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Watermarque 41 SmartBill Boat Test

Bristling with the latest in technology, SmartBillis Sydney gamefisherman Sam Ayad’s fully customised Watermarque 41. As John Ford discovered, this high-tech fishing weapon is not your average gameboat.

Watermarque 41 SmartBill Boat Test

Boat Test Watermarque 41 SmartBill: SMARTBILL MAKES ITS MARQUE
Author and photography: John Ford

This boat test ran in ISSUE 106 of BlueWater magazine – NOV-DEC 2014

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

When I met Sam Ayad the sun was just easing over the horizon, with weather conditions forecast near perfect for a day out wide chasing gamefish. The plan was to have a look over the boat and take some photographs before heading eastward where blue marlin and yellowfin tuna were almost jumping into boats the previous day. Anticipation was high as we headed out across Sydney’s Botany Bay while Sam outlined the history of his boat.

Having spent eight seasons aboard the 36-foot Dominator, T-Star, Sam was certainly no novice to gamefishing. When he spotted the Watermarque 41 for sale in Queensland he was immediately attracted to the solid build and design pedigree of the hull. Virtually brand new, the boat also presented a blank canvas for him to upgrade with the latest electronics. Sam’s software company, which manages the billing for large corporations, has also lent its name to the transom, and so SmartBill became both the name of his business and his new gameboat project.

Flair For Design

The design of the Watermarque 41 was overseen by Lee Clough, of Australia’s Black Watch fame, after a Japanese company enlisted his skills to draw up a new vessel for the world stage. While the Queensland naval architect’s designs had already been incorporated in the popular Black Watch gameboats, the Watermarque’s features hint at other influences like Hatteras and Luhrs. Italy’s Ferrari design team are also said to have had an input in the topsides. Plans were finalised and moulds were crafted, with a Chinese yard commissioned to begin production. Unfortunately, after only three hulls were completed the global economic crisis hit and the business went into receivership. It is thought the moulds are in Japan awaiting more prosperous times. Of the three completed boats, one is rumoured to have gone to Europe and the other two, including Sam’s boat, are in Australia.

The pronounced Carolina flare and the minimalist look of the long foredeck accentuate the racy lines of the flybridge for a hull profile that impresses as a full-blooded fishing craft without compromise. This is enhanced by the high-riding bow when underway and sculptured dark windows along the sides. While the boat’s sea handling proved to be everything Sam expected, he decided to tweak some of the features on board, with the bill for upgrades and electronics approaching $300,000 at last count.

Fishing - Functional

The boat’s layout follows traditional lines, with a large cockpit, open design saloon, a twin cabin layout and a single head. Occasional berths in the saloon and another in the flybridge can augment the three berths in the bow cabin and a double to starboard. There’s generous room in the well-ventilated head for a vanity, a full-size shower with a door to keep things dry and an electric flush toilet connected to a holding tank.

L-shaped lounges either side of the saloon entry have been reupholstered in cream leather and provide seating for up to 10 guests. To port, in the forward section of the saloon, is a step-down galley with overhead storage and a U-shaped bench. Other features include a stainless-steel sink, twin-burner, electric cooktop/oven, 80L fridge and a microwave. While the galley’s location in the front corner may not offer the cook much opportunity for social interaction, it does leave uninterrupted access back to the cockpit for those relaxing in front of the 91cm TV when the reels start screaming.

Space under the lounges and along the saloon ceiling has been converted to a rod storage area for up to five outfits in line classes from 8 to 37kg. Upgrades to the cockpit include a new teak deck that has been raised to create four self-draining sumps that empty the cockpit super quickly. A 240L fridge/freezer has been added either side of the saloon door and a set of tackle drawers just inside the saloon mean crew are not crossing the carpet with wet feet in search of gear.

A large livebait tank added to the centre of the transom has a viewing window and light. Although Sam hasn’t measured its capacity, he says it can comfortably hold in excess of 40 slimy mackerel. Saltwater is pumped to the tank through a pair of slimy tubes fitted into the deck either side of the tank.

For both lure and livebait fishing, SmartBill runs a five-rod spread using a pair of Reelax outriggers and centre-rigger. There’s also a Reelax chair in the middle of the cockpit for heavy-tackle fishing.

Battle Control

To allow for better speed and control when backing-down on fish, fuel from the rear 1000L tank can be pumped quickly to a 500L tank up front, which helps to lift the stern and improve speed and handling. Sam says that because he likes to run his engines on the rich side to get better low-down response, they tend to blow a lot of black smoke during a chase, earning his boat the nickname ‘Charcoal Chicken Shop’among tournament competitors.

During testing, without moving the ballast, we saw 8kt in reverse with no water coming over the transom, but the crew claim up to 12kt is reached at times. To cope with any water that does manage to spill into the bilge, the 3800gph bilge pump can be assisted by reversing the 7000gph mechanical clutch pump.

Access to the engine bay is through a hatch in the cockpit floor and it was no surprise to find an immaculately clean area with plenty of room to service the twin 480 6LY3 Yanmar diesels. These in-line, six-cylinder engines have a good reputation for reliability and fuel efficiency and the engineroom blowers have also been upgraded to increase air flow.

Sharing space with the Yanmars is an 80Lt/h Schenker water maker and a 7kva Mase genset that gets little use according to Sam as the boat can run all day from three 200ah batteries connected to an 1800kW Xantrex inverter. A separate 100ah battery sits in the flybridge to power the radios in an emergency.

Forward of the engine bay, a sealed bulkhead has been glassed-in to improve safety, and if things go really bad there’s a six-man, valise-style life raft in the flybridge. I later realised this was the ideal storage location as going forward in a rough sea would be fraught with danger. It was bad enough carrying expensive camera gear to the bow in relatively calm conditions as there is a gap of about 1500mm between the cabin handrail and the low side rail to the bow.

A custom, stainless-steel and teak ladder runs above the large portside fridge for access to the flybridge, which has a teak floor and clears all round, under a moulded glass top.

Electronic Wizardry

The level of electronic assistance the crew have at their disposal is very impressive, although probably not surprising given Sam’s background in software development. It seems that anything available to assist fish finding and navigation is displayed across the dash and in the overhead console. A pair of Simrad NSE12 screens relays data from the GPS and a 28-210khz Airmar CHIRP transducer that can receive information to 10,000m, while a Furuno CH300 searchlight sonar scans the area ahead looking for schools of baitfish and likely targets.

The SmartBill team regularly spend time well wide of Sydney’s continental shelf drop-off and often stay out if the weather is conducive. To assist in navigation, Sam installed a Simrad remote control Autopilot, a 38km broadband radar and a FLIR infrared camera for night vision that also helps to detect temperature changes on the water. He says he chose Simrad because of its ease of use and configurability. SmartBill’s electronics system is integrated on a Simnet backbone and information can be relayed to the saloon television or tablets for viewing anywhere on the boat.

Catching Fish

While all this technology might be fun to play with, does it actually help to catch fish? To find out we headed to the shelf, momentarily setting the lures around some bait atthe 70 fathom line (spotted on the sounder while travelling at 24kt) and then hightailing it wider when we didn’t hook up.

We resumed trolling again near Browns Mountain, where some 60 boats were enjoying the autumn sunshine, although there wasn’t much fishy activity. As we trolled along the shelf edge and then into deeper water the Watermarque behaved perfectly, without any wallowing in the rising swell. Fuel consumption at trolling speed was a miserly 15Lt/h for both motors combined.

The run back gave us the opportunity to experience the boat at speed. Applying power through the twin throttles had us on the plane at a bit under 15kt and 2500rpm. From there the hull lifted clear of the water and quickly got us to a cruising speed of 23kt around 3000rpm for a fuel usage around 150Lt/ph from both engines combined.

The fine entry cut smoothly through the swell and the wide flare sent spray well clear of the boat, keeping things dry even at the rear of the cockpit. Handling was smooth and effortless and the ride soft enough to allow easy movement around the boat.

The impressive presentation and sophisticated electronics aboard SmartBill reflect the passion Sam and his family have for gamefishing. Shantelle, his 16-year-old daughter, has two Australian records while young sons Jerome and Aaron have club records and many trophies. As for Sam, he seemed happiest at the helm, steering his team to the fish with one eye always on the screens. As he told me on the way home – while he loves chasing the big fish in the corporate world during the week, he enjoys chasing the big fish of the ocean on his days off even more.

Highlights

  • Electronic wizardry
  • Great ride and performance
  • Dazzling looks

Capacities

  • People: 22
  • Fuel: 1500L
  • Water: 400L

General

  • Type: Monohull flybridge gameboat
  • Material: fibreglass
  • Length: 12.49m
  • Beam: 4.4m
  • Weight: 13,500kg dry

Engines

  • Make/model: Twin Yanmar 480 6LY3
  • Type: 6-cylinder 4-stroke, turbo diesel
  • Weight: 640kg
  • Displacement: 5813cc
  • Gearbox: ZF 65A
  • Gear ratio: 2.5:1
  • Propeller: 24 inches
Watermarque 41 SmartBill Boat Test

Boat Test Watermarque 41 SmartBill: SMARTBILL MAKES ITS MARQUE
Author and photography: John Ford

This boat test ran in ISSUE 106 of BlueWater magazine –  NOV-DEC 2014

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

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