Explorer Elite Boat Reports

Specification:
Length 16ft 5" (5.05m)
Beam 6' 9" (2.09m)
Draught 10" (256mm)
Free-board 32" (810mm)
Max Weight 588Kg
Engine
Country of manufacture: UK

More details on full specification can be found at http://www.explorerboatsltd.co.uk/docs/explorer_elite.htm

By Mike Thrussell

 

I met Brian Atherton at his shop on the promenade at New Brighton, Merseyside. He runs Safe Water Training Sea School, an RYA recognised teaching establishment handling RYA boat courses, VHF, navigation and safety courses, plus lots more. He’s also stacked up well over 30 years of fishing, both from shore and from small boats. Quite a handy background to have if you decide to design and build small boats aimed at the angling market.

His design is the Explorer Elite. She’s a neat 16ft 5ins medium V hull, but with a generous beam of 6ft 9ins. He wanted the wide beam to give added stability, but also the space to make for an easy to work from deck area that is so necessary for angling.

He also realises different anglers want different things. He offers two different stages of part built hulls for home completion, and no less than five different engine packages. The list of extras is sensibly minimal, but practical, covering everything you are likely to need.

Something else to note is that the mouldings are all hand laid using only Lloyd’s approved quality materials. The first thing he said to me was that no way would he ever allow a compromise on quality.

THE ONCE OVER
The boat I’d be testing was parked outside the shop. She’s Brian’s own boat, and aptly called “The Right Money” as he insists that angling boats need to be good value, especially for first time buyers.

While she was dry parked I took the opportunity to give her the once over.

The transom is high above the splash well for both safety and to minimise any chance of water access from the splash well. There is a T cleat at each stern quarter, and a rod holder positioned in line with the transom. Brian has designed a half square shaped stainless steel rail to fit inside the rod holders for added safety when underway, and also to act as a rod rail if you decide to fit Breakaway V type rod holders to it. The rail simply lifts out when required.

The upper gunnels carry a complete full length 4-inch high stainless steel grab rail. This flares upwards to follow the lift line of the cabin and looks really neat.

Up the bow you have a bow roller backed up with a no nonsense Pedestal type T cleat for anchoring. The anchor well hatch is split in to two doors folding upwards right and left to give better access than a single door. There’s loads of room in the anchor well for the anchor, plus stacks of rope if you’re in to deep water wrecking. The bow also carries two separate flared bow rails.

The windscreen is split in to three separate screens. The middle being a Houdini hatch opening to the left giving access for anchor retrieval from inside the cabin for safety.
There is a large single window down each side of the cabin too. The window screens are held in place by stainless steel bolts for security.

The top of the cabin has ample room for a large stainless steel gantry to take your aerials, GPs and radar reflector.

The deck area has a non slip stippled finish and is finished in a ships grey to minimise light flare coming up off the deck to blind you. It’s constructed through a fibreglass stringer system giving a fully stiff non giving deck area to work from. The fuel tank sits in the drain well at the back, and the well can take two Mariner tanks.

The transom is recessed with an open battery compartment situated on the port side rear. On the test boat the starboard side was left open, but you can have another battery compartment here if required if, like me, you prefer separate batteries for engine and electrics.

The insides of the gunnels carry two rod holder trees. You can also use these to store boat hooks and landing nets etc. The gunnels are waist height and give a feeling of true security when you’re stood on deck.

The Helm seat is positioned on the starboard side with a neat column console. The top of the console has enough room to house GPS screen and compass, as on the tested boat, or your other preferred instruments. The fuse/switch box is also on the right side of the console, with the engine instruments in front of you. You also have hatch access to the inside of the locker from both deck and inner cabin sides. There was also a pedestal type helm seat fitted on the test boat.

A stainless steel framed round car type helmsman wheel is used. This gives excellent grip if your hands are cold and wet having a hard matt material covering the outer frame.

The cabin is a fully walk in type. It has seat bunks on either side with small storage lockers fitted with lift up hatch access. There is ample seating area for four people in here.

The cabin roof area can also be used to mount additional electrical equipment like radios and sounders.

MOVING ON THE MERSEY
We launched on sand in front of the promenade as it was just after low tide, but launching the Elite, being housed on a all roller trailer, sees her slide easily off with just a gentle push.

The “Right Money” was married to a Mercury 4-Stroke EFI 60HP motor with Power Trim & Tilt. Dead quiet on tick over, but burbling with power. We headed out slowly in to a mud coloured Mersey Estuary with the Wind Generators towards Bootle dominating the sky line. The Mersey was pretty flat, but there was a steady northeast wind whipping across putting up some chop.

While underway with Brian at the wheel, I wandered around the deck checking out stability. With two of us on the starboard side, and me leaning right over the boat, thanks to that generous beam, she dips a fraction at the gunnel then stops dead. Ideal if two of you need to grab a big tope or cod at the gunnel and lift it aboard for unhooking or tagging.

Someone wandering around on deck while the boat is moving doesn’t affect the steering line either. Some small boat designs can suffer steerage deviation when people move about on deck and underway.

I jumped aboard an accompanying RIB to observe the test boat at speed to assess wake etc. The boat disturbs little water and leaves a flat clean wake at speed giving a good indication of overall stability and her capability of achieving speed performance easily.

I also noticed as she passed by that there was very little water chatter. Some hulls I’ve tested do make a lot of noise in the water as they pass you by at close range. This is a quiet boat that skips along efficiently, even at full speed.

Back aboard, it was my turn at the wheel. Pushing the throttle forward there is no pause for the power to come in. The nose lifts a little and surges forward getting fully on the plane almost immediately. Throttling back a tad to cruising speed the hull settles down to a steady pace and again you realise how quiet the boat is in the water, even with the wind whipping past your face.

I prefer to stand to steer and found visibility at speed excellent. The hull cuts water cleanly with no pounding through the hull as you attack the waves. We were using the RIB to create some rougher water and forcing the medium V hull to slice through tight short waves. Even close to flat out we were cutting water with little effort.

I was banking the boat over in ridiculously tight short circles trying to get the stern to slide, but the hull has excellent grip and proved predictable during these manoeuvres.

I only had the waves created by the RIB to back the boat in to, but the way the boat behaved and her attitude in reverse I see no problems handling the boat in a rough following sea. I questioned Brian about this and he’s had the boat out in bad following seas during both testing and fishing and found her predictable with little if any water getting over the top of the splash well.

Medium V’s are proven hulls pretty much worldwide. They are excellent workers even in to heavy head on seas. This hull behaves the same and is pretty dry forcing spray out at the sides at an angle with little finding its way back on deck.

Much like my own boat, you’ll get the very best from the Elite by careful positioning of your equipment to balance out the boat and get her trimmed properly. Watch experienced crews packing their boats and you’ll see that everything has its place. It’s not just a case of neatness, they’ll be stowing gear with the boats overall balance at speed in mind.

What about the all important performance figures? With the 50 Mariner on the transom expect cruising speeds around 24 knots, depending on the amount of gear and people you’re carrying, with a 5 gallon fuel tank giving you a good 45 miles range or more.

The big 60hp Mariner package gives a cruising speed of 24 to 25 knots, but a top speed of 33 knots. You’ll get around 40 miles per fuel tank skipping along at about 24 knots cruising speed.

The Mariner 50hp ELPTO produces a top speed of 27 knots and cruises nicely around 22 to 24 knots. Cruising fuel consumption equates to about 47 miles per tank.

WHAT IMPRESSED ME MOST
I really liked the no clutter design of the Elite. The deck space is fully open making for easy working and handling of both equipment, fish and for casting from. Having said that, everything is instantly at hand when you need it.

Equally important to me was the full access in to the forward cabin area. Simply duck your a head a little and walk in. I also liked the ease of access and body stability when standing through the Houdini hatch to retrieve the anchor. Many boats don’t achieve this.

As a fishing platform she is totally stable, even when your mate is moving around. I also like the high gunnels in case you slip. You can still easily reach tope in the water though at the stern quarters.

You have to also be impressed with the overall finish of the boat. Everything stainless steel, you’re hard pressed to find any blemishes on the fibreglass and everything is bonded together properly. I’m trying to pick fault somewhere, but I’m genuinely struggling.

The Elite offers sound hull performance and sea keeping characteristics with an easy temperament making it an ideal buy for a first time boat owner. Equally so, if you need to trail a boat all the time, want easy launching, the ability to travel fast quickly and cheaply, then the layout of the boat will get the seasoned boat angler scratching his head really hard looking for ways to improve the design. It’s a tough call!

FACTS & FIGURES
DESIGN CATEGORY: C
LENGTH: 16ft 5ins
BEAM: 6ft 9ins
DRAUGHT: 10ins
UNLADEN WEIGHT: 440kgs
MAXIMUM LOAD: 588kgs
MAXIMUM PERSONS: 4

Disclaimer: Everything written in these reports are based on personal experience and the individual's opinion only. I have tried my best to present the facts correctly, but I/we take no responsibility for any mistakes or omissions.

 

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