Argus Boats


Argus Boats is a new boat building venture based in south east Queensland. The owners of Argus Boats as Outback Marine Australia Pty Ltd have been involved in the Australian marine industry for over 12 years supplying electrical, refrigeration and desalination equipment to the boating industry. For the past four years, the Panelec division has been manufacturing electrical panels, dash panels and distribution boards. Recently the online store shopOMA has begun marketing marine electrical, electronics and refrigeration products directly to the end user base.


Project History and Objectives

Our lifestyle in South East Queensland wasn't really a match for the beloved sail boat. The exploration of the Broad water, Moreton Bay and Hervey Bay was not really suited to a 1.8 metre draft and frankly we wanted a change from sailing because the time available to prepare and go did not give us a reasonable radius of operation. The sail boat was sold and replaced by an 18 year old 9.8 metre Cougar Cat. What a dramatic change. The boat was used as a refurbishment project with new electrical, dash, electronics and refrigeration fitted. The Cougar Cat demonstrated the exploration capability and freedom offered by shallow draft and a good turn of speed but the planing hull configuration had a poor range due to high fuel consumption (3.5 litres per nautical mile) and limited fuel carrying capability (400 litres). It was a great vessel for tooling around the broad water and southern Moreton Bay but we were looking for more. It came time to evaluate our needs for the future and see what alternatives were out there.

We wanted a boat to enjoy while we were working and so it needed to easily support two and three day ventures with a reasonable turn of speed that would take us to places that were just not practical with a trawler style cruiser or planing diesel cruiser. It didn't need to be as fast as the Cougar Cat but we still wanted something that got along pretty well. And we wanted the range so that it wasn't out of the question to get up to Hervey Bay for a week or two. After laying out what we really wanted the search turned out to be somewhat elusive. Surprisingly there wasn't a real selection of vessels that came close to matching our needs.




Overall Configuration
You have to start somewhere in order to get going. We figured out a base configuration that would satisfy our objectives of cabin arrangement, field of operation, operational aspects and budget. The minimum vessel size would be dictated by accommodation space and sea handling capability. The budget would always limit the maximum size of vessel to do the job. Suffice to say that we wanted a vessel that was just big enough to do the job. The overall configuration would then set the stage for the ensuing objectives.
Displacement catamaran, 10.5 metres, outboard power
The displacement catamaran hull form was easily the most efficient to accomplish the goals of reasonable speed and economic operation. A 10 to 11 metre length would handle our accommodation arrangement and still provide good sea handling capability. Although diesel engines might be an option, outboard engines enable a shallow draft and are lower in cost to purchase, run and maintain. Barnacle growth is not an issue with the outboard leg up as the running gear is completely out of the water. Both saloon and fly bridge configurations have their respective appeal. A saloon version allows bridge clearance and costs less then the fly bridge version.

Cabin Arrangement
Having had a big boat for many years we came to realise that 95% of the sleeps on the boat were spent with just the two of us. The new boat needed to have a comfortable live-aboard capability suited for one couple but with room for the occasional overnight stay of friends or family. A good saloon space, a galley that works and a generous cockpit area should take priority over sleeping cabins and heads. Our Queenslander homes have always had appeal for their outside living space on verandahs. It's nice to sit outside and enjoy the surrounds. The boat should reflect this with an open feel.

Two cabins - one head - galley - saloon - cockpit
One sleeping cabin and a single head would probably meet the personal needs of most couples but in keeping with market expectations for resale and general appeal a second sleeping cabin would be provided. The saloon is open plan with either a galley up or galley down configuration. A large cockpit space (the verandah) is in line with the mild Queensland climate but the provision of easily installed side and rear curtains extends the operation into colder months. Sun protection is a must so the cockpit brow would be extended aft with sun shades to provide additional afternoon sun protection.

Field of Operation
Protected estuary and river systems of Australia offer incredibly good cruising opportunities. But the limiting factor of many coastal cruising vessels is draft and clearance. The draft should allow operation in shallow waters and the vessel must have protection of underwater gear for the groundings that will occur when exploring. Minimum overhead clearance broadens the scope of river exploration where bridges would otherwise impede progress. We want a vessel that is just as adept at river cruising as it is for accessing island hideaways.

Sedan cabin top - shallow draft - catamaran hull
Although a fly bridge is appealing to many, the overall clearance of around 4 metres is restricting. A sedan configuration with around 2.8 metres of clearance allows easy operation from canal properties the are located behind bridges. A fly bridge version should still be possible where bridge clearance is not an issue.
A draft of less than 600 millimeters is desired to allow penetration into shallow areas. In the event of grounding, a keel offers full protection of underwater gear. The catamaran hull provides a level platform when dried out.

Operational Aspects
Having done some ocean sailing, we were accustomed to the long distances that can be covered on a 24-hour basis. A days sailing at 8 knots covered 192 miles or around 355 kilometers. If we could cruise at 14 knots in reasonable seas, we could go from the Gold Coast to say the Pittwater (393 miles) in NSW in around 27 hours. Or Gold Coast to Lady Musgrave(263 miles) in 19 hours. That's pretty good going especially if one could keep up that speed in reasonable seas. A 500 nautical mile range would be ideal at those speeds. At the other end of the scale we would like to have an extremely quiet and economical operation at around 6 knots for exploring speed limited waterways.

12kn ecocruise - 16kn fast cruise - 20kn sprint
A cruising speed of 12 knots should equate to about 1 litre per nautical mile. At that speed a fuel capacity of 600 litres would provide a range of 600 nautical miles. At 16 knots the fuel burn should increase to about 1.5 litres per nautical mile with a range of 400 miles. We expect a dawdle speed of around 6-8 knots on one engine. Safer bar crossings in worsening sea conditions requires a sprint speed of around 20 knots in order to keep up with wave speed. The design should have the ability to go head on into short wave conditions at a reasonably turn of speed - 12 knots or better is expected.

The objective is to fully sustain comfortable living aboard for extended stays in remote locations.The vessel will be self sufficient with electrical power that doesn't rely on a generator set or frequent running of engines to recharge batteries. The electrical system is low maintenance and reliable and will support the operation of a couple of laptops and a TV at night. Adequate refrigeration and water supply should enable stays away from port for up to 30 days. The natural ventilation and sun protection should alleviate the need for air conditioning at anchor. A washing machine would be great but maybe that's going too far.

Solar Power, Refrigeration, Desalinator
The energy equation is first met by ensuring that all consuming devices are as efficient as can be. The refrigerator and freezer are highly insulated to keep power consumption down. Power is generated by solar panels and stored in a house battery bank that is sized to support multiple days at anchor if the sun is not obliging. A small 1000 watt generator might be used as a backup power source. AC power is provided by an inverter and is adequate to run a 2000 watt convection microwave oven. A desalinator (powered by the solar energy) supplies both drinking and utility water on an indefinite basis. LPG is used for cooking.




With a target budget in hand and a pretty good idea of what was wanted, we set out to find a vessel that would measure up to the job. There were several interesting concepts but only one stood out with the capability to tick all of the boxes. This was a 10.2 metre displacement catamaran design by the renowned New Zealand design firm Roger Hill Yacht Designs. Three examples of the design had been built to date.

  1. Outpost - the first vessel built in 2006
  2. Shiraz - a privately built vessel completed in 2008
  3. Intrepid - the latest fly bridge version was commercially built to survey and is about to go into charter service in the Whitsunday by Sea Star Cruising.



After flying to Auckland and going out on Shiraz (on a very rough day), we were convinced that this design had the potential. In a 30 knot headwind on the harbour, the vessel handled the ugly chop maintaining 12 knots square into it. The vessel space and layout was near perfect - we would probably like some more length in the aft deck. A follow up trip and a venture out on Outpost confirmed the original thoughts. Even at higher speeds the relatively low horsepower design presents a very low environmental impact. This can be seen by the virtually non existent wake. A higher percentage of engine power is translated into forward motion.

Our main issue was that as a one-off custom design, the vessel could not meet the price structure offered by production moulded manufacture. The Argus E35 concept was developed as a fully molded construction production boat. Extensive composite tooling and advanced system engineering design would combine to produce a vessel that not only is more cost effective then the one-off counterpart but would have stylistic and functional features only achievable by a moulded design.

The overall length was increased to 10.65 metres which along with some clever rearrangement added around 800 millimeters to the aft deck length. The helm area was redesigned to allow two people to sit together while underway. To reduce the heat load from the sun, the front glass was made more vertical and the brow was extended. A number of design enhancements were made throughout the development of the fully molded production boat.

The design space arrangement took into account the system engineering requirement for a vessel that did not need a generator set yet could provide complete home comfort away from the dock. The Outback Marine experience has allowed the development of live aboard support systems that are second to none. The vessel is equipped at a level that is virtually ready to go for coastal cruising.

Roger Hill 10M Displacement Powercat
This article from the March 2006 issue of Boating New Zealand reviews the first Roger Hill 10 metre displacement catamaran "Outpost"