by Dom Wiseman

Surtees Boats was born during the early 1990s when Neil Surtees decided to design and build himself an aluminium boat to use for fishing off the Whakatane coast in New Zealand. Given the amount of open water they often have to navigate, you’d expect that the New Zealanders are capable boat builder and the Surtees don’t disappoint.
They manage, via the use of some very simple yet innovative designs, to deliver a plate boat with an outstanding ride that can also be tailored to suit the conditions. The 6.1 Workmate at its core is a no nonsense fishing platform with a closable ballast system. In essence this is a void that runs the length of the hull and can add 300-litres of water to the hull increasing weight (by 300kg), keeping more of the hull in the water and creating a great ride in nasty conditions.

WHAT YOU GET
The Surtees 6.1 Workmate is what I would call a cuddy cabin style in that there is a short open-entry cabin at the front of the boat. An adult probably couldn’t do much more than store things in it but it does leave plenty of room for the cockpit that is essentially where you’ll be spending most of your time if you were fishing. That said, the cabin has two small bunks either side with storage underneath for lifejackets and other safety gear. It would be suitable for kids to have a nap, made much more comfortable if you have the optional in-fill between the berths. At 175cm I can sit in there with plenty of headroom.
Surtees 61 11
Surtees 61 17
The cabin is not lined and has checker plate flooring right up to the bow where there is a small step and large hatch providing access to the anchor. You could also walk around the side up to the front. On the test boat, Mark Lutrell from Coffs Harbour Marine had elected to add an anchor winch that makes movement to the front of the boat largely redundant unless you have a tangled line.
The dash layout is simple yet effective and only takes up a small amount of room on the starboard side. It has space to accommodate the engine gauges, a simple steering wheel, switch panel for the on board electrics and the anchor winch controls. There isn’t space here for any sounder or GPS, however there is a shelf that runs the full width of the boat that is the perfect space for electronics. The glass windscreen and hardtop roof shield the electronics from the elements and they can be easily seen from anywhere in the cockpit, which is pretty useful when drifting over a lump when fishing. You could also use this space for any bits and pieces you use during the day. At the leading edge there is also a grab rail that is perfectly placed for the person sitting in the passenger seat.
Seating for both passenger and driver is provided by two cushioned, adjustable moulded plastic bucket seats mounted on an aluminium base. Inside the base is storage for a fire extinguisher and EPIRB or other such fixed items. The storage under the seats is open so you could add tackle storage, or something similar, if you wished. There is additional passenger seating in the rear starboard side of the boat via a fold down bench style seat that when not in use locks away via a simple swinging tab. The twin batteries and switches are on a shelf behind the seat. To the side of this is a live bait tank and access to the swim platform that has a t-bar ladder.
In the middle of the transom, there is a bait prep station with three rod holders. The test boat had an incredible 17 rod holders — three either side in the gunwale, eight in the rocket launcher located above the cabin roof and the three in the baitboard.
There is also a pullout bimini that extends the hardtop by around a metre providing additional shade in the cockpit on sunny days.
The cockpit has been designed well and includes access all round to get your feet close to the gunwale so you can brace effectively against the side of the boat. Either side of the cockpit are large storage shelves that will fit everything you need to access quickly. The 150-litre fuel tank is located under the centre of the cockpit floor while a kill tank sits at the centre rear.
The cockpit is roomy, and the checker plate floor drains to a sump under the gunwale, where a bilge pump is fitted.
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Surtees 61 2POWER
The Honda 150hp four-stroke engine delivers impressive performance on this hull with a top speed in the vicinity of 70km/h (38 knots). Exact fuel consumption figures were unavailable on the test day. The hole shot is impressive and the boat rises on to the plane effortlessly. With the additional 300-litres of water sitting in the bottom of the hull you can feel the engine working harder but it is still quite a capable performer pushing the now 300 kilogram heavier hull onto the plane albeit more slowly.
The 150hp Honda is built on an inline four-cylinder platform and comes with a three year warranty. Weighing in at 216kg, it is the maximum horsepower allowable on this hull.

ON THE WATER
Before looking at the performance, let’s take a closer look at the hull design. Deep V boats like the Surtees have a fine, or sharp entry allowing them to cut through chop and waves but generally offer less stability as the hull can roll from side to side. Shallow V boats are flatter and therefore more stable but slap, or hit the water harder as they do not cut through the chop and waves as well as a more angled hull. Most manufacturers try and find the perfect balance between the two. Surtees have designed a hull that is a Deep V and added extra stability by incorporating a self-flooding, closable, ballast tank along the keel line meaning more boat sits in the water.
The tank opens at the transom and is vented through the anchor well. It is capable of adding approximately 300kg to the hull weight in literally a minute.
So how does it ride? With the ballast empty, the hull still cuts through the chop efficiently without banging on landing. On the test day there was a 25 knot Nor’ Easterly wind blowing and and there were a few times I braced for a hard landing – it did not happen. This is testament to the hull design and fine entry angle. What I did notice was that like many plate aluminium boats in this category, it did get pushed around by the waves due to the light weight and got plenty of air under the hull even at a low speed. In essence it feels light.
Once we filled up the tank the boat sat lower in the water and cut through waves without the up and down we experienced when the ballast was empty. Once we turned with the waves the hull pushed over and down waves with no broaching and always felt sure and stable. It certainly makes a difference to the ride and your comfort. Turns with hull full and empty were safe and the boat corners well without remaining too flat leaving you holding on against the inertia.
The hull is built with a chine that runs from the bow down the stern which does a reasonable job of pushing spray down but like similar boats I found this hull did tend to push water a bit. It’s a tough assessment and to be honest in 25 knots of wind spray is going get blown back on any boat.
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Surtees 61 4TOWING
The Surtees 6.1 Workmate sits on a twin axle Redco trailer and all up weighs about 1300kg. What is impressive about the trailer design is the hitch that Surtees builds that can be added to make launching and retrieving a breeze. In essence it is an automatic catch and release that works via a sliding weight.
When you launch the boat you move the weight to the rear of the slide and once the boat is in the water, throttle forward slightly which releases the pressure and the weight causes the catch to fall away releasing the boat. Coming in is even easier, Move the weight to the opposite end of the slide. As you drive the boat onto the trailer the uniquely-designed tow catch into the tow hook. It is really quite simple and very effective. I would class this as a must if you launch at ramps open to surge.

OVERVIEW
The Surtees 6.1 is certainly a boat aimed at the keen angler. The ride is incredibly impressive, the ballast system super easy to use and the potential to work this boat into whatever design you want is enormous. It’s almost a blank canvas that you can mould into anything. Considering the ride and build quality with 5 and 4mm aluminium and full welds used throughout, it should certainly be considered among any aluminium boat list.

Surtees 61 20POSITIVES
Great space
Wide gunwales
Fishability

NEGATIVES
Small dash space

NUMBERS THAT MATTER
Price: (from) $75,767 (As tested) $95,764
Construction: Plate Aluminium
Length Overall: 6.10m
Beam: 2.26m
Weight on trailer: 1300kgs (approx.)
Engine: Honda 150hp Four-stroke
Fuel Capacity: 150-litres