An honest Aussie-made, entry-level, all-rounder
Revival boats start with this entry-level 525 Cuddy and end with a 640 flagship. Sam Catanese, the founder of long-standing Stejcraft, builds the trailerable Revivals in Melbourne. This base-powered 525 is the most popular model, with two per week built in either runabout or cuddy cabin configurations in the past five years, he says. Our test on a blustery Port Phillip Bay revealed a good example of the great Australian all-rounder and on-water fishing/family ute. The package from JV Marine represents good value, with the boat on single-axle Dunbier trailer, with a 25in extra-long-shaft Evinrude 90hp ETEC outboard, plus a few key fishing options, selling for $38,499 drive away.
– Traditional boat builder comes out of retirement with a keenly priced fibreglass fleet
Sam Catanese founded the enduring Stejcraft brand, now built on the Gold Coast by his son, in Melbourne more than 30 years ago. He is a traditional boat builder with many years of experience, who prefers to create a craftwood plug and deck to create his fibreglass moulds and resulting fair craft.
Having gone into retirement, Catanese said he discovered that, contrary to popular opinion, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. He will tell you, as indeed he did us as we prepared for launching at Patterson Lakes, that he has returned to what he does best.
Therein the background to the Revival boat brand, which starts with this entry-level 525 Cuddy and ends with a 640 flagship. We’re told the 525 has been very popular, with about two per week built in runabout and cuddy variants for the past five years.
The best-selling 525 Cuddy was tested out on Port Phillip Bay not too far from the Bayswater yard in Melbourne. We came away with the opinion that this is a good example of an Australian-made entry-level all-rounder.
Conditions weren’t exactly pleasant, with low cloud and showers scuttling past during a typically snappy Melbourne weather change. But the boat proved safe, predictable and reassuring.
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
– Value for money is the Revival pitch
Our Revival 525 Cuddy rig arrived on a single-axle Dunbier trailer, with a 25in extra-long-shaft Evinrude 90hp ETEC outboard spinning a 16in stainless-steel Viper prop, hitched to non-feedback cable steering. The pretty white rig, with a few key options, was selling for $38,499 drive away.
The Revival was supplied by one of Melbourne’s most-enduring and biggest boat dealers, you guessed it, JV Marine. With an outboard rating up to 115hp, you can spend up to mid-$42K on a higher-powered Revival 525 Cuddy combo. But for the entry-level purpose for which it was designed, for two or three anglers or a young family of four, the 90hp outboard is just fine.
This is not a boat to shove headlong into a rotten headsea but a one to enjoy in good conditions. The onboard and on-water comfort factor was enhanced by JV’s optional (and well supported) Bimini top with rocket launcher and five holders to keep the cockpit clutter-free. Clears could be fitted.
For fishing, there was an optional Ocean South brand bait and cutting board at the transom and a pair of Vic-style three-in-one snapper-rod spreaders that drop into each plastic flush-mounted rod holder. We also had an optional speedo on the dash, which could be omitted once you fit a GPS. The price to go includes rego and safety gear.
LAYOUT AND ACCOMMODATION
– Bubble cuddy proves dry and we like the proven layout
The Revival 525 Cuddy doesn’t break new ground in the trailerboat world. Its layout balances bow-to-stern access with cockpit space and, so necessary on a small boat, storage. The bubble-style cuddy cabin, almost surfboat like from some angles, provides an escape, seating and dry storage, plus enhanced wind and wave protection at the helm.
At rest, there’s not a massive amount of freeboard forward but the bulbous cuddy will shed ambient water. The drain in the anchor well is rather low and submerges when pulling on the pick. But this is nothing to worry about as the water drains away once you return to the cockpit and the boat is underway.
The high cuddy moulding, step-down footwell, and large walkthrough cabin hatch (resting on a rubber stopper when open), plus the moulded step forward and handy bollard, all make anchoring a breeze. The deep anchor locker and moulded bowsprit with stainless-steel roller assist. Of course, easy dispatch and retrieval of the anchor is a crucial selling point in snapper-mad Melbourne.
The sturdy split bowrail permits disembarkation at a beach, as indeed we did for some nose-in photos in the Patterson River. Back aboard, seated in the cuddy, we found comfort aided by the footwell and padded backrests tracing the small side pockets. An infill comes standard so you can sleep the kiddies when they’re due for it. Looking around, there weren’t any obvious rough finishes in the unlined flowcoated space.
The raked windscreen with etched, primed and powder-coated finish is a nice fit, traced by an internal stainless-steel grab rail with plenty of knuckle room, while the simple all-white dash harboured just a tacho and optional speedo. But there is plenty of scope to fit electronics across the full-width moulded rebate running across to the co-pilot, where there’s a handy ‘panic rail’ and storage pocket for personal effects.
Besides the twin bucket seats, which swivel, slide and are backed by footrests, there’s a flip-down transom lounge for the family. Under this resides the single battery with isolator switch, fuel filter and oil bottle, which could do with a deck filler. Room remains to stash a tub of bait out of the way for the run to the grounds.
Storage elsewhere includes full-length side pockets — without lining so as not to foul lines or lures — elasticised pockets in the helm-seat backrest, dry sub-seat cabin storage and side pockets, moulded transom corner bins that can be optioned as live-bait tanks and which drain into the engine well, and a decent underfloor well for fish, bait, dive gear, wet stuff and so on.
The underfloor well drains to the bilge, but it and the pump aren’t readily accessible as they’re hidden beneath a self-tappered section of flooring under the splash well. We’d add a screw-off inspection hatch pronto, as bilge pumps have a habit of fouling over time.
The 100 litre polypropylene fuel tank with twin breathers will serve day-boating applications and its location amidships is right for weight distribution with a crew load on the rear lounge. With everything stowed away, perhaps an icebox and tackle boxes in the footwell for the ride out, you’re left with a decent amount of carpeted cockpit for up to three anglers or a small family.
As touched on, the deep splash well adds to the aft freeboard and sense of safety in the cockpit, but there are no grab rails for those riding on the lounge. And when it’s folded flat for fishing, there’s no toe-under space for standing.
However, there is toe space under the side pockets to assist leaning outboard while fighting a fish. And driven in a considered manner, your guests should be fine riding on the rear lounge where pitching is minimal.
Non-skid moulded swim platforms flank the outboard and there’s a ladder and grab rail to assist water access for swimming, diving and pulling the kids aboard after tubing. Our demo Revival 525 Cuddy had a bit of fishing kit. Otherwise, what you see is what you get and that’s an entry-level Aussie-made cuddy.
HULL AND ENGINEERING
– Nothing ground breaking, all time proven
Catanese swears by glass-encapsulated marine ply stringers, seat bases and cockpit floor. He will tell you the only experience he has had with foam is cutting out mushy stuff from old boats. In this sense, he is a traditional boat builder doing things by instinct, a sharp eye and experience rather than 3D computer modelling and foam filling.
At the time of wiring, Catanese said he was considering adding “noodles” as hidden extra buoyancy. Primitive as this may sounds, it’s a practice in relative wide use by some smaller boat builders these days. As it is, the boat has what’s deemed as basic flotation derived from sub-floor air tanks. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years so why change,” he says.
Revival says the boat weighs 590kg rather than the 480kg stated in the specs. Although it is a derivation of the old Kingfisher 525, Catanese bought the moulds, the hull is a lot different, with a modified running surface, strakes and chines, stem and sides, he insists. The 20 degrees of transom deadrise comes in handy at sea.
ON THE WATER
– Slippery when wet
The Evinrude ETECs certainly have punch and the 525 Cuddy performs as a sporty and efficient rig. At wide-open throttle on calm water we clocked 36.4 knots at 5400rpm, which is plenty fast enough for the boat’s intended purpose. Offshore, the 525 proved pleasantly dry.
Low-speed plane at 3000-3200rpm on a reasonably ugly wind-swept Port Phillip Bay returned 14-16 knots whereupon, with a bit of engine in trim, you could travel without too much hang time. The economical cruise setting of 4000-4200rpm gave 24-26 knots, which is ideal for covering ‘ground’ in flat conditions.
Between the two rev setting was towing speed. Despite mechanical steering, the load wasn’t too great once up and planning, while vision was excellent and, driven sensibly, the boat proved comfortable. Only a direct headsea run produced a few thumps, perhaps exacerbated by the unlined cuddy.
The rebated throttle position, sports-style wheel, sliding helm seat and standing room made for a very good driving position. Personally, I’m a fan of grab rails tracing windscreen like we had here, since it really does prevent any chance of a face-plant when you hit a trough at speed. Other boats we tested on this Melbourne trip in similar testing conditions didn’t have that same degree of driver and passenger safety as the Revival 525 Cuddy.
- Aussie all-rounder shows its mettle
We returned from our bay test in one-piece, no gear or boat was broken, we didn’t ship water but for the odd lash of spray on the quarter, and driven sensibly with respect for crew and craft, we reckon the Revival should prove faithful. Catanese backs his handmade boats with a five-year hull warranty.
Restricted only by its waterline length, the 525 Cuddy can do a bit of everything in reasonable conditions. It’s a good bay boat for Melbourne, a fine fishing and family all-rounder on most waterways, and what it lacks in refinement is more than made up with by plain old Aussie utility.
The protection afforded by the cuddy cabin, the walkthrough anchoring arrangement, the low-speed efficiency and high and dry transom are highlights. As is the keen price in one of the most competitive entry-level Australian boat sectors around.
Catanese says he is chasing volume and that his Revivals have been “very well received.” JV Marine has been getting plenty away and there are dealers interstate. “Build quality is first rate”, says Catanese as we retrieve the rig on its trailer. “I live and die by that,” says the enduring Melbourne boat builder.
>> Good-value Australian-made all-rounder
>> High-aspect cuddy for weather protection
>> Good low-speed and eco cruise performance
>> Well priced in the competitive 5m-fibreglass market
NOT SO MUCH
>> No immediate and easy bilge (pump) access.
>> Oil bottle could do with a deck filler
>> A little harsh head-on in the rough stuff
Overall rating: 18/25 = 72%
Packaging and practicality: 4.0/5.0
On the water performance: 3.0/5.0
Value for money: 4.5/5.0
Price as tested: $38,499 with 90hp Evinrude ETEC, single-axle Dunbier trailer and options
Options fitted: Bimini top, alloy rocket launcher, bait board, speedo, 2 x three-in-one snapper rod holder spreaders, rego and safety gear
LOA on trailer: 6.20m
Deadrise at transom: 20 degrees
Engine max: 115hp outboard
Engine on test: extra-long 25in shaft Evinrude 90hp ETEC with 16in stainless-steel Viper prop
People capacity: 6 max.
Weight: 590kg ex-Revival
Fuel: 100 litres underfloor
878 Springvale Rd,
Braeside VIC 3195
Phone: (03) 9798 8883