When I started reviewing boats many moons ago our camera boat was A large centre console. It had a deep vee for handling the Hauraki Gulf's often choppy seas, a small open locker in the bow for the anchor and rode, a big outboard on the back and not much else.
It was superbly practical, if sometimes a little wet, and I thought it was great. It was, therefore, more than a little surprising that, as the months and then years rolled by, so few other centre consoles appeared on the market. The lack of protection, bigger-cabin designs and then hardtops seemingly spelled the demise of this style.
However, the advent of softbait fishing and new jigging lures have put the centre console back on the radar. The ability to chase a fish around the entire boat, the ease of fishing when drifting and the ability for several people to fish at the same time have made it increasingly attractive.
One of those to see the potential is Fish City owner Ross Christensen. He and his team have been developing a range of relatively inexpensive alloy vessels at the smaller end of the spectrum.
Buoyed by these models' initial popularity, Christensen is about to release the company's biggest offering yet: the new FC600 CC. As the name implies, it is a Fish City 6-metre centre console. It is also, as Pacific Powerboat roving reporter Freddy Foote commented the first time he saw it, one of the coolest centre consoles to hit the market in a very long time.
As Christensen, a very experienced fisherman, offshore powerboat racer and waterskier, says the design brief was to combine the good points from all the good hulls. Everyone wants a nice lightweight boat to tow, but then you get out to sea and it bounces around which means it isn't very stable.
"Then the deeper the vee you put into the design of a boat the less stable it gets. It's a real hard compromise to get a boat that's light enough to tow and to not have huge horsepower on it, but also has good stability at rest."
His answer was to incorporate a gull-wing design and add separate ballast and flooding-keel systems.
Aft there is a keel which floods when the boat is at rest. Combined with that gull-wing hull it makes the craft very stable while fishing or when anchored. As the boat gets underway, the water quickly drains out.
Forward is a controllable ballast system, enabling the skipper to bring on board the desired amount of forward ballast and, when it is not needed, dump it.
A large lever, located between the helm's twin pedestal seats, activates the system. Open the valve while underway and the pick-up fills the 200-litre tank in about a minute; move the lever to "empty" and get the boat in motion and the tank will quickly do just that.
Christensen, who with Fish City sales manager Craig Archer, races offshore powerboats, says they have learned while racing and waterskiing that a little extra weight up front gives better ride and performance, especially in rougher conditions.
Having addressed the performance, Christensen then turned his attention to the on board design.
He says that the general consensus about centre consoles "was that they were largely nice boats, plenty of room for fishing, but there was no shelter".
One of his prerequisites for the 600 CC was a double console. This allows the driver and passenger to sit immediately behind, with a further two able to stand behind that; all four protected from the elements.
Batteries, oil tanks and other systems which would usually occupy space in the transom, are instead housed under the helm console, eliminating the need for a bulky transom. That frees up more space in the cockpit and enables anglers to fish right to the rear of the boat. "It's all about being able to get as close to the fish as possible," says Christensen. "That's why the boarding platforms aren't too big." It's also why the aft corners feature seats that can fold up flush into the corner sections.
The 600 CC has extended gunnels and a raised sheer line to ensure easy access around the sides and to the foredeck. Like other FC models it has a passive livebait tank cleverly integrated into the aft floor area. It is activated by simply removing the bung. This floods the sump area to water level and uses the movement of the hull to "pump" water in and out, keeping the well oxygenated and the baits alive.
The 600 also has a pick-up through the hull so the baits get a good supply of water at any speed. There is a tap to close or regulate flow if required and the well drains quickly when the boat gets underway again.
Other notable features are a raised bow area with more usable standing room, a large chillybin with a seat squab in front of the centre console, and an attractive carbon fibre finish on the centre console.
The prototype FC 600 CC has been fitted with a Mercury 115hp 4-stroke running a 4-blade Trophy 17in propeller. With a 180 litres of fuel on board and clears around the bimini, it topped out at a little over 31 knots while using 36.5 litres an hour. Dropping the clears produced an increase to nearly 33 knots.
It is hard not be impressed by this latest addition to the Fish City range. As Christensen rightly says, with its passive livebait tank, a 180-litre flooding keel chamber and a 200-litre ballast tank, there really isn't anything like this on the market.
Deadrise: 20 deg
Construction: Aluminium 5mm/4mm
Engine Capacity: 115 to 150hp
Fuel Capacity: 180 litres
Engine: Mercury 115hp 4-stroke EFI
Top speed: 31.2 knots
Cruising speed: 20 to 24 knots
Priced from: $60,000 estimated
Want to know more?
Check out the comprehensive boat test on the FC600 CC in the January/February issue of Pacific Powerboat magazine or at www.pacificpowerboat.com.