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Surtees 4.85 Workmate Review -

By: John Willis, Photography by: John Willis & Les Fox


We revisit the Surtees 4.85 Workmate, an old friend that’s been recently fitted with a fresh powerplant. Together we explore the wilds of Victoria’s East Gippsland. 

My friend Les Fox and I have a secret spot. It’s a river that forms an estuary deep in Victoria’s East Gippsland. It’s not really that hard to find if you care to investigate, but if you don’t like sharing your downtime with a menagerie of beautiful Australian wildlife including snakes, spiders, goanna’s, march flies, kangaroos then stay home – this place isn’t for you. It’s also teeming with marine life: bream, estuary perch, monster flathead, tailor, trevally, prawns, and probably big mulloway but we haven’t found ‘em yet.

Simplicity is the key to our enjoyment. A little tinnie with an old 15hp Johnno is our usual steed, combined with swags and some basic necessities. So it came as a surprise when Les told me to unpack the Tamboon Princess – my old 3.5m Jabiru – as we were taking a Surtees 4.85 Workmate recently fitted with a 60hp Honda four-stroke. I must admit that while I love the little Surtees, when I go away I actually prefer to take my own gear. I’m rough on things, and I’m a dirty fisherman. My mates will all tell you of my hatred for cleaning boats. However, arrangements were already made. All I had to do was jump in and help with the driving... and the fishing. Now that’s my kind of trip.

It’s no secret that we love the little Surtees 485 Workmate. It stole all of our hearts and nearly beat plenty of larger, and much more expensive opposition at Australia’s Greatest Boats 2011. It bats well above its weight in sloppy sea conditions and its purist, simple design, construction and layout are its most appealing traits.


The first thing we noticed when pulling into our little stretch of forest-lined beach was just how easy the little Surtees is to unpack and anchor. The supplier, MY Marine, had fitted a cotton-reel style Savwinch electric windless to the bow which I originally felt was overkill. We normally pull my little tinnie up on the beach, but have had problems in the past with tidal rise and fall sometimes grounding the boat altogether. I have also seen many tinnies swamped this way when sudden wind changes in the middle of the night dump waves over the stern.

We put the anchor down a reasonable distance from shore and simply backed up into the shallows. The big rear platforms and folding dive ladder made unloading gear a breeze, and we were amazed that even when fully laden and with two big duffers stumbling around, the hull was still surprisingly stable for a classic deep V plate alloy; the flooding keel proving its worth by introducing a couple of hundred litres of water to the ballast cavity. Whilst most sweetwater anglers will think the electric anchor winch is excessive, it was an absolute pleasure to use and contributed to a very satisfying fishing/boating experience.


The work station is very easy to fish around and the entire cockpit is surrounded by nice wide rolled coamings that add enormously to the construction strength. We found ourselves sitting on them constantly and they also provide a wide, non-skid walkway and plenty of room for rod holders and canopy mounts. The coaming height is very good for a boat of this size and the 485 is just so easy to fish from even in bumpy conditions.

The workmate has a walkup-style transom with raised battery mounts, fuel filter, switch gear, and just enough room for a plastic tote tank on each side - albeit a tight fit with the standard 25L Honda tanks.  The large cutting board integrates three rodholders, handy to pop your outfit in when re-baiting. The cutting board has a removable timber surface – perfect for cleaning all that bait and offal at the end of the day. We slipped a pair of three way rodholders in either side and were set up beautifully for bait fishing at anchor, or on the drift. The full-length checker plate aluminium floor has a flooding kill tank, and drains to a sump with bilge pump.


We had a good play in the lower estuary, in the deep holes under the sand dunes where the performance of the little Honda excelled. It’s nice and quiet and certainly an ideal, economical power plant for two passengers. I am a greedy fisho; I don’t like fishing with more than two people even in 35ft flybridge cruisers and hence don’t need to carry to many passengers. The Surtees/Honda combination felt just right yet I still have no problems recommending a cheaper two-stroke for those on a budget. I previously tested the same with a 60hp Yamaha two-stroke and found excellent performance, yet lacking some of the refinements of the four-stroke Honda. If you are looking at buying for a family of four and want to do some water sports perhaps an upgrade to the 70hp would be advisable, however the Honda 60 was perfect for us.


MY Marine finished off the package with the obligatory bimini canopy with alloy rocket launcher, Garmin VHF radio and a neat little Garmin 557XS colour depth sounder with CHIRP transducer that did the job of finding structure, and fish very effectively.

We nailed some ripper bream on bait, and some large trevally and flathead on soft plastics before a feed of fresh mussels tempted us away from the rods. Time came to go home after a very satisfying experience and I drove the boat straight up onto the Dunbier trailer even on the shallow ramp. My love affair with the little Surtees 485 Workmate has only deepened with a great few days away allowing me to know the boat more intimately. I think we’d best get a room! 

  • Strong, tough and dependable.
  • Soft ride
  • Low towing weight
  • Nyalic clear coat


  • Still can’t work out if the flooding keel is a big influence?
  • Drinkholders too far from the seats (!!)
  • We had to come home and give it back






Water-ballasted hull, fully welded stringers, fully welded alloy floor, sealed underfloor buoyancy, underfloor kill tank/storage bin, carpeted dash shelf, four alloy rodholders, large forward hatch, toughened glass windscreen, electric and manual bilge pump and nav lights.              


SAV 550 watt electric anchor winch,  Dunbier centreline trailer, Saltwater safety equipment, Registered boat and trailer, bimini with rocket launcher, cabin storage bin, Garmin 557XS with CHIRP transducer, Garmin 100i VHF radio, twin fuel tanks, fuel filter, isolation switch, dive ladder,  clip on three-rodholder, dive tank holder, Nyalic coating.               


$33,990 (with 2 stroke 60hp Yamaha) 


TYPE: Deep-vee plate-aluminium cuddy-cab

MATERIAL: Plate-aluminium        

LENGTH: 4.85m

BEAM: 2m

WEIGHT: 350 kg – hull only           




PEOPLE: 5            

REC HP: 30 to 75hp           

MAX HP: 75hp   

FUEL: Portable tote (55lt underfloor optional) 




TYPE: Four-stroke, three-cylinder, programmed-fuel-injection (PGM-FI)

WEIGHT: 110 kg 


GEAR RATIO: 2.01:1

PROPELLER: Alloy (Honda supplied)


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