After putting the prototype Stessl Stinger 480 through its paces on a Southport Seaway, which was having a bit of a bad day, the Modern Boating team was extremely impressed.
Issue: April 2003
Stessl have been undergone something of a rebirth of late, part of which included a comprehensive review and upgrading of its products. As a result, the Modern Boating team tested the final Stinger 480 prototype, before the first production boat rolled off the line. The only difference between this and the new boats is that the later will have 100mm higher sides.
Even so, after putting the prototype Stessl Stinger 480 through its paces on a Southport Seaway, which was having a bit of a bad day, the Modern Boating team was extremely impressed. Along the seaward side of Wavebreak Island, a solid 20-knot sou 'easter ran head on into one of the biggest spring tides of the year. It created conditions that made us wish we were somewhere else, especially when you consider we were in a 4.8m boat.
But frankly, there aren't too many 6m fiberglass hulls around that would not have also had the chiropractors rubbing their hands with glee. But this was a Stessl Stinger and driven sanely i.e. easily on the plane at somewhere below 20 knots, the Stinger eased through this mess without any fuss at all. Impressed; hell no, we were gob smacked.
OK, now let's deal with some bad history. Yes, Stessl did have some problems with this boat's predecessors, but that's history now. But back at the ramp, we took special note when the Stessl folk showed us where the hull sheets are now double welded (inside the hull and out) to the chine and keel extrusions. And aft of the curves in the bow end, the entire bottom is pressed from a single sheet of aluminium.
And, while we're on the subject of history, every ride we had in this boat's predecessors was damped by huge amounts of spray being thrown inboard. So, to find out if this spray problem had been rectified, we angled the boat into the slop and chop, staying seated well behind the windscreen.
Sure enough, some spray did get on the glass, but to be fair about it, not one drop got on our glasses behind the screen. Under the prevailing conditions, the lack of spray was quite remarkable. And increasing the topsides and windscreen of the production Stingers will only improve the situation.
So, with buoyed confidence, we aimed those squared bows out towards the Seaway entrance. Conditions on the bar couldn't be described in socially acceptable words. The current was audibly roaring along the breakwalls and the entrance was blocked by solid 1.5m overfalls. Inshore from this maelstrom were series of standing, though not quite breaking, pressure waves.
The Stessl blokes seemed a little relieved that we felt no need to take on the overfalls and were content to put the Stinger 480 into the standing waves. Which the Stinger handled without fuss. I spun the boat around 180 degrees to come back in that's when the colour returned to the Stessl boy's faces, which gave the sea the perfect opportunity to broach the boat, but it couldn't.
So, with our confidence now soaring, we stopped and let the boat drift side on. Then, we all stood along one side of the boat as the current pushed the Stinger towards the overfalls. This further reinforced everything that had gone before it. This is an extremely stable hull, much more stable than similar length mono hulls. As boat tests go, this was an immensely impressive one. Rarely do we test a boat to this extreme and yes, we'd have to admit to having a pretty negative attitude before we actually took the Stinger out onto the water.
In hindsight, this is perhaps what made us push the boat further than we would normally have in the conditions. But she passed with flying colours. Back at the ramp, we got to have a good look over the boat. It's a Trihedral hull with a steep, 32 degree, deadrise on the keel line, which explains the soft ride.
The hull skin is 3mm aluminium, but the deck is fibreglass. Most would describe the configuration a runabout with a forward screen, a walkthrough to the pointy end and a huge cockpit with twin (removable) quarter seats in each aft corner.
Climbing onboard over the bows demonstrated the importance of the checker plate pad on the foredeck. Apart from being non-skid it stops wear and tear to the paintwork from anchors and chains. There's a bit of storage space under the foredeck, which is about the only out of the way space onboard for it, most gear will end up in a Nally tub in the cockpit.
The cockpit is huge, forget that this is only a 4.8m boat, it would give a boat a metre longer a run for its money. There's good leg support around the periphery and thanks to the wide side decks, the side pockets are actually a great place to put sundry items. Plus, there's little chance of busting your shin against them. This will also be improved further when the higher sides go on.
The Stinger's cockpit is perhaps its greatest asset apart from its ride and handling that is. We did think the steering wheel was set too low and while driving the boat was comfortable enough when seated, it was an awkward reach down to the wheel and controls when you stood up. But when the topsides are raised, this will be better. The layout was quite Spartan with few frilly bits added meaning that those who like bits and pieces will have to add them as options.
All in all, it's an uncomplicated, uncluttered layout with considerable appeal to people who fish. But it also has plenty of appeal for families that only occasionally fish and will be looking for a boat of this size. For those people, the ride and handling will be a real bonus, because in that size bracket nothing comes anywhere near it.
Aside from a few frills fishing types may or may not prefer, about the only thing lacking on our test Stinger 480 was power. The 50hp Honda was a boy being asked to do a man's job. But credit where credit's due, it somehow managed to do a mighty job. But more power would definitely have been better. This hull is rated up to a maximum of 90hp. The Stessl guys told us that they'd set one up with a 90hp during testing and re-development and it turned out to be a rocket ship. We agree with their appraisal that a 60-70hp should be a good power balance for most people.
Story by Warren Steptoe