Seafarer Voyager Boat Test

Warren Steptoe revisits the much-loved Seafarer Voyager and finds that it’s still an exceptional offshore fishing boat, made even better with the current generation of high-powered outboards.

Seafarer Voyager Boat Test

Boat Test Seafarer Voyager: STILL AHEAD OF THE GAME
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe

This boat test ran in ISSUE 85 of BlueWater magazine – JUNE-JULY 2011

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

Amongst 20-23-foot offshore sportfishers there are some pretty darn good boats. Once upon a time this was a fairly thirsty genre. The punchy old-fashioned 2-stroke motors which made American centre consoles exciting boats to run at sea were hardly known for running on the proverbial smell of a petrol-soaked rag. Their fuel-burn rates often matched a pair of big inboard diesels in a bigger hull. But that’s changed since the current generation of fuel-efficient 4-stroke motors became available.

Today it’s far from unusual to find twin outboard motors producing 400, 500 or even 600 horsepower between them while burning less than 50 litres per hour, at cruising speeds that bigger diesel-powered boats struggle to reach. And when running big powerful outboards (like Yamaha’s 250 and 300hp V6 4-strokes, and Suzuki’s competing 250 and 300hp outboards) as single rigs, they go close to halving this fuel consumption while still maintaining cruising speeds over 25 knots. The advent of new outboard technology has dramatically changed widely held expectations of fuel efficiency in bluewater fishing boats that have been with us for generations.

Yes, it’s past time for quite a few amongst us to redo our homework …

Locally built boats have benefited greatly from this improvement in engine performance, and it must be said that we Aussies do cuddy-cab bluewater fishing boats around the 6.8-metre size remarkably well. Which brings us to the boat tested here, Seafarer’s Voyager.

The Voyager is unique amongst the Seafarer line – a range featuring some of the best cuddy cab offshore fishing boats ever built in this country. The Voyager is a centre console that somehow manages to stand toe-to-toe against the best imported centre consoles (although Seafarer doesn’t actually call it a centre console). Me, I’d call it more of a centre cabin configuration due to the full-size double bunk contained in the ‘console’. Seafarer simply call it a ‘walkaround’.

At 6.8-metres and with a trailering weight well over 2 tonnes, depending of course on motor choice etc, the Voyager isn’t trailerable by the average family sedan, but it is well within the capabilities of the 4WDs so many of us drive. This point becomes especially pertinent when you consider that due to differing maximum legal towing widths between Australia and the USA, many imported boats of similar size are simply not legally trailerable in this country.

Better Internal Moulding

Nor does the Voyager fall foul of another common hassle amongst competitors that use a moulded hull liner to create cockpit sides. These often jam your toes against slippery vertical surfaces while your upper leg waves around looking for something to lean against. The man responsible for the Voyager, Seafarer’s original owner Lindsay Fry was a man incapable of compromise in things he thought important in his boats. The Voyager’s interior utilises expensive-to-produce separate deck and side-deck moulds not just in the cockpit, but right around the boat’s entire periphery. Voyager is one boat you can move right around safely and securely, hands-free while handling ground tackle or fighting a fish.

The Voyager’s console cabin is big enough to sleep two people in comfort, and a portable toilet beneath the bunk cushions is a standard item. Adding an optional targa top with clear panels between it and the windscreen shelters the deep bucket seats in the helm area quite effectively.

Twin drained overboard fish boxes set into the deck in the cockpit sole will even contain an over-size mackerel or wahoo. One plumbed live well in the aft bulkhead is standard with a second one optional. The deck is non-slip glass –an easy-to-wash-down surface with the standard high-pressure deck wash.

A foldaway aft lounge graces the transom bulkhead with the transom door beside it – yet another standard item often found on competitor’s options lists. Padded coamings around the cockpit periphery are standard too, as are rod-racks inside roomy storage pockets along each side of the cockpit.

Voyager’s hull is foam filled, a never-to-be-underrated safety feature; and the deck is carried high enough to self-drain efficiently through big scuppers. Below decks hides a stainless-steel fuel tank holding a whopping 340 litres.

The Voyager’s options list is quite short, comprising a power anchor winch (as we all know, many bluewater anglers use a buoy to raise the pick), the aforementioned hardtop, and a freshwater tank. This is for people intending to use Voyager for the multi-day trips made entirely possible by virtue of two blokes being able to camp inside the console/cabin without fear of becoming too friendly …

Sea Friendly

To talk about how Voyager handles at sea I must fall back on some history. Back when Lindsay Fry built Seafarers (now they’re part of the extensive Haines family stable) he built himself a succession of Voyagers with ever increasing power.

I got to ride with Lindsay in all of these, if I remember correctly, so I can tell you that although today’s Voyagers are rated to a maximum of two 175hp outboards, Lindsay’s personally modified versions handled upwards of 400hp as if they were born for it. Now Lindsay only knew two speeds: at anchor and flat strap, and I can assure you from experience that this is an exceptional hull for traveling offshore at considerable speed.

Sane people would never put their boat through what Lindsay Fry considered a bit of fun, believe me. Or even ride with him while he was out off the Gold Coast for ‘a bit of a fang’ for that matter!

Lindsay’s boats invariably ran OMC motors back in the day. Since then times have changed considerably with the ever-growing popularity of modern 4-stroke outboards. The Voyager we see today is far from a new design; however, it underwent a comprehensive review when Seafarer was being tucked under the wing of the Haines Group. That review, and as I said before, the advent of contemporary 4-stroke outboard engines, combine to make the Voyager a more interesting proposition than ever.

Our test Voyager came powered by a pair of 150hp Suzukis, so in light of previous experience I was keen to compare how the different power delivery of today’s low emission outboards affected a hull I’ve unashamedly loved for years.

Spinning a pair of 23-inch pitch Suzuki props we recorded a top speed of 44.6 knots. Which is at the same time pretty quick – and quite a bit slower than other Voyagers I’ve ridden in. There was another test I wanted to conduct, and that was to run the Voyager with one outboard tilted clear of the water.

Single Or Twin Motors

In the good old days, the punch Lindsay’s favoured V6 OMC 2-strokes delivered would still easily, if somewhat slower than using both motors, lift a Voyager onto the plane and wind it out to a respectable top speed. Full credit to the single Suzuki 4-stroke then for getting us up and away in reasonable time and ultimately delivering a top speed of just over 30 knots.

One thing the latest outboards haven’t changed is the inherent safety advantages of twin installations. Although, having said that, the reliability of today’s outboards means more people now consider a single installation. There’s no dispute that this gives some ground away in terms of ultimate safety but, nonetheless, in many locations around our coast these days, help isn’t far away. With safety less of a concern, it would have to be considered that motors like Suzuki and Yamaha’s 300hp V6s would return sparkling performance and excellent fuel efficiency when matched to a Voyager.

In conclusion, it’s impossible for me to avoid wondering aloud where Seafarer’s Voyager – the boat that I once considered this country’s ultimate trailerable bluewater sport and game fisher –stands in today’s world. The answer, I think it’s fair to say, is that Voyager fares very well indeed in any comparison with competitors – imported and locally built alike!

Highlights

  • Full leg-support right around periphery.
  • Truly excellent performance and fuel efficiency with modern 4-stroke outboards.
  • Parochial pride in a locally built boat that stands toe-to-toe with imported competitors.

Capacities

  • Maximum Rated Power: 2 X 175hp or single 300hp outboard
  • Maximum Engine Weight: n/s
  • Fuel: 340-litres
  • Fresh Water: Optional

General

  • Material: GRP laminates with foam filling
  • Hull Type: Mono-hull centre console
  • Length: 6.8 metres
  • LOA: 7.2 metres
  • Beam: 2.5 metres
  • Draft: n/s
  • Deadrise: 22 degrees at transom
  • Weight: 1600kg (hull only)
  • BMT Towing Weight: 2 tonnes plus

Engines

  • Make/model: Suzuki DF150 (X 2)
  • Type: 4-cylinder inline DOHC 16-valve
  • Rated hp: 150hp
  • Displacement: 2867cc
  • No. cylinders: Four
  • Weight: 220kg (X 2)
  • Gearbox ratio: 2.50:1
  • Propeller/s used for test: Suzuki s/s 23-inch pitch

SPECIFICATIONS: Seafarer Voyager
Options fitted:  Twin 150hp Suzukis, stainless steel hardtop and rocket launcher. 

Seafarer Voyager Boat Test

Boat Test Seafarer Voyager: STILL AHEAD OF THE GAME
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe
Supplied by: Haines Marine Industries, Wacol Qld.

This boat test ran in ISSUE 85 of BlueWater magazine – JUNE-JULY 2011

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