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Boat Test - Two Oceans Marine 48 Sportfisher – (January/February 2013)
BIG & BEAUTIFUL — Two Oceans Marine 48 Sportfisher — tested by Erwin Bursik

IN the golden glow of twilight off Bazaruto Island, Big Bob came cruising in from the north at 20 knots. Rampant, magnificent and proud, her striking bow dispersed water far and wide aft as she arrived to raft up alongside Quo Vadis, her mothership.

Like an expectant father I had watched her from conception, witnessed her development, but unfortunately missed her birth as she was launched while I had “gone fishing”. So, finally, this was the Two Oceans Marine’s custom-built 48 Sportfisher — just the way I would have wanted to see her for the first time, in full flight and looking at her bow-on.

In the sphere of boating nothing stirs the emotions more than the sight of a big sportfisher planing towards one with her bow dominating and her raked-back riggers adding a racy look to the craft’s superstructure.

When she hove to, the smiles of those aboard added even more to the vista: a 500 lb black marlin had been released that afternoon by Big Bob’s proud owner.

I was privileged to be invited to experience a short trip aboard this craft so that I could pen the final chapter in the series, “From concept to completion”, the story of the Two Oceans 48 Sportfisher. What better place to do that than in the Bazaruto archipelago where we would hunt the big black marlin the area is well known for.

In addition, I was able to enjoy time aboard the Two Oceans 750 Power Cat mothership that I had also watched being built. The mothership concept that Mark Delany had put together for the owner, to enable him to hunt big fish in the Indian and Atlantic oceans off Southern Africa, is more than interesting. It’s nothing short of sheer luxury.

I will elaborate further in the next issue of SKI-BOAT both about Quo Vadis herself, as well as the concept of sportfishing with a mothership.

The launching of Two Oceans Marine’s 48 Sportfisher — Big Bob — brought to a climax just on 12 months of extremely hard work by all personnel at Two Oceans. It was also the end of any uncertainty in the minds of the boat’s new owner and Mark Delany, MD of the construction company: the design and plans created by a collaboration between an American and South African designer had given rise to a craft that would perform well in the harsh conditions around the African coastline, where she will spend a good deal of her time.

Looking on from the sidelines of the constantly evolving craft, even I had queries and thought up a number of “what ifs”, so I can only imagine what Mark and the new owner went through, until the throttles were opened for the first time after she was launched into Cape Town’s Table Bay. The fact that Big Bob has turned out to be everything required of her by two extremely fastidious men says a great deal about her designers and manufacturers.

Personally, I have immense admiration for the management and staff of Two Oceans Marine who took plans and computerised 3D images of Big Bob and constructed this magnificent craft within the minute tolerances allowed by the designers.

She looks great, but how does she perform? Speaking to those who skippered her from Cape Town to Bazaruto, they said she was “fantastic in the good, bad and ugly seas” they experienced during the delivery voyage. By the time I got to see and feel her, she had been fine-tuned to perfection and was thus a pleasure to be aboard for a day’s marlin fishing off Bazaruto Island.

Since the July/August 2011 issue of SKI-BOAT much has been written on what was required of this craft and how the stages of construction were progressing. However, to summarise, the craft was designed to be a dedicated “big marlin hunter”, with everything, including all the extras and finishings, directed with that sole purpose in mind. I was therefore a tad surprised at the niceties of her internal finishes, because Mark continually remarked to me during construction that the finishes would be basic as she is a fishing craft with no intention of her being used for cruising.

After seeing the practical and sturdy yet plush and very good-looking internal finishings, I questioned the new owner about it. He told me that the captain and crew have to spend weeks if not months aboard Big Bob while fishing remote destinations. Therefore, they need all the mod cons and a high degree of “creature comforts”.

They spend very little time aboard the mothership, apart from during cocktail hour and dinner, so no doubt they fully appreciate the facilities offered aboard Big Bob.

The Two Oceans 48 Sportfisher has the classical striking strong bow design of the big sea craft of the mid-eastern states of the US, a striking saloon/cabin-style and very practical covered flybridge. Her hull, with its sharp entry, flattens out aft to afford both high speed planing as well as lateral stability.

However, it’s the accentuated, recessed below-water chine line of her transom — to allow for fast backing up — which has always held my interest. It was wonderfully satisfying to see this design in action as she backed up at speed, both straight astern, as well as moving to follow a fish, while at all stages keeping the fish deck stable.

Big Bob’s owner opted for a flybridge helm station only. He has had her fitted out with a very impressive array of electronic instrumentation, including an underwater directional scanner to provide a 360° scan of the ocean, over and above the normal bottom scanner that we are all familiar with. The scanner head is lowered and raised through a port in the craft’s hull, allowing it to be used at speeds below 12 knots. At higher speeds the scanner is automatically raised up into the craft.

The helm and two throttle levers have been positioned to enable the captain to stand facing backwards, watching the water and fish, with his bum against the helm and holding an extended throttle/gear lever in each hand. Through fly-by-wire control they have an extended range of operation to allow the longer central levers a greater range of movement, both forwards and reverse, than any other dash-mounted electronic controls I have ever seen.

The captain’s view over the fish cockpit, both from a seated position and standing, is excellent. Big Bob’s captain, Jason Holtz, normally fishes out of Hawaii and is a legend in the area on his boat, Marlin Magic, and fully appreciated this aspect of the new craft. He was more than satisfied after experiencing a number of marlin fights during the time he has been skippering her.

Twin Cummins 620hp turbocharged diesel motors have been selected to power Big Bob and were obviously the right choice. She planed beautifully at 20 knots during our run out past the northern sandspit of Bazaruto Island and can achieve over 30 knots if required. These motors are state-of-the-art and a pleasure to feel, both during the long runs we did at 20 knots and the hour after hour we spent trolling lures at 6-8 knots.

At one stage the motors’ trolling valves were activated, thus reducing her SOW to about 2 knots for deadbait- and livebait trolling.

Two highly experienced deckies/wiremen worked Big Bob’s deck during the day I spent aboard her, Brian Toney, Jason’s deckie from Hawaii, and Dean Butler who traditionally fishes off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. What a pleasure to watch these guys work the deck and, as they both commented, “What a deck to work!”

Getting down to the basics of her layout, situated aft of the saloon bulkhead there’s a very practical bait/tackle workstation on the portside. It’s a great table height with all the tackle and bait rigging requirements conveniently at hand (right). Below this is a huge, very efficient freezer. On the starboard side there’s a brine chiller (above) that holds a couple of rigged baits — in our case a 5kg yellowfin and 2.5kg ’cuda. It also has a separate compartment which serves as a cooldrink/beer cooler.

As an aside, these brined baits skipped beautifully at speeds higher than I am used to towing skipbaits and lasted for about four hours before the ’cuda was ravaged by a wahoo. Thereafter it was home time, although the tuna was still holding together very well. Jason ran only four lures at a time on tag lines, but when using skipbaits reverted to two baits only run from the top outriggers with no tag.

An imported American fighting chair takes pride of place in the cockpit, and a seat harness is their choice for fighting big fish on 130 lb class tackle.

Another aspect that’s interesting is the latest thinking regarding gunnel and transom height surrounding the cockpit area. With the modern way of fishing, with anglers mainly releasing big fish as opposed to leadering and holding them on the gaff rope, the transom height has been lowered quite a lot. This makes it much easier for the deck crew to lean over the side to hold the bill and remove the hooks before reviving the fish and releasing it. The higher gunnels of older craft made this exercise a lot more difficult and dangerous.

The two washdown hoses to assist in keeping the fish deck clean are driven by a big bore 30m pipe activated from a pump on the port motor. One provides a large volume of saltwater at excellent pressure for the serious washdown, to rid the deck of any signs of blood and fish slime.

The other is a freshwater one with a trigger action spray nozzle for washing tackle and a final spray down of the boat before drinking time.

The internal layout of the saloon, cabin and heads has been designed around the captain and crew of this working boat. As a result the cabins, while spacious and well-appointed, only have single beds with no main stateroom. There is, however, a big and spacious head. The shower on Big Bob can accommodate a big man and still allow him to shower in comfort.

A reasonably-sized, very practical galley area with all the necessary equipment for onboard catering, if required, has been provided. This, together with the saloon seating-cum-lounging area, is designed for anglers to use. There’s none of the “knock three times” wash your hands, wipe your feet and make sure your clothes aren’t dirty before you are allowed past the saloon door into the “holy of holies”.

When I watched how this well polished crew washed, cleaned and prepared the craft for the next day’s fishing after rafting up against the mothership, I realised how different the task would be if Big Bob had not been designed to make her a practical boat for anglers to live and work in.

So we come to the conclusion of this significant episode in the history of offshore boating and angling in South Africa. The manufacture of a fully custom-designed sportfisher of this size, and the extent to which she has been fitted out and equipped, is a major, historical undertaking indeed.

We at SKI-BOAT magazine are honoured to have been offered the opportunity to record this development for posterity. Personally, it has been the highlight of my career spanning 50 years of boating. To have spent time aboard Big Bob, and to have been able to see, feel and touch the first Two Oceans 48 Sportfisher, was indeed a very special privilege.

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