High expectations

Warren Steptoe | VOLUME 21, ISSUE 6
Haines Hunter’s new 800 Patriot powered by twin outboards. A sterndrive version is under development.
The 800 Patriot comes from a proud lineage, most notably the much-revered 680 Patriot. We take the 800 out for a test run to see if it lives up to expectations…

Haines Hunter’s 680 Patriot is a brilliant offshore fisher that has been around for years and is, in my opinion, deservedly rated amongst the very best offshore fishing boats ever conceived in this country. Many people, in fact, rate the 680 Patriot as their favourite offshore fisher. And it’s significant that many of this legendary boat’s die-hard fans actually own one.

Unfortunately, I’m not a member of that particular group, although I would have to concede membership of the 680 Patriot fan club. I’ve fished many hours in 680 Patriots, and quite a few of them a long way out to sea.

Fraser Island’s Breaksea Spit is one of the more difficult to access fishing hot spots along the east coast. It’s some 100 kilometres from the nearest launch ramp and, while the first half of the long run out there is along the leeside of Fraser Island, once you depart Rooneys Point it’s all open and occasionally shallow water. It is also subject to a lot of water movement, with conflicting winds to boot.

It’s a rough patch, indeed, for over 20km, depending on which part of the 30km-long Breaksea Spit you’re intending to fish, with the crossing of the Spit itself also to negotiate – a very full-on bar crossing, which has brought many boats undone over the years – before reaching the open ocean.

Please excuse my lengthy preamble here, but I feel it’s necessary to afford Club Marine readers some insight into where our test boat, the new Haines Hunter 800 Patriot, comes from. Plus there’s the respect its predecessor has earned from both myself and probably every other keen offshore fisher in the country.

As offshore fishers go, the 680 Patriot predecessor (ancestor if you prefer) to the 800 Patriot has always punched way beyond its weight. So when you’re suddenly looking at a bigger, and presumably better version, it’s a bit mind-boggling really.

As sometimes happens, our test boat had been borrowed for the day from her proud owner, Bill Dwyer. Thus, the name Billy D prominently displayed along each side, in case you haven’t figured that for yourself already…

It’s appropriate at this point to say thanks to Bill for letting us loose in his baby for the day. A good bloke, who’ll hopefully get a laugh when I point out that although he may have the goods when it comes to running a boat for a photo session, we have had better looking models!

Interestingly, Bill is typical of 800 Patriot buyers in that he has ‘down-graded’ (for want of a better term) from a larger, permanently moored craft to a trailerable boat. Haines Hunter was apparently initially quite surprised to find many 800 Patriot buyers were like Bill – sick of the hassle and constant financial drain of mooring and regular slipping.

It makes sense, though, when you consider there’s been many a larger boat left in the wake of 680 Patriots over the years. And when you start talking proportionally larger than an 800 Patriot, you’re looking at some serious boats; basically all of which need be moored.

BIGGER AND BETTER?

With nearly two tonnes of hull weight alone, you do need a big 4WD, or small truck, to legally tow and launch an 800 Patriot. It’s no job for the average family sedan. Still, many potential owners of an 8-metre trailerboat costing somewhere around $150,000-$200,000 (plus) are likely to slot into a demographic that is able to consider an appropriate tow vehicle as part of the deal – and to reside somewhere with enough space to house both.

With all that in mind, and without delving further into any debate about the relative merits of mooring and trailering, this boat is mobile and can be trailered, regardless of prevailing weather; a factor some people will find highly attractive.

This particular boat is optioned with paired fridge and freezer, and other options include bunks and toilet facilities, making it more comfortable to live aboard for a few days.

But the most important consideration about this boat is clearly how it travels at sea. Does it punch as much above its weight as its smaller stablemate?

To answer that conclusively I would have had to take Billy D out to Breaksea Spit a few times – nice thought – but the format of boat tests (regrettably) doesn’t allow such. Nonetheless, after a few hours aboard, including some offshore from the Gold Coast seaway, I’m happy to report that the 800 Patriot is an outstandingly comfortable boat, both at speed and at rest. It certainly compares favourably with larger non-trailerable boats I’ve tested in similar circumstances.

Taking a Cook’s tour of the 800 Patriot soon confirms to anyone familiar with the 680 that the new 800 is indeed a bigger, roomier and generally better version. Cockpit ergonomics are critically important to offshore fishing and thankfully the essentials have been maintained, making the 800 Patriot’s cockpit simply a bigger version of one of the best in the business.

Returning to the moored/trailered thing for a moment, the only potentially negative point to consider here is that being powered by outboards does mean that, when fishing, there’s substantial infrastructure between the working area at the back of the boat and the water. Whether this is a problem, how much of a problem, and how it compares with sterndrive or inboard shaft-driven alternatives, is completely a matter of opinion.

This consideration apart, a comfortable aft lounge set into the transom area may be removed completely from the boat or stowed for occasional use as required. Above this, the entire top of the bulkhead is fitted with a cutting surface, which hinges up to reveal a small shallow well for thawing bait, a spacious central well plumbed as a livewell, and, to port, a sink plumbed with a pressurised water supply.

FISHING MACHINE

With the sides of the cockpit being so high – 830mm from the deck – this becomes an effective workstation, set at a very comfortable height. It’s an excellent arrangement in place of the workstations commonly seen perched high on the aft bulkheads of offshore fishing boats everywhere.

An opening through our test boat’s transom accessed a motor deck aft of the main bulkhead, with a fold-up boarding ladder conveniently sited on the transom proper. People carrying small children aboard would, I expect, fit a ‘kid-proof’ door into this opening.

The motor deck (I don’t know if that’s a strictly accurate technical term, but we all know what I’m referring to here) has a moulded-in, anti-slip surface and there’s plenty of room out there to use a pressurised shower contained in a locker in the side of the transom step. All of which is eminently suited to family boating, although this boat does exhibit a definite leaning towards more serious fishing than family live-aboard boating.

Being a centre cabin means cabin space is sacrificed to some extent to the walkaround side decks. Any reduction of cabin space does, of course, have less impact in this new 8-metre Patriot than in the 680. Nonetheless, there’s no avoiding that sleeping space is basically restricted to two adults, although they’d certainly be comfortable over several days. The 800 Patriot’s cab can also be locked securely; an unfortunately necessary feature in today’s world.

On the plus side, the moulded side decks and bow rail do make going forward a secure activity. A baffle and drain system sheds any water making its way along the side decks towards the cockpit.

At the helm, a seat for two sits above the aft-facing fridge and freezer. When these are optioned, it apparently causes some rearrangement of bunks and the (standard fitment) portable toilet. A power anchor winch is another standard item.

Matched Navman Fish 4500 and Tracker 5500 fish finder and GPS units also come with the 800 Patriot, unless otherwise specified. The dash area has plenty of extra room for the instrumentation involved in twin motor installations.

An 800 Patriot can be ordered with either single or twin outboards. Not that this will concern people intent on serious offshore fishing, given the inherent safety aspects. Structural arrangements for sterndrive installations were under development at the time of our test.

Other things essential for safe and comfortable offshore fishing include a fully self-draining deck, and a toughened glass windscreen. The hardtop and clears seen here are optional. They ensured the helm area was well protected from spray and weather and it’s difficult to imagine too many 800 Patriots going without them.

The helm area is set high enough above deck height to significantly improve vision around the boat’s extremities. This isn’t to be underrated and I’m sure it will be greatly appreciated when docking or negotiating shallow sand bars and reefs.

Stowage is always an issue in any boat and it seemed wherever I looked aboard the 800 Patriot I found more of it. Stowage is largely where you expect to find it; under the bunks, in the cockpit side pockets etc. In addition, there’s a cavernous space inside the aft bulkhead and another underfoot beside the helm.

Twin fishwells underdeck in the cockpit are very necessary in a serious fishing boat – although some don’t have them as well set up as in the 800 Patriot.

Bill Dwyer’s choice of twin 200hp Evinrude E-Tecs ensured Billy D would be a fairly fast fishing boat – as she proved while recording a top speed over 45 knots. The 8-metre performance deadrise vee hull is rated to take up to twin 225s, (either two-or four-stroke), although I’d suggest that only 800 Patriots regularly carrying heavy payloads might need so much power.

With three adults and quite a bit of Bill’s gear onboard, Billy D rocketed onto the plane and at 3000rpm was already loping along at over 20 knots. My guess is that this easy low-to-mid-rev cruising will provide fuel efficient travel in a boat this size.

I have no doubt that those who are big fans of the 680 Patriot and all that it offers will find the 800 carries on a fine tradition.

SPECIFICATIONS

HAINES HUNTER 800 PATRIOT

Length: 8.23 metres overall

Beam: 2.50 metres

Hull weight: 1900kg approx

Fuel capacity: 500 litres

Power rating: Up to 450hp of twin outboards

Max transom weight: 580kg

Transom height: For 25-inch outboard legs

PERFORMANCE

Power: 2 × 200hp Evinrude E-Tec

Propellers: 19-inch pitch s/s BRP

Conditions: Variable cross winds, smooth conditions

Load: 3 adults

Location: Gold Coast Seaway

RPM Speed (in Knots) Comments

500 2.4 In gear, idle trolling speed

2000 8.3 Minimum planing speed

2500 15.1 Easy cruise

3000 20.4

3500 26.3

4000 31.6

5400 46.8 WOT

Price as tested: Approx $170,000.

Boat/motor/trailer (BMT) package price $146,000 (powered by twin 175 E-Tec outboards).

More information, contact, Haines Hunter, Victoria and Queensland on: 1300 42 46 37 or visit: www.haineshunter.com.au.


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