A few issues back we ran a feature on a Makocraft adventure trip to Wathumba creek, located on the inside of Fraser Island.
That trip saw four of the latest Makocraft being comprehensively tested (or punished, if you prefer), in some of the harshest test conditions I’ve ever dealt with.
The tricked-up 630 Island Cabs went to print first, and in this issue, we take a look at the smaller Makocraft 521 HD SUV (Sports Utility Vessel) centre consoles and examine how they fared in truly foul conditions.
If you’re heading to Hervey Bay and Wathumba creek yourself, here are a few tips: try your best to nail decent weather; ensure you have decent tides to access Wathumba Creek throughout the day; pack enough fuel, food, drinks and first-aid gear; and, of course, ensure you’ve booked your camping stay with Queensland National Parks.
Wathumba Creek is 26nm (48km) from Urangan harbour in Hervey Bay and has no amenities, so ensure your crew is up for saltwater rinses and digging your own long-drop toilet.
Regardless of the lack of amenities, Wathumba creek remains a stunning Fraser Island location and is close to some quality fishing.
Fishos can expect to find Longtail Tuna, Spotted and School Mackerel, trevally, Spaniards, and juvenile Black Marlin.
It’s well worth chucking onto the bucket list leading into the summer months.
Another handy hint before taking on the adventure is to ensure your trailer is reverse parked up against a pavement with a lock of sorts — there are a few naughty locals with itchy fingers that occasionally love a midnight shopping spree.
Next, ensure you have decent maps on your GPS as there’s a few shallow reef and sand bank areas on the first part of the crossing to Moon Point.
From there on it’s a nice run up along the north-west inside edge of Fraser.
As mentioned, our test of the 521 SUVs was more like total abuse of all the boats involved, but they both earned a big tick of approval.
At a glance, they are quite sporty-looking and fit well into the modern age of centre consoles hitting the market.
Like most centre consoles in the 5m range, the 521 SUV sports a clean, simple, and open layout, with numerous options available to trick it up.
We had two versions for the weekend, the standard centre console, with numerous upgrades to suit the owner, and the Black Ops version, loaded with specific package upgrades and colour coded to boot, in addition to a swag of extra options to suit that owner.
SIMPLE AND SPACIOUS
In terms of layout, the 521 SUVs boast high gunwales with wide side coamings and welded grab-rails.
There are side-pockets built into the gunwales for storage, and the carpeted ply decks give the boat a nicely finished look.
The open section between the console and bow gives 360-degrees of fishability, and a tread-plate platform serves as a small raised cast deck for those with good balance.
Finally, there’s a decent-sized open anchorwell with full rails.
Both boats had the optional T-top, with the Black Ops being powdercoated in black, and I must say it really looks good.
Now it is a fair sized T-top, relative to the console size, but I didn’t mind, as it allowed for gear to be locked or tied into the front section between the legs — a medium-sized cooler would also fit in the space.
AT THE HELM
The console itself is compact, with enough surface area to house gauges, switch panels and a decent sized GPS-sounder, either flush or bracket mounted.
Interestingly, the Black Ops boat had the new slimline Merc control box, while the standard hull (silver) also had the standard control box — both side mounted.
However, they were mounted in different positions and personally, I preferred the standard box positioned lower and closer to the wheel.
Both boats had non-feedback cable steering installed and yes, it saves a bit of coin, but I would always opt for hydraulic when running 75hp outboards and above. Seating includes a single position at the helm, an extra base mount in the bow, and dual stern seats.
As a small family boat this seating plan is smart, but for the dedicated fishos, I would look at a simple leaning post at the helm, or maybe a dual seat to leave the stern and bow completely open.
In the stern I appreciated the full transom option as it comes level to the gunwale tops.
The centred well is narrow and allows access to both port and starboard sides of the motor, and that’s handy when fishing off the stern.
Below the engine well is a small recessed hatch built into the deck for battery stowage.
This works fine, however, I would prefer my battery to be mounted below the console.
Again, the layout is clean and spacious throughout and for our purposes, worked really well considering the amount of extra gear needed on the trip — swags, large Eskys stocked with ice and sundowner beverages, food boxes, deck chairs, heaps of fishing tackle, the list was endless.
Like most aluminium boats, you can chop and change to suit your preferences when it comes to layouts and Makocraft are very accommodating when it comes to customisation.
BATTERED AND ABUSED
I’m just going to say this again: when it comes to boat tests, this was without doubt the most brutal I’ve ever been involved in.
Northerly and north-west winds hammered us at constant speeds between 18 and 30 knots.
We did find a bit of protection between Rooney’s Point and Wathumba hard up against the beach in a straight northerly, but at gusts of 25-plus it’s still extremely unpleasant.
On the inside of Fraser, this is the devil’s wind for me. As well as creating 1–2m washing machine slop, it also turned the fish into lockjaw mode.
The crews on all boats did their best to fish the mornings before the wind chased everyone back into the creek by midday, and a few small tuna, Spotted Mackerel, and one juvenile Black Marlin were landed.
On the water these little SUV weapons competed with the bigger 630 island cabs and at times, I certainly envied the boys in the 630s sitting comfortably below their hardtops with nice big screens.
Stability on the 521 SUVs was surprisingly good at rest, considering the choppy conditions.
Underway, there was a bit of rocking and rolling going on when side-on to the swell and chop, but let’s not forget the weather was wild, and definitely not the kind of conditions anyone would choose to go boating in.
On the power side, we had our standard rig fitted with a 75hp Mercury four-stroke, while the Black Ops boat had the 90hp, and there wasn’t much difference between the two.
The 90 was a touch nippier on hole-shot, hitting 26 knots on the 75 versus 29 knots on the 90hp at wide open throttle.
I’m usually a big fan of maximum horsepower, however in this instance I could warrant the potential saving in price if you opted for the 75hp.
As for economy, both motors proved to run noticeably light on fuel, even at wide open throttle.
At 18–20 knots, you sip away at a mere 12–14L/h. With a 60L underfloor tank you would get good mileage, however, on a trip like this you will need to carry extra jerry cans.
A 90L underfloor tank is available as an option and I would definitely consider it if the budget allowed.
In terms of ride, well, just think about those conditions — man, it was torrid!
These boats were bashed repeatedly into wind, chop and swell, and while there were grunts and groans heard onboard from the odd bang, overall the ride was not back breaking and not too wet, either. They were put through their paces and stood up proudly.
So where does the Makocraft 521 HD SUV fit into the market? At just over 5.2m and weighing in at well under 1.5 tonnes, they’re an easy towing prospect and also an easy-to-handle centre console.
These boats are well built, nicely presented and arrive with a wealth of options to trick them up.
Pricing starts at around $27K for the standard tiller-steer for those on a tighter budget, while the fully-optioned centre consoles sit between $43–49K.
Whether you’re chasing family boating, dedicated fishing, or both, the 521 SUV is well suited to each purpose and worth a look at if an aluminium centre console is on your radar.
For those seeking something a bit fancier, more heavy-duty and in fully welded plate alloy, take a look at Makocraft’s 530 Canyon Console.
Another $10-15K gets you into this slightly larger and wider plate boat with quality fishing features to suit.
In the end, we all survived our tough boat test. We caught a few fish, sank a few sundowners, and still had a good time, regardless of being belted by the weather — lessons learned all around, as they say.
Next time, the weather will be better, the tides better suited for Wathumba Creek access, and of course, the fishing will be out of control.
FACTS & FIGURES
PRICE AS TESTED
521 HD SUV (silver boat) $43,500
521 HD SUV (Black Ops) $49,500
521 HD SUV (silver boat): Centre console and steering, full-height motor well, portside transom step, bowrail with roller, side rails, anchor well, 60L underfloor fuel tank, underfloor storage, electric kit, nav and anchor lights, bilge pump, switch panel, four rod holders, Garmin Echo Map UHD 65CV, Garmin VHF, Fusion stereo and speakers, anodised T-top and clears, Dunbier Sports Centreline trailer.
521 HD SUV (Black Ops boat) additions over the list above: side pockets, black powder-coated T-top, Black Ops Edition package (black paint, Black Ops logos, full-length blue LED under-gunwale cockpit lights, four HD alloy rod holders), Dunbier trailer upgraded to Loader Pro tandem axle with alloy wheel upgrade.
$27,000 (plus on-water costs)
(Open tiller-steer with no options, Dunbier Trailer with brakes, 60hp Mercury four- stroke.)
TYPE Centre Console
MATERIAL Plate/pressed aluminium
LENGTH 5.25m (LOA)
WEIGHT 510kg (hull only)
DEADRISE Variable (28° at bow and 12° at transom)
REC. HP 75
MAX. HP 90
FUEL 60L (90L option)
MAKE/MODEL Mercury 75hp ELPT/Mercury 90hp ELPT
TYPE Four-stroke EFI
GEAR RATIO 2.07:11
PROPELLER Stainless Vengeance 12P on 75hp (13P on 90hp)
MANUFACTURED AND SUPPLIED BY
6/7 Activity Crescent
Molendinar QLD 4214
PHONE 0432 782 853