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Magnum 28 ft Walkaround – One of SA’s Finest

From the ashes of the devastating fire that swept through Two Oceans Marine’s Paarden Eiland factory in February 2006 — during which most of their sportfishing craft moulds were destroyed — has arisen one of the finest 28ft sportfishers to be produced in South Africa.

The calamity of the fire forced Rod and Mark Delany (pictured far right) to reassess the future of their company and, in particular, the range of sportfishing craft they would have to develop. There would be no opportunity to modify existing moulds, and to develop new boats they had to start from the very beginning.

And so the concept of the Magnum 28 Walkaround was born.

This craft was designed to fulfill specific requirements. It needed to be trailerable within the limits of the South African traffic ordinances, have a wetted planing area that maximised fuel economy at low on-the-plane speeds, and be able to carry a big load of fish, yet still with the performance criteria required of a craft of this size. Above all, the Magnum 28 was designed to be the ultimate tuna hunting craft for the waters of the western and southern Cape.

Once Rod and Mark got what they considered to be their final production model — a boat that they were extremely happy with — they invited me to Cape Town to review both the standard and the flybridge models of the new Magnum 28 Walkaround.

She was born out of a calamity and I baptised her in some of the worst weather conditions one could experience off Hout Bay. I took her out in a howling south-westerly with rain squalls and dark, heavy clouds — conditions that could only be referred to as “k-a-k” — but the Magnum 28 proved to be the proverbial silver lining.  Indeed, in such wicked conditions I can truly say I put her through a “stringent review”.

For some time now, Two Oceans Marine have also diversified into making custom-built yachts upwards of 47ft in length. The international yacht designers for whom they build have super-critical specifications. They require that Two Oceans use only ultra-high-tech materials and moulding methods, and this has provided them with the know-how and practical experience of meeting very exacting standards.

The spill-over of this technology into the building of their sportfishing craft has enabled them to produce a lighter, yet stronger end product. This is not only inherent in the construction of their craft, but is also obvious in both the looks and finishes. It also imparts a specific feel to the boat’s performance on the water.

The Magnum 28 was first unveiled to the public during the 2007 Cape Boat Show. I saw them there, but only from a distance. I didn’t want to scrutinise them too closely at that time as I had already committed to carrying out a review a few weeks after the event. I did not want to cloud my mind by mentally reviewing the craft at the show, and then churning over the details before I actually climbed aboard her and went to sea. Perhaps it’s just a quirk of mine, but I prefer to align my thinking from the correct perspective — that is on the water.

So it was that Rod Delany and I eventually boarded the flybridge model of the Magnum 28 at the marina at Hout Bay, while Mark boarded the Magnum 28 “work boat” which was the first to be paraded before me for photographic purposes. In the meantime, I went through the “getting to know you” stage with the Magnum 28 I was on.

Easing her through Hout Bay harbour was the only time I was going to enjoy flat water. Just past the breakwaters the waves were breaking, and i had to swing her to starboard, heading straight into the south-wester that was funnelling up between the Chapman’s Peak mountain and the Sentinel, directly across the mouth.

We headed out to sea in the hope of finding a little sunlight in which to photograph the boats, at the same time setting a course similar to the one we would have taken had we been heading out into the deep. In that sea I was able to hold her at a reasonable 19/20 knots into the head sea, a speed we could have sustained had the necessity arisen. Two hours later, as the wind increased, the same trials had me reducing the speed to under 17 knots to experience a similar sort of long ride.

A craft of this size needs to provide much more than a big ski-boat — not only space, but also added comfort for the full range of offshore boating activities. Space is obviously top priority — space on the fish deck, space within the saloon/wheelhouse, space for easy storage of all the necessary items we carry on our boats these days, as well as fishing tackle to cover all eventualities, and space for the burgeoning mass of what I call “personal niceties” that crew members are wont to take with them. After space comes the less quantifiable aspects, like comfort.

How does one assess that? Is it simply that during sea trials I didn’t have to strip down to shorts and a T-shirt and go kaalvoet?

Instead, I was dressed in a shirt, slacks and deck shoes — as I had been for the flight to Cape Town. After four hours on the sea in abysmal weather, including rain, I could just stop the Magnum 28 and head straight back to the airport for my return journey to Durban.

I was dry. To me that said a great deal about the 28ft craft.

To cap this, Rod and I had a lot of catching up to do, and even while bashing through the big westerly sea we were able to chat away as if we had been sitting at home enjoying a drink. During the time I was at sea aboard both models of the Magnum 28 — the standard cabin version as well as the flybridge model — I was able to compare not only each boat’s ride from a distance while travelling at speed, but also how each craft differed during trolling and drifting trials.

There’s bound to be a difference between the two, with the flybridge version — especially with me sitting up top — being a little more sensitive while slow trolling and on the drift. With a much higher centre of gravity, while drifting as if we were fishing for tuna, beam-on to the westerly crests, I found this model rolled a tad more than the standard cabin model. However, I was able to stay aloft, with only the rain squalls sending me down the steps to the comfort of the saloon.

There were no controls on the flybridge, so while I was up top I got Rod to put the craft through a series of trolling trials from four knots right up to nearly nine knots. Also, Rod took the craft through full 360° large circles. I needed to gauge her ride in every conceivable angle of travel, and also judge the whitewater wake she was pushing.

A couple of aspects of this exercise were noteworthy. Firstly, during this rather serious trial I never got wet from wind-driven spray. This surprised me, considering the state of the sea. Secondly, the wakes the boats threw with their motors trimmed right down were very small and tight at the 5/6-knot “sailfish” troll speeds, and only opened up as we approached 9 knots. At kona speeds of 7.5-8.5 knots they trolled a good wake, but more importantly, with their weight and size they were able to maintain a relatively constant speed over water (SOW) which is so vital when pulling those big lures.

On the drift I was able to hold the stern into the wind relatively easily, overcoming the tendency to swing broadside to the prevailing wind and sea, thereby making her more comfortable for those on the fighting deck who might be chumming or pulling tuna. Talking of pulling tuna, I did many sorties to the bow of the craft via the walkaround, pretending I was harnessed to a big yellow. It was practical and I felt safe while doing it.

Another well-thought-out aspect of the craft’s design is the fishdeck area. “Built for tuna” should be included in their promotional material for the Magnum 28 Walkaround. Obviously the Delanys’ primary fishing experience — and that of a high percentage of their clients — has been chasing the big yellowfin and longfin tuna off the Cape coast. This experience has taught them what’s needed on a boat, resulting in a fine-tuned deck layout with good hatch capacity, insulated bait storage lockers, deck washdowns and a system of draining the deck quickly during the washdown process.

It even has a plumbed handwash basin incorporated into the centre coffin hatch on the main deck, which is very useful for washing up while tuna fishing.

The sides of the fishdeck are nice and high, with the inside gunnel being padded sufficiently to add some comfort when fighting big fish. Yet it’s not too high to interfere with the fighting harness and gimbal fittings that stabilise one’s rod. Many seasoned tuna anglers, Rod tells me, like the transom gate to be permanently open. In fact, it’s designed to be removed all together so they can work a fish harder through the gate while standing on the boarding platform that extends between the motors. Rather them than me, but then I have often queried the sanity of some of my tuna-besotted mates!

One of the craft had a carpeted deck, the other straight GRP with a moulded, non-slip surface. No prizes for guessing which prospective owner is of the tuna whacking, gumboot brigade.

There are still two aspects of their performance I have not yet discussed — response at highspeed and in following seas. I’ll deal with the latter first, because for me it is far more significant. I had ideal seas in which to test this aspect — big and steep with a big wind pushing.

Firstly, I trimmed her to what I believed would be perfect — a little bow-up with her stern tucking into the meat of the following swell, and tackled them as if I was running in home from the deep. She rode extremely well, holding 20 knots SOG very easily, and I had no qualms, even when I was riding with the big swells largely on the craft’s port transom. I then redid the test without any bow-up trim, as if I were an inexperienced skipper, trying to get her to dig in a sponson, yaw or dig in her bow. She still rode well, but not as well as when she was correctly trimmed for the ride.

For interest’s sake, in the relatively flat water close to the Hout Bay beach, I opened up her 225hp Yamaha four-strokes and she flew across the side sea chop, achieving speeds in the upper 20 knots. Rod told me they were still experimenting with various props, but could easily achieve in excess of 30 knots in a good sea.

Running on the port motor only, I achieved about 15 knots, and I got 19 knots with the starboard motor lifted up.

When one gets to a craft of this size and cost, Two Oceans extend themselves to customise the boat to a degree in order to accommodate a prospective owner’s personal wishes. As a result, I noticed a number of substantial differences between the helm station/saloons of the two craft I played with. The one was definitely meant for serious fishing, while the other had more emphasis on creature comforts.

Most of the differences in craft of this size revolve around the saloon area. The helm station is a standard feature and combines skipper comfort with a very practical skippering position. All the instrumentation and gauges are practically positioned for viewing and adjusting, even in very rough conditions.

The seating and behind-seat lockers are generally custom designed. The ones I saw were comfortable and allowed for practical rod stowage. There was also easy access to the forward cabin/toilet/stowage area situated in the forward sectors of both sponsons. These features were all nicely finished off and practical to use at sea.

The saloon area is big enough to be used and enjoyed by all the crew during adverse weather conditions. It also offers adequate space for socialising, especially if the fishdeck area can be used for overflow. Despite this, the saloon does not infringe on the very important fishing cockpit area.

Much has been said and written about the sacrifices a boat designer has to make to incorporate a walkaround feature on a craft of this size. In this instance, Rod and Mark have got to a very acceptable and practical compromise. They have created a very good looking craft that is highly practical for both serious fishing as well as social activities, and that would include those incorporating children.

I mentioned earlier the high-tech methods that Two Oceans Marine are using to improve both the construction and finish of their range of offshore craft. I was fortunate to be made privy to these processes during a visit to their Paarden Eiland factory prior to my departure from Cape Town. I can’t divulge details, but I can say that I now understand what they have achieved and how it benefits the boat owner in the lifetime of the craft.

A simple example is the deck wash drainage. A large bore drainpipe is glassed in, allowing all the muck one gets on the deck while tuna fishing to flush out easily, with virtually no chance of blocking the scuppers, as we so often experience on our ski-boats. Furthermore, this system does not rely on a bilge pump to draw out the dirt

Another general improvement I noticed was the way they have been able to greatly enhance the overall looks of the craft, bearing in mind the already high standard of finish they built into their craft prior to the 2006 fire. It is evident that the incredibly high quality of finish that is demanded by the yacht building section of this business has been extended to their offshore fishing craft as well.

I was extremely impressed with the Magnum 28 Walkaround and was able to validate the “fishermen’s talk” I had heard during the Cape Town Boat Show. All the talk was positive, and after the time spent on the Magnum 28 Walkaround, I heartily concur with all I heard.

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