The Stessco 420 actually has a wide spread of ownership, including veterans, but they would all appreciate the key feature that appeals to people with years of boating behind them: it simplifies boating. It will sit in the backyard happy with minimum attention, it can be towed to the ramp by any car bigger than a 2cv Citroen, is easy for one person to launch and recover, and it needs minimal cleaning afterwards. Power it with a two-stroke and servicing costs will be minimal too.
4.2m translates to a bit shy of 14ft - a biggish dinghy made effectively bigger by a near-2m beam. Its other dimension, depth, is respectable too at 1m. This is a beefy boat, with room for four or generous room for the more likely two.
It’s getting close to an insult calling the Stesco a dinghy. It has DLX after its name standing for de luxe, and compared with the tin dinghy of hallowed memory it deserves it. It has two box thwarts instead of the old triple set-up, leaving a useful space instead of crowded third-world conditions. And the space gets a carpeted flat deck, so feet are pampered from the heat and the lumpy bits of aluminium reinforcing.
The 420 gets a small foredeck with an anchor-well recessed into it; probably an extra part of the deck’s role is to reinforce the whole of the boat’s structure. At the deck’s rear a semi bulkhead drops down to the level of the thwart, meeting a carpeted platform that fills the space back to the thwart itself. You might call it a casting platform, but mainly it is a big storage space.
An interesting item (and probably invisible to most eyes) is the sockets for rowing crutches (rowlocks for those who prefer euphemisms). You rarely see a pair of oars in any boat nowadays, but they make the most reliable of auxiliary motors and on some river trips are all you need.
The motor they would substitute for on the review boat is a three-cylinder, two-stroke Yamaha 30, although the standard motor is a 25. Unless you have an urgent need for the extra five horsepower there is probably no good reason for paying the extra dollars. Both are pre-mix and hand start, but a long way in front of the old points-ignition models. A couple of pulls got it running, and it kept on running evenly at all speeds.
The simplicity theme extends to equipment. Basically, you bring everything aboard with you. There are no electronics laid on, nor is there a built-in fuel tank or catch tank. But that flat deck will take an esky, and there is room for a couple of portable fuel tanks. The only advantage of a built-in fuel tank is capacity, and the 420 will rarely need more than a single 25L portable. The great benefit of portables is the ease of cleaning them out, something worth doing periodically.
What you do get are a ladder and small boarding platform, and side grab rails forward and aft. These are aligned with the seats – just where they are most wanted.
The boat trims well with only one aboard, although for safety’s sake one-up is a poor number in a tiller-steered boat. Two-up, one on each seat, trim was ideal. Both stayed dry, the bulky bow throwing water wide and flat.
The natural positioning for fishing is one near the centreline on each seat. This would not tax the stability of any boat. But for jobs like pot pulling you do want a steady boat, and the Stessco is on the money here. With two of us at one side, and standing even, all felt secure.
This is a near bulletproof boat. Even after a hard life being dragged over beaches and banged into jetties it would still retain most of its value – someone is always looking for a used tinny. Its lack of paint is an asset here. Practically the only item liable to wear is the carpet, and that’s easily replaced.
Price from $9590
Length overall 4.2m
Standard motor 25hp Yamaha 2-stroke
Motor fitted 30hp Yamaha 2-stroke