Sea Jay 580 Venture cab
Up Bundaberg way they produce a rather fine drop of rum that more than a few Aussie fishermen would be familiar with. However, just as tasty for the fisho is another Bundaberg product – the Sea Jay aluminium boat range. This family-owned company has been building Sea Jay boats in Bundaberg for 22 years thanks to its reputation for quality and value-for-money. These days Sea Jay is doing rather nicely in the market due to good management and a steady, prudent approach to growth. Sea Jay’s isolation from the main centres of boat-building seems to have worked in its favour. It has forced owners, Colin and Janelle Glass, to create a very self-sufficient operation. Currently they’ve got a modern factory that does pretty much everything in-house, plus uses the very latest 3D modelling software to develop and build all the boats. Sea Jay has cleverly stuck to ‘proven’ boat models and types and avoided the temptation to follow every passing fad. The result is they have a very balanced range of boats that appeal very well to the average Aussie boat buyer. Of late too, Sea Jay has expanded from just small, pressed tinnies to building larger-sized plate alloy boats as well. The Xrteme Plate series offers the large plate boats, which are ideal for long-range offshore fishing. However, the company still also builds a range of affordable pressed alloy boats that suit offshore/estuary fishing. The 5.8 Venture Cab is a fine example of the latter. It’s actually a hybrid craft in as much that these days it has plate alloy sides, which give it more strength and a modern appearance. Recently, I had the pleasure of testing this boat through Sea Jay’s Sydney dealer, A&J Outboards and Boating Services. The package is a good one for general boating needs and families will love the comfortable cabin and folding rear passenger lounge. This one of four Venture Cab models (5m, 5.4m, 5.8m, 6.1m), however, I have to confess a leaning towards the 5.8m Venture because it’s about the right size for easy trailing, handling on your own and parking at home. Other attractions of the 5.8 Venture include the big, roomy cockpit with nice deep, safe sides and plenty of shelter for the not-so-nice days. Family boaties are obviously going to like the cuddy cab, but so too will fishos because it gives them a big, dry space to dump their fishing gear. The cabin also provides a nice windbreak, especially when you're anchored up and fishing. Many anglers will also like the opportunity to ‘take five’ below and relax. You’ll find this cabin is more than just a dog-box. It’s quite a roomy space and provides good sitting headroom, comfortable cushioned bunks and backrests. You could very well use this boat for camper-boating trips with addition of camper stove, esky and sleeping bags. The test boat sat on a single-axle Boeing trailer and was fitted with a Mercury 150hp XL EFI (two-stroke) outboard, bimini, clears and Humminbird sounder. The replacement price for this package is $54,755, however, if you are quick you can snap up the test (demonstration) model for just $44,990.
With its smooth 3mm topsides the 5.8 Venture Cab looks smart on the trailer. With its two-tone black and white livery and smart graphics she stood out from the crowd at the boat ramp and on the water. As you soon find this is quite a big boat with a total length of 5.9m from tip to tip. She also has high sides and a generous 2.44m beam width. One of the attractions of the Venture is also her nicely styled cabin structure and curved, tinted windscreen. She also is light enough to sit on a single-axle trailer and be towed by more normal-sized cars. However, what’s going to fire up a lot of fishing interest is that big spacious cockpit and open cabin to dump gear. Everything about the 5.8 Venture’s appearance suggests a great fishing rig. The wide side decks allow you to easily sit whilst fishing, or walk up to the bows. Hull form is quite full in the bows above the chines and the Venture develops quite a bit of stability around amidships. At the same time the bows retain a sharp Vee entry that flows to a moderate Vee at the transom. There are also extra-wide chine flats and this is called the Ultimate Edge Transom design and will develop a better ride in choppy water whilst keeping the boat fairly stable for fishing. The Venture hull appears quite robust, with 3mm topsides and 4mm bottom panels backed up by internal framing and floor grid. Hull weight is just 690kg, which help produce better fuel economy figures. Total trail weight on the test boat was about 1420kg, fuelled up. This puts the Venture comfortably within the tow capacity of smaller SUV off-roaders like the Jeep Compass or Subaru Outback. It would also be road-legal behind cars like the Mazda 6 and the Toyota V-6 Aurion. Venture is also easy to come aboard thanks to a folding ladder and the step formed by the pod transom. You also have a walk-through door on the portside to make it all very easy and civilised. Once aboard you find a roomy cockpit with reasonably high sides, carpeted floor, raised side pockets and a folding three-quarter lounge. The latter will seat two adults, or three children so is handy for fishing or social trips. And home parking shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Venture is not too large and having a single-axle trailer it’s not so hard to back-up into a parking spot. With a folding bimini the Venture should also be garage-friendly as well.
We had a delightful summer-like winter’s day when we took the 5.8m Venture Cab for a run on Botany Bay. Conditions were almost good enough to make me think of Queensland, but not when I stepped into the cold water! Not that I had to get the feet wet because the multi-roll Boeing trailer allowed us to launch the Venture and drive her off the trailer. Dealer Principal, Jim Tsacalos, says he really likes this boat and reckons she’s a beauty for fishos who need to operate solo. I’d agree with him, but would add just one more thing to the package if I was going to operate solo – add a BoatCatch release unit to the trailer. Once in the water we took a spin on the bay. Typical of winter there wasn’t a lot of bump on the water but we did find some chop with the arrival of a sea breeze. I really like the feel of the 5.8 Venture on the water. She comes onto the plane quite quickly and is surprisingly quick in the higher rev range. Admittedly, we had the maximum power on the transom, however, even so it was amazing to see the GPS click up 42 knots top speed. This is really flying and shows just how easily this alloy boat moves through the water. Another nice feature of the 5.8 Venture is the way she runs in a very flat manner and doesn’t need electric trim tabs to keep her sitting up straight. She powers through turns quite nicely and handles 150hp quite comfortably. The ride was quite easy in the light wind chop and a lot of the time we were able to stay around the 30-knot mark. That said, I imagine you’d have to back off the speed in offshore swell conditions. Certainly, Sea Jay has struck a nice balance with this boat between the needs of inshore estuary and offshore fishing. This is not a boat for hardcore bluewater work but will be excellent for near-reef fishing and providing a good platform for bottom-bashing and light sport action. The big cockpit could take up to three anglers and it comes with a factory-fitted raised cutting board for bait-prep work. On the water the driving position worked quite well. Apart from the wheel and controls being higher, she is quite easy to steer in the seated or standing position. You get a moulded dash panel, sports steering wheel and hydraulic steering as standard. There’s good vision through the curved windscreen and you get a good foothold with the foot bars on the back of the cabin berths. We found the boat quite easy to move about and reasonably stable, though there’s a bit of sensitivity to crew movement. However, you’d expect that on a lighter hull. Only real downside of a lighter boat with a cuddy configuration is you do get higher drift rate. That said, with a Parra Anchor out the back you could drift over reefs as slow as any heavy boat.
The Sea Jay 5.8 Venture Cab is rated for single outboards 130-150hp of either two or four-stroke technology. We tested her with the maximum power of Mercury 150XL two-stroke that certainly fired the boat out of the hole quickly and gave us the following impressive speed figures on GPS: 3500rpm 26 knots 4500rpm 34 knots 5300rpm 42 knots We could have squeezed even more speed out of the test boat but the motor wasn’t revving out fully, perhaps because of the propeller choice. However, we were travelling fast enough for bay touring and didn’t really want to go any quicker. You could deduct from these results that a smaller (less expensive) might be more appropriate (130hp, or 140hp). However, it sure is fun driving the boat with 150hp and it certainly gives loads of power in reserve. For those times you make a run for home and you’re up against rising seas, wind and currents it helps to have loads of power in reserve. And talking about power it’s good to see the 5.8 Venture comes standard with a 160-litre in-floor fuel tank with deck filler, fuel gauge and water filter. You’ve got enough fuel for most medium range trips. For longer trips you might take a top-up portable tank, however, it really depends on the type of motor. Obviously, a four-stroke gives greater range and is less likely to need spare fuel reserves. Then again, it all depends on how far you fish and whether you drive the boat hard, or drive her in a conservation manner to conserve fuel.
The business ‘front end’ of Sea Jay Venture provides a short, stubby bowsprit for the anchor and split bowrail that helps feed the anchor line to the bow roller. There is also a self-draining anchor well on the foredeck, Tee bollard and bowrail extending back enough to give some safety on the bow for crew. Moving back you find a larger than normal cuddy ‘shed’, which also has LED navigation lights, tinted window ports and a nice-sized opening hatch/skylight. From within the safety of the cab you’ll be able to work the anchor but alternatively, there are quite wide side decks around the cabin so you can walk around the deck. There’s also decent non-skid on these decks. The curved Perspex windscreen helps to protect the dash area, however, for good all-weather protection you really need the folding bimini and front and side clears we got with the test boat. The one fitted to our test boat also gave us sufficient headroom for even the tallest amongst our team. The dash area provides a grab handle for the passenger seat and there is an extra stowage pocket off to the side of the passenger seat. The helm dash area is not huge but there is room on the top dash to fit the optional Humminbird 55X sounder. Pedestal seats are comfortable and sit atop boxes that have stowage pockets you could convert to tackle drawers. These seats have slide adjustors and are full rotatable for fishing purposes. The cabin is quite well finished and has padded backrests, under bunk stowage lockers and shelves. The cabin is also open backed and with plenty of light is a nice spot to enjoy lunch, or keep the kids amused. Moving into the cockpit there’s a fully-carpeted area with raised side pockets of a generous size. There’s also the rear lounge that has an L-shaped padded backrest that would come in handy when fishing at the back of the boat. A full depth bulkhead behind the lounge has extra stowage for batteries and oil bottles. There’s also an extra stowage pocket, plumbed livebait well and optional raised cutting board. Right aft there’s industrial-strength Tee bollards for mooring, two rod holders and two transom ski-hooks as standard. Yes, the 5.8 Venture is well on the way to being a pretty decent fishing rig. About the only thing really missing is a 27MHz radio and EPIRB and fire-extinguisher, especially if you’re going offshore. I’d also suggest going for a bit better sounder, and indeed splash out on a combo unit that gives you a sounder/GPS chartplotter in one. You’ll notice I’ve given up on trying to talk readers into separate units and it seems combo units have long and truly won this war!
Sea Jay hits the mark for a good all-round coastal fishing boat with this cuddy model. The 5.8 Venture Cab is a boat that moves easily between estuary and offshore fishing needs. And I reckon she can also venture up rivers because this hull is not too large, or too deep drafted. This is a clean, practical rig that will also suit family boating when you take the clan for a day out. There are also ski hooks on the transom to tow the kids on skis or sea-sled. Meanwhile, the relative lightness of the 5.8 Venture means she is fairly easy to take away on holidays and explore new waterways. With a smaller motor you could keep the entry price below $50,000 (and) keep running costs down. The most important thing is this is going to be a fairly inexpensive boat to run and therefore easy on the budget. However, if the above figure still stretches your budget why not check out her two smaller sisters – the Venture Cab 5.0 and 5.4m models. They’re built to the same league build-wise and have much the same features. Check them and other Sea Jay models on the website at www.seajay.com.au