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POWER-PLAY AT SEA
Tested by Erwin Bursik
STANDING regally in her royal-blue livery at the recent National Boat Show in Johannesburg, the Magnum 23 Power Catamaran in her forward console configuration was a hugely impressive sight.
I like these boat shows because they give me an opportunity to inspect a number of craft in detail while they’re in full display condition, and not just parked off on a trailer in some boatyard or floating at moorings.
The big 23-foot forward console craft got more than her fair share of attention from me for two primary reasons. Firstly, it was the first time I had seen the forward console version, having reviewed the centre console Magnum 23 during 2004. Secondly, she was presented as a dedicated big game fishing rig ready to target the biggest marlin and/or yellowfin tuna we hunt off the South African coastline.
Mark Delaney has, over the last number of years, had personal experience fishing for billfish. In the process he has had discussions with a number of leading billfishermen about what this fraternity demands from a craft when targeting big fish. Using that knowledge — and with father Rod’s assistance — he designed a forward console top deck that would encompass as much as could be built into a 23ft craft. The end product is the Magnum 23 Forward Console Power Catamaran that was on display at the boat show and which Mark subsequently asked me to review in her home waters off Hout Bay.
There are a number of 23ft ski-boats on the market, but a few of these craft are in a class of their own. They seem much bigger and are still relatively easy to tow but with superior characteristics at sea. The Magnum 23FC is definitely one of these.
When I arrived at Hout Bay the conditions couldn’t have been better for a boat review. It was a bright, cloudless day with a strong southeaster pushing in past the Chapman’s Peak headland at between 20 and 25 knots. This created a very short, choppy sea, whilst the bay area within the protection of the two mountain headlands remained almost lake-like. They’re the sort of conditions that excite me in that I can push the craft under review to her limits, yet be able to run for cover out of the rough stuff and relax while enjoying the feel of riding a great boat under smooth conditions.
As I watched Mark put the Magnum 23FC through her paces for the camera, I thought back to the review I did on the Magnum 23 Centre Console to see if I could spot any tangible difference in the ride of the two craft. Although both boats were powered by Yamaha 115hp engines, both experienced fairly rough water and the same strength wind, I expected there to be a fairly substantial difference in the way the two identical hulls rode the sea due to the structural weight being moved from amidships to up forward.
Surprise, surprise! Both from memory and subsequent viewing the two sets of photographs, the above-deck design of the craft did not have as much of an effect on the attack stance of this craft as I had anticipated. This fact was again underscored when I got behind the wheel of the Magnum 23FC and tried many different trim positions in an attempt to disrupt her magnificent hull-over-water ride, but could not get her to misbehave.
When designing the craft, her dimensions were set to fall within the legal requirements laid down by the road traffic ordinances so that she could be trailered behind one of the larger SUVs on the market these days. In addition, this craft will fit into a standard 40ft container for export overseas by ship.
Some may say she is slightly narrower of beam than one would expect for a craft of this size, but her maximum width of 2.3 metres has no adverse effect on her overall ride and performance. I know, because I tried my level best to disprove this, yet failed. She rode like a dream.
Mark had selected twin Yamaha four-stroke motors for this craft and had fitted four-blade stainless-steel props. This combination worked exceedingly well, providing great low-down torque, fast out of the hole performance and a relaxed cruising speed of 20/21 knots at 4 000rpm.
During simulated surf work when I was playing in the really rough stuff, I could not get the motors to cavitate at all. I was able to control my power demand not only very quickly, but also smoothly and effortlessly via the binnacle mounted control levers. Yes, I did open her right up in the flat water and clocked close to 33 knots, more than fast enough for any ocean going craft.
Standing at the Magnum 23FC’s helm and supporting myself on the well-upholstered bum seats that are quickly becoming the in-thing on the bigger ski-boats, I set my sights on the Slangkop Lighthouse and began supplying the twin Yammies with more and more fuel. At that stage we were still within the protection of the Sentinels guarding Hout Bay and in relatively flat water, but not 500m ahead of us was a line of white horses galloping from port to starboard as far as the eye could see.
After hopping onto an early plane, the GPS’s SOG was steadily rising — 14, 16, 18 then 20 knots while I was playing with the motor trims to establish just how much trim adjustment this craft liked — when all of a sudden we hit the rough stuff. Not to be put off by the gusting wind hitting us squarely on the beam, I settled at 23 knots, firmly focused on my course to Slangkop Lighthouse.
It was a test of note as the Magnum 23 squared up her shoulders and held her stance as we literally flew over this lousy sea surface. This hull loved the challenge and I revelled in the experience as I was not being pounded to death nor soaked to the skin. The spray was flying far and fortunately very well aft, and she never once took water over her bows.
It was, however, the softness of her ride that became a challenge to me. I remembered noting this aspect of her performance when I tested the Magnum 23 Centre Console, and I was determined to see just how hard I could drive her before I started to get sore. I never achieved it. Even after facing her directly into the sea and retaining an SOG of over 20 knots, she still provided a very comfortable ride. She almost seemed to float over the short, very sharp, windswept white water — and I remained impressed.
I wasn’t ready to give up yet, though, and I swung her round 180 degrees and again increased speed, running the reciprocal course.
With the wind directly on the stern and the bow marginally trimmed up, we cruised downwind in maximum comfort at over 20 knots. As with all cats in following seas, the unpredictable sea patterns often support one sponson while undercutting the other, causing a sudden kick on the helm if not the entire craft. During this run on the Magnum 23FC, I trimmed the starboard motor out a tad to support the port sponson which was the one likely to be affected. Then I took my hands off the steering and let her have her head. One word — perfect! We ran like this for quite a few kilometres with only the occasional feel that the aft section of the craft’s hull was fighting the sea to hold her overall stability.
This particular trait, which I find very difficult to explain, I experienced quite often under varying sea conditions. It seemed as if the aft quarter of the planing surface of the sponsons had a mind of its own and could preempt her fine entry bows’ misbehaviour and get in first to prevent it.
Out in the deep I decided to risk getting wet and put her through some very tight turns, fast takeoffs, etc., just like she would be required to perform when being put through the surf at Sodwana or any other surf launch. She handled it beautifully, answering my every request and gave me the feeling that she could take on even the biggest surf. Throughout this I only managed to get her to puff one blast of spray that lightly sprinkled my right shoulder.
Even though the sea was over the borderline of what I would call “fishable”, I put her through a full range of trolling speeds, from one motor just in gear to trolling at seven or eight knots for marlin. The wind was just too strong for the very low speeds, unless we were trolling with the sea, but the rest of the time, during big figure-of-eight patterns, she performed excellently and held course well. Again she proved to be very dry.
Mark told me that full clears are available for the Magnum 23 Forward Console, and even though we didn’t get wet I would still install them if it was my boat. To me clears have a lot more advantages than disadvantages.
The final aspect of her performance test was to run a fair bit of the return journey back to flat water using just one motor. Whilst she did get onto the plane using her port motor and dragging the starboard motor at about 13 knots, I got much better results when I lifted the stationary motor. With the full beam sea we held 15-16 knots without having to fully open the running motor’s throttle.
During the formulation of the forward console design — and bearing in mind the desire for a large, open working deck — Mark and Rod had to tread the very fine line between providing a very luxurious helmstation area, while still making her a working boat. The Magnum 23FC has melded both objectives surprisingly well, for not only is she a lovely looking craft with elegant lines and a comfortable, well laid-out helmstation, but she also has an aft fish deck to die for.
The test boat sported a top-of-the-range heavy-duty fighting chair which was fitted in such a position that even with its footrest’s extended to the maximum, the crew would still be able to work the deck with ease. The chair can be turned to allow the angler a full range of movement when fighting a big fish.
Furthermore, taking into account the modern trend of leadering big billfish prior to release and the move to reduce gunnel height on dedicated sportfishers to make this more practical, this thinking has been incorporated into the Magnum 23FC. A quick check is to lean over the gunnel and try to touch the water. One should just be able to touch the water’s surface with one’s fingertips. A gunnel height of between 600 and 650mm is becoming the norm, and the Magnum 23FC fits ideally into this category.
The transom area on this craft incorporates a transom gate and has space to fit Luna tubes and a livebait well, should they be required.
During backing up trials I tested the removable transom door to see how much water it would allow onto the aft deck, and it held back most of the water pushing up against the transom.
The aft two hatches on the deck can either be used as stowage or for fish, with each having its own electric drain pump to make cleaning easy whilst the craft is at moorings.
Two Oceans Marine have a reputation for building sturdy, well-designed and beautifully-finished craft, and the Magnum 23FC, the baby of this factory’s fleet, continues to stand true to her lineage. Mark, in presenting this craft to me, gave this “small craft” as much attention to detail as he did to the magnificent Cloud 9, a Magnum 36 I reviewed in the November/December 2010 issue of SKI-BOAT.
In the conclusion to my test of the Magnum 23 Centre Console in 2004, I said: “The Magnum 23 is a craft for all seasons. For fishing — be it for tuna, billfish or light tackle gamefishing — she’s a craft that will meet a wide range of demands. As a leisure boat she has the looks, the comfort, the stability and the performance that will satisfy even the most demanding playboys.”
After testing the Magnum 23 Forward Console I have no reason to change that opinion. •