A perfect ending to a challenging 2016.
Christmas came early last year when I got a call early October 2016 from Danny, friend and owner of Boattech, situated just off the R59 in Meyerton.
Danny expressed his wishes to build a demo boat and utilize it during December 2016 and evaluate the overall boating experience whilst conducting product development. Although this has been Danny and his better half and co owner of Boattech, Freda’s intention year after year it never materializes due to their commitment to their clients. They were always attending to late orders, repairs and requests from the industry they serve, thereby restricting their ability to plan a proper holiday.
Why me? Well, Danny and Freda knew that I had planned my December holiday and it included fishing off a Jet Ski at Shelly Beach and more importantly, I have been contemplating the purchase of an offshore boat for some time now.
So Danny, in his infinite wisdom, gave me the opportunity to decide whether he should build the Xpression 600 or the smaller Xpression 520 for this purpose.
I chose the latter to Danny’s surprise. My reasons were simple:
• I am neither an expert skipper, nor an expert fisherman.
• Shelly Beach is known to be one of the more difficult beach launches.
• I had to consider my tow vehicle.
• As a family of 3 we did not need that much space on the boat.
• Most importantly I did not know how my family would take to the fishing experience and considered the possibility that I might have to do a solo trip.
We collected a beautiful black, red and white Xpression 520 from Boattech, fully rigged and highly specified on a break neck trailer. I am posting some photos, but let me tell you a photo does not do the boat justice.
Danny accompanied us to the Vaal River where we got accustomed to the Xpression 520’s features, space and more importantly its power, turning radius and throttle response.
What a boat! The two 60 hp Mercury outboard motors did not only look the part, it performed well and reached GPS speeds of 56 km/h at 5600 rpm, while delivering outstanding acceleration and planing the 520 haul with ease.
Being happy with my preliminary high altitude smooth water test, I was ready to tackle the surf. We departed for Shelly beach the following morning and again I was impressed with the tow ability of the trailer and vessel combination. I opted not to drop the T-Top nor to remove the canvas cover of the T top and decided to do so only if I experienced difficulties with wind resistance during my journey. It proved to be unnecessary and we had an incident free trip to our destination.
With the assistance of the Windguru website we planned our launches. We chose to launch only during the best possible weather conditions to make the experience more enjoyable for myself and my crew consisting of my wife and son.
Our first launch was stressful to say the least, but the Mercury Outboards did their task exceptionally well and the 520 cut through the wave assault like a hot knife through butter. Again I must highlight the fact that I am no expert skipper and whilst being used to surf launching with a jet ski which is extremely nimble and fast, I was concerned that the 520 might be too heavy and slow through the surf. Not at all.
The locally built Xpression performed exceptionally well and we headed for Protea Banks. Our now trusted Xpression 520 was comfortable and the T-Top doubled up as a grab rail for my crew. The water conditions were not that ideal and the short wave intervals reported by Windguru meant that the 520 haul had to work hard and we could never utilize the potential of our Mercury outboards.
Arriving at Protea’s northern pinnacle, we quickly prepared our tackle. I chose to use light tackle baited with lures as it enhances the fishing experience and using lures are far less messy and smelly. We commenced trolling and within minutes it was “fish on”. My 15 year old got his first opportunity to experience the fighting ability of a Yellow fin tuna, while the light tackle enhanced the experience. Not expecting that things will happen so fast our gaff was still stowed away and my wife had to frantically dive under the back seat to retrieve the gaff. The Go Pro was handy and recorded the catch. Zavier landed a 8 kg Tuna and had a priceless smile on his face. A small pod of dolphins came out of nowhere and inspected the eye catching lines of our vessel. It even appeared that our Xpression got a nod or two from our visitors.
From the forward facing seat in the front of the helm, Zavier saw activity on the water and still trolling, I steered the boat into that direction. Chaos erupted as we hooked a double-up.
Our reels were screaming a beautiful duet. Zavier, now a self proclaimed expert, grabbed the rod closest to him. I retrieved the unstressed rod and my wife took control of the remaining rod with the reel still screaming for attention. The tuna tried its best to tangle up our lines by diving under the boat and zigzagging from port to starboard. My crew made good use of the space on the 520 and I lazily took position in the helm of the boat enjoying and recording the chaos that has erupted on our vessel.
Zavier landed another 7 kg Yellowfin Tuna and my wife struggled on with hers. Thirty or so minutes later my wife was still “fish on” and passed the rod to me. Unfortunately after another 10 minutes or so, just after showing us a quick glimpse of it, our light tackle was outdone by a hard fighting and energetic fish, leaving us with only a tale to tell.
Desperate for more action we again started a slow troll and minutes later Zavier secured his second catch.
We decided to call it a day and headed back to Shelly beach. After an early morning, that felt like a whole day, we realized that we had only spent two hours fishing since launching.
The Xpression 520 made the trip back to shore comfortably and I prepared myself to beach the 520 for the first time. Everything went smooth and while running away from a massive wave in the danger area at the Shelly beach launch site, I really appreciated the power of the two four-stroke outboard motors purring behind us.
My worries that my family would not take to the fishing experience was for nothing. We stuck to our original decision to launch only during the best possible wave and wind conditions and eagerly awaited our next opportunity.
The opportunity presented itself a few days later. We decided again on an early morning 04:30 launch and realized to our surprise when arriving at the launch site that we were beaten by almost every skipper in the Southern Hemisphere. No jokes, we could not find a parking bay and the road leading to the launch site was backed up with vehicles towing vessels.
It took another two hours before we could launch. The time felt like an eternity and what made things worse, is that some skippers elected not to launch after all, as conditions turned out not to be that favourable. I was confident in my ability and equipment and proceeded as planned. Again the Xpression 520 did not disappoint in any way.
We headed for Protea in search of the one that got away and was again blessed with another double hook up. My crew, now eager and saluted fishermen/women took control of the situation and ordered me “The Captain ” to retrieve the unattended line.
Lusanda made no mistake in passing her rod on again and landed a 7 kg Yellowfin Tuna while Zavier, now accustomed to the hard fighting abilities of the Tuna species, took special care not to lose his catch.
With both fish safely in the fish hatch, we realized that we had another unexpected visitor. A Bull shark in extent of 2,5 meters came to see what all the fuss was about. Danny would argue that it too came to admire the colourful gel coat and beautiful lines of the Xpression boat, but honestly the feeling of a predator being within touching distance is an eerie feeling and I was extremely glad to be on a boat and not a Jet Ski.
Our adventure caused our vessel to drift way past the Southern Pinnacle and we again prepared our tackle and started a slow troll to the Northern Pinnacle. While discussing my crew’s recent catch and our shark encounter, that non mistakable sound of a screaming real again deafened the sound of our purring Mercury outboard motors. It was “fish on” and this time it was “The Captain’s” turn. We successfully secured our third Yellowfin Tuna and headed back home.
After beaching and loading our trusted fishing companion, we realized that we were the first vessel to return and that the total time spent out at sea, was only two and a halve hours leaving the rest of the day for other activities like shopping etc…..
While cleaning, flushing and displaying our catch, the Xpression 520 received plenty of compliments and surprisingly not only from the male gender. I suppose Danny’s choice of colour combination and his son, Creston’s meticulous attention to detail on the upholstery, made this vessel the hit that it turned out to be and with good reason might I add.
For our final launch we decided to target Dorado near the Port Shepston Mouth. After consulting with local tackle shops and Skippers we geared up with a combination of poppers and feathers and headed to the new destination in search of Dorado.
Because the weather report specified that we should have a good morning, but a windy mid day, I decided to make the most of the trip and started trolling almost immediately. This turned out to be a great idea, as way before we could reach our destination we had a double hook up and boy what a privilege to experience the Dorado pair trying to free themselves from our tackle. Both Lusanda and Zavier eagerly took up a rod, making good use of the space and cushioning in the bow of the 520. Each time a Dorado cleared the water with an acrobatic display of desperation in an attempt to win the battle, a cry of “Wow” could be heard from my crew, each intensely involved in their own battle. What a beautiful display by the Dorado’s and what an adventurous outing for our family.
Both fish were secured in the fish hatch and we keenly readied our tackle and commenced trolling in direction of The Mouth. Reaching the shark nets it was fish on again. It was my turn and immediately I realized why a Dorado is such an adventurous catch. You could feel it preparing for a jump almost like a kite hitting a gust of wind and flexing or tensioning the rope before breaching the surface, displaying its beautiful colours.
Our third Dorado was secured and we headed back to Shelly beach. No need to catch more than what you can use and for us it is more about the adventure than the meat.
We shared our catch with family and friends. Lusanda prepared both species in a tasty meal. Photo’s attached. As for taste, I preferred the Tuna, but my crew was adamant that the Dorado tasted better.
Our adventurous holiday turned out to be the perfect family time and my initial concern, that my family would not take to offshore fishing, was unfounded. They actually loved it.
I took advantage and utilized the Xpression 520 on the Vaal River after our return to Gauteng as a recreation vessel while flushing the engines and only then realized the true value of this vessel. I easily towed a bunch of students on a 4 man water tube while entertaining friends onboard. This is really a great boat and can definitely be used for way more than just a fishing vessel and that in itself is most probably the greatest marketing strategy ever.
My best memory of our experience is definitely the look in my sons eyes during his first catch, that can be described as fear of the unknown compared to the look in his eyes during his last catch that can best be described as joy and self confidence.
Thanks Danny and Freda for the opportunity.