I occasionally come across a brand of alloy boat that I get a particular attraction to for whatever reason. Frewza is certainly one of those. Essential you wouldn’t call it a mainstream brand, but then that’s one of the reasons why I like them.
Frewza boats are built in the Southern most boat building venue in the world, Invercargill, by Brendon Frews and his team. The business started in 2006 producing small pontoon style dinghies and runabouts and like most alloy boat builders progressed to something bigger. As Invercargill is arguably the birthplace of the modern hardtop pontoon boat genre, it was only natural that the Frewza brand would follow along with the same lines. While hardtops are not well suited to boats under 5.50m, the company wanted to stay at the lower end of the size range. In 2013 they released their first hardtop, based on the 5.75m F18 hull and since then have seen many go out through their factory doors. While it is certainly one of the smaller hardtop boats on the market, it has the beam and volume to carry the extra weight and windage a hardtop gives. Last year I ran a Frewza F18 Fisher (cuddy cabin) on the mirror smooth waters of Lake Wanaka, so would the hardtop version, on an equally calm Lake Wakatipu be any different? No, not really, it’s just that thanks to the protection of the hardtop we had no issues with the cold morning air that hangs around Queenstown in October.
A Different Boat
While the F18 Fisher and the F18 Hardtop share the same hull and pontoon design, they are very different boats, with the hardtop styling putting the F18 Hardtop into a whole new market. “The hardtop certainly has a wider appeal and we have seen a lot more diversity in our sales areas, with boats right throughout the country,” says Brendon. Frewza don’t have any dealers in the country, but it doesn’t seem to hold back their sales. In 2016 Brendon says they built around 150 boats, with a considerable number of F18s, both in the hardtop and open styles. I had arranged with Brendon to fly to Queenstown for the test and it was one of those great days that you wish for when boating on the stunningly beautiful Lake Wakatipu. Mirror smooth water and cloudless blue sky, albeit a little chilly for swimming. However, when you are there to review a boat and produce a video, in some respects it was hardly ideal. Being able to run a boat in a variety of sea conditions is ideal, but that’s something that wasn’t going to happen this time. This was my third review of a Frewza and the third in calm water. However, from what owners tell me, the boats go damn well in the rough. I’ll have to take their word for that. The hull is a solid, tough construction, utilising 4mm on the running surfaces and 3mm on the pontoons and hardtop. The F18 Hardtop, like all the Frewza boats, has three separate air compartments in the pontoons and a separate sealed underfloor compartment, which makes it virtually unsinkable! I was very impressed with the smooth, clean welding lines and the overall finish of the boat. DzIt’s not only important to me to see the boats leave the factory looking pristine, but also to make sure that the areas that the clients don’t see, such as under the floor are built to the highest standards,dz says Brendon.
With the hardtop design, the F18 takes on another dimension and becomes a compact overnighter. I say compact because you have to remember this is still a boat under 6m and so space is at a premium. Forward are twin berths with storage under and in side trays. Yes, you could overnight but in reality it’s more a place to stow gear. The V-berth is, in fact, an option with some owners happy with an open space and rear cargo net and foot rests to stop items rolling back into the cockpit. A deck hatch gives access to the short foredeck, where you have a deep open anchor locker. You have the choice of a drum winch which can be neatly hidden below decklevel or a deck mounted auto capstan. Four 6mm toughened glass panels surround the fully lined hardtop, giving excellent protection as well as great 360 deg visibility from the helm. This is also used to mount a rocket launcher, side handrails, plus aerials and antennas. The standard helm is a large flat facia suitable for large MFDs and all the required switches, instruments and controls. Our test boat was fitted with a Lowrance 12dz MFD and separate Honda gauges, switch panel, auto-anchoring and VHF. There was still plenty of space left for anything else you might want to install. Seating is optional, with the twin cantilevered swivelling Hi-Tech bucket seats the most popular. They are comfortable and offer extra storage space in the alloy bases. With the bases not welded to the chequer plate floor, it makes it a bit easier to wash the cockpit. If you require more permanent seating back to backs are a good choice and you can also add an aft sliding bench seat or a removable bin seat. Like the F18 Fisher, the transom design can be customised. Our boat had a port sidewalkthrough to the full-width boarding platform, a central bait station and storage and battery lockers under. There’s also excellent storage shelves recessed into the pontoons as well as a wet locker under the floor, forward of the 100-litre fuel tank. If you are looking for longer range, then there is a 175 litre tank option.
Weight & Windage
As expected, the F18 hardtop is heavier than the F18 Fisher and while all that weight is above the coamings, you would expect the handling to be different. In the calm conditions of the lake it wasn’t apparent, but no doubt in the rougher water with a stiff breeze the old windage issue would come into play. The reason why hardtop boats need trim tabs, although surprisingly there were none fitted to our boat. However, there was an appreciable difference in performance. When I ran the F18 Fisher last year powered by a Honda 100, with a 19dz s/s propeller, I recorded a maximum of 37 knots (42.5mph) at 6000 rpm. Running an identical engine and prop set up on the F18 HT, best I could achieve was reached 32.5 knots (37.5 mph). At 4000 rpm, the F16 Fisher ran 21.5 knots (25.0 mph) and the F18 Hardtop, 20 knots (23.0 mph) so there was not a big difference. However, when I had the tacho on 5000rpm, there was a 4 knots (4.6 mph) variance. Weight and windage were obviously helping to make the difference.
Like the F18 Fisher, the F18 Hardtop is uncomplicated, extremely well built and a very practical small hardtop. When you go onto the Frewza website, you can’t help but be impressed by the number of owner testimonials. Nothing more positive than clients saying how much they like their boats and how great they perform. Frewza boats are certainly one of the quiet achievers in the competitive alloy pontoon boat market and are undoubtedly destined for a bright future.