The Snubby Boat Files: Part 1

In this first installment of my ongoing blog series about our Beastmaster Snubby 500, I look at the decision-making process that went into our selection of this bespoke, custom-built boat:

The brand-spanking new Beastmaster Snubby 500 in all her gleaming glory on pick-up day.

The brand-spanking new Beastmaster Snubby 500 in all her gleaming glory on pick-up day from the builder.

Choosing a boat is always a massive decision. Like most keen anglers who’ve been pursuing their passion for a considerable period of time, I’ve owned a bunch of different vessels. I kicked off with a second-hand fibreglass canoe in my teens, went on to a car-topper aluminium punt, then a Webster Twinfisher alloy cat.

The author and Jo fishing from Starlo's 4.1 m Cross Country.

The author and Jo fishing from Starlo’s 4.1 m tiller-steer Cross Country with its F40 Yammy.

That brings us through to an era when I first met shipwright and boat builder, Tyson Dethridge, and fell head over heels for his customised Full Boar fibreglass sportfishers, running first a 5 metre version, then a 5.5. Next, I spent a year or two in a fully imported Scout flats boat from the U.S. That was followed by a neat little 4.1 metre tiller-steer Cross Country (again built by Tyson) before I graduated into one of his larger, centre-console 4.75 metre Cross Country rigs.

This 4.75 Cross Country was a much-loved part of the Starling family for well over 6 years.

This 4.75 Cross Country was a much-loved part of the Starling family for well over 6 years.

That 4.75 Cross Country (called “Evil Minnow” after one of the deadliest Squidgies soft plastic colours) was part of our family for well over six years, and we absolutely loved it. I’d have to say it was my favourite boat up until that point. With its light-but-strong foam-core sandwich fibreglass construction and powered by a class-leading F70A Yamaha 4-stroke motor, this was quite a radical craft, especially in Darwin, where we lived at the time. I reckon it opened a few alloy-blinkered Top End eyes to the validity and surprising durability of good glass.

Our 4.75 Cross Country was the prototype of that hull and it had a few “rough edges” internally, but it served us exceptionally well. We dragged it over some bloody awful Top End tracks, launched and recovered it from the slippery mud banks of billabongs, took it much further offshore than we probably should have, had white-knuckled crocodile and shark encounters and generally smashed and bashed it from pillar to post and back again. It withstood everything we threw at it.

The Top End is tough on boats, but couldn't break the Cross Country!

The Top End is tough on boats, but it couldn’t break the Cross Country!

During this period, ownership of Cross Country changed, shifting to Enlightened Boating, whose boat building background and real strength lay in the manufacture of a superb range of  lightweight car-toppers. They did a wonderful job of refining the existing Cross Country hulls and topsides in both trailer and car-top configurations, but over time they eventually decided that they would discontinue the 4.75, focusing instead on the development of their very impressive lap-strake (clinker-style) 4.5 Island Hopper, which is now on the market. (You can watch a great video about this innovative boat here.)

Jo and I thought very seriously about transitioning to one of Enlightened’s 4.5 Island Hoppers, but eventually we decided we needed just a little more boat, so that we could slightly extend our number of offshore days.

Thus began the “shopping around” process, and I can tell you, it has taken a couple of years! Interestingly, one August at the Sydney International Boat Show, I scoured every corner of every hall from one end of that vast expo to the other, and only found a SINGLE Aussie-built boat I would’ve been completely happy to own: a Haines Signature 485SF. There were some lovely imported bay and flats boats (I’ve long lusted after a Hewes Redfisher 18) but they were ultra expensive, and I also really wanted to support our struggling local boat industry if at all possible.

For a long time it looked like I’d go with the excellent Haines Signature, but then I was lucky enough to have a run in fishing guide Mark “Bargy” Bargenquast’s Snubby 500, built by one-man-show Hervey Bay boat builder, Robbie Ferguson of Beastmaster Boats. To say I was impressed by Bargy’s boat would be something of an understatement.

I was deeply impressed with Bargy's centre console Beastmaster Snubby 500...

I was deeply impressed with Bargy’s centre console Beastmaster Snubby 500…

Interestingly, I wasn’t the only one to be impressed by these boats. Within months of each other, my friends Brett Wilson and Scott Amon (publisher of FishLife magazine) both ordered Snubby boats from Robbie. Brett went for a tricked up little tiller-steer 440 intended very specifically for fly fishing, while Scott opted for a centre console flats/bay boat version.

Brett Wilson's sweet little Snubby 440 fly fisher.

Brett Wilson’s sweet little Snubby 440 fly fisher.

I really liked aspects of both boats, but Jo and I figured our next “dream boat” might fit somewhere midway between the two in terms of final layout and design. In the end, after much discussion and thought, we opted to go for a tiller-steer Snubby 500 powered by an F70A Yamaha 4-stroke outboard. Our order was placed and the wait began… It was like being expectant parents all over again!

Scott Amon's centre-console Snubby 500 is a machine.

Scott Amon’s centre-console Snubby 500 is a machine.

At the beginning of December, 2016, we took delivery of our brand-spanking new Beastmaster Snubby 500 from Robbie Ferguson. To say that it exceeded our expectations would be putting it mildly. Robbie is a true craftsman, and this shows through in every single aspect of the finished craft. The same is true of Pauly Jacobsen’s PJM Industries alloy trailers, which Pauly and Robbie collaborated on specifically to suit these Snubby Boats. They aren’t cheap, but they are exceptionally good!

By the way, just to dispel any doubts on the part of anyone reading this, I paid full retail for my Snubby Boat and PJM Trailer. The all up cost was around $35,000 (not including motors and electronics, of course). I regard this as excellent value for money. The downside is that both of these guys are small “cottage industry” builders with a backlog of work on their order books… If you want one of their gems, be prepared to wait for it!

Finally, take a moment to study the images below… and be sure to subscribe to this blogsite to follow my ongoing series about it! Whether you are interested in a similar rig, or simply looking for ideas on boat selection and set up, I hope this series will help you. Tight Lines!

See Part 2 of this blog here:

Here's a shot of ours (right) alongside Scott Amon's.

Here’s a shot of ours (right) alongside Scott Amon’s.

That SeaDek sure does set her off! The SeaDek colour is called Desert Camo.

That SeaDek sure does set her off!

For us, it's all about simplicity and useful space.

For us, it’s all about simplicity and useful space.

The end... for now! stay tuned for more soon...

The end… for now! stay tuned for more soon…