A 4.1m hull that only weighs 110kg? Read on for an example of modern technology creating attractive lightweight boats
WORDS & PHOTOS: STEVE STARLING
Throughout our boating lives, many of us progress from small, basic, lightweight craft to larger, faster and more sophisticated rigs. However, I've recently bucked that popular evolutionary trend by heading in completely the opposite direction—down-sizing, de-stressing and simplifying my boating life to better suit the forms of fishing and intimate waterways I most enjoy these days.
After spending the last few years in 5m-plus, go-fast bass and flats boats with 115 horses strapped to their sterns, my latest rig is a lightweight 4.1m open runabout powered by a tiller-steer 40hp four-stroke. This new rig is considerably smaller, lighter, cheaper and more economical to tow, run and maintain than my previous couple of boats. It's also much easier to launch and retrieve single-handedly, especially in those sneaky little creeks and lake backwaters that typically lack formal boat ramps, but often boast superb fishing opportunities.
My new, down-sized, low carb' recession-buster is a CrossXCountry 4.1 TE. These exciting little high-tech boats are manufactured on the banks of the Brisbane River by my good mate and third-generation shipwright, Tyson Dethridge. Their hulls feature a fibreglass-and-foam-sandwich composite, employing the very latest in resins, cloths and state-of-the-art infusion technologies from industry leaders, FGI (Fiber Glass International). Thanks to these ultra-modern methods and materials and CrossXCountry's unique 'E-Lite' infusion construction system, Tyson is able to produce a hull that's surprisingly strong while also incredibly light. (See 'The Technical Low-down' box for more details.) As a bonus, these craft are very quiet on the water, especially in terms of deadening hull slap and muffling any bangs or thumps on the deck. This stealthy aspect makes them ideal for modern styles of finesse fishing with lures and flies, where stealthy approaches are often critical.
Tyson turns out two distinct versions of the CrossXCountry 4.1. One—the CT—is kept ultra-light for car-topping or slinging upside down onto a camper-trailer; the second version—the TE model I chose—is beefed up for trailering, and also to support a larger motor. Yet even this trailerable version weighs in at just 110kg for the bare hull.
Tyson generally keeps the topside fit-out of these craft simple but functional, and it's also highly adaptable. Customised layouts are available to suit different tastes and applications. Unlike so many companies making mass-produced boats these days, CrossXCountry don't tell you what you've got to have. Instead, they ask you what you'd like in your boat, then build it. That's a refreshing change. The end cost remains comparable with a mass-produced tinnie—amazing!
On my 4.1 TE, I opted for an expansive casting deck up front with lots of storage space underneath, and just a very small rope and anchor well tucked in behind the electric motor sitting on its little foredeck. A wide seat/walkway runs right down the port side of the cockpit at the same height as the casting deck and the rear seat platform, allowing me to walk right around that side of the vessel. This portside walkway/seat also conceals a nifty six-rod horizontal storage system that will handle rods up to 2.6m in length. Four more angled, vertical rod holders are positioned in the port stern corner. There's a simple, padded swivel seat in the starboard stern quarter and a small side console amidships for the sounder and various switches. A large live well (60l to 70l capacity) immediately behind the casting platform doubles as a step-up onto the bow... and that's about it. Functional and uncluttered is the overarching theme.
I chose to fit one of the new fuel-injected F40F Yamaha four-stroke outboards. At 106kg, this is the absolute maximum power and weight of motor for the hull. Tyson actually recommends a 20 or 25hp for the TE version, while the lighter CT performs well with just 15hp on the back, and can even be fitted with a smaller motor. However, I enjoy the extra speed and load-carrying capacity provided by the bigger 40. My rig tops out at an impressive 54km/h (one up) and handles extremely well, with acceleration that belies the sedate reputation of four-strokes. It's also a remarkably dry boat for its size and configuration, and rock solid at rest. Best of all, it cruises effortlessly at close to 35km/h while sitting on a fuel-miserly 4000 to 4200 RPM, consuming around 6l to 6.5l of fuel an hour and providing better than 120km of range on a standard 25l tank. You've got to love that sort of economy!
To suit my favourite fishing styles, I've mounted a 12V, 55lb thrust electric motor on the bow and one of the new HDS-7 high-definition broadband Lowrance depth sounder/GPS units amidships, atop the little starboard-side console. The end result is a neat package that constantly turns heads and attracts attention and comment at boat ramps or fuel stops. Unlike some big, flash rigs, people don't seem intimidated by the CrossXCountry. Instead, they tend to look at it and say, "Wow, that looks great, and I bet I could actually afford it." They're right, too. Better yet, owning such an economical and easy-to-handle rig is encouraging me to get out onto the water and go fishing even more often than I did in the past. For me, that's the final tick of approval.
Declaration of interest: Steve Starling undertakes unpaid promotional work for CrossXCountry Boats, Yamaha and Lowrance and, in return, enjoys access to the rig described here on a long-term loan and evaluation basis.