have full wheel house protection and a virtual uninterrupted view of the full 360 degrees.
The heavy duty glass windscreen and side windows are full frame to the cabin roof. The four corners holding the roof in place and the glass are reinforced and the front screen is one piece, avoiding the join in the middle that is common on most boats.
This build resembles commercial fishing boats where skippers need to be able to see as much as possible of their surrounding environment.
“We get big swells and waves coming from nowhere off the southern coast so we want clear vision all round. The screen and the supports are built to withstand waves crashing over the bow,” explained Drew.
The glass is not just held in place by sealant and rubber surrounds, but is also screwed into the frame work every few centimetres.
Behind the screen the cabin roof is left bare for the installation of whatever navigational aids the owner chooses. There’s a heavy duty grab rail running across the front of the cabin bulkhead from the passenger side to above the cabin door.
The review boat was fitted with a Furuno FCV585 sounder with a 1kw transducer fitted through the hull, plus a Lowrance HDS5 GPS/chartplotter. Reading the bottom conditions and what’s in the water column under the boat is obviously what the skipper needs to know when seeking the fish so the decision was made to fit the larger Furuno unit instead of going for a combo device.
The dash is seriously bare looking with only the digital Honda gauges for the motor on the transom and the power switch panel for the various accessories. There was one other odd looking instrument but more on that later.
There’s a standard lockable glove box in front of the passenger. The GME GX600 VHF marine radio was fitted in a console above the screen along with a CD/radio sound system and LED courtesy lights.
The passenger and skipper seats have thick upholstery and are mounted on storage boxes underneath. The seats do not swivel but have a two-way action with the back folding forward so you can sit facing the front or rear.
Moving to the rear, side pockets run the length of the cockpit and the deck is left clear until you reach the floodable 280-litre kill tank under the floor at the rear. The lid is supported by a gas strut when in the open position but is also fully removable. The top hinge pins simply slide out of a pipe section welded to the deck. There’s a channel built into the upper surrounds of the kill tank so any water on the deck or splashed up from inside the tank runs to two holes at the back of the gutter and into the bilge.
You’ll remember me mentioning the odd looking gadget on the dash. There was a handle and shaft, something resembling a pump action of some sort. Well it turns out it is a remote valve for the kill tank. You can push the plunger to close the tank outlet when diving to stop any bloodied water or scent passing from the tank and into the water column below the boat and attracting unwanted species such as sharks or large stingrays. When you’re back on board you pull the lever on the dash to open the valve to drain the water away when the boat is underway. Very clever.
The transom is a busy section of the vessel, with a removable transom door on the port side. If several divers are coming and going the door can be taken off and stored up the front giving unhindered passage.
A solid walk-up ladder folds down to gain access to the marlin board at the rear and easy entry back onto the boat after your dive or swim.
The heavy duty baitboard is mounted on two solid uprights welded to the top of the transom. Rather than being boxed in like on most vessels, a shelf is located along the transom for storing tackle, tools and spare jigs.
Twin batteries are stored on the starboard side in a locker complete with perspex door which gives you vision of the battery compartment. A deck wash hose and pump is tucked away in the starboard side pocket at the rear. The marlin board has a berley bucket built into the right-hand side.
Setting the anchor is a matter of walking round the side of the cabin and the grab rails are in all the correct positions so you complete the journey in safety. Westerberg Marine manufactures its own stainless steel admiralty anchor. It’s a multi-purpose anchor due to the large flukes that dig into sand and weed, and hold onto rocky bottom. If the anchor does jam in the reef a mild steel pin in the shank is designed to break when the boat is driven over the top of the anchor pulling it free.
Many people use two anchors, one for sand and the other for rock but Westerberg chief Paul Gilbert says its admiralty design works well in all applications.
“Once customers see how it works and the strength of the stainless steel structure they come in and order one even if they don’t own a Westerberg. We weld special lugs on the bow to hold the anchor in place when not in use but we can also retro-fit the bracket onto other boats if people want to invest in one of our anchors,” Paul said.
Westerberg boats have been on the marine scene in WA for decades. The company was established in the 1970s by the Westerbergs, a family long associated with the fishing industry in the Great Southern. It’s one of the oldest plate aluminium boat builders in the state.
Paul used to be in accounting and took over the reins at Westerberg three-and-a-half years ago, not the best of timing as the global financial crisis started to take hold.
Westerberg’s success in winning the Boating Industry Association of WA’s 2010 Boat of the Year Award for aluminium craft under six metres has been a significant shot in the arm for the company.
Determined to avoid sacking staff during the hard economic times, the winning boat, the 5.4m Bandit Runabout, was one of several Westerbergs built as demonstration boats to show off their range to potential customers and keep tradesmen and apprentices employed.
“It was a rough day for the judging off the Fremantle Sailing Club and as soon as we headed out from the breakwater we took a big wave over the front. A few leaks did come through the zips on the clears but the green water just rolled off the boat and I think that really impressed the six judges on board,” said Paul.
“Many of our customers are previous Westerberg owners, either local or those happy to make the trip to Albany from other parts of the state and wanting to update. Plus we build for the local professional fishermen. We have a good reputation and operate with a staff of four or five who are all proud of their workmanship.”
Following news of the win back in May this year Paul shut the factory doors and took his staff to lunch at Whale World. They took a fleet of four boats across Albany’s King George Sound to celebrate, making an impressive sight for restaurant diners.
The Southerner has a fine entry and deadrise of 17 degrees with acute reverse chines giving it good tracking and stability at rest. The bottom sheets are made from 5mm plate and 4mm is used on the side and upper deck. The hull and deck stringers are made from 6mm material and the frames from 5mm and spaced every 600mm.
It’s tough, roomy and fast thanks to the Honda 225hp on the transom and well worth a look at the upcoming Mandurah Boat Show along with the rest of the fleet from Westerberg Marine.
- Heavy duty build, including bow bollard for anchoring.
- Breakaway stainless steel admiralty anchor.
- Lockable cabin for storage.
- Good vision from helm with one-piece screen and side windows.
- Upholstered fold forward seats.
- Large baitboard and berley bucket in marlin board
- Transom door and solid walk-up ladder.
- 330-litre fuel tank.
- 280-litre kill tank.
- Self-draining deck.
- Custom-built Westerberg aluminium trailer.
- Checker plate deck requires wearing deck shoes or rubber matting during summer.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Model: 7m Southerner Cabin
Length: 7m plus bow sprit and marlin board
Deadrise: 17 degrees
Power: Honda BF225hp four-stroke Fuel: 330 litres
Manufacturer: Westerberg Marine
Pricing: As tested $88,000. (160 hours running as demo craft)
Congratulations to Paul Gilbert and staff at Westerberg Marine on their Boat of the Year award for the Bandit Runabout as reported in the last edition of Western Angler and thank you for providing the 7m Southerner for review. The company is located at 5 Princess Royal Drive, Albany. Paul is available on (08) 9841 2277 or 0412 375 667. Visit www.westerbergmarine.com.au