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When I received a call from Bow2Stern magazine from the editor, Paul to see if I was interested in doing a boat test on two small leisure craft measuring around 18 and 22ft I must admit I was slightly apprehensive about what I would actually be able to write about to fill more than a page or so in the report and I also envisaged a rather wet and chilly day pottering about in the Gold Coast’s beautiful Broadwater. However, as it actually turned out, not only did I have a ton of fun all day long but discovered with much pleasure that also that these two craft and their respective engines are just about at the peak of modern technical innovation that small production craft could possibly offer to anyone requiring a brand new adrenaline injection in their boating lives to blow away the cobwebs forever!

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But I race ahead of myself. When I arrived at JSW Powersports at Arundel on the Gold Coast at the appointed time and date for the tests I was interested to find a very well organised, modern and go-ahead business run by young and really enthusiastic people with a great eye for quality products and smart eye catching presentation. Met by Lina Heldon, the Sea Fox Brand Manager, she gave me an overview of the company and how they became involved with the distributorship of the American built boats which they now solely import from South Carolina in the States and market to Australia and New Zealand. Company owner, Jeff McNiven, had actually purchased a Sea Fox boat for himself and was so pleased and impressed with the build, performance and quality of the craft that he resolved to add the line to his expanding Sea-Doo sales business and jet ski servicing workshops situated at Arundel on the Gold Coast-Brisbane highway on the Gold Coast.

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Currently today the company has at least one of each of the Sea Fox models on display at the premises with more on the way. For the day we were accompanied by Jason Hedges, JSW’s Boat Sales Manager who was going to drive the 186 Commander which was doubling as a camera boat for the trip and our super hot shot photographer, Scott Whitfield, a friendly and easy going bunch of people. Soon the two boats, the 226 Sea Fox Commander and the 186 Commander were hitched up and we were on our way to the Broadwater under a brightening sky but before we left I had a chance to have a walk around the two boats and have a closer look at the really impressive size, lines and ultra modern sculpted shape of the brand new Evinrude E-Tec G2 engine. The dynamic of this really astonishing new engine is the fact that Evinrude just took all the previous two stroke engine technology, apparently threw it out and totally redesigned the engine from scratch with a clean slate. The results are futuristic and stunning but more about that later! On the walk around it was clear to see that nothing had been left lacking regarding finish, clean design and especially the strength of the Ultima Hard Top on the 226 Commander. The hull is a clean 19° deadrise and the bow sweeps upward to cope with any oncoming seas and the negative chine proved to be such and effective spray guard that no water whatsoever entered the boat during the whole day! A dry sports boat? Almost unheard of!

Another milestone in the construction of these craft is the fact that there is no timber whatsoever used in the manufacture of these boats and in fact the transom is sandwich composite with a thick aluminium strengthening sheet plate embedded into the matrix for total dependability and strength.

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The Evinrude E-Tec G2 close up is fairly daunting and appears huge ... it has the futuristic appearance of a robot Transformer and when its throttled up I half expected it to unfold open and drop down a couple of jet turbos ... a nice touch was the colour coding of the engine to match the boat ... pretty, to say the least. One of its really cool features that immediately struck me was the fact that when the motor is raised up on the hydraulic rams, it lies practically horizontal so that it’s dead easy to change the prop over if required, in just a few minutes, which, in fact, we did later on to test out two different types of props. Before too long we were at the ramp and doing the last minute checks before launching. Being a marine surveyor and having done a few sea trials on brand new boats I am always a bit cautious about making sure the boat’s properly prepared for sea and any initial teething problems that can be found on brand new craft entering the water! But my fears were groundless and Jeff, Jason and Lina had it all nailed down...

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Once the boats were in the water Jeff decided to give the boat its initial test run as it was the first time launched (sadly no champagne) and he came back after a few runs and decided to change the prop for a different pitched type. Easy! As I mentioned earlier it’s a snap of a job with the outboard pushing up virtually horizontal and within 10 minutes it was done and that particular size stainless prop was used for the rest of the day. Pretty soon the 186 Commander was in the drink after an initial photo shoot (That boy Scotty never stopped snapping for a moment the whole day! ) and we were off heading towards Jumpinpin Bar for a real workout through the waves and swell ... passing sedately through the 6kt zone I had a chance to have a look around under way and Jeff started to describe some of the features that come as standard on most of these craft. One really neat one is the fact that from the roof of the Ultima hard top are a couple of small freshwater nozzles which serve a couple of purposes, one to spray down the interior of the cockpit with a spray of freshwater to prevent salt build-up and two, to spray water over the two passengers on a hot day ... very refreshing indeed and a great idea! Very typical of the attention to detail that this manufacturer goes to. The other really great feature of this craft is the fact that there is a built in toilet with a locking door actually housed inside the main console!

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It’s something I have never seen before and its pretty well a must have feature ... Other manufacturers please take note! Naturally enough, for the purposes of the serious Sports fishing enthusiasts who will drool over this boat, there is a huge insulated locker under the row of rear seats which can be filled with water and ice or a mixture of both for any fish which they might snag on a serious fishing trip. (or maybe even beer or champagne!) This of course is placed conveniently next to a clear topped 30 gallon (115 litre) live fish bait well complete with flush drains and an 800 gallon per hour, aerator pump which combines with twin bow lockers, port and starboard for either fish and ice or gear stowage, a perfect pro fishing set-up should it be required. Also, last but not least there is the option of draining and using the live bait well and storing ice there too!

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Highlight of the Test
However, for me, the highlight of the day was to discover that this boat has been fitted with full digital instrumentation the star of which is the integral engine management system which, to my mind, beggars belief in its sophistication. I have surveyed plenty of large Sports Boats in the one to two million dollar ranges over the years, but I have never seen anything like this on a boat of this size at all.

This system would not look out of place on a top range multi engined commercial aircraft and has the ultimate effect of you knowing that no matter where you go out on the water in this boat, your fuel and motor condition, no matter what environment you are boating in, is there in every tiny detail for your total information and complete safety at the press of a few buttons.

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This means of course you can monitor and plan ahead for every single drop of fuel and safe reserves to allow totally accurate fuel and range forecasts even before you leave the ramp. This in turn allows pinpoint accurate navigation planning at any and every intended speed throughout your trip, a safety feature which in my estimation has been seriously lacking for years. It’s designed so that when you leave on your trip and have almost no chance whatsoever of having to be towed ignominiously and expensively back to port which may well ruin a long planned tournament or holiday. It has three separate modes each of which deal extensively and comprehensively with every aspect of engine and fuel management that any owner would ever need to monitor, a plus in every aspect. Impressed? Yes I was indeed.

Aside from the electronics that control the fuel and motor this engine, the E-Tec G2, comes right out of the box with a FIVE YEAR NO SERVICE WARRANTY which means that it does NOT require a first service for 500 hours or five years whichever comes first ... I actually couldn’t believe that when I heard it and I’m still surprised when I think about it now! This, no doubts in my mind at all, hails a brand new era in the evolution of the humble outboard motor, for sure. Oh and before I forget, in the true tradition of robotic law, the new motor is programmed to feed itself a DOUBLE helping of oil into the petrol/oil mix for the first 10 hours of its life ... all this and no run-in period!

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So How Did She Perform?
Well, to be honest, what can you say about a boat that has been designed and built so carefully with a company ideology to produce such a quality product which puts it highly into the US ratings? Of course it’s going to perform well, and it does, just like a bat out of hell, basically! After our sedate little run through the 6kt zone, due instructions were given to hold on and away we went ... With the throttle pushed open the engine has a really satisfying multi cylinder sports car roar which progresses up until the plane is reached at somewhere around 15kts then it diminishes to a powerful but comfortable volume ... the old adage about ‘sticking like it’s on rails’ really does apply to this craft as we whistled along into a fairly stiff headwind which was starting to produce a few whitecaps on the tail end of the run ... but hey no problems for this baby! During the run I tried to gather a few details of fuel consumption one of which was 3800rpm @ 27 litres per hour @ 50km per hour and dare I say it we hit around 95km at one stage but I must admit the eyes were pretty well seeing double at that point so I couldn’t really get the consumptions figures off the gauges! Consider it done to realise that this engine has been built with economy as its cornerstone and in my humble opinion if they can cram this advanced technology into these new generation machines there’s clearly a hell of a lot more to come in the not too distant future!

I must say at this point during our fast run I suddenly wondered where the Commander 186 was as they were supposed to be videoing our ride ... turning around I expected it to be a dot in the distance but no way! She was flying up behind us, fast, jumped over our wake with barely a tremble and damn well overtook us! To say I was surprised was an understatement ... that little boat is a hottie! A waterborne sports car ..! but there will be more on that one in the review of the 186 in the next edition of this mag so don’t miss it! Needless to say, we got to Jumpinpin Bar in what appeared to be a record time, how long it took exactly, I’m not prepared to say in writing, but believe me it weren’t long! Haha ... and then the fun began!

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Jumpin The Pin!
When we arrived at the Jumpinpin Bar the wind had increased and was cutting smartly across the bay. The swell was as usual, rolling in steadily and breaking on the shallow banks of sand that characterise the place. However the wind had a slightly north-easterly element in it and it was roughing up the ocean and creating plenty of whitecaps. Scotty the photographer was dumped on to the shore and the 186 Commander started doing some beach run-pasts and serious wave running. Meanwhile Jeff, Lina and I proceeded to continue on with various modes of the engine control system. One really interesting fact was that there was also some ‘trolling modes’ and one fascinating mode for trolling at 2.5kts @ 500rpm used was 0.9 litres an hour. Also the fuel capacity was noted, full tank at 380 litres. It was also noted that there is an auto trim facility that kicks in automatically on a powered take-off but I also noted that when it was my turn to throttle away I grabbed the throttle handle a little too enthusiastically and in doing so disengaged the trim button ... However, what I didn’t realise that merely placing the engine into neutral re-engages the auto trim feature again so after Jeff had explained that to me, we were off and running again.  After circling a few times keeping out of the photo shoot area it was our turn to hit the gas and do a few high speed runs past Scotty on the beach. I must admit it was fun and the throaty roar of the engine as it accelerates away is very addictive ... up on the plane within a few seconds at 12/15kts and then like a rocket ... the hull is a triumph as it takes rolling, curling wash and waves in its stride and even if it hits a tricky side swipe, the boat jumps, twitches and rockets away again ... nothing we did that day could phase it out and after sending thousands of litres of smashed up salt spray into every point of the compass. I hereby state the following to be true ... in spite of the freshening breeze, all the foam, splashes and hairy jet fighter turns ... there was not one single drop of water on the windscreen of the boat or for that matter, me!

Well, all good things have to come to an end and finally deserting Jason and Scotty onto another lonely beach for more snaps, we headed back via the little bar at Tippler’s for lunch, a couple of cold beers and to relax after a hard day’s fun ... later the other boys joined us for lunch and a few laughs before heading back to the ramp. I must admit that spending a day with these folks and these boats was a bit of an eye opener insofar that I hadn’t realised just how fast really good technology has evolved to make boating not only more fun but also the safety aspects of good design backed up with a great engine/fuel management system nailed to a hot ship has without a doubt helped do its bit for a safer, more enjoyable boating in the long run ...Thanks guys!

Highlights on This Craft
• Engine /fuel management system ... excellent safety feature
• Hull design and superb ride
• Centre console complete with hidden toilet ... excellent
• Typical American high quality extras plus great options available
• Quality finish all round
• Plus with the Evinrude E-Tec G2 engine fitted ... incredible fuel economy
• PLUS A FIVE YEAR GUARANTEED NO SERVICE WARRANTY

Negative Aspects on this Craft
With all honesty, I have tried hard to find anything negative about this boat and have not been able to think of anything else apart from the fact that maybe the console is partially exposed to bad weather, however, there are console surrounding clears options to choose from which will completely negate this matter.