Greg Copp enjoys the reassuring experience of driving the latest craft in Rodman’s Cruiser Fisher range in ‘testing’ conditions …
When writing about a Rodman you generally preach to the converted. These tough no-nonsense boats, in particular the Cruiser Fisher range, have remained largely unchanged for two decades, and for good reason. The latest in the range is the 1090 Evolution, which uses exactly the same hull as its 1040 predecessor. With the 1090 it is a case of styling tweaks, in this case a new superstructure and a restyled window line across the forecabin and the head.
This boat is aimed at the fisher pleasure boat sector, where family and fisherman needs are combined, as notably evidenced by its large cockpit. However, the 1090 is a credible offshore cruiser in its own right, which aims to provide an acceptable level of accommodation for those who want to stretch their cruising legs. It offers two cabins: a very reasonable forecabin, with enough storage and bed space for two, and a fairly compact mid cabin. This mid cabin has made very good use of the space available, but for two adults it will be a squeeze, having two thin bunks and a small amount of standing headroom in the doorway. The head for a 35ft boat is good: there is full standing headroom, and along with a stylish bowl sink and manual toilet you get a shower – one that you are realistically going to use rather than scuttling off to the marina facilities.
The wheelhouse is the traditional set-up. A dinette for four sits on the starboard side, and a compact galley faces it. The dinette table can convert to create another berth, and it can be folded in half or removed. As we later came to appreciate, stashing the table away on a rough day makes life in a narrow wheelhouse a lot easier. Our test boat came with a different galley top arrangement, insomuch as it did not have the standard fold-down wooden galley top. The Corian top of our test boat certainly looks the part, but I would have preferred to have had another space to stretch out charts for pre-passage planning, which a fold-down top would have provided. The galley comprises a vitroceramic hob, 60L fridge, inset stainless sink, microwave and a large storage drawer. On a related note, I would like to highlight that this 11m boat comes with a proper chart table on the starboard side, something that tends to get forgotten in our age of digital charts. There is a virtual overload of natural light, not least from the sunroof. All the joinery is veneer, but like the internal wood it is of a high standard.
The helm is a slightly mixed bag from my point of view. It works fine when standing, as you can comfortably wedge your feet against the bulkhead opposing the seat, while leaning back into the flip-up seat bolster. This arrangement is certainly secure enough in rough weather. If you sit, you need to have short legs with your feet resting on the foot step, otherwise you will feel cramped in a short period of time. I am 6ft tall and I would not entertain sitting for long. All-round visibility is great, with no blind spots, and using the folding footstep serving the side door makes going single-crewed a lot easier. With the side door, a little practice before casting off helps. It is not small, but there is limited length and height for it, so think about your head when swinging through it. The dash ergonomics work well, and the Raymarine Axiom display is just where your eyes naturally fall after looking over the bow.
Movement on deck is always a good point with a Rodman, and the 1090 is no exception. The side decks provide enough space to walk down easily, the sturdy guard rails are the right height and there are roof rails if you really need them. All cleats are typically large, and the anchor locker is cavernous. The cockpit has two large stern quarter lockers than can be fitted with removable liners. With the liners removed you have access to a massive void of storage space, and you get an eyeful of the big stringers that are typical of the ‘commercial spec’ build of this boat. The transom bulwark houses a convenient warp locker, which also contains a cock for the freshwater washdown outlet. I was impressed to see a substantial scupper on the port side of the transom. Engine access is via two hatches: one in the saloon and one just aft of the cabin sliding door. The former gives access to the main service items, crucial for pre-passage checks, and the latter provides access aft of the engines. There is a flaw here, though: the saloon hatch enables you to easily access the Racor fuel filters, the dipsticks for both engines and the raw-water strainer for the starboard engine, but if you want to access the port engine raw-water strainer you will need to climb in through the aft hatch. In this case, the engines must be cold, and you must be lithesome, so this will not happen at sea. Having spoken with UK agents RBS Marine about this, I have been assured that the port strainer can be mounted on the centre line so that it can also be accessed via the saloon ‒ which I would strongly recommend.
Driving the 1090
Fitted with the latest generation of 270hp Volvo D4s on shafts, the bottom-end pickup is quick and responsive. Noise levels are acceptable, though with the sea state my sound readings were increased by the weather. This boat is fitted with Volvo’s Interceptor trim tabs, which unfortunately we could not use, as it had not been possible for Volvo to upload the necessary software before the sea trial – but we knew this from the outset. That said, this boat still gets up on the plane pretty quickly and has no problems hitting its 28-knot top speed.
However, there was some fairly feisty weather awaiting us outside Chichester Bar, which was all the cheekier thanks to five days of 30-knot winds creating a strong residual south-westerly swell. It was later confirmed to be blowing force 7. This was ideal Rodman testing weather ‒ apart from the fact that the 31ft photo boat found it almost impossible time to maintain planing speed. Running into the weather without trim tabs, planing speed could be uncomfortable, and it was a case of using the throttles in conjunction with the oncoming weather. This is a fairly beamy boat, so you need the hull forefoot down to cut a path if you want to maintain a swift pace without inciting your crew to mutiny. Having used Volvo’s automatic fast-acting Interceptors before, I have no doubt in their ability to keep the nose into the sea as and when needed, as well as reducing that unwanted heel factor in hard turns or beam seas.
Running with the weather, not surprisingly, was a different experience. This boat has the right proportion of forward buoyancy, so even at 28 knots running off the wave tops into the troughs, she picks up very well – no nosedives. To be fair, we did need to shut the sunroof, and that transom scupper was earning its keep. In beam seas she is well composed, with no rolling down the sides when coming down fast into a trough at an angle to the waves. This boat is reassuring to drive in big weather and, if you like a bit of rough, enjoyable. The well-worn phrase ‘The crew will give up before the boat’ certainly rings true, and I can think of quite a few other 11m fast fishers that would have had a hard time that day.
In retrospective judgement, what can I say about the Rodman 1090 Evolution? I would recommend the more powerful 300hp Volvo D4 engine option, as that extra bit of grunt would complement it well. There are other options on the list, namely a gen set and air conditioning, which, depending on the intended use, could make good sense. There is also a flybridge version, which is only slightly more expensive than the hardtop boat. To sum up in a sentence: ‘There are cheaper comparable boats on the market, but at sea it is hard to put a price on reassurance.’