Noble 5M Centre Console Boat Review
FROM THE ARCHIVES: First published in TrailerBoat #279, March 2012
Michael Guest, the former World Rally Championship driver and now Aussie fishing identity, has made several appearances in TrailerBoat over the years, usually in his role as a sponsored representative for Noble Boats. Testing a boat with "Guesty" brings to mind early starts, long-distance travel and (eventually) even catching some fish.
As it turned out, my latest outing with the man - to check out a new Noble 5m Centre Console - would begin with a 4.00am start and a drive to Lake St Clair, in NSW's Hunter Valley. With the invitation came the promise of getting amongst some impoundment bass not only with Michael, but also with another fishing guru, Roman "Butch" Butchaski, who co-hosts The Fishing Show on the Macquarie Radio network with Michael and fellow presenter, Gavin Pitchford.
Despite my lack of fishing skill there would be a formidable display of angling talent taking to the water that day - but would it add up to catching some fish?
Noble Boats International is known for its deep-vee alloy hulls up to 7.5m, including the 685 centre-cab that performed so well in the 2011 TrailerBoat Australia's Greatest Boats shootout. The new 5m Centre Console follows the Noble model of an aluminium hull matched to a sharp deadrise, producing a boat that's very capable in rough water. Guesty's boat turned out to be a developmental rig that boasted a number of subtle changes compared to the standard model, thanks to Noble's ongoing development of the range.
"We took the 5m hull as a basis for the new design," said Michael. "We moved the console and the fuel tanks for better weight distribution and we made a number of improvements to the layout to make it a more versatile fishing platform," he added.
A 4mm plate-aluminium construction has been mated to a selfdraining floor that's fully welded and sits on a system of girders for strength and rigidity. Throughout the boat the fittings look neat and robust, creating a feeling of a mid-sized boat with serious intent - after all, centre-consoles are popular fishing boats because all that space can be dedicated to the task at hand.
In the bow is a big anchorwell with a hatch as well as a bowsprit with roller. An 80lb remote-control Minn Kota Terrova electric motor is fitted on the port side bracket and it has enough power to push the boat along at 7kts (13kmh). The casting deck has been customised to make it longer and at 1.2m there is ample casting room for two. Underfloor storage bins have hinged timber lids and provide space for a 40lt Engel fridge and two 12V batteries (for the electric motor), with space left over for tackle boxes and wet-weather gear. Provision has been made for a U-shaped leaning post to be slotted into the casting platform, for added security in choppy conditions or simply to rest against over a long casting session.
Aft of the casting deck, the main cockpit follows the lower level back to the transom, providing an uncluttered space that's easy to navigate. High sides add to the feeling of security and have useful space for rod storage, thanks to the off-the-floor shelves and three deck-mounted holders. Regupol rubber flooring covers all the decks and it's a superb covering, with good grip and a soft feel under bare feet. A 150lt underfloor fuel tank is situated towards the bow and there's a 120lt killtank behind the console.
The centre-console itself has an efficient and space-saving design, allowing the helm to be set away from the fishing area and providing an easily-accessible, waterproof storage area for valuables. The dash is fitted with I-Command gauges and ICON controls matched to a potent Evinrude 150 E-TEC. Atop the dash is a 10in Humminbird 1198 navigation unit with GPS, sounder and side-scan. Five rods can be stored along the port side in a vertical rack, while sturdy grabrails offer passengers a secure hold when underway.
Behind the console the boat is bare back to the transom, because there is no storage-box seat on standard Noble boats. It's up to the customer to make a choice - more fishing room, or more storage and seating. I have to say, I didn't miss the seating while travelling, as I prefer standing at the helm. When taking a break from fishing, the gunwales and forward casting platform make comfortable seats anyway.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
The wide transom is big enough to serve as a casting deck in calm water and I felt secure from that perch when it came time to give up my prime position in the bow. The extended transom has a step for boarding each side of the motor pod, in this case fitted with that 150hp E-TEC. That's right - Michael has gone with a 150 on this customised development hull so he can get the ICON fly-by-wire controls. 130hp is the rated maximum on production hulls, but he maintains that the performance between his outfit and a 130 would be similar, and I agree.
Boat design is always a compromise of ride versus stability at rest and often a deep-vee hull will be quite tender when stationary. Noble has overcome this by incorporating substantial chines to provide extra buoyancy. Fishing with three onboard in the calm waters of the lake, there was never a feeling of the boat leaning, even when we all gathered at one side to inspect and land a fish. It remained stable when moving around and I found I could stand on the transom without feeling vulnerable.
While the selfdraining floor is a great safety feature, I found that water will come aboard at rest - perhaps this could be fixed by using something like the flap system found on sailing dinghies, which prevents water from entering but opens to allow it to escape.
WHAT'S IT DO?
Underway this centre-console is equally as competent. It gets out of the hole briskly, with the bow pawing the sky momentarily before settling into a planing position at around 10kts (18.5kmh). From there acceleration is brisk, with a real increase in momentum between 3000 and 3500rpm, when the speed jumps from 10 to 20kts (18.5 to 37kmh) as it lifts on its planing strakes and gets into its stride. Top speed is 36kts (66.7kmh) at 5300rpm with three blokes and a tank full of fuel. An economical cruise is in the 3500 to 4000rpm range, when fuel burn is around 30lt/h and the boat is covering plenty of ground.
While we didn't have much in the way of rough water to play in, the wake we stirred up in the middle of the lake gave me a good idea of what to expect. It gave every indication of being a capable offshore boat, much like a similar Noble side-console hull I'd tested previously, which also acquitted itself well in previous offshore runs.
So, did we catch any fish? Happily, yes - in fact team TrailerBoat actually outshone the Fishing Show boys to take the first bass of the day (under Guesty's guidance, admittedly). My third cast saw a healthy, legal-sized fish in the net, and all up in a 90-minute session - just after dawn and fishing along the grassy banks - we landed five fish up to 42cm on a mixture of spinner baits and bibless minnows. Michael beat me three to two, while Butch got none.
This centre-console proved its ability to fish with three onboard. At no stage did we get in each other's way - there was plenty of room to move around, to change rigs and to land fish. Where this boat will win people over is its ability to also get out on the ocean. The selfdraining deck and deep freeboard will be welcome features in offshore conditions on the right day. Also, its solid construction means it can be towed along rough bush tracks without fear of it falling to bits. It all adds up to one capable all-rounder, and as Guesty has shown it can also be easily modified to suit an individual fisho's needs.
On the plane...
Good stability at rest
Dragging the chain...
Water flows into selfdraining deck at rest
Priced from (production model with 130hp E-TEC): $46,600
Type: Centre-console monohull
Material: Plate aluminium, 4mm
Rec. HP: 50-130
Max. HP: 130
Make/model: 130 E-TEC
Type: Direct-injection, V4, two-stroke
Gear ratio: 2.25:1
Noble Boats International
Putney, NSW, 2112
Tel: 0435 837 538
Bay Boat Sales
332 Soldiers Point Rd
Salamander Bay, NSW, 2317
Tel: (02) 4982 7899
Originally published in TrailerBoat #279