Test Report Australian Boating, June 1978

Deltacraft's DB.19
Low cost, diesel mini-cruiser for the leisurely inclined.

Displacement diesel powered cruisers are very definitely in the news these days.

Opinion varies about the future of many aspects of the boating industry, but one aspect stands clear and unsullied; diesel boats are here to stay!

Of course, many observers would argue they have in fact been here for many years, and this is quite true, particularly in the large cruiser category.

What we are talking about though, is diesel powered leisure boats for the masses. Safe, steady, economical diesel power, in place of high revving, gas guzzling, outboard motors - or more particularly petrol inboard motors.

It's a sad fact but true, that one 1 the greatest sales forces behind he movement to diesel, is the popular myth about inboard petrol engines.

The myth concerns the fire and explosion risk of these engines in boats. I say myth, because the number of boats which actually go up in flames, or blow up as a result of their petrol engine, is really not as bad as the popular press would have you believe. On a statistical basis, the percentage that do go up, is minute.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the fear of fire on board, or an explosion (or both) is thought to be a more positive reason for the current trend to diesel, than the rumoured public concern over the cost of petrol.

Myth or not, for a young Sydney boat building couple, Steve and Janet Leonard, the diesel movement is fast putting their boat building business on its feet, and on the national sales charts.

Steve and Janet's business, Deltacraft Pty. Ltd, produce the extremely popular D.B. diesel cruiser. Over the last twelve months, an extraordinary number of these little 19' cruisers (cruisettes?) are being seen on Sydney and adjacent waterways, and while they have not yet reached plague proportions, there are more than enough around to suggest that Steve and Janet have .zapped this segment of the market with unerring accuracy.

If the concept of a sturdy, miserly, comfortable little chug-along cruiser turns you on, read on, you are about to be very impressed.

Design

The Deltacraft 19 measures 18'4" (5.58m) overall with a maximum beam of 8' (2.43m). There is a draft of 1'6" (.457m) and a cockpit area of 8'3" long (2.51m) by 6'4" wide (1.93m). Total displacement is a substantial 2,400 lbs (1088kg).

An important feature is the 5'11" (1.80m) cabin headroom - unusual in a craft of this length.

Down below the cabin consists of a long 8' settee berth to port with a 6'6" berth to starboard. Also to starboard is a neat moulded fibreglass cupboard and Aquaflow electric water pump.

Provision is made to fill the 6 gallon water tank through a moulded port to set into the cupboard bench top. Space is allowed for a small spirit stove, but like so many of these bench units, it would be easier said than done, as far as instalment is concerned.

Detail finish is very good, with cup and plate rack as standard, a Raritan toilet (with brass sea cocks to the inlet and outlet glands) and a two stage fluorescent light.

Janet Leonard produces all of the bunk cushions for the factory, and the feminine touch is obvious both in the choice of colours and the skill and care taken in the selection of materials.

As an option, full foam flotation (27 cu.ft.) is available for $160 extra, bringing the Deltacraft 19 right up to hire boat specifications.

Speaking of fitting out, a soft top is available for $190, side curtains for $120 and back cover (off the soft top) an additional $150. An interesting alternative is a two-thirds hard top in fibreglass which is available for $350. This hard top to my mind seems a better proposition than soft tops and side curtains, as it provides a full 6'2" (1.98m) headroom underneath, permanent sun shelter and rain protection. By adding drop-down side curtains, the whole back cockpit becomes an extension of the cabin area, creating a snug little cruiser for winter use as well as summer.

Out in the cockpit, two chairs are provided for the helmsman and passenger, both adjustable for height. The moulded cockpit floor is completely self-draining, an important feature for any readers who intend leaving their boat on a mooring. It also facilitates washing down the cockpit sole after a day's active fishing.

The helmsman area is simple and uncluttered. A neat switch panel is located to port, as is the throttle and gear levers for the twin cylinder Yanmar 15hp diesel. The tacometer we understand, is optional equipment, but is fitted to every craft nevertheless, as most owners recognise its importance.

Around each side of the cockpit moulded storage areas are provided for life jackets etc.

The cockpit sole is virtually flush except where the engine hatch is located next to the companionway.

Access to the engine is excellent, as it can be reached from above through the engine hatch and/or from behind the companionway.

On The Water

The Deltacraft is a solid little boat which purrs along very smoothly thanks to the extremely heavy 12oz. lay-up used in the hull. The builders found that by increasing the glass lay-up considerably beyond the normal standards, they could eliminate most of the usual diesel vibration.

As well, they had the added bonus of creating one of the strongest fibreglass hulls on the market.

It is not the best looking boat we have tested, but it does have a charismatic sort of appeal; no doubt it is the sort of boat one would become quite fond of in time.

It is stable under foot, and engenders a feeling of quiet security under way.

With the Yanmar diesel purring way beneath the sole, the Deltacraft adopts a purposeful running angle and comes over with the impression that it would go on like this forever.

The whole thing fees very understressed - indeed, the whole boat is understated. As we have remarked with other displacement craft, the cabin is usable all the time because the boat is merely slicing through the water and the cabin becomes a very pleasant place to sit and enjoy the scenery - a far cry from small planing half-cabin runabouts.

During the test, we poked our nose cautiously around Barrenjoey headland to meet some freak swells weeping in from the north-east rom a cyclone north of New headland, thus testing the Deltacraft in unusually heavy conditions. This ; not a craft we would suggest be sed for offshore cruising, but clearly, it can easily handle any conditions you will find thrown up for estuary or bay use, not to mention the odd 'outside' fishing Lunt.

Performance is not startling, it with a 15 horse diesel, we were aching near hull speed of around 7 knots; doubtless more horsepower would push the little cruiser faster than this, but there seems little point in paying the penalty the increased cost of the diesel not to mention the fall in economy, for an extra knot or two of performance. With a 15 horse diesel, the consumption of the Deltacraft is rated at half gallon an hour at cruising speed, which is really getting down to a few cents per mile basis!

Criticisms

There is very little to fault in this cruiser, as it is particularly wellbuilt and within the limitations of its design, it performs quite well.

The underwater exhaust lacked a seacock which was a surprising omission considering the care taken with the rest of the craft, but the builder has already agreed that all future craft will have a proper brass seacock fitted to enable boat owners to completely secure the hull should the boat be left for long periods unattended on a mooring.

Perhaps the most serious criticism we would have of the Deltacraft concerned the coaming height in cockpit. Although it meets the regulation height requirements, it is too low for safety, as can be evidenced by the accompanying photographs which reveal the crew sitting higher than the coamings. Not surprisingly, stainless steel side rails are a popular extra as it would seem many of the buyers have been concerned about this point too. Given side rails the problem is overcome.

Another point we weren't too happy about concerned the windscreen. It looked very much as if it was simply stuck on top of the cabin (which it probably was) but we felt with a little more thought it could have been more pleasantly styled within the lines of the cabin, offering at the same time a more practical base for the storage of things such as sunglasses or keys etc. Further, it is not beyond the realms of possibility for the helmsman to hit his forehead on the exposed corners of the windscreen which are uncomfortably close if you are standing at the helm and the boat is rocking in choppy conditions.

Lastly, the moulded recess for the anchor was not nearly big enough for the sort of anchor one would see being used on the Deltacraft. There is more than enough room to securely stow a Danforth, chain and anchor rode for estuary conditions, but we would like to see how 300' or 400' of anchor rode (plus chain and warp) could be stowed within the space allowed. There is however, more than enough space for estuary requirements.

Conclusion

Not surprisingly, the Deltacraft DB19 has proved very popular with retired couples or fishermen in their forties and fifties.

It is a very easy to live with cruiser.

There is virtually no maintenance, it costs peanuts to run (and that is vital if you are a pensioner) it is safe and comfortable and one of the very, very few little cruisers about this comfortable for women.

Australian manufacturers blindly refuse to come to grips with the basic point that most women do not like going boating if boating means sitting in the sun for hours on end, becoming sun and wind burnt (not to mention hot and bothered) in the process.

Craft such as the Deltacraft 19 offers the very real advantage of having a truly comfortable cabin to prepare lunch, read or just simply lie down for a quiet snooze, in the same sort of comfort one experiences at home.

With the teak lined cabin door closed, and the curtains drawn, the Deltacraft offers complete privacy and comfort around the toilet too, another problem many manufacturers completely ignore.

A happy little boat, the Deltacraft is mainly going to be appreciated by people who have been boating and fishing for a fair while. People who have come to realise, there is as much fun and pleasure in boating within a few miles from home as there is in zooming 20 miles outside to some far distant reef. People who are able to relax and enjoy cruising within the fullest meaning of the word.

People who really want to enjoy a quality of boating life that is simply not obtainable at 30 knots.