POWER BOAT - AUGUST/SEPTEMBER, 1983

Weekender Afloat - Delta Craft Islander MK II
The great Australian dream of a weekender down the coast has taken the form of a weekender afloat, Test by Mark Hanlon.

In this day and age of spiralling costs, congested roads and noisy, overpopulated tourist areas, the idea of getting away for quiet weekend on the water with your wife or girlfriend seems to have vanished. In most areas close to Sydney it is no longer possible to find yourself a quiet retreat without having screaming kids, crowded ramps and totally ignorant drivers coming out of every nook and cranny seemingly determined to ruin your hard-earned holiday.

There are, however, a few areas close to the big city where tranquillity reigns on the waterways and peace and quiet can be yours. I am of course talking about the hundreds of kilometres of backwaters on the Georges, Parramatta, and Hawkesbury river systems where, with a bit of exploration, you can find yourself shut off from the people whose idea of a day on the water involves making as much noise as possible. Unfortunately, these days the chance of keeping such a place to yourself are gone, but with luck those who share will remain as unnoticed as the black snake, quietly sliding along the shoreline in search of food.

The fact of the matter is that more and more people are giving away the idea of paying their money on the toll-ways on a Friday night in favour of a quieter few days closer to home. With this in mind the people from Delta Craft have recently released their Islander Mk. II diesel motor cruiser.

After the outstanding success of the Mk I, first as a load-carrying work boat then later as a half-cabin weekender, the MI II has combined a whole range of new ideas into its design to improve on the earlier model. The design changes are not the half-baked ideas of some quack boat reviewer, but rather a composition of thoughts from the owners of the Mk I. It is the actual users of the boat that have designed the new model.

A few of the major changes have included broadening the transom so the back berths remain parallel rather than converging in a vee, removing the rudder and engine boxes by placing them completely beneath the decking, and rounding out i.e. squared transom.

The Islander Mk II has been in production since October last year and already there are orders that will keep Steve Leonard and his crew busy for the next four months. For five years now Galecraft have been selling direct to the public to keep out un-necessary overheads. All items and accessories are manufactured on the premises, including things such as the bow and stern rails, seat covers, canopies, and a host of others.

First impression of the Mk II was of a squat but pretty little boat looking very comfortable alongside the motor clippers at Akung Bay. As we made our way slowly upstream at some 6 1/2 to 7 knots the two-cylinder Volvo MD7B was working at 1800 rpm, a comfortable engine speed, at which it is most fuel efficient. A push on the throttle up to 2500 rpm had us fairly rolling along at speeds which belied the sedate first impression. It is very difficult to give evaluations on the boat's interior, as each basic hull is built upon to the buyer's specifications. The particular boat I was on had the driver's seat raised an extra five centimetres or so, and the optional hot water system included. While on the subject of the h.w. system I'll deviate now to say it would have to be one of the cheapest options around. A 48-litre tank supplying enough water for eleven three-minute showers for only an extra $150.

Down inside the cabin the headroom was excellent for a boat only 5.75 metres long. I'm a little taller than the average guy and found I was only just scraping the ceiling. It was comforting to be able to walk straight down the hatchway into cabin without having to automatically duck for a head removing sill. Once inside, the shower/toilet is on your immediate right, and the small but practical kitchen, which included a stove, sink, fridge, and cupboard storage space, on the left.

Forward from here there was a table with seating for four, which helped convert the interior into a double and single bur The table was also simple to remove and slot into brackets at the rear of the cockpit between the back berths to seat four in the open.

I suppose one of the first things that impressed me most A+ I took over the helm was the lightness of the wheel. On first impressions the seat was set too far back for me and the wheel set too low, but I soon found that all I needed was two fingers and the lightest of pressures to turn it, which meant I spent le time worrying about steering and more enjoying the scenery. Spinning the boat in full lock was somewhat akin to turning of merry-go-round, the movement accomplished smoothly with very little tendency to lean. The boat was extremely response in all manoeuvring, making it a simple task to dock or reverse to drop off or pick up people from the marlin board at the rear.

The other thing I was extremely happy about was the good all-round vision, whether seated or standing. A slight move to the right and you can lean out of the cockpit and watch all oncoming traffic and scenery with ease.

For a diesel, the Islander Mk II is far from a noisy boat. Sitting on cruising speed of 1800 rpm, vibrations were a mere tickling on the soles of my feet. Beyond 2500 rpm the gas stove began to vibrate, but this was easily eliminated by dropping back to 2450 rpm. Noise that does get through the four-centimetre layer of foam that surrounds the engine is only minimal and certainly not worth worrying about. If, however, little bit of noise does upset you there is optional lead-lining available as further sound-proofing.

Fuel efficiency and capacity is excellent. As with the water, fuel capacity is standard 25 litres, with an optional 97-litre reserve tank. With the Volvo at cruise it is claimed to use only 1 l/hr; in other words, you could comfortably get to Brisbane without refueling. A lot of factors have gone into making the boat as fuel-efficient as it is, including giving it a round bilge instead of a hard chine, and using a large 68%-efficient four-bladed propeller.

Being a displacement hull which travels at such low speeds, the boat is virtually unsinkable, being unable to obtain the speed necessary to penetrate the hull when run aground. Even if penetrated, all below-deck compartments are fully sealed, so sinking is as close to impossible as it could be. The Mk II's ancestry in the form of a work-boat is still possible to glimpse in the self-draining deck, a handy thing to have it contemplating an outside journey.

There are two major options left to cover, these being the power and the availability of a trailerable version. Firstly, instead of the two-cylinder Volvo there are two power options, being a 24 hp Bukh which will cruise at 10 1/2 knots, and a four-cylinder Perkins which pushes the boat along at a very brisk 16 knots. The standard boat has some 500 kilos of ballast in the decking and lining which in the trailerable version has been eliminated and put in as a refillable water tank which fills via holes near the keel when launched and empties when put back on the trailer. This turns the Mk II into a light, very manageable boat which may be comfortably trailed by a four-cylinder car.

The Islander Mk II is one of the most practical, efficient little boats I have come across. Aimed at a select portion of the market, namely the weekender - the married or retired couple who want to get away from it all on a boat which has the room, comfort and amenities, as well as the fuel efficiency for a couple of days (or longer) at a time, this boat suits that niche down to the ground. Without a doubt it is one of the most quickly growing markets around, and it would not be hard to see the Delta Craft people being booked up ahead for a lot longer than four months.