Assegai 55ft Custom Sportfisher Boat Test

With a custom boat builder like Barry Martin designing a big-budget, long-range battlewagon, specifically for big gamefishing, you’re sure to see a startling creation. Assgariis his latest masterpiece and, as Capt Bill Billson finds, it’s one of his best.

Assegai Boat Test

Boat Test Assegai 55ft Custom Sportfisher: GAMEFISHING WEAPON
Author and photography: Capt Bill Billson 

This boat test ran in ISSUE 79 of BlueWater magazine – JUNE-JULY 2010  

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

I looked up at Capt Corey Hard, standing behind the wheel of a magnificent, custom-built Assegai. In an apparently monotone, unexcited voice, I let him know that I was hooked-up. Yes, the man who has spent little time over the last 25 years on the deck as an angler was now firmly attached to a black marlin.

But I was standing on not just any cockpit sole, I was in the cockpit of Barry Martin’s latest creation, the 55ft Assgari. And with a flash-back to vivid memories of severe lower-back pain, when I had been foolish enough to pick up a rod in the past, it was hard for me to sound anything but concerned.

Shane Sipthorp, the proud owner who approached me to do this review, had insisted I be an angler to truly experience the capabilities of this boat. So, knowing my dilemma, Capt Hard had the Assgari doing some pretty impressive manoeuvring for a boat of this size.

The boat was full with almost six tonnes of fuel and water in preparation for our two days of fishing and putting Assgari through its paces. But her scupper system prevented water from entering the cockpit and the little water that entered over the top of the covering boards was acceptable. Before the tag was placed, to my total displeasure, our black marlin attempted another dash up towards the bow. Fortunately for my lower back, the boat went around the corner extremely well and the lively 70kg black was soon released.

They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and for me this boat is stunning; a perfect balance of the right sheer line, heights and curves which make this boat stand out on any marina. Curves are present throughout the whole boat, as they should be, and the four-metre radius of the transom and 800mm radii of the cockpit corners create a look that is very appealing to the eye and, of course, reduces the resistance when backing down hard. These curved extremities mean that chair rods will not have a problem clearing the corners, if the fight gets close-handed.

Cockpit Fishability

The height from the deck to the top of the covering board is perfect and the sensible lack of lockers, around the areas where a crewman would work when leadering, leaves ample space under the coaming to lock in the knees when dealing with a large fish.

The all-in-one livebait tank and tuna-tube set-up is positioned centrally and moulded into the inner transom, which is so common these days. My only issue with this concept is that the crewman on the leader has to work around it if the fish moves from one side to the other, losing support for his knees.

The teak covering boards are fitted with just enough rod-holders (three each side – various angles – rotating, of course). These combine with the rocket launcher and heavy-tackle Release game chair for ample rod positioning. A personal hate of mine is covering boards totally destroyed and cluttered by an excess of rod-holders. Three extra rod-holders on each rear tower leg act as the perfect place to clear rods when hooked-up. Together with five extras on the rail behind the helm chair above is all that is required to my way of thinking.

Two side-lockers, forward in the cockpit, give ample room for cleaning equipment, three-phase power plug-in, safety switches, freshwater wash-down, and (a great idea I have on my own boat) fibreglass tubing that runs into the engine room for gaff handles, boat-hooks, broom handles and the like. The locker hatches open to allow full access to these items. The starboard locker has the bilge-pumping manifold, saltwater wash-down, activation point for the engine room smothering system, air intake shut-offs and fuel shut-offs (which are mandatory on a survey vessel).

Right in the forward corners of the cockpit sole are the fuelling lockers. I would prefer to do away with these by having the access to the diesel fillers via large, chrome-plated deck fittings in the floor, before the step. A simple welcome mat would stop the slippery surface of the deck fitting being an issue and open up a little more room on deck.

On the starboard side is a perfectly-sized, fully fibreglass-lined eutectic freezer, with a well-designed lid that will not leak water during washdowns. On the port side is the rigging station and sink, with a good-sized storage cupboard underneath. A tidy lid, comparable to the freezer lid, closes it all away out of sight. There is talk of another shallow fridge-freezer on that side for day baits, which would be a grand idea.

The beautifully-laid teak deck has three hatches, all with top quality, flush-mounted hinges and latches. Under the port hatch is a large ice tub that is continuously fed by a Dometic Eskimo ice machine that pushes out around 275kg a day. That’s what I want! Under the starboard hatch is a fish storage tank. Both are plumbed to macerater pumps for easy cleaning. The versatility of this system is endless, and I can’t think of a better way to go. Both tanks can be lifted out if access underneath is required. The rear hatch allows entry to steering gear, rear bilge and pumps, and the large inspection hatches of the integral rear fuel-tanks.

The large stainless cleats and hawsers are where they should be and, in fact, all hardware on this vessel is second to none, especially the transom door hinges and locking latch. The transom door’s size meets the requirements for a sea monster to be bought aboard.

The cockpit is where it all happens on a sportfisher, and this one is right up there as one of the best I have been in. One bit of trick gear I should mention is the crew-cooling-mister. A fine mist of fresh water is pumped through eight small jets in the underside of the fly-bridge overhang. The fine mist evaporates and keeps the crew and anglers cool during those hot days on The Reef.

One thing I would change is to put the ladder to the bridge further back, giving better access to the starboard freezer. It would also open up another couple of seats and provide a place to store the day esky.

Highly Polished Bridge

As you climb the ladder to the bridge you enter Capt Corey Hard’s office. There you’ll find the highly polished, stainless Palm Beach single-lever controls and steering wheel positioned on the mahogany console. Together with two imported Release helm and passenger seats, they set the standard for a very well thought out bridge layout.

The LCD displays forward of the console show all that is happening with the C18 Cats, and the Twin Disc Quick Shift allows for extra-slow trolling speeds for livebaiting, engine synchronization and extra quick gear changes above idle speed. The power-assisted steering is five turns lock-to-lock, which is acceptable. The bow thrusters’ toggle is well positioned for manoeuvring, but to have the switching in the control handles would be perfect.

As you might expect, the Assgari has some of the finest electronics money can buy. Owner Shane selected the Furuno Nav-net 3D, fully-integrated system. A combined 3kw/1kw multi-frequency sounder; a 2kw, 360-degree sonar; and, of cause, the navigation system – all with 15-inch screens – are the main components here. Their positioning is practical, but I would like to see some sort of hinged cover of moulded Lexan or Perspex to protect this equipment during severe conditions. However, the necessary stop/start and other switches were well sealed, and the two moulded-in drink holders are a nice touch.

Standing at the steering position, the captain has an unobstructed view of all necessary areas of the cockpit, as well as the extremities of the bow. The overhead console which houses the radios, fire monitoring system and tank monitors is a perfect height, as is the hard-top. I found it very hard to fault the controls and steering heights, which are so often overlooked on sportfishing rigs.

The hardtop also houses the manual teaser reels above the helm position. I think that ifI could afford this rig, I would go for the flash electric ones instead. Sometimes, with the speed things can happen when switch-baiting, just having to flick a switch would make it all that little bit easier. If you could make that switching wireless and in the control handles, you’d really have me. Yes, I know, those control handles are starting to look like a fighter pilot’s joystick.

In front of the helm station central is a well-sized chest fridge, which can also act as a small table. On the surround lounges there is seating for up to eight comfortably, with as much storage as you could want underneath. Two forward lockers for all safety equipment complete a gorgeous fly-bridge.

The tower and all railings are of anodised aluminium, built by Black Marlin Towers. Corey’s input here got the angles and sizes right, making an attractive and practical tower. A single Nav-net 10-inch monitor talks to all equipment on the bridge, as does a smaller single LCD display for the engines, stop/start switches and alarms, and radios. A good PA system fulfils all requirements. Again, the heights are perfect.

A Gorgeous Interior

It was easy for me to fall in love with the interior of Assgari. It’s just gorgeous! Some of the five-star features in the saloon include the rear bulkhead’s large electric windows and well-sized upright tackle drawers near the entrance. Then there’s the satin paintwork, solid mahogany dining table and galley flooring; and large, comfortable leather lounges with rod storage behind. In the galley there’s a beautifully designed curved pantry and storage cupboard. And Assgari undoubtedly has the best head and boat bathroom I have ever been in.

The galley, at the same level as the saloon, is the way to go. Portside are Miele appliances including induction cooktop, oven, microwave and dishwasher. The stainless-steel sink and benchtops look the part. On the starboard side is a fridge and another large stainless benchtop with a shelved freezer and ice maker underneath.

The two electrical boards are housed each side of the entrance to this area, with AC on one side and DC the other. Both have the latest in marine displays, switching and safety systems –very impressive indeed.

Shane enjoys entertaining so forward on the starboard side are a Bose lifestyle system, a 32-inch satellite LCD TV, DVD player and a computer system with wireless keyboard. All are housed in a very tidy cabinet.

There are stairs down to the accommodation areas. To port is that amazing bathroom, suitable for the big blokes. Two good-sized bunk cabins, port and starboard, are fitted out for up to four guests or crew. A master forward cabin features an island double bed and two upper singles on each side, together with an ensuite. All cabins have LCD TVs installed, and toilets are quality Tecma units.

Keeping up with technology, all lights on the boat, including navigation, are LEDs. Throughout the interior, there’s just the right amount of mahogany trim, which works well with the satin paint work.

The Power House

The engine room is entered via a hatch in the step to the saloon. All under hatch areas feature an impressive gloss-white, two-pack finish. The highly polished raw water-piping and strainers, valve manifold assembles, and stainless-steel fuel lines attached to the dual Racors complement this high-gloss finish. Wiring and all exhaust piping are what you would expect from the Assegai stable.

The integral water tank is between the two main engines. The two C18 Cats and dual Onan generators are the central pieces in this attractive and practical engine room. Correct design gives dry ventilation from the external fly-bridge air intakes, a feature that many boat builders battle with. I would also like to see a common American safety system installed, which uses the raw water pumps as bilge pumps in an emergency. These puppies can really shift some water, and for the sake of another valve and a little bit of pipe, are great insurance.

The plant room and storage compartment, accessed under the companionway steps, are loaded with goodies. Multiple refrigeration and air conditioning units, battery charger and inverter, desalinater, sonar periscope and enough pumps with backup systems would keep me entertained for quite some time. The quality of the work here is first class and there was still plenty of space to load up with dry stores for extended trips. The forward integral fuel tank is also here.

Special Hull Tunnels

The weather for my two days on Assgari was perfect. Shane was a little disappointed that it was not rougher, so he could show off his boat but the swell, and a run-out tide across the Port Stephens bar let me experience the softness of the ride. The continuous 21-degree deadrise, on what is a lean boat for its length, would undoubtedly let a mean sea know who was boss.

The Assgari has special tunnels designed by Barry Martin. They assist to keep the shaft angle to a minimum, enhancing performance. The trim-tabs are housed out of the way in these and, with the angled gearboxes, keep the height of the saloon floor as low as possible.

When fully loaded, Assgari will cruise effortlessly at 25 knots at 1850rpm, slurping down 280 litres per hour. But push down the hammers to 2350rpm and 400 litres per hour disappears out through those large exhaust pipes, giving 34 knots. Amazingly though, at troll speed of up to 7.5 knots, both engines only use 13 litres per hour.

With 6000 litres of fuel on board, even allowing a 10 percent safety margin, Assgari has a 480-mile range at 25 knots. With her sea handling abilities, she is quite capable of running out to some very distant grounds and back again during a big day, which Shane and his crew have already done.

With the weight we had aboard for the test, Assgariappeared to like about half-tab to give the best riding angle. The sea was not sufficient to experience how dry this boat would be in various conditions, but I have since observed her running in from the shelf on several occasions and she certainly looks impressive.

At trolling speed, with no vibration and a very clean wake, the rumble of the C18 Cats at idle soon had my anticipation of action running high. I wasn’t wrong. Before we’d gone too far, the small dorsal of my black marlin appeared behind the skipping mackerel.

Assegai is the name of the shorter spear that Sharka, Chief of the Zulu tribe, got his warriors to use to gain dominance in battle. One of these original spears rests above the master bedhead in the forward cabin. Askari were the bodyguards who protected the chief, Sharka. The strength and sea-worthiness of this vessel will certainly protect all who fish on her in the future.


  • Great ride, finish and appearance.
  • Quality hardware and fittings.
  • Functional cockpit, bridge, and tower.
  • Best boat bathroom I have been in.
  • Continuous ice maker in cockpit.
  • A very solid, durable vessel.


  • Survey: 2B 10 clients, 2 crew
  • Berths: 3 cabins: 1 double bunk, 6 single bunks
  • Fuel: 6000 litres
  • Water: 1000 litres
  • Grey water: 100 litres
  • Black water: 190 litres


  • Material: Strip plank cedar core with two layers of 1150gm triaxial glass laminate, epoxy resin saturated.
  • Type: Deep-vee mono hull
  • Length: 16.75m overall
  • Beam: 4.77m
  • Draft: 1.4 metres
  • Deadrise: 21-degrees constant
  • Weight: Lightship 23.363 tonnes


  • Make/model: Twin Caterpillar C18
  • Type: Fully electronic straight six, dual turbo-charged 4-stroke diesels
  • Rated HP: 1050hp at 2350RPM
  • Displacement: 18.1 litres
  • Weight: 1866kg with gearboxes
  • Gearboxes: Twin Disc MGX 5135A 300 Quick Shift
  • Propellers: Veem 4-blade Interceptors 34.25-inch diameter
  • Generators: two 11.5kVa Onan

SPECIFICATIONS: Assegai 55ft  Custom Sportfisher
Options fitted: Continuous 275kg per day ice maker for cockpit fishbox, Black Marlin aluminium tower, Rupp 38ft anodised outriggers, Release game and helm chairs, multi-nozzle spray misting system for cockpit cooling, 260 litres per hour desalinator, Furuno Nav-net 3D, fully-integrated navigation system with 15-inch screens and 2kw dual-frequency sonar, up to 5kw multi frequency sounder, full camera monitoring system, Miele induction cooktop, oven, and microwave, Fisher and Paykel dishwasher, Bose lifestyle 48 sound system, Dual system Eutectic refrigeration 3hp and 1.5hp, fully air conditioned, Samsung 32-inch LCD TV and DVD player plus LCD TV and DVD in cabins, Intellian 45cm satellite TV dome linked with Foxtel, 3.5kV sine wave inverter.  

Assegai Boat Test

Boat Test Assegai 55ft Custom Sportfisher : GAMEFISHING WEAPON
Author and photography: Capt Bill Billson
Built by: Assegai Marine

This boat test ran in ISSUE 79 of BlueWater magazine – JUNE-JULY 2010

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

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