Vindicator 720 Boat Test

Vindicator boats are lovingly crafted by third-generation boat builders at Gympie in Queensland. Warren Steptoe was more than impressed by their obvious quality and expertise with plate aluminium. Best of all, he found the Vindicator 720 a soft-riding, remarkably quiet boat that can be customised with your own interior layout.

Vindicator 720 Boat Test

Boat Test Vindicator 720: THE SMOOTH TOUGHIE
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe

This boat test ran in ISSUE 90 of BlueWater magazine – MARCH-APRIL 2012

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

When I ventured north to test the Vindicator 720, I wasn’t expecting much from this Gympie-built boat apart from it being yet another plate aluminium tinnie – although, at 7.2 metres it is large enough to be considered a very serious bluewater trailerboat. What I discovered caught me by surprise. The Vindicator proved itself to be something quite special – a pleasant surprise indeed!

Despite the softer ride enabled by the sophisticated hull shapes that can be moulded in GRP (fibreglass), the substantial popularity of plate aluminium boats among bluewater anglers in Australia is testimony to the other benefits in favour of aluminium.

The primary asset of a plate-aluminium boat are its interior configurations, which can now be said to have been perfected to suit Australian fishing conditions. That, and the fact it’s so easy to customise the interior of a plate hull to suit an owner’s precise specifications.

The Vindicator 720 is typical of its genre in that the manufacturer supplies a naval architect-designed outer hull (non-negotiable), which potential owners are offered as basically a blank slate to design their own interior. Although having said that, and having tested this boat, I can’t see too many people radically changing the ‘standard’ interior configuration seen here, because it’s pretty much ready to go fishing as it comes.

I wasn’t aboard the Vindicator 720 long at all before it showed me what would become one of my lasting impressions. This was a high standard of workmanship evident literally everywhere I looked. Remember this when I tell you that my trade background is in metal fabrication, so such praise in this department isn’t offered lightly nor without a degree of expertise.

Like all plate boats, a high level of ‘toughness’ and an ability to live through bad roads, bad ramps, and rough operating conditions comes standard with Vindicator boats. However, while some of the genre uses that as an excuse to be a bit rough around the edges, the case here is quite the opposite.

Fair enough, if you compare a Vindicator with, say, a quality American-built GRP bluewater fishing boat, a few welds may be noticed here and there. But on the other hand, they’re in inconspicuous places or occur in locations where it would not be prudent to grind welds smooth just for appearance sake. Regardless, the balance between a nice smooth finish and ultimate strength and durability is very astutely maintained. As a metalworker by (previous) profession it made my heart glad! And there’s one thing that an imported boat can never do and that’s provide you with a face-to-face relationship with the people building your boat.

A lot of bluewater anglers I know establish mutually beneficial relationships with people who build boats for them, and I’ve seen lots of these associations mature across a progression of boats to become lasting friendships.

Family Business

Vindicator boats are built by Watson Marine in Gympie, a couple of hours up the highway north of Brisbane. Watson Marine is a family company in the best boating industry tradition. Founded by Raymond Watson in 1948 and expanded into Watson Marine in 1969, Ray was soon joined by his son Frank, and in 1982 Frank and his wife Denise took over the company. In 1994 they were joined in turn by their son Glenn, and on the day of our test, Frank and Glenn were both present to deliver our test boat to its proud new owner and help-out running the chase boat for our photo shoot.

I found them all a delight to deal with while organising this test, and once we were out on the water at Tin Can Bay, Frank and Glenn’s boating competence was plain to see. So I wasn’t surprised to find the owner of our test boat relaxed and obviously enjoying the company, despite the boat being delivered in tandem with BlueWater’s photo shoot and boat test.

New-owner Ken Reaves had Ex Kaliber II built to fish wide of the Keppel Group in Central Queensland, and this has obviously influenced his choice in cockpit set up, extra fuel storage (450lt instead of the standard 350lt– which would keep most people happy) and the potent yet amazingly fuel-efficient F300 Yamaha V6 4-stroke outboard perched on the transom. He has long over-water distances to travel to where he fishes, and he can’t afford to waste time or burn excessive amounts of fuel getting there. How a hull handles such a work-out is of course the interesting part of a boat test!

Sea Handling

The Vindicator hull handled admittedly mild conditions inside the Wide Bay bar as if Tin Can Bay was mirror calm. The Vindicator runs a 19-degree deadrise at the transom and the bows are, typically of the constraints inherent in working sheet metal, fairly full.

To see how the boat moved over rougher water we had to resort to bashing across our own wake. As far as that went, the Vindicator delivered another pleasant surprise by not crashing down as hard as I had expected. No doubt having a fairly steep deadrise, comparable with GRP hulls of similar dimensions, has some influence here, but it seemed to me the Vindicator’s 1500kg (bare) hull weight also contributed to the way this boat moved over the water.

Some boats jerk unpredictably underfoot, keeping you constantly adjusting your balance, but the Vindicator was just the opposite. Its movement in the water was almost gentle and was slow and ‘soft’ without any jerky moments at all. Just what a great bluewater fishing boat needs!

Frank told me during this test that they were about to trial an extra degree of deadrise in a hull ordered by a customer with bluewater tournament fishing in mind, and it will be interesting to see how this works. With 19 degrees the hull had no tendency at all to feel ‘tippy’ the way some steep deadrise hulls do, so I doubt another degree will have much of a negative effect – and it may well soften the rough water ride a little more.

Remarkably Quiet

The other aspect brought to light while checking out the boat’s ride and handling was how quiet it was on the water. Many, maybe most, aluminium boats tend to be a little noisy, but this vessel was notable for how quiet it was. It compared quite favourably with, and was in fact actually better than, some GRP hulls.

I’ve often wondered why more aluminium boat builders don’t carpet the hull interior inside the cabin to quieten their boats on the water. Ken specified carpet cabin lining for this very reason and our test boat showed how well it works. The two-metre-long bunk was huge with all the various cushions in place, and the usual portable toilet fitted unobtrusively underneath it.

Carpet underneath the hardtop roof and inside the spacious stowage pockets along the cockpit sides also presumably helped with soundproofing. The space between the gridded girder system below decks is filled with Microlen foam flotation (for obvious safety reasons), which also serves to deaden the racket generated by the number of hollow metal compartments. I honestly can’t recall being aboard any tinny that was simply so pleasant to be aboard. And that has nothing to do with being in the company of people passionate enough about their boats and boating in general for the usual banter we all enjoy as part of our fishing.

A 300hp engine is the maximum the Vindicator 720 hull is rated for, and as you’d expect, the big V6 4-stroke Yamaha supplied ample out-of-the-hole power and an impressive top speed above 40 knots. Although, as I’ve come to expect from testing other boats powered by thispower plant, it was through mid-rev-range cruising speeds around 20-25 knots that the F300 did its best work. Details are best left to the performance table nearby but suffice to say that these cruising speeds were maintained without fuss in the fuel-efficient vicinity of 3500rpm to 4000rpm, with Yamaha’s excellent digital display indicating fuel consumption just over 30-litres per hour at 3500rpm and just under 47-litres per hour at 4000rpm.

Another aspect of the Vindicator that really impressed me was how seamlessly the hardtop integrates into the boat’s overall design. Aesthetically it fits neatly with a step in the sheer line and basically just looks like it’s meant to be there. Ergonomically it added a dimension of onboard comfort all its own, and you get it as part of the deal, not an extra-cost option.

Comfort Shelter

Shelter from sun, wind and wet weather was complete inside the helm area, and yet a pair of hatches in the hardtop roof, a single large hatch in the cabin roof and large sliding side windows allowed ample air-flow through the seating area to prevent it becoming an oven on a summer day.

Inside the helm area the seating featured twin armchair-style bucket seats perched atop stowage lockers. These run aft into the cockpit with upholstery on their access hatches that became aft-facing seats. All seats were provided with sturdy foot rests and there were substantial grab bars for passengers across the cabin bulkhead, above the seats underneath the hardtop and alongside the port seat. Even though each side of the hardtop roof had sturdy grab rails to secure people going forward, a massive Muir power anchor winch meant there’d be no need to go forward too often.

Helm ergonomics benefit from a high-mounted wheel set at a comfortable angle, with a shelf beside the helm seat for the outboard’s control binnacle.

Custom Interior

Ken mainly fishes for reef fish, so his choice of layout differs a little here and there to how bluewater anglers might choose to set up their own boats. For example, most of us would not choose the massive workbench fixed solidly in place on the aft bulkhead. You might also want to look at other arrangements for rod holders more conducive to trolling.

Even in a boat largely configured for reef fishing the fundamentals for an excellent bluewater fishing boat are in place. The cockpit has the always-necessary leg support around its periphery, made even more comfortable with bolsters along each side. The side pockets don’t protrude into your shins and there’s nothing on the deck to trip you or stub your toes against.

The deck is carried high enough to be fully self-draining, and there was an easy-to-clean fishpit below decks near the transom bulkhead that sensibly can be drained overboard.

Other standard items fitted by Watson’s Marine that don’t stand out in our photo spread include three watertight compartments below decks, carpet on the deck and beneath the hardtop, hydraulic steering, dual batteries and a custom Belco trailer built to Watson’s Marine specifications.

I haven’t spent a lot of time describing the Vindicator’s interior, because as I said in the beginning, the manufacturers consider the interior a blank slate for buyers to specify. However, as this boat stood, I for one would only change a few of the details Ken specified to suit his own fishing style, and it would then rate as an excellent bluewater fishing machine.

Given the outstanding workmanship evident throughout the Vindicator 720 and the flexibility of choice inside, there’s lots of compelling reasons to look at buying your next 7.2-metre bluewater fishing boat from Watson’s Marine Centre in Gympie.

Highlights

  • Excellent finish and high standard of workmanship throughout.
  • Remarkably quiet on the water.
  • Fuel efficient performance of Yamaha F300.
  • Beautifully integrated hardtop.

Capacities

  • Maximum Rated Power: 300hp
  • Maximum Engine Weight: Twin installations available
  • People: 7 (smooth water)
  • Fuel: 350 litres standard

General

  • Material: Plate aluminium, 5mm bottom, 4mm sides and deck
  • Hull Type: 7.2-metre half cabin plus hardtop monohull
  • LOA: 7.7 metres
  • Beam: 2.5 metres
  • Deadrise: 19 degrees (at transom)
  • Weight: 1500kg (hull only)
  • BMT Towing Weight: can generally be towed by vehicles rated to 3000kg

Engines

  • Make/model: Yamaha F300
  • Type: 24 valve DOHC V6 4-stroke
  • Rated hp: 300hp
  • Displacement: 4169cc
  • No. Cylinders: 6
  • Weight: 259kg
  • Gearbox ratio: 1.75:1
  • Propeller: 17-inch pitch Yamaha s/s

SPECIFICATIONS: Vindicator 720
Options fitted: Yamaha F300, Muir power anchor-winch, extra fuel tankage, transom workbench, Furuno FCV 585 sounder, Lowrance HDS 10 package, protective skirt for trailering, deckwash, two-tone paintwork, transom door and telescopic boarding ladder. 

Vindicator 720 Boat Test

Boat Test Vindicator 720: THE SMOOTH TOUGHIE
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe
Supplied by: Watson’s Marine  

This boat test ran in ISSUE 90 of BlueWater magazine – MARCH-APRIL 2012

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