Trailcraft 5.3 Sportscab Review

Trailcraft 5.3 Sportscab


Issue: June 2002
Manufacturer: Trailcraft 

Trailcraft’s latest 5.3m Sportscab is far more than the simple fishing boat most plate-aluminium vessels tend to be. Yes, the Sportscab is a fully functional fishing machine, but it’s also a top family boat, especially for parents with a couple kids.

The reality is that these days a boat has to be truly versatile to be a competitive alternative in today’s finicky marketplace. So on closer inspection – taking into consideration functionality instead of purely the slinky looks of some of the 5.3’s competitors – you see just how interesting Trailcraft’s 5.3 Sportscab is. Exciting even.

There’s plenty of good looking half and cuddy cabs in this size range around, but few can hold a candle to this one as a fishing/family boat. The Sportscab blends the two tasks perfectly. But it’s hard to single out a solitary thing about the boat that can be described as exciting. It takes the whole package to achieve that.

Out on the water, this is a moderate-deadrise (vee) hull encompassing everything that’s good – and not so good – about this style of aluminium hulls. Being a so-called plate boat, the amount of extra weight compared to pressed aluminium hulls is substantial, somewhere in the order of 100kg. There’s little doubt this extra weight improves this boat’s rough water ride characteristics. But it doesn’t alter the fact that anyone who tries to describe any moderate-vee aluminium hull as soft riding is handling the truth lightly. Even so, this 5.3m plate aluminium boat doesn’t ride too badly. Whether offshore, or out on big bays like the open northern end of Brisbane’s Moreton Bay, where we tested this boat. Provided that the boat is driven with commonsense and within its comfort limits.

It seems this relatively new brand from Western Australia – to we east coast Aussies that is – presents us with not just this one, but a whole range of boats with a similar philosophy. In the look’s department it doesn’t matter from what angle you view the bulging lines of the Sportscab, it just isn’t cool. But once onboard the cuddy cabin’s unsightly curve makes sense, because it increases headroom.

Inside the cuddy is the usual arrangement of storage bins with padded lids the kids would call bunks. Our test boat has neatly textured vinyl covering these, which the Modern Boating team thought looked great. The fabric goes a long way towards brightening up a boat that otherwise leans towards being somewhat spartan.

In front of the cuddy cabin is a big hatch to access the pointy end for anchoring. Again, the set up is pretty much the norm with a short bowsprit, split bowrail and a large anchor well set into the foredeck. The hatch is big enough to allow safe anchoring from within the cabin, but it also lets in enough light to brighten the cabin. This is a fairly common set up these days, although few boats can claim to have executed it as well.

In this plain no-frills boat, Trailcraft have incorporated a surprising amount of storage. The swiveling armchair-style helm and passenger seats sit atop lockers accessed through watertight hatches. There are also side pockets under the gunwales that don’t get in the way, but still provide usable space.

But then we come to the rear lounge. In an otherwise well thought out and exceptionally well delivered boat, this sits centrally against the inside of the transom. The lounge puts me in two minds and the fishing one wins out. Get rid of it.

There’s more storage inside this lounge unit and it’s the perfect place to hide the battery and oil bottle. But while the aft lounge’s usefulness as seating in a family boating situation is unquestioned, free movement across the transom is a basic prerequisite of a fishing boat.

The aft lounge is an extra in this boat, but it turns her into a day cruiser. In the helm and passenger area two Reelax seats are set high enough to make the foot rests set beneath them essential – as is the grab rail above the cabin opening.

At 170 cm I find the seating and helm ergonomics a bit too much of a stretch and would have to do a few adjustments if this were my boat. But the taller members of the team have no such problems. The screen height isn’t bad although the folding canopy fitted to the test boat needs the centre section zipped open for clear vision when standing.

Most people who buy a Trailcraft Sportscab will fit a canopy like this as a matter of course. The canopy adds to passenger comfort without virtually any negative impact.

Aft, the engine well has been reduced to a shadow of the monstrosities of yesteryear, because the transom slopes down to the motor mount. We particularly liked the way the port side transom door works in so neatly with the standard folding swim ladder.

Maybe it’s our Moreton Bay lifestyle, but around here we like to be able to anchor bow and stern off a favourite beach. Being able to step through a door rather than having to clamber dangerously over the boat’s high transom is a definite asset. Also, having a fully self-draining deck is unusual in boats of this class. The Trailcraft carries its deck extremely high, high enough to make it really self-draining through sensibly sized scuppers. This is also achieved with no ill effects on static stability.

With a 120lt fuel tank under the floor, offshore fishing and general tripping around spacious water like northern Moreton Bay are both well within this boat’s capabilities.

The additional safety margin offered by its self-draining abilities is matched by few in its class, very few in fact. All in all that word “function” keeps rearing its head. Looks you can get used to, it’s how well a boat does its job – in this case both of them – that really counts.

The approximate price of the test boat was $31,800 including accessories, but costs will differ from place to place due to variations in freight and on water costs. 

Engine Room
Our test boat was fitted out by Brisbane Trailcraft dealers Cunningham Marine and was powered by a 90hp four-stroke Mercury. This is a new brand for the dealership and they have been experimenting with engine set ups. They raised the motor a notch to see if it would further improve performance.

Suffice to say the boat headed straight back to the workshop to drop the engine back down again following the test. Lack of propeller bite aside, the motor otherwise felt good.

The recommended horsepower rating is from 75hp up to a maximum 115hp. A 90hp sits between these and my gut feeling leans towards the 90hp as practical for average fishing/family situations. A 115hp would be spirited.

Fitted with a Quicksilver 14″ Vengeance propeller the minimum planing speed was 8.5 knots at 2300rpm, while the boat cruised comfortably at 22.3 knots pulling 3500rpm. Top speed was 35.2 knots at 5300rpm.

Story by Warren Steptoe