words & photos - Rick Huckstepp
Here is a great alternative to the aluinium or fibreglass car topper...

- Very light and robustly strong hull
- Excellent stability
- Can plane with minimum horsepower

Difficult to find an adhesive material to install on the gelcoat gunwales to reduce rubbing when boat is roof-loaded.

- A Great option when weight is the issue
In trailer boats there are a few options as far as hull build material goes.

Those that come immediately to mind are fibreglass and aluminium and we have seen polyethylene as a contender as well. In more recent years foam composite hulls have emerged as another option and they are tougher and lighter than one might first think. The Cross Country 3.7m boat ticks all the boxes when it comes to what one needs to travel the country far and wide to get some ‘on water’ time amongst the fish and the wildlife.

The push of the grey nomads out into the back of beyond has seen some super-light car-topper boats being built that won’t compromise the integrity of the roof structure of the supporting vehicle. Typically those boats are aluminium but the question immediately springs to mind; how light can you go without compromising the integrity of the boat itself?

The answer will differ depending on how the boat is treated when off the roof of the vehicle.

Another question that needs to be addressed before boat purchase is the host vehicle manufacturer’s maximum recommended roof weight loading. And then how the boat is going to be lifted on and off. After all, the weight of some sort of manual or mechanical boat loading system must be added to the equation to complete any sort of car-topping package.

With the push towards smaller tow vehicles such as Toyota’s Prado and Mitsubishi’s Pajero, the budget-conscious have moved away from the larger and comparatively-expensive LandCruiser size four-wheel drives. They have then had to adjust their caravan options behind to cater for this reduction in tow rating and subsequently have had to come back in roof weight ratings as well. Inevitably the boats have had to get lighter as a consequence and boat buyers have had to search harder for a suitable vessel to accompany them on their meandering travels.

Cross Country Boats have waded into the roof-top dinghy market with a couple of models. The 3.4 and the 3.7; the latter finding its way onto the roof the author’s Mitsubishi Pajero 12 months ago.

This boat has a lot going for it fishing-wise but to be honest the highest priority when in the market for a car topper was defined; weight or rather, the lack of it.

The finished hull weighed in at just 65kg and a search of boats on the internet of similar dimensions had the closest alloy hull being Quintrex’s Car Topper at 78kg and Stacer’s 369 Sea Sprite at 80.

A Go N Easy boat loader was the method of loading and unloading this boat and its weight of 30kg pushed me right to the edge weight wise.

- Not the cheapest, but that's not the point
The Cross Country 3.7 is sold as a basic hull and dressing up is usually left to the new owner to undertake after-market. The base boat though may be ordered with a variety of internal layouts and the volume of foam, fibreglass and labour dictates the finished cost.

The boat reviewed here has a basic layout and retail cost of $5,500.

Compared with other boats of the same LOA it is by no means the cheapest but it is weight reduction we are after.

- Basic but sensible
Two seats installed on the boat are swivel type and removable as their height with the backrests folded down exceeds that of the gunwales and clash with the boat loader rails when being loaded or unloaded. The passenger seat is attached to a thwart sealed box which doubles as a casting platform. A rebate at the front of it is deep enough to carry a light anchor and rope and a hole is drilled through the hull to jettison water that might collect.

The rear-facing bulkhead of this full beam box has a flush-mounted hatch and inside safety gear may be stowed permanently and kept dry. A couple of rod holders are installed here as well.

The deck and insides of the Cross Country are finished in a coarse painted gelcoat which provides an acceptable level of non-slip when wet as well as anti-glare from the sun. A narrow side pocket extends from the front bench to the rear bench, It's a handy size to stow gaffs and other odds and ends including tackle trays on their side.

The rear bench has a rebate aft centre that allows one access to the bilge and also to make removable outboard motor installation much easier. A sturdy nylon type live bait tank is installed centrally and it extends down to a raised bed on the deck providing support for the body weight placed on the platform above. Four singular plastic rod holders are installed in the port corner of this area and while four rods with reels attached will clash, one or two of the holders occupied with rods and the others holding a filleting knife and fishing pliers works just fine.

- We can prove it's strong!
Cross Country Boats are a foam and fibreglass composite hull consisting of a gelcoat skin sprayed into a typical boat mould. Sheets of 15mm closed-cell urethane foam is sculptured and glued in place and the hull mould is then bagged and vacuumed and resin injected into the mould. The manufacturer calls this the ‘E-Lite’ system and it leaves no voids which might eventually create a weakness in the structure.

Incidentally the foam used is approved by insurers Lloyds of London as a buoyancy material.

After the shell is popped out of the mould the internal structure is crafted to suit the customer.

Aftermarket installations are easily done by the home handyman with a drill, some sika-flex, stainless steel fittings and nuts and bolts.

Those sceptical of the strength offered by this foam and fibreglass composite hull should allay those doubts immediately.

This 3.7 has had extensive travel between Brisbane, outback NT and down into South Australia. When not on the roof top it sits on a Flip N Easy folding boat trailer that is registered and rated to 110km/h. On one northern sojourn a three-tonne nylon ratchet strap wore through on the keel line when under packing shifted with no detriment to the hull.

On another occasion whilst bush bashing and chasing feral pigs I misjudged the low level of a river box gum bough as I passed underneath at around 30km/h and the subsequent collision between boat on roof and bough saw the TJM off-road suspension contract to its minimum with just a graze and some sap on the Cross Country to show for the altercation. This misdemeanour no doubt contributed to the crack in the roof of the car where the rack was anchored; that has since been welded up.

- Can take a load with minimal horsepower
In pursuit of my recreational past times I am sometimes away for up to three months with the Go-Anywhere Trailer in tow and every kilogram of payload counts. I would have loved to have powered this boat with a 15hp four stroke but could not afford to carry the weight that would be involved and with a preference toward four-stroke I went for a 9.9 Suzuki four stroke which weighs in at  39kg; 30kg less than its 15hp brother.

With just the skipper of 85kg on board, the hole shot is snappier with the boat contents sitting well forward and a top speed of 35km/h may be achieved according to the GPS. With the same payload as well as a passenger of around the same weight, WOT gets it to 25km/h and hole shot is still acceptable.

Most likely a third passenger of small stature would still have the boat performing almost as well but anything above that would require some extra horses.

As can be seen, the chines run well forward to the forequarters before they lift up to the bow. This gives the hull exceptional stability when anglers are moving around on the foredeck but also a broader planing plank to assist in hole-shot with low horsepower; and it works well in practice.

Manoeuvrability is agile and hard cornering in smooth water is also easily undertaken. Typically for such a shallow V hull with broadness at the forequarters, steep chop needs to be traversed at a sensible speed but nothing new here; it’s the nature of the beast.

Economy with the Suzuki is brilliant and something that has to be looked at very closely by those wanting to go remote and stay there without having to come back to civilisation to fill jerry cans. I fished in the fast currents of the Northern Territory’s Daly River about 25km downstream from my camp on the Banyan Farm. An hour or so of trolling and a return trip could be done on a miserly five litres. That’s not bad in anyone’s books!

While this boat started life as a white hull, I have had it full body wrapped using the design of Lamellar’s, manufacturers of camouflage hunting clothing. Hull colours are varied and choices may be made at the time of ordering.

It is one thing to car-top a dinghy but another to handle it on and off and get it to the water and back. There are many options in the market place for doing all of those things and more. Some of these can be seen on this website;

Overall rating: 4.8/5.0
Mechanical/equipment: 4.8/5.0
Packaging and practicality: 4.8/5.0
On the water Performance: 4.9/5.0
Value for money: 4.7/5.0
Weight-factor: 4.9/5.0

Length overall: 3.7m
Beam: 1.55m
Weight: 65-kg hull only
Material: E-Lite system foam and fibreglass composite
Fuel: Tote tanks
People: 4
Maximum load: 350kg
Max. Rec. HP: 15hp
Engine: Suzuki DF 9.9 four stroke
Price: $5,500 basic hull only

Cross Country Boats
1300 639262

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To comment on this article click here Published : Friday, 6 January 2012

Prices and specifications supplied are for the market in Australia only and were correct at time of first publication. makes no warranty as to the accuracy of specifications or prices. Please check with manufacturer or local dealer for current pricing and specifications.

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