Westerberg hire won’t break bank
While rising fuel costs might make you think twice about heading off on that long-awaited fishing trip, Albany boat builder Westerberg has come up with a solution, as BARRY WISEMAN reports.
IT’S been five years in the planning for Westerberg Aluminium Boats boss Rhys Jones, prolonged due to COVID delays and then the demand for recreational boats with punters flush with ‘stay-at-home’ holiday dollars.
The Albany-based company has been kept busy with both recreational and commercial boat building orders during the international and State border closures that made people think about buying a boat or caravan and touring WA instead of going overseas.
Now the COVID restrictions are over, and people are again travelling more to distant fishing destinations, there has been a major hike in fuel prices at the bowser, particularly diesel costs for the owners of 4WDs suitable for towing a good-sized offshore rig.
However, all is not lost and the Westerberg team have come up with the answer – hire a boat instead!
A group of fishers can now save the fuel costs associated with taking a boat on a long-distance run and pool the money to hire Westerberg’s latest creation, the 5.6m Break Sea vessel named Torndirrup after the national park that surrounds the city of Albany.
Qualified boat skippers can hire the vessel for $400 a day and can fish the waters within 20 nautical miles of the city’s marina.
Of course, a bond is needed and those working the vessel must produce their Recreational Skipper’s Ticket or commercial licence.
The vessel was almost complete at the time of the Club Marine Perth Boat Show in September and attracted a lot of attention.
Since then, the vessel has been fully fitted up and sea trials conducted, with that most popular Westerberg hull doing its thing in supplying a fast and stable platform to take on the Southern Ocean swells found off Albany.
Inquiries have also come from fishers interested in hiring the vessel to tow to destinations farther afield along the south coast to work the waters off Denmark and Walpole, and also southern anglers wanting to head north to Exmouth.
At the time of publication, the Westerberg boss was contemplating building a second hire vessel, a smaller rig on a single-axle trailer for inshore fishing enjoyment or a fun day on the water for holiday makers.
The demand for extended destinations required alternative insurance cover arrangements to the Albany-based expeditions.
It was something Rhys had been working on and insurance was recently secured to cover the vessel for up to 10 nautical miles offshore for the entire WA mainland.
Of course, there are many boating and fishing enthusiasts who for one reason or other do not own a vessel but are still keen to get out there and wet a line.
The pandemic restrictions over the past two years have put great pressures on people’s ‘mental space’, so the opportunity to head out on the water with mates for the price of a couple of cartons rather than buying their own boat I would imagine is an attractive one.
Torndirrup comes with a 2.5m beam and is 5.6m in length.
There is storage under the foredeck at the bow, leaving as much deck space as possible to easily accommodate four people.
Being a hire boat, the vessel has been built to full survey standards.
Materials used include 5mm marine plate aluminium on the bottom and 4mm on the sides, with non-skid chequer plate on the self-draining deck.
There’s a transom door at the stern, plus dive ladder.
Westerberg Marine has selected the Mercury 150hp SeaPro four-stroke outboard for the transom.
Stepping aboard, Westerberg company traits are immediately clear.
Along the side are double storage pockets to take all your rods and tackle.
You can also use the pockets as a step ladder to enter the craft or alight when back at the jetty.
Getting onto the boat is made simple and safe for young and old.
Depending on your agility, you can step onto the chequer plate aluminium marlin board at the rear and walk through the door into the cockpit.
A little care is needed here due to the fact the dive ladder takes up space on the port side.
There are locations for four rod holders with accompanying sinker/drink wells which have been recessed into the gunwales.
Non-skid EVA foam has been used on side and foredecks.
Heavy-duty bar work supplies grab rails down the rear swallow tails to help boarding up the ladder or sitting on the starboard marlin board.
Larger piping is used to construct the targa, which also accommodates the soft top that shades the helm and dual seating arrangement.
The marine vinyl seats come with a reversible back so you can sit facing forward or backwards into the cockpit if dangling a line over the side.
Making use of maximum deck space has been a priority, with the seats mounted on heavy-duty reinforced side shelf-like structures which are in fact boxed in with storage underneath.
The skipper has a chequer plate footrest built into the forward bulkhead.
The co-pilot can place their feet on the bottom edge of the door entrance into the storage area up front.
Plenty of space is available here for ice coolers, tackle boxes and food storage.
As with most Westerberg vessels the quality of build is clearly evident, the only exterior paintwork in the form of a vinyl wrap on the outside.
Being a hire boat, users need not worry about scratching the interior or side decks.
Welded joins are clearly visible and there are no hassles with saltwater getting under the paint and causing corrosion.
Of course, you do have to take care when launching and retrieving not to damage the exterior.
If you prefer, the Westerberg team will launch the boat and have it waiting at the marina jetty for your arrival.
I would imagine most people would take advantage of this service just for peace of mind, plus the launching ramp at the Albany marina is literally about 100 metres from Westerberg HQ.
There’s plenty of parking at the marina or you could arrange to leave your vehicles on the company premises for security.
As mentioned previously, the Torndirrup National Park surrounds Albany and there are many beautiful sandy beaches in sheltered coves and bays.
With a couple of swags stowed up front, there’s plenty of sleeping space on the rear deck for a couple to anchor up at a quiet beach and camp overnight along the coastline.
The seagrass meadows and sandy beaches are good spots for whiting and squid, with locals heading out into deeper water for bigger species.
Rhys himself is a very keen fisher so if you talk nicely to him he might send you in the right direction.
He started his boat building career as an apprentice with the Westerberg company and today he is the owner after the original family members decided to retire.
They still pop in for a coffee and keep an eye on what has become a local success story with an extraordinarily formidable reputation for quality.
The Westerberg family were professional fishers and the company was started when members started to build their own vessels for deep and shallow water operations.
Many professional whiting fishermen are still getting their shallow-draft vessels made by Rhys and his team.
The fishing fleet based at nearby sheltered Emu Point also employ him for its needs.
Accompanying their various vessels, Westerberg also build heavy-duty alloy trailers to suit the shape of their hulls, supplying maximum strength to cradle whatever size is needed.
Each vessel comes with the built-in mechanism on the bow which locks onto the latch device on the trailer.
Consequently, most owners drive onto their trailers at public ramps, a practice not allowed at most boat and fishing clubs due to propeller wash undermining the ramp extremities.
Torndirrup comes with a custom aluminium tandem trailer.
Also on the bow roller is the company’s own design admiralty anchor to suit the rocky bottom in the region, proven and tested many times over by Rhys and his many customers.
Perhaps the most important tool on board, especially for newcomers to the area, is the navigation instruments.
A Simrad GO9 XSE is flush-mounted to the dash, providing touch screen control using C-MAP charts and sonar imaging.
Rhys says the unit is easy to use and comes with a nine-inch screen.
The only other instruments on the dash are for the engine management.
A Simrad VHF marine radio is fitted inside the cabin on the wall behind the dash.
For the music lover, a huge sound bar has been fitted on the forward shelf behind the windscreen.
I think it’s the largest I have seen on a pleasure craft of this size.
The Wet Sounds Stealth Ultra 10 sound bar has bluetooth capability and is sure to be a hit for many.
“For some time now there has not been a charter fishing boat operation out of Albany, with only small dinghies available for hire,” Rhys said.
“So, we thought we would build a fully surveyed recreational boat and make it available for hire for those wanting to fish the southern waters here off Albany.
“Skippers must hold their RST plus have a current driving licence if towing the vessel.
“Or for a small fee we can have the boat launched at the nearby marina and ready for their arrival and be at the ramp for their return.
“The Break Sea is 5.65m in length and is the basic model.
“We can also supply a good-sized ice cooler.
“As surety, we require a $1000 deposit on credit card which is refunded to the customer on return of the vessel.
“We had many inquiries at the Perth Boat Show and are looking at building a smaller ocean-going vessel for inshore use.”
The Westerberg Break Sea is a spacious and solid vessel and a popular model for fishing enthusiasts.
Space on the rear deck is a major plus and the hire boat option works out cheaper than most fishing charters if you have a couple of fishing mates.
NUTS & BOLTS
MODEL: Westerberg Break Sea 565
POWER: Mercury 150hp ProSea four-stroke
MANUFACTURER: Westerberg Aluminium Boats; 186-190 Princess Royal Drive, Albany, WA; (08) 9841 2277 or Rhys Jones on 0439 518 867; www.westerbergmarine.com.au .
HIRE TERMS: Daily rate $400, plus refundable deposit $1000. Operational area 10 nautical miles from the mainland coast. Skippers must hold their RST and have a current driving licence if towing the vessel. Pre-launch and ramp retrieval is available at Albany. Supply your own fishing tackle.