Breaking the Mould
Boating New Zealand Magazine
When it was first revealed at the Hutchwilco Boat Show, it won the award for GRP Fishing Boat Open.
The 881 Offshore is targeted at serious fishers and divers, but true to the Tristram Boats’ philosophy, it doesn’t sacrifice comfort, performance, style or build quality to fishability, and it should prove just as popular with nonfishing family members.
This is a stunning-looking trailerboat. The review boat was sitting on an excellent Enduro trailer, and at around 3.5 tonnes as reviewed, a good trailer is extremely important for safety and stress-free driving.
The Enduro trailer will take Eleanor north to her new home at Marsden Cove. It’s a premium dual-axle example with a Sensabrake electric-over-hydraulic braking system on both axles and an electric winch.
Some 881 buyers will doubtless opt to keep their boats in a dry stack somewhere, so Tristram Marine offers the boat with or without a trailer.
Tristram Marine principal Lance Fink towed Eleanor behind his Audi Q7 from Hamilton to Auckland, where we rendezvoused with her new owner Jeff. It’s a big rig on a trailer, so Lance was careful to keep the 881’s beam to 2.5m so there are no worries about an over-width trailer.
For Jeff, this was the first opportunity to try his new boat on the water, although he’d visited Tristram’s Hamilton factory on several occasions while the boat was being built. He’s recently returned to New Zealand with his British wife after 30 years working overseas, and describes the process of buying a boat from the Finks as “…a pleasurable experience. We’ve become friends and we feel like part of the
Eleanor is Jeff’s second Tristram, replacing a Yamaha V8-outboard powered 781 “which I loved, but we simply wanted something bigger.”
Jeff has a beach house at Langs Beach, about 120km north of Auckland, but will keep Eleanor on a dry dock at Marsden Cove Marina a few kilometres to the north for convenience.
TDI diesel power
Jeff is something of a V8 car buff – Eleanor is named after the Ford Mustang in the classic movie Gone in 60 Seconds – so he had never considered a diesel option for his new boat. But with the recent addition of lightweight, high-performance VW TDI diesel engines to the Cummins-Mercruiser inboard line-up, that changed.
The new CMD TDIs are available in 3.0-litre V6 or 4.2-litre V8 configurations, and are based on the high-performance VW diesels that power various Audi and Volkswagen models, including the A6, Q7, Touareg and Passat. The V6 265hp version is 100kg lighter than comparable marine diesels and uses half the fuel of some V8 diesels of similar horsepower. Mated to a Mercruiser Bravo Three leg, it’s a perfect match for the boat.
As it stands, the engine installation is especially tidy. Like modern cars there’s not much to see under the plastic cover atop the engine, but the water strainer and various service points are easy to access.
Tristram has built-in an access panel to aid servicing so you simply cut away the white sealant to remove it when required.
First impressions on turning the key and firing up the TDI were of exceptional smoothness. There is simply none of the rattle and clatter one expects from a marine diesel. This complements the 881 perfectly, since it’s such a smooth, soft-riding performer. That the 265hp TDI also provides a near 40-knot top speed, brilliant acceleration and masses of torque despite a relatively modest 3.0-litre capacity, is testament to how far diesel engine technology has come.
The 881 sped along through sloppy seas left over by a dying north-east blow. Inside the boat we were comfortable sitting or standing, with plenty of handholds to choose from and the boat’s high gunwales offering wonderful security in any seaway. The seats are form-fitting and supportive with the forward-facing buckets offering excellent vision through the three-pane, toughened glass windscreen.
The helm seat is adjustable fore and aft, allowing the helmsman to drive standing up if desired, and footrests are well-positioned. Indeed, the ergonomics in general are very good and nothing is a stretch or tucked away where it’s difficult to get at.
The modern dash console works well with ample room for 12 or 16 inch displays – and the engine gauges are at eye level under the eyebrow.
Trim tabs are integrated into the hull and proved easy to use. They were necessary at times to counter the wind, but in general the boat is nice and stable, its chines working well while underway and
The Tristram 881 Offshore has a 21° deadrise aft but is much finer forward, slicing through the sea. She remained dry, giving the wipers little work despite lumpy seas and plenty of wind, and she impressed with her soft ride, especially in the hands of a skilled driver like Lance.
The leg was very responsive to trim inputs, so you had to be a little wary not to overdo things. For the most part Eleanor ran nicely with about a third trim out showing on the gauge; more trim was only required for full speed runs.
Cavitation was non-existent, except when trimmed right out, and you could confidently throw the boat into a highspeed turn without worrying too much about trimming the leg in.
Acceleration is excellent – from a standstill or anywhere in the rev range – and there’s a definite push in the back once the turbo kicks in, although it’s less noticeable than some turbodiesels I’ve experienced. The TDI applies its thrust in a very linear fashion.
Above all, she was quiet, with very little of the harshness sometimes associated with diesel installations. There’s some induction noise early and the whirr of the turbocharger, but as the figures show, this is a relatively quiet boat, especially for a hardtop where the engine noise tends to reverberate around the enclosed space. The hardtop’s padded vinyl ceiling panels must go some way to dampening engine noise, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
The proportions of the handsome hardtop are just perfect and don’t overwhelm the rest of the boat, although it’s 9m overall, which helps!
Inside the hardtop, things are pretty right as well. The moulded seat bases are actually part of the deck mould. The 881 has a fully-moulded liner and the spaces between the hull and liner are foam-filled for safety and noise suppression. The aft-facing seats lift up to reveal masses of stowage space and long items can slide up along the hull’s sides.
On the starboard side there’s a fridge under the helm seat, while on the port side there is a series of drawers, a moulded sink and foldaway tap fitting, plus an ingeniously-positioned two-burner hob beneath the passenger seat (which tilts forward when it’s time to cook).
This boat is as comfortable and family-friendly as any boat in the Tristram range, perhaps more so because of its size, but it’s a sportfisher nonetheless and proves the two things needn’t be mutually exclusive.
A fishing-diving cockpit
As befits an offshore fisher, Tristram Marine has paid plenty of attention to getting the cockpit area right. High padded sides are one aspect, while the well designed transom with its integrated bait tank, large bait well, rod holders, transom lockers and washdown facilities is another.
The cockpit sheds water into a sump via small drains in each corner, their grates cut out to make the numbers ‘881’, a nice little detail.
There are rodholders in the teakcapped coamings, across the transom, and the removable bait station has another four. The bait table can be positioned either on the transom or out on the swim platform, where it fits onto the removable stainless steel staple. Slightly unusually, if only because they are fashionable (but often poorly-designed), there is no rocket launcher on Jeff’s boat, though Tristram can supply one if required. It’s hardly missed, since there is ample rod storage elsewhere in the boat including under the coamings above the side shelves.
An unavoidable feature with sterndrive installations is the engine box, but in the 881 it’s neither overly large nor too intrusive, with good access either side to the transom corners. A squab on the engine box is a comfortable place to sit and keen anglers will use the top of the engine box to spread out lure bags and tackle boxes or to mount a game chair. Tristram provides an extra squab for the corner, turning the engine box into a sunbed, and it’s also a good place to sit when gearing up for a dive.
There’s plenty of room in the cockpit to kit up and ample stowage for dive bottles and other diving paraphernalia. There’s a pull-out dive ladder on the swim platform.
A deep underfloor locker is equipped with two moulded fibreglass pullout bins, perfect for bulky items wet or dry, or for holding the catch.
Although the cockpit is well-appointed for fishing, there’s also the swim platform which you can stand on in calm conditions. A stainless steel staple offers something to hang onto or lean against, as well as somewhere to fit the baitboard, keeping the worst of any fishy mess outside the boat, and it’s the perfect spot to mount the barbecue. Equipped with davits, it can also secure a small dinghy.
The 881 is quite suitable for overnight expeditions or longer, something Jeff says he will consider in future. There’s 390 litres of fuel underfloor, so she has the range to do some serious exploring, and as Jeff noted, diesel is available ‘off the wharf’ in many places where petrol is not. There’s also ample storage for drinking water and engine-heated hot showers. The water filler is inside the boat, so there’s no confusing it with the diesel filler on the outside.
The 881 has dispensed with a separate toilet cubicle (still an option), relying on closing the sliding cabin door for privacy, and in practice, this works fine. The plumbed toilet sits inside an easy-clean moulded box (which contains any ‘spills’), the top of which makes a handy chart table or somewhere to put a glass of rum while swinging on the pick in a calm anchorage somewhere.
With the galley in the hardtop and no toilet cubicle, the hardtop and cockpit have not had to give space away to the cabin. The lined cabin boasts vee berths of a generous size (with infill to make a double) and is well served by storage cubbies and shelving.
Access to the foredeck is via the forward hatch, or by sidling around the hardtop which has convenient handrails along the roof for this purpose.
Another bonus of having the galley inside the hardtop is that cooking smells are carried away through the overhead hatches (two) in the hardtop or sliding side windows rather than lingering in the cabin. The cabin door contains a series of moulded-in storage cubbies along its leading edge, which is an innovative use of space.
Everywhere you look, inside this boat and out, there is an attention to detail and a level of finishing that few production boatbuilders can match.
It’s a fishing boat, sure, but it is still a luxury maxi-trailerboat that the whole family can enjoy whether they’re fishers or not.
The 881 Offshore is competent, good-looking, well-equipped, and a wonderful match for the V6 CMD TDI, offering all the advantages of diesel power – economy, torque, reliability and longevity – with few, if any, of the disadvantages (weight, noise, vibration and cost).
Of course, you can have this boat with petrol power, or perhaps even the V8 TDI, but really, there’s no need for more power judging by our experience on the Waitemata.