Westerberg Aurora 8000
Westerberg Aluminium Boats is one of Western Australia's founding plate aluminium boat builders and what you see is what you get - and that's just fine for Grant Gray of Waroona, as BARRY WISEMAN reports.
As I stepped aboard the Westerberg Aurora 8000 at the Cape Bouvard marina, owner Grant was quick to point out this was his seventh boat, the previous one also a Westerberg.
"Some might call it a bit industrial to see bare metal and the welding runs. For me that spells the quality of build. I don't want bog and paint hiding any faults. It doesn't matter if it gets scratched. Our main use is fishing and diving for rock lobster so we store our cylinders on the chequer-plate deck, held in place with a lead weight from a dive belt. We can get four tanks on the deck under the side pockets held in place with dive belt leads," noted Grant.
Westerberg produces many recreational craft out of Albany and built a solid reputation with the construction of commercial fishing boats some 43 years ago, originally for members of the same family. Still producing boats for professionals and the boating public, most leave the factory located adjacent to the town’s marina unpainted, while the outer hull is finished with a nyolic clear coating to protect the metal from the saltwater environment. Marketed under the name Nyalic, it is highly corrosion resistant and won't crack or peel. Blood stains or squid ink are also easily washed off. You can still have your vessel painted but as any long-time ali boat owner will tell you, there's a big advantage in opting for a Nyalic finish. No matter how careful you are, chips and scratches do occur, clearing the way for saltwater invasion and the lifting of paintwork. Leaving the surface unpainted, you can see the quality of workmanship plus any possible structural damage from vibration over the years.
It's this commercial boat building approach that attracted Grant to the Westerberg brand. His previous boat was the Westerberg 6.8 Southerner and, like most of his other five vessels, was used to head out with mates for a day's diving and fishing deep water. This new 8m Aurora, the largest of the company's models, has been designed more for family outings and extended trips to offshore islands along the west coast. When we met, the Gray family were preparing to head to Coral Bay. Normally, they head offshore from Carnarvon in October. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions this year they opted for Coral Bay as soon as travel restrictions were eased.
This new boat boasts an electric head in the forward cabin, a big double bed up front plus a freshwater shower on the transom and gas stove on the fish station aft. As Grant's family has grown up, so have the requirements on board.
THE FAMILY INPUT
The Gray family numbers six, with wife Kate and four children – Giles (18), Lily (16), Max (14) and Mia (13). As far as Grant was concerned, his main requirement was for a boat that worked. Having had six boats prior, his needs were for space and practicality for divers, with facilities for fishing three to four people on the drift.
It was the job of the kids to select the name and design a suitable graphic so daughters Lily and Mia got to work, while keen angler Max concentrated on the locations for their rod and electric reel combos for the deep water species. The graphic Gray Fish now adorns the sides of the Aurora 8000, complete with a jumbo red.
With the children growing up, more long-distance family trips are planned and the lockable cabin will store valuable gear during transit, plus the toilet makes life on board that much easier. A large portable fridge is located under the starboard bunk and the infill cushion creates a big sleeping area up front. Rolled swags can fit on top of the extended roof during the day and on the deck at night.
The lined cabin has built-in shelves both sides plus rod holders and there are two brushed aluminium holders welded on the port-side wall of the wheelhouse to take the electric combos.
Deliberately, the Aurora is fitted with only one armchair-type upholstered seat and that is for the skipper. The passenger side is taken up with a 270-litre ice box fitted with a cushioned seat. It's large enough to take a week's stores while the portable fridge can accommodate the drinks and fillets.
Grant could not see the need on this boat for a below deck kill tank, instead keeping the chequer-plate area clutter free and more diver friendly.
"We mainly dive for crays and spearfish so any fillets can go in the big ice box, plus I didn't want to deal with smelly bait if we are living on the boat for a week or so. We can use fresh bait or jigs," he explained.
OVER THE SIDE
Space is a tremendous advantage on any boat, especially for divers. Heavy cylinders and weight belts need to be stored securely. Come time to gear up the ice-box seat will be handy when getting into a wetsuit. This boat also has wider gunwales than your average 8m vessel. The 300mm side decks provide comfortable seating and the rod holders and sinker wells are fitted flush to avoid any tangling with hoses or fishing line. PVC inserts can be found in the rod recesses to reduce any damage, plus at each work station along the gunwale there is a raised half-moon rounded ridge designed to accommodate the boot section of a dive cylinder whilst strapped to a diver's back. The cylinder can be held on the gunwale while the diver feeds their arms into the BC and secures the clips, reducing the risk of the cylinder slipping over the side. When getting out of the water (having taken fins off), the diver walks up the ladder and into the cockpit, sits on the gunwale and the weight is transferred to the side deck as the cylinder rests inside the ridge. A simple yet practical idea.
Getting out of the wetsuit, the diver uses the fresh cold water extending shower head and hose fitted to the transom sink to wash themselves and their gear, the water escaping through self-draining open scuppers port and starboard.
Once the diving is done, the Gray family can knock up a feed on the portable gas stove that is designed to sit on the baitboard, held in place by a bracket. From my own experience over the past 20 years, I know how popular a warm drink and hot food is after a dive! Such outings are memorable, bonding family and friends together.
The hardtop roof on Gray Fish has been extended to maximum allowable topside weight specifications to shade as much of the rear deck as possible. There's a bank of four rod holders, full length grab rails, Hella Marine interior lighting, GME marine radio, Fusion stereo and speakers secured under the 3mm plate top, plus two ventilation hatches. Sliding side windows and a centre gas-strut window in the toughened glass screen cater for cross ventilation, especially for northern climates. The dash is lined with carpet, with safety railing over the cabin door entry to prevent binoculars and such valuables sliding off past the fixed twin stainless drink holders.
The lockable door to the cabin proved to be a challenge for Westerberg boat builder Rhys Jones. Due to the size and location of the ice box/passenger bench seat, your ordinary hinged door would swing open too far hitting the cooler, thereby restricting entry into the cabin. The answer was a centre-hinged folding concertina door that when fully opened is held in place by a simple short occy strap. When closed to make it secure, the right side panel slots into a purpose-built door jam and architrave. Temporarily, a person inside the cabin can close from inside when visiting the toilet, again using a simple occy cord. For more permanent and very secure closure, pushing the centre hinged section forces the right side panel into the full-height jam and a centre keyed lock holds the door in place.
In front of the passenger is a large hatch for the glove box, plus a side shelf for sunglasses or car keys. This was duplicated on the skipper’s side.
HOLDING ONTO THE BOTTOM
During initial sea trials both off Albany and Mandurah Grant was ecstatic with his decision to stick with his favoured Furuno sounder, allowing him to still read the bottom while pushing Gray Fish to 28 knots. He opted for the Furuno FCV-1150 with 12-inch screen, complete with Furuno satellite compass for heave compensation, providing a stable bottom reading even in rough seas. For navigation he selected the Simrad NSS12 Evo3 multi-function display, plus Halo Radar and Auto Pilot. Both units were teamed up with twin 2kW transducers, the 200B-8B and a 38BL-9HR.
The Furuno and Simrad units were wired to 'talk' to each other so when a fish location was marked on the Furuno touch screen sounder, a GPS waypoint was automatically logged on the Simrad chartplotter.
With a full tank of fuel and loaded with camping gear, this Aurora 8000 will be nudging four tonne. To assist lift to get onto the plane as soon as possible, Grant went for a pair of Zipwake trim interceptors rather than trim tabs. The manufacturer claims the extending blade system is more efficient than trim tabs, requiring less effort to lift the vessel, less fuel and reduced drag. Certainly during our trials, with five people on board, 780 litres of fuel and 100 litres of fresh water, the vessel was soon on the plane. With some more throttle, the bow lifted and we topped 38 knots, consuming one litre of fuel per kilometre.
The owner elected to install a Suzuki DF350A outboard on the transom, which comes with a dual prop system as standard. "Not having had the dual props before, it's interesting you can actually hear the props working, almost like a supercharger kicking in," Grant added.
The Suzuki comes in at 339kg, being the 762mm (30-inch) model and generates an alternator charge of 54 amps, more than enough to power the electronics, fridge and the LED lighting, including spots on the cabin roof. Hydrive power steering makes handling a breeze.
On the bow there's a Stressfree Maxi anchor winch and Delta anchor. The high foredeck of the Aurora translates to greater headroom in the cabin, which comes with a glass hatch for ventilation and natural light.
Grant is particular about keeping his new boat ship-shape. Unlike his previous boats, the side pockets on this latest acquisition are fitted with vinyl curtains held taught by occy loops. "I don't know how many times I would find rotting bait or the remains of someone's lunch and old tissues in the side pockets, making the boat smell after a while. So this time I decided to close off the pockets with the removable curtains. Also any spray coming over the side runs off onto the self-draining deck without wetting the contents," he added.
The mooring and tie-up ropes are kept in one location, a hatch on the port transom next to yet another facility to help keep this boat tidy. The port marlin board also accommodates a rubbish bin, the hinged lid of which is permanently fixed to the transom wall so it can't be lost overboard. When back at the ramp or home, the bin is removed and emptied.
Westerberg customises its aluminium trailers to each vessel, so with long-distance travel in mind stone guards are fitted to protect the bow in case the owner heads off the bitumen. Also fitted is a 5450kg power winch plus wide load signage due to the vessel's 2.7m beam. Grant will still be able to head off after dark without contravening road traffic laws.
The Gray family is assured of many pleasurable hours aboard their new vessel and Grant considers himself very fortunate. He has just celebrated his 50th birthday and what a timely present for him from his wife the Aurora 8000 was! Gray Fish is sure to cement this family of five together even more in the years to come as they venture to far distant parts along our pristine coastline.
- Huge rear deck and space to move
- Geared for diving and deep sea fishing
- Large berth for sleeping plus swags on the deck
- Commercial quality build
- 90cm freeboard
- The power steering unit is a tad noisy, could do with extra insulation
- If you're not wanting the bare metal look, add some extra dollars for a paint job
- Need for a large 4WD for towing. Grant uses his F250 utility
FACTS AND FIGURES
- Model: Westerberg Aurora 8000
- Overall length: 8.7m
- Water length: 8m
- Beam: 2.7m (wide load)
- Dry weight: 2.5 tonne
- Fuel: 750 litres
- Fresh water: 120 litres
- Power: Suzuki 350hp
- Bottom: 5mm
- Sides: 4mm
- Trailer: Custom built tandem
- Manufacturer: Westerberg Aluminium Boats, 186-190 Princess Royal Drive, Albany, WA, 6330 , www.westerbergmarine.com.au
- Phone: (08) 9841 2277
- Pricing: As tested, $220,000. From $210,000
Test boat provide courtesy of Grant Gray.
1. Happy 50th birthday Grant Gray! An awesome gift from a very rare wife.
3. The Nyalic coating on the outer hull is super tough and guards against saltwater corrosion.
4. At 189cm and with tall sons, Grant Gray wanted plenty of head room in the cabin.
7. A spacious rear deck for divers to gear up at their work stations on the wide gunwales.
10. Extra-wide gunwales cater for electric reel combos and dive cylinder stations.
11 Marine vinyl curtains keep the side pockets dry and boat clean.
12. The large ice box doubles as a bench seat.
13. Furuno and Simrad electronics dominate the helm – note the bare metal appearance.
17. Mooring ropes are kept in the transom locker near the rubbish bin.
21. On its customised drive-on aluminium tandem trailer, Gray Fish will frequent northern waters.