Clever coaster

Mark Robinson | VOLUME 21, ISSUE 2
“The judges got it right in my opinion, as this craft is very difficult to fault and achieves its design parameters exceedingly well”.
A lot of thought has gone into the Theodore Coastal 720, resulting in a boat that packs a lot of features into its relatively compact hull.

The accelerating pace of modern life makes the time spent in leisure activities ever more precious, a fact that makes a strong argument for a craft like the Theodore Coastal 720, which can offer the flexibility of trailer boating, with the seakeeping qualities and feel of a much larger vessel.

With the pace offered by this fine-tuned planing craft, offshore fishing grounds are a mere quick run away and more of those precious moments can be spent wetting a line instead of travelling to and fro, all the while burning vast quantities of fuel.

And in the optional outboard configuration, with the hull anti-fouled, this is a craft that could be moored with an absolute minimal degree of maintenance. Step aboard, lower the engine, turn the key, nudge out of the marina, hit that throttle and sit back for a fast and comfortable ride, leaving much bigger craft dwindling to mere specks in your wake.

Back at your berth, well… it’s just a quick fresh-water flush, a five-minute hose-down and you’re breasting the bar, boasting about your catch and downing your first frosty ale, well before those big, slow vessels are even halfway home.

The Coastal 720 pictured is the first boat out of the mould for Adelaide-based builder, Jim Theodore, yet one could be forgiven for thinking this craft is the culmination of a boat building career, rather than a beginning. Which is quite wrong in one way, though completely correct in another. The accompanying profile gives you an abbreviated background of Jim Theodore’s career in the marine industry. It is a career that has contributed to this craft snaring a slew of awards and commendations in the 2005 Australian Boat of the Year competition.

Well, the judges got it right in my opinion, as this craft is very difficult to fault and achieves its design parameters exceedingly well. Its solidly built hull, wood-free construction, sparkling and flawless gel coat and scintillating on-water performance add up to an exceptionally well-rounded craft, with a feel of spaciousness that belies its waterline length.

The cabin has been deliberately kept compact, as befits what is essentially a day boat, but nevertheless allows for a quick kip between tidal changes or that midday snooze to make up for an early start. Provision has been made for a chemical toilet to be installed between the berths and while two adults could overnight in reasonable comfort, that is not the main purpose of this vessel.

Jim Theodore is a big, solid bloke and this is reflected in the room provided at the helm and the spacious seating arrangement; a welcome change indeed from so many craft where one feels that the designer has spent little real time at sea. This craft is comfortable to skipper, whether standing or seated and the view forward is good in either position for a bloke of average height, while the taller among us have scads of headroom and even better sightlines.


The generously-sized cockpit will gladden the heart of any serious fisho, with more than enough room to mount a fair-sized game chair, if that is your bag. The high gunwales, with their recessed grab rails, add both comfort and safety, even when fishing in conditions that would send lesser boats scurrying for shore. And with a self-draining cockpit and self-closing scuppers, any water coming aboard is given short shrift.

Sturdy grab rails have been incorporated everywhere they might be needed, even down to the well-placed rail on the engine cover. Together with the textured non-slip cockpit sole, they make moving around very safe indeed. Storage is generous throughout the boat, with dry storage available under the V-berth and below the split-level seating modules, while wide cockpit side pockets allow for lines, fenders, rods, gaffs and a host of other items.

Experienced boating eyes will spot ease-of-use all over this vessel, from the electric anchor winch with anchor, rope and chain working through a stainless steel, self-loading bow roller, to the moulded fibreglass boarding platform at the transom.

For many years, it seemed that craft which were supremely practical had about as much aesthetic beauty as a tugboat, while boats with curvaceous lines that pleased the eye turned out to have sacrificed practicality on the altar of good looks. But that is definitely not the case with the Theodore Coastal 720, whose design sophistication allows it to maintain its shapely and curvilinear appearance from any viewing angle, providing exquisite water-borne eye-candy for the power boat aficionado.

The test craft was equipped with a 285 horsepower Volvo Penta turbo diesel, which made it perform more like a big block ski boat than an offshore day boat, which makes it a hugely tempting option if your budget can handle the extra thirty grand.

Offshore, this craft eats up and spits out sea conditions which would make many a skipper on lesser craft pull back the throttle. Sure, the sheer size and weight of this big trailerable craft causes a fair bit of water to be thrown around, but very little of it finds its way on board, thanks to the flare of the forward hull section.

Engine noise at idle is unobtrusive and even at speeds close to WOT, a conversation between skipper and passengers can be had with no need to shout; a tribute to both the design of modern diesel engines and the craft’s engine box characteristics.

From idle it takes only a slight nudge of the throttle for the Coastal 720 to lift its bow and effortlessly rise up on to the plane. Another slight touch and like a racehorse exiting the start gate, it surges forward with an eagerness that surprises. Swing the vessel’s stainless wheel to port or starboard and the hull responds instantly, cleaving a clean wake behind it and with no sign of cavitation or engine load.


While the duo-prop set-up certainly contributes to the impeccable handling, this craft’s underwater section, with its solid chines and three strategically-placed planing strakes, contributes strongly and should handle very efficiently, regardless of the chosen power option. Speaking of which, they include either single or twin outboards as well as a range of smaller diesel or petrol stern drives, with the craft’s horsepower rating from 190 to 285.

On the test day with four hefty adults aboard, we found the craft could be truly considered to be planing at just over ten knots, with the rev counter displaying 1800rpm. A nice easy cruising speed of 24 knots was achieved at an effortless 2500rpm. Adding a mere 500rpm took us up to almost 31 knots, while WOT saw a touch over 43 knots on the dial.

I had the opportunity to go to sea on two separate occasions when evaluating this craft, as well as to view it from the flybridge of another vessel. While one learns a great deal about a craft by travelling aboard, being able to observe a vessel carrying out various manoeuvres from a good vantage point can be illuminating.

From both perspectives, the Coastal 720 performed with flying colours and was a pleasure to either be aboard, as it sliced cleanly through the short chop, or to watch it from a distance as its sharp forefoot cleaved a smooth path through the seaway; its flared bow throwing displaced blue water well to the side.

With a fuel tank holding some 300 litres and a range of features that are often extras on other craft, the discerning buyer will find very good value for money in this vessel’s standard equipment, which includes the bow rail, four rod holders, boarding platform, a stainless steel boarding ladder and the electric winch, anchor and chain, among numerous other goodies.

The tested craft is the Hardtop model and there are two Targa models or the Standard model from which to choose, any one of which will give years of pleasurable boating backed up by Theodore Marine’s five-year structural hull warranty, which is transferable.

A partial list of options from which to choose includes a 500-litre fuel tank, padded cockpit coamings, a 50-litre fresh water tank, a sink, a hand-held shower at the stern and a lockable sliding door to the cabin.

The Theodore Marine website states: “The structure of the vessel is in accordance with the Australian AS4132 standards in both ‘Boat and Ship’ design and strictly constructed under these guidelines. This enables the Theodore Coastal to be built to 2C survey for 6 (six) passengers and 1 (one) crew, giving you, as an owner, peace of mind.”

Which underlines the sturdiness and structural soundness of a well thought-out and well finished craft.

The Theodore story

As the joint proprietor of Port River Marine Services in Adelaide, Jim Theodore is acknowledged as someone who brings a wealth of experience to boat construction, having built his first boat on his parents’ cane farm at the tender age of nine.

From his apprenticeship days in north Queensland, and on through several decades as a marine surveyor and shipwright, Jim encountered a range of design and construction shortcomings in various craft, leading him to believe that he could ‘build a better mousetrap’.

With considerable input from owners of large recreational vessels, along with feedback from commercial operators, Jim gradually compiled a list of features which owners had listed as desirable. He also came to believe that there is a viable niche for a craft of trailerable dimensions, but one which offered both the look and feel usually associated with larger moored vessels.

With total support from his wife Leica, who is a codirector and working partner, Jim began the lengthy task of turning the Theodore Coastal 720 from a long-held dream into a reality; a process that took almost five years and which needed to be fitted in between the busy day-to-day activities of their thriving facility.

Established in 1985, Port River Marine Services offers a range of services, including complete construction, repair and maintenance. The company employs skilled tradesmen, who are equally at home working with wood, steel, fibreglass or aluminium. They are able to cater for larger vessels, being equipped with a 70-tonne travel-lift and 600-tonne slipway.

Other aspects of the business include a brokerage in yachts, powerboats and commercial vessels, along with slipping and storage and a marine accessories store.

A former competitive water skier and high-level karate competitor, Jim also enjoys recreational boating and fishing, but his current favourite activity is pushbike riding with his son James.


Theodore Coastal 720

Length: 7.2m (8.04m including boarding platform and bowsprit)

Beam: 2.5m

Weight: 1985kg

Fuel tank capacity: 300-litre standard

Power rating: 190-285hp

Hull warranty: 5 years, transferable


Theodore Coastal 720/Volvo Turbo Diesel KAD 300 285hp

Propeller: Duoprop C7

Conditions: Calm water, light winds

Load: 4 adults

Location: Port River, Port Adelaide

RPM Speed in Knots Comment

1800 10.3 Minimum planing speed

2500 24 Cruising speed range

3000 30.6 Cruising speed range

3500 36.4 High end cruising speed range

3800 43.1 WOT

PRICE $143,000 (as tested)


The test boat is powered by a Volvo KAD 300 turbo diesel. Options include smaller diesel or petrol stern drives or single or twin outboards.


A two-way run along the Port River in smooth conditions with four adults on board recorded the following figures:


10.3 1800

24 2500

30.5 3000

44 3800

For more information, tel (08) 8242 0788, or go to:

Boat Test