Issue: October 2003
Manufacturer: Sea Jay Boats
Sea Jay boats have earned themselves an enviable reputation in rough tough North Queensland where roads aren't always good and ramps are usually worse. But as this neat little bowrider shows, there's more to boating in Sea Jays than tiller steered tinnies smeared with mangrove mud.
The 475 Wanderer is quite a civilised boat, but the good news is this has been achieved without sacrificing much of the toughness that has scored Sea Jay boats such high marks in the school of hard knocks. About the only "non-tough" thing about the 475 was the paint job. But paint isn't part of the job description for the average NQ tinnie, although in this case there's no disputing that it contributes greatly to the 475 Wanderer's visual appeal.
The Modern Boating team found the general standard of workmanship throughout the boat to be high in every aspect of its construction, from the welds holding the components of the hull together, to the factory-rigged accessory pack fitted to the test boat. This included the water skiing tow frame, prominent on the aft covering board, compass, stereo, Garmin sounder and the shade canopy. Inside the boat was comfortable without needing to be plush or luxurious.
Simple, easy to clean upholstery, an uncluttered deck from bow to transom and a slight step down into the bow area. And, where some of the other aluminium bowriders on the market don't even bother with a backrest for their bow and aft lounge seating, there they were on the Sea Jay. Again, basic and simple, but at least they were fitted. Bowriders are popular family boats for many valid reasons including the unprecedented duality their designs offer. The 475 Wanderer, like its highly successful contemporaries, has the ability to convert the bow lounge area into a casting deck with the simple addition of a drop-in section.
Plus, the aft lounge, which naturally enough takes up a lot of space when in place, can be easily lifted out and left at home if the space is needed. Elsewhere the boat continues to impress with a properly designed divided bow rail and anchor well and a baffle, which drops into place to make the helm area quite weather resistant. The canopy, fitted ex-factory, was one of the things we were less happy about, because it was set quite high and caught a lot of wind. But it was also not high enough to walk under, catching most of the team at forehead level.
Not that any complaints were to be heard when a rainsquall dampened proceedings, which gave us another perspective on the canopy altogether. This is not the boat for wide-open, prone to get rough water and in respect to that we conducted our test on the Brisbane River out from the Colmslie ramp, a few kays upstream of the Gateway Bridge. Sea Jay's hull looks similar to every other moderate deadrise aluminium boat on the market. But as we found, some subtle finetuning that was not immediately apparent during a casual inspection, held a few pleasant surprises.
One of the few things the team weren't overly impressed with was that the helm seat was set too low. At low to mid range speeds the 475 Wanderer tends to run a little bow high, as most similar hulls do, and this did affect the driver's vision forward from the helm. Perhaps it had been set up for someone taller than our 170cm tester, but if we owned one we'd definitely have to adjust the helm seat to raise the driver's line of sight.
It's not a difficult, nor an expensive thing to do, but it needs doing nonetheless, for shorter folk anyway. Apart from this the 475 Wanderer was completely at home across the light chop on those wide-open lower sections of the mighty Brisbane River estuary. But it wasn't too long before we succumbed to the inevitable and cranked on some steering lock turns at cruising speed.
That was an eye-opener. Unless a boat is intended for serious wakeboarding, or water skiing, the Modern Boating team is happy if a boat turns reasonably well and we won't complain if some adjustment to trim is necessary to avoid propeller ventilation. Yes, I said ventilation. Many pundits refer to cavitation, which is fairly rare these days and typically involves burn marks on propellers. This is not what occurs when an aluminium hull is thrown into a hard turn at speed. What can happen is actually propeller ventilation. It normally happens when the water flow coming off the hull and onto the propeller is disturbed.
This can be caused by an uneven hull surface, weld distortion, the running strakes pressed into the bottom sheet to keep it rigid and the deep extruded keel aluminium hulls usually have to keep them tracking straight. In any case, the ability to tow wake toys and carry out social skiing is a prerequisite in the job description of family boats like bowriders. So, while it proves little, we undertook the obligatory tight turn with the 475 Wanderer expecting ventilation, but it didn't happen. We kept going from lock to lock, until the G forces had both passengers hanging on tight, and we were forced to concede that the 475 Wanderer was braver than we were.
If this were purely a fishing boat, a fair comment would be "so what?" However, the ability to execute such tight turns if and when one becomes necessary is in fact quite a saving grace for any boat likely to see service towing skiers, or wake toys. When the 475 Wanderer was pulled out of what passes for water in this big urban drain onto its trailer, we couldn't get underneath it fast enough.
However, there was nothing radical to be found, although the way the deep keel has been pared away well forward of the transom undoubtedly contributes to this surprising turning ability. Full marks to Col Glass and team at Sea Jay for tuning out a foible normally present in hulls of this type. While looking over the hull closely, the other point of special interest was what Sea Jay term their "New Image" transom.
Again, full-width extended transoms are now fitted to every quality aluminium hull built in this country. The "motor pod" craze faded with the burgeoning popularity of four-stroke motors and evolved into various versions of the fullwidth extended transom tagged with an imaginative variety of names. There are some performance gains from these transoms, although their main purpose in life is to add support for the extra weight of four-stroke motors. This takes nothing at all away from the New Image transom. It's a fine rendition of the theme, well thought out and fine tuned to maximise its many advantages.
Again, Sea Jay deserve a "well done" for going the extra distance. Why the brand is so popular in the north made more and more sense the more time we spent in the Sea Jay 475 Wanderer. The Sea Jay 475 Wanderer was powered by a Yamaha 60hp four-stroke - one of the new generation of four-strokes. It is a motor that has won great acceptance with the fishing set and was an appropriate choice of power for a multi-purpose family fun machine like this one.
Spinning a 12" pitch aluminium propeller, the 475 Wanderer's top speed was another surprise at nearly 29 knots. There was sufficient acceleration for wake games, but if a family was more inclined towards skiing, more than other leisurely pursuits like cruising and fishing, we wonder if a twostroke up towards the hull's rated maximum of 70hp wouldn't be a better choice.
Having said that, the combination tested was a very civilised one and would definitely please anyone looking for an extremely user-friendly package. And with a price tag of $27,500 it is not bad value for money either.
Word by Warren Steptoe