Cobra morphs into a bear

By Robin Bailey

Forget about CAD, there is nothing computer aided about the creation of the newest craft from the Mount Maunganui boatbuilder AMF.

The boat is Sea Bear, an adaptation of the company's 850 Cobra production model. Adaptation is probably the wrong word. Sea Bear takes the 850 to an unbelievable level for a trailerable boat.

AMF managing director Paul Sharratt says: "The owner wanted a modern version of the American-style picnic boat of the 1920s and 30s. So we just nutted it out on paper and went ahead and built the boat that gives him everything he asked for."

That seemingly simplistic solution was possible because Sharratt has been building aluminium boats for more than 30 years, including 20-plus 850 Cobras before the Sea Bear project came along.

The Wellington-based owner wanted a boat that could be trailed, but would also be capable of serious fishing. It also had to be seaworthy enough to cope with the worst Cook Strait could throw its way crossing from the capital to the Marlborough Sounds.

The result is a rugged boat that also looks great. The transom is curved and hand crafted. That and the oak-trimmed hardtop wheelhouse are set off by a paint job that helps tell the Sea Bear story.

Sharratt says: "Marine Reflections, a company with a lot of superyacht experience, used 360kg of paint to achieve the superb finish. It took a staggering amount of effort, with three people working on it for three weeks."

The finish complements the other things that have gone into the boat. Matching navy blue squab covers and heavy duty seat cushions; tilt steering wheel; hot water cockpit shower and heated wheelhouse; windscreen wipers, defroster and defogger. For easy access to charts there is a knee-level tray and to cope with the wild conditions for which the boat was built there are plenty of strategically-placed handholds to ensure passenger safety.

Sea Bear is a heavy boat. At 8.5m (27.9ft) it comes in at just under three tonnes. Power plant is 315hp Yanmar diesel with a Bravo 3 gearbox and Mercury DuoProp sternleg. Top speed is 34 knots and with 350ltrs of fuel aboard the boat has a range of 210 nautical miles.

The electronics package alone is amazing for a trailer boat. Blair Geldard, from the Simrad agents Advance Trident, says Sea Bear's owner wanted only the best. The result is the sort of electronics set-up that would normally only be installed on a commercial craft.

The CX54 navstation has a 15-inch TFT LCD flat-panel display that gives optimum daylight viewing. Geldard said the owner also opted for a 4kw radar with a range of 36 nautical miles rather than the 2kw version with a range of only 24 miles. The radar offers dual range viewing in which the screen is split with two radar images each controlled independently. This means one screen can be set for close in range and the other for long range viewing which allows the skipper to keep an eye on distant targets as well as those closest to the boat.

Because the owner wants to fish in the deep waters of Cook Strait, the echo sounder is an important part of the package. The Simrad CX54 automatically adjusts all echo sounder parameters to give the user good detection of single fish echoes in deep water. Completing the package is a Simrad RT64 VHF radio, Hutchwilco EPIRB and Go Light remote spotlight. All up Geldard says the boat has almost $30,000 worth of electronics aboard.

Sharratt says the drive-away cost of Sea Bear is $320,000. Lining that up against the $198,000 for the AMF 850 Cobra shows just how has gone into the boat to meet its owner's stringent requirements.

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