TEST REVIEW: TABS 7100HT
The team at Cove Marine, a new TABS dealer located at Oyster Cove on Port Stephens, some 170km north of Sydney, was pleasantly surprised when one of its first TABS customers wanted a serious game boat with the best of everything, based on the top-of-the-range 7100 Hardtop. Thus, Trailer Boat’s test coincided with a pre-delivery shakedown of All Good — a boat bristling with all the options you could think of, and more.
TABS have earned an enviable reputation for its solidly built, self draining and eminently seaworthy boats, which are great products straight from its south Queensland factory door. But as Dean Wilson from TABS explained, the maker was delighted to have one of its models chosen as the basis for a boat with the lot, including any number of top-shelf extras, plus various custom bits and pieces.
This tough-looking boat is designed to get its occupants to the shelf and back — in safety, in speed, and in complete comfort. With an overall length of 7.3m and a beam of 2.5m, the 7100 stretches the limits of the definition of a “trailer boat”. All up, it’s more than three tonnes on the road, which means a beefy towing wagon isn’t just preferable — it’s essential. To that end, to shift his pride and joy the owner also owns a suitably customised V8 Toyota Land Cruiser tray back.
Our day began at Cove Marine, at the western end of Port Stephens in an isolated spot formerly devoted to oyster farming. It’s a family-run business that has been servicing the commercial and yachting fraternities for years, specialising in the fit outs of larger vessels. Smaller recreational boats are new to Cove Marine, but the team’s skill and attention to detail is clearly evident in its first major trailer boat project.
The 7100 Hardtop looks huge on the trailer, so it’s no surprise to find there’s plenty of room on board. Despite the cabin taking up most of the front half of the boat there is generous space in the cockpit, while the open nature of the cabin makes for a comfortable work area.
The hardtop is high and sturdy, lending the helm a feeling of space and security. The wide targa arch is well aft of the driving position, providing clear all-round vision. The targa houses six oversize rocket launchers and deck lights, and it has an overhead panel for radios.
Driver and passenger get Helmsman Deluxe pedestal seats complete with armrests, set on low storage boxes. The seats swivel a full 360° and have 150mm of travel. This arrangement offers the best of both worlds — comfortable, adjustable seats and easily accessible storage. The aft sections of the storage boxes are fitted with rear-facing dickey seats for crew, but the main seat grabrails can hit into your back when seated.
A moulded fibreglass panel tidies up the dash and accommodates Yamaha readouts and switch panels, while the flat dash top has lots of room for housing modern navigation equipment. Strong stanchions support the three-piece windscreen and the helm is rounded off with strong grabhandles, a passenger storage shelf and glovebox.
The light and airy cabin has windows on each side, which provide a good view. There’s a full infill lounge to relax on while watching the 19in television — this is great for when the family is along for the ride, or when the fish simply aren’t on the bite. Remove the infill and there’s seating space on the bunks for up to six. The cushions lift up for storage and access to a 100lt freshwater bladder. There’s also sidepocket storage and an opening hatch, the latter providing good access to the bow. If the crew is sleeping or the cabin is full of gear, you can also reach the bow via a 200mm-wide walkaround deck — there are handy grabrails and the deck itself is wide enough for safe footholds. On each side of the hardtop there’s a ladder for access to the roof.
THE BUSINESS END
The marine-carpeted cockpit is uncluttered to the transom and is a good workspace indeed. Big sidepockets with rod storage run each side and are set well clear of the floor. Padded coamings and deep footholds make for easy fishing along the sidedeck. Under the floor is a killtank and a 234lt fuel tank — the rest of the underfloor space is foam-filled for added buoyancy and safety.
A BLA bait-station dominates the transom, which in my view is one of the best on the market — it’s a great workspace with sensible, integrated tackle boxes and storage. A plumbed livebait tank, a Sant Marine berley pot and a saltwater deckwash further complement the boat’s fishability, while a big boarding platform, side grabrails and a transom door make boarding an easy affair. The transom is home to twin batteries and a Racor water-separating filter.
When testing boats like this it’s nice to have a bit of weather to see how things work in adverse conditions, and the 35kt westerly we experienced on Port Stephens was more than enough for both the boat and its crew.
The big TABS handles the rough water with ease, navigating the chop in style and throwing spray well clear of the boat. While there’s a very sharp entry it runs to a moderate 16° vee at the stern, leading me to think I might have been in for a bit of a harsh ride. Not so. The flat section at the transom runs to a 21° deadrise amidships — where all the action is — so both a soft ride and excellent stability at rest were maintained. The ride over the chop — and in particular over the tide rush around Soldiers Point — proved this boat is entirely capable of soft landings after being launched off waves. We ran with the wind all the way to the ocean with no sign of broaching, keeping up a steady 22kts (40.7kmh). The return trip had us heading directly into the wind and although we had green water over the bow on a number of occasions, there was no trepidation as the boat steadily made its way back to shelter.
I might add that the helm’s ergonomics are simply superb, with good reach to the controls and a light feel at the wheel. The Yamaha fly-by-wire system is a pleasure to use and it’s nice to get the big motor into gear with such a positive feel. The seating was well tested over the rough stuff and it proved comfortable and secure. Vision forward was good, either when standing or seated.
In the protected water close to shore we saw a brisk 40kts (74.1kmh) on the GPS and despite the wind still hitting us from the side, the boat felt stable and safe as the 225hp Yammie wailed away behind us. The 7100 delights in being thrown around but it feels safe and stable in turns. Frugal cruising is around 18kts (33.3kmh) at 3500rpm, for a fuel burn of 30lt/h. The boat hits its stride at 4000rpm, where it jumps to 28kts (51.9kmh) and chews down 43lt/h.
Boatbuilding skill and the owner’s desire for nothing but the best in terms of fitout and accessories have combined to create one very special ride. Cove Marine can be rightfully proud of its first foray into customising a trailerable recreational craft (albeit a very large one), and turning an already good boat into a fantastic offshore fish fighter.
OPTIONED TO THE HILT
When money is no object…
The options and accessories list for any new boat can easily get out of hand, but what if your only guiding principle was to have the best boat, no matter what?
That was pretty much the case with All Good, which has been tricked out with a raft of impressive gear. However, despite the added expense, it’s far from being over the top — everything here is a thoughtful addition that makes sense. If the kids are along for the ride, then why not give them a good-sized TV / DVD combo to keep them entertained? And while you’re at it, a decent sound system might be nice — enter a Sirius 600 series deck with iPod dock, True Marine 7in two-way speakers and 8in Marine Active 210W subwoofer. That lot ought to make some noise…
Sick of lifting the anchor by hand? Include a Muir AFF700 Horizontal Freefall anchor winch, complete with 13kg Sarca anchor, matching Sarca A3-4 bow roller and 50m of stainless steel chain, so anchoring in 150m of water is trouble free.
You want a bigger livebait tank for a full day’s fishing, so you better have it custom-made at Cove Marine — and now the tank is bigger you’ll need a custom walk-on lid ($1000). The standard bait station looks like it could use an upgrade, so it’s time to invest in a top-of-the-line tackle station, worth $1864.
While you’re thinking about the transom, why not upgrade the batteries to Optima Blue D31Ms, and protect them with voltage-sensing relays (VSRs) and upgraded switches? Just in case, you should also add a 60W solar panel ($600) on the cabin top and while you’re up there you need some Supervision LED spreader lights ($690). The standard TABS wiring is starting to feel the strain with all these new systems, so add re-wiring to the highest specification to the list.
Let’s not forget that the family wants a freshwater shower and the crew wants padded coamings and more rodholders — on they go. Add in two-tone paint and upgraded helm seats and you’re looking at one very special family / fishing boat with the lot.
On the plane...
Sensible but awesome customisation
Loads of space
Good handling and ride
Quality finish on the hull
Dragging the chain...
The stipple finish inside the hull in the cockpit
Handles on helm seat hit into passenger back on dickey seat
No outriggers (yet)
10kmh (5.3kts) @ 1300rpm (trolling) — 6.6lt/h
20kmh (10.6kts) @ 2800rpm (plane) — 20.2lt/h
26kmh (14.0kts) @ 3000rpm — 23.7lt/h
33kmh (17.8kts) @ 3500rpm — 29.8lt/h
52kmh (28.0kts) @ 4000rpm — 43.5lt/h
59kmh (31.0kts) @ 4500rpm — 53.7lt/h
66kmh (35.0kts) @ 5000rpm — 68.5lt/h
71kmh (37.0kts) @ 5500rpm — 82.0lt/h
75kmh (40.0kts) @ 5700rpm (WOT) — 87.0lt/h
Specifications: TABS 7100HT
Price as tested: $120,000
Options fitted: Fully customized boat, with too many options to mention
Priced from: $86,900 (incl. trailer and 225hp Yamaha four-stroke)
Material: Plate-aluminium; 5mm bottom,
Length: 7.3m (LOA)
Deadrise: 16° at transom
Rec. HP: 200
Max. HP: 250
Make/model: Yamaha F225 FETX
Type: V6 direct-injection
Gear ratio: 1.75:1
2 Activity Cr
Earnest, Qld, 4214
60 Fredrick Drive
Oyster Cove, NSW, 2318
Tel: (02) 4982 4832