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Stacer 549 Waverunner Review
6th Apr 2011

Stacer have turned their attention to cuddy cabin family/fishing boats and it's fair to say their latest Runner models are about to storm the bastion of glass dominance in cuddy cabs.

In a class dominated by fibreglass, Stacer has produced a range of aluminium cuddy cabs capable of challenging the establishment


Although our national mania for aluminium boats continues unabated, fibreglass has always ruled among the ever popular cuddy cabin, family/fishing boat genre. It's common sense. For a couple of generations already, 'glass boat builders such as Cruise Craft, Seafarer, Haines Hunter, Whittley, and Haines Signature have turned producing cuddy cabin family/fishing boats into an art form, developed by competition among themselves. Indeed, in order to sell well in one of the Australian boating industry's most competitive sectors, a boat needs to be better than just good.

Until recently, our aluminium cuddy cabs have clearly been the poor relation. But a new generation of boats has booted this tradition into touch and, perhaps expected from one of our leading aluminium boat builders, Stacer is among a select few leaders offering these boats with real style. Notable boats we've tested recently have been some industry-leading, hard-core fishing boats from Stacer's Barra Pro and Nomad lines; ably backed up by some classy restyled runabouts and bow riders. This time they've turned their attention to cuddy cabin family/fishing boats and it's fair to say their latest Runner models are about to storm the bastion of 'glass dominance in cuddy cabs.

At the time of our test, Stacer was finalising size increments and its exact model designations. There will be four Runner models: Sea Runner, Wave Runner, Coral Runner and Ocean Runner, ranging from around 5.4-5.5m for the Sea Runner up to the Ocean Runner at about 6.3m. We tested a Wave Runner that will (we think) end up being the 549 Wave Runner at 5.6m, and we found this boat sets new standards for aluminium cuddy cabin boats. 

It doesn't take a particularly keen eye to identify our test Wave Runner as an aluminium boat, but the rough finish we've become accustomed to in tinnies is nowhere to be found. Welds are still visible—which isn't necessarily a bad thing because grinding and bogging them to make them invisible can weaken them. So, ultimately it is best that the welds are left au naturel.

SUPER STYLIN'

How it rates for style—an important factor in cuddy cabs destined for family and social boating—is a question that always receives subjective answers. While some would hardly rate it as gorgeous, most people would give the Wave Runner a 'nice looking boat' report, and that's regardless of what material it is constructed from. 
The paintwork is good and has been sensibly applied, leaving the bottom, where scratches and marks occur on any boat, unpainted. It is one valid reason why so many Australians choose aluminium boats. 

The upholstery is done well and has been incorporated into the interior to provide a high degree of comfort and even class, without compromising practicality. Both fishermen and the social director should be satisfied.
As for on-water performance; now that's interesting. No way is an aluminium hull with a moderately angled deadrise going to approach a steeper deadrise (deep V, if you prefer) in terms of rough-water ride. But Stacer's stretch-formed, variable deadrise 'Evo' hull does offer a significantly improved ride over your average moderate deadrise aluminium hull. This was evident when we ran the Wave Runner for a few hours on 15 knots worth of typical, open estuary wind chop.

For those who don't spend a lot of time offshore, the shallower deadrise Stacer hull has less drag, allowing a satisfactory performance with perhaps 25 or 30 less horsepower than an equivalent 'glass hull; we recorded a top speed of more than 32 knots with a 90hp Mariner two-stroke. This makes for a lower initial purchase price and probably better long term fuel economy—depending on what type of motors you're comparing. Less power usually means a lighter motor, too, but when talking weight remember well-built aluminium hulls like Stacers are no lighter than equivalent fibreglass boats. At 645kg for the bare hull, the Stacer Wave Runner is no lightweight in its class. 

EYE FOR DESIGN

Technically, the Stacer Wave Runner is a serious contender in its class, but what attracted the Modern Boating test team was how it interacted with the people aboard.

Fishermen will be happy to find their toes slot in under leg support right around the cockpit periphery. Anyone running the boat for any length of time, especially on choppy water, will be happy to find the front part of the cushion in those big comfy bucket seats flips up, converting a bucket into a bolster you can lean against securely while standing. 

A substantial grab bar is sited right where a standing passenger needs it and foot rests are strategically positioned for seated comfort for both helm and passenger seats. For my 170cm frame, ergonomically the wheel and its relationship to the helm seat were spot on. 

Access through the cabin to the anchor well on the bow is also well thought out for function and comfort. While aft, the lounge folds out of the way for fishing, and seats at least two adults comfortably.

Inside the cabin, the bunks aren't quite long enough to sleep an adult, but extensions are a factory option. And while it lacked storage for fishing rods, a rocket launcher across the standard bimini top 
is an option. 

The test boat was a standard model (except for two-tone paintwork) which includes the lounge, bimini, boarding ladder, bucket seats, a pair of lined stowage compartments below decks and drain valves allowing the deck to be washed off without flushing everything into the bilge. Extras worth considering would be a rocket launcher and a bait board in the socket in the aft bulkhead, and maybe some additional carpet on the boat's sides inside the cabin. The roof is carpeted and although I didn't find the Wave Runner a particularly noisy boat, carpeting the hull sides inside the cabin would quieten it down to the better 'glass boat levels. 

Comparisons with similar 'glass boats are inevitable and no doubt some will still choose 'glass. But for those without strong convictions either way, the time has come to compare the Wave Runner (and its stablemates) against the GRP establishment in cuddy cabin family/fishing boats. 

WORDS & PHOTOS: WARREN STEPTOE

Tags: Stacer

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