Bluewater Boats is one of those companies that does really good work while remaining fairly anonymous. It is, in the main, a custom alloy boat builder. But in recent years it has also created a good niche in satisfying the Coastguard's need for a range of reliable, seaworthy vessels.
Bluewater Boats is run by father and son team Gary and Paul Colcord, and produces about a dozen boats a year out of its small Henderson factory. Its creations range from 5.4m cabin boats, through a range of hardtop models to some truly spectacular 10m-plus vessels.
Although over the past few years, most of its boats have been powered by modern four-stroke outboards, its most recent offering, a Bluewater 7.7 Weekender, was commissioned by local Lombardini Marine distributor TransDiesel to showcase its new five-cylinder 245 JMT 220hp diesel.
With modern diesels fast becoming more economical, higher-performing and quieter than their predecessors, TransDiesel obviously saw the need to show potential owners just how well an engine such as the 245 JMT can go in a large aluminium powerboat.
It is also no surprise that, like the Coastguard, TransDiesel chose a Bluewater boat to be the company's demonstrator. Paul Colcord is not only a very knowledgeable boat builder, he also has a wealth of experience advising enthusiastic owners exactly what will and will not work.
Just about everything on the TransDiesel Weekender, Okelani, works very well indeed. Designers do not get to be favourites with the Coastguard without being able to produce seakindly, rough-water performers. During on-water testing, the conditions, though certainly not life-threatening, were not pleasant. A blustery wind and an incoming tide produced a choppy and uneven sea.
None of that bothered this combination in the slightest. The 220hp, in-line 5-cylinder Lombardini and its twin prop MerCruiser Bravo III sterndrive gave the boat an impressive punch out of the hole; to the extent one had to be very careful when applying the throttle, ensuring passengers were holding on.
Once on the plane, the diesel had no trouble propelling the 8m LOA, 2700kg Bluewater to a top speed of 32.7 knots (although, to be fair, that was with just two adult passengers on board and a full load of fuel, but very little else).
Economy wise, the 5-cylinder diesel used 38.3 litres per hour at 4000rpm (WOT); dropping to 18.L/h at 3250 rpm and just 9.9L/h at 2750rpm. Those unfamiliar with modern diesels may also be surprised at how quiet they run.
In this case, while cruising at about 20 knots, there was no need to raise voices and normal conversation was easily possible.
The Bluewater 7.7's moderate (18 degree) deadrise ensured a reasonably soft, quiet and stable ride. Because of the conditions, some spray did reach the screen and wipers (especially for the helm side) would be a good option.
There are also, surprisingly, no trim tabs. A hardtop vessel of this size is always going to be affected by cross winds. Countering this requires turning the helm into the wind and that causes the boat to heel over; without tabs, the skipper is constantly battling to keep the vee upright (where it works best).
Although Okelani was clearly commissioned to show off the attributes of the Lombardini diesel, it has also been outfitted as a serious fishing boat capable of overnighting.
For example, it has a large, 2m-long vee berth and a head in the lockable cabin (great for storing rods and the like when away from the boat) and a small sink and cooker under the passenger seat in the hardtop.
Being primarily custom boat builders, Bluewater offers a range of seating options and the TransDiesel crew has chosen one with a pair of king/queen style seats. Both also have large handy stowage areas underneath and the aft one on the port side can be completely removed to free up additional cockpit space.
Recognising that the boat is likely to be used in lumpy water, the Bluewater team has also installed well-placed handrails on the front and the sides of the hardtop. The cockpit is a pretty fishing-focused one with large, deep side pockets for rod or gaff storage, rod holders set into the wide gunwales on either side of the cockpit and a rocket launcher above.
On the outboard-powered models, there is also the option of underfloor stowage or fish wells.
As Okelani has a diesel engine occupying this space, Bluewater has thoughtfully installed a large live bait tank in the starboard corner of the transom, accessed off the substantial boarding platform.
There is also a walk-through transom, complete with drop-in door and plenty of handrails around the stern to assist those getting in and out of the boat.
Although most of those looking to buy a new boat will opt for a "standard" model, there is an increasing number who want something a bit different.
These are usually vastly experienced boaties, often extremely passionate about their fishing, who are looking for a large, aluminium boat capable of handling offshore waters.
It is these people to whom Bluewater mainly caters and, with Okelani, it has created a satisfied customer. Of course, custom boats come at a price and it tends to be one that is substantially higher than would be the case with a production boat. In this case, that price tag is $182,000, about $17,000 more than for a standard 7.7 Weekender.
Bluewater 7.7 Weekender
Engine:220hp Lombardini Marine diesel
Fuel capacity:330 litres
Water capacity:100 litres
Price as described:$182,000
Want to know more?
Check out the comprehensive boat test on the Bluewater 7.7 Weekender in the March/April issue of Pacific Powerboat magazine or at www.pacificpowerboat.com.