Fairway 36 October 2002 Boat News, Review & Advice

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Ferretti 580 Fly boat

Fairway 36 (October 2002)

The Fairway 36 is a tried and true staple of the marine scene Down Under. David Lockwood confirms first impressions aboard a boat that is Fair Dinkum by name and fair dinkum by nature

No flim-flammer, the Fairway 36 is out to beat those Halvorsens found on the Hawkesbury, those Clippers found cruising on the Pittwater and those Roberts steel ships found motoring along on anything from the rivers to the sea.

The honest Queenslander, once made exclusively for mooching about Moreton Bay, has suddenly found appeal beyond its state border. But not before time, mind you.

First released more than 20 years ago, the Fairway 36 is a survivor in the ever-changing boating world. But for the bowthruster, TV/VCR and latest turbo diesel engine, the 100th Fairway 36 that recently hit the water is a snapshot of the first model released in 1982.

Revisiting the Fairway 36 reinforced my original thoughts. That is, thoughts I compiled in my formative years when I tested the boat on the Gold Coast more than 12 years ago.

An honest cruiser, the Fairway deserves golden oldie status. These days, the boat is finding more and more favour with buyers looking for a well-priced weekender afloat.

The two-cabin boat with berths for four plus two costs from $259,000. Seen here with an engine upgrade and all the mod cons from TV/VCR to bowthruster, extra cockpit fridge to 5.7kVa genset, the boat costs $298,900. In today’s world, that is value.

Time-proven, the Fairway 36 has of course long been popular with the charter fleet operators in places like Airlie Beach. In fact, some of the Fairways there are 14 years old, and at least one boat has done 10,000 hours and is still going strong.

Originally made as a displacement cruiser, the Fairway 36 has a round-bilge hull based, I am told, on an old timber Millcraft. With the addition of a modern diesel motor, the 36-footer has been transformed into a modern-day motorboat that can now do more than 20kt. Yeehah!


I fairly flew across Broken Bay on hull number 93, a Fairway 36 called Fair Dinkum, owned by Pittwater yachtie Bob Simpson. What is a rag-and-stick man doing in a stinkboat? Like a lot of yachtie mates, Simpson found he was racing less and less and motoring for an anchorage more and more. Needless to say, the Fairway motors better than a yacht.

Appealing to retirees, families and yachties, the Fairway 36 has been given a new lease of life with the recent addition of a 315hp Cummins motor. The standard motor, a 220hp model, gives a 13kt cruise speed and a top speed of about 17kt with consumption of 15lt/h.

The 315hp Cummins sees the Fairway 36 cruise at 15kt and turn in a sprightly top speed of a bit over 20kt. While the boat has a single motor, the addition of a bowthruster makes parking a breeze. I had no trouble berthing Fair Dinkum next to a fuel wharf in a crowded marina, and nor will you.

Of course, the Fairway 36 is not confined to the river. In fact, the boat is built as a far-ranging cruising platform. Simpson delivered his boat from the Gold Coast with three mates in 30 hours, during which the motor consumed just 28lt/h, or 700lt.

It says something that this was Simpson’s maiden ocean passage and that, despite strong winds and a headsea, he had no trouble following the signs to Coffs Harbour and then to Sydney. Since then, the motorboating convert has embarked on numerous passages, including a run to Port Stephens and back.

In some ways, the hull is not dissimilar to a battleship. Its fine entry and metre-deep keel sluice the swells, while a flat run aft with slight tunnelling lifts the boat to planing speeds. The only handling bogey is downsea, where she wanders and roams a bit, Simpson admits.


Made from solid glass below the waterline and foam-cored decks, the Fairway 36 is a tough boat with a fibreglass box section for rigidity. The furniture is glassed in and fashioned from ply sheathed with laminates of teak, American redwood, beech, ash or, if you prefer, easy clean two-pack epoxy.

This particular Fairway 36 had a festive feel derived from a combination of teak, white laminex or formica tabletops, aquamarine-coloured carpet and a cheerful printed fabric on the lounges. A sliding aluminium-framed saloon door and venetian blinds added to the holiday-house feel.

Going for good sense over glitz, the Fairway 36 also has nice, fair mouldings despite only a few mould changes over the years. Headroom, shoulder room, floor room, meal-prep areas, indoor and outdoor living space, all of it seems to flow and be of generous proportions.

Employing the same three shipwrights for the last 10 years, Fairway now builds just seven boats a year. Every Fairway 36 is tailor-made for its owners, a lot of them ex-yachties like Simpson, looking forward to a long hot summer afloat.

A point worth noting: since the boat has changed so little over the years, you can do over-the-phone orders for parts and know that they will be exactly what you need. And as all the bugs were ironed out long ago, the boat’s build quality is time-proven.


Naturally, the outdoor living areas are set-up for social intercourse. The transom is traced by a non-skid boarding platform with swim ladder, a central marlin door, hatch with hot/cold shower and saltwater deckwash. There are six storage lockers, a dedicated gas-bottle locker and a useful fibreglass hardtop over half the cockpit for shade.

An underfloor lazarette has room for a deflated rubber ducky and outboard motor, plus watertoys and long-range stores. The owner had a factory-fitted Nutech cockpit fridge/freezer that ran off gas or 240V power. A few hours’ running is all it takes to keep your drinks cold for the day. The extra fridge boosts the boat’s cruising ability, while there is scope to increase fuel and water tankage, too.

A stainless rail, whose grabrail was too tight against my knuckles, leads up to the bridge. There is a lockable hatch over the ladder, so you can stage roof-top parties and not lose anyone down the chute.

The big aft deck is perfect for scenic cruising, doing sundowners, or dinner on a loose table and chairs.

The stainless rails also make it a safe place for the kiddies to play.

Two sunlounges with storage flank the single helmseat behind an angular console. While there are no rounded mouldings, the console is a nice bit of work, reflecting the fact that this boat was initially ahead of its time.

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There are stereo speakers nearby, a dash with basic instrument panel, and a single-lever Cummins Morse throttle. The QL bowthruster is from Volvo Penta.

Back at cockpit level, the boat’s sidedecks and flat foredeck are topped with non-skid. You should also note the sliding saloon and cabin windows and abundant hatches, a welcome spin-off from a boat built as a bright and airy Queenslander.


In good ol’ Aussie fashion, you enter the saloon via a sliding aluminium-framed door with flyscreen. One of the best features is the full-length galley to starboard with oodles of meal-prep space, a four-burner gas stove/oven, small 12V fridge and ample drawers and cupboards. The sink has a saltwater wash so you can save water when washing up.

A dinette and L-shaped lounge opposite can sit a family of four for dinner and two more if you can find some loose chairs. The lower helmstation to port behind the windscreen turns the Fairway 36 into a fair-weather-or-foul cruiser. Underfloor, two hatches lift back for engine access. The metre-deep keel protects the prop if you go aground.

As for sleeping quarters, the lounge and dinette convert to an impromptu double berth, there are bunks in a portside cabin and an offset double berth facing a small television in the bow. The single bathroom is a beauty, with a full-sized shower stall and electric loo. The fully-moulded liner is a snap to clean. There is an opening porthole, but no extractor fan.

While the cabin walls are lined with that naff furry beige frontrunner carpet, the teak joinery, cupboards, drawers and suchlike reflect the handbuilt craftsmanship of 100 Fairway 36s. Because the boat has not got hard chines, there is no annoying slap-slap of water playing on the hull. Expect to sleep well even on your first night aboard.


I cruised beyond Broken Bay into the wide blue yonder before training Fair Dinkum’s bow back on the bluff called Barrenjoey. The boat did seem to wander a little downsea, yet it was hard to beat when travelling into a headsea and, despite no hard chines, the water licked up the flared bow only so far.

The Fairway 36 proves the old adage that when you are on a good thing, stick to it. The Aussie cruiser is bloody practical, as dependable as a good mate, but not a boozer on the juice.

This is why three Fairway 36s have been sold into Pittwater in the last year, and why the boat is plying Victorian and South Aussie waterways as well. Of course, it is already as common as a sandcrab around Brisbane and Moreton Bay. What is the bet nothing much has changed when I revisit this boat in another decade?


Nice big outdoor deck, single-engine fuel bills, smooth ride into a headsea, lots of space for a family, time-proven build quality, honest finishes, value for money, resale value on national market.


Strays a bit in a following sea, stainless handrails on bridge ladder are too tight for big knuckles, no extractor fan in loo.

The honest finish might be too basic for some buyers.

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