Accidental Francophile

Barry Tranter | VOLUME 23, ISSUE 5

The Arvor 280 AS has Australian fishermen rethinking their attitudes towards la République Française.

Picture the land of origin of Arvor boats. They come from the coast of northwest France; a world of rocks and manic tides, a world defined by the surge and boom of the terrible North Atlantic.

This is where, for millennia, people have made their living from the sea at all times of the year, including through winter gales. These are the conditions that sculpted the style of the Arvors’ forebears; simple all-weather craft, that evolved to help the people make their living from the sea.

Today, many of these locals make their maritime living by wrestling large, murderous yachts in races across the Atlantic and around the world (but that’s a different story). Okay, so the Arvor 280 is actually built in Poland (again, though, that’s a side issue: the globalisation of all business). Fundamentally, this boat is French from bow roller to landing board.

European boats don’t always translate well to Australian conditions, but the uncompromisingly practical nature of the Arvors has meant that, for almost perverse reasons, Aussies like them and buy them in steady numbers.

Less than 10 years ago, Collins Marine of Sydney, importers of the Nanni range of French diesels, sought to add a line of boats to its business. So Peter Collins imported two Arvor 20s – one complete as a demonstrator and one in kit form, which was adapted for local manufacture. The 20-footer was followed by the 23, the 25, and now the Arvor 280, a fully-imported craft, which takes the familiar Arvor formula and moves it forward, but not so far that the original concept is threatened.

CIVILISED FISHER

The 280 is a walk-around hull with an inside steering position, a single 320hp diesel engine driving through a conventional shaft and prop, and steered by a conventional rudder.

The standard bow thruster helps with any handling inconveniences caused by the single prop arrangement, though good drivers learn to exploit prop walk – the tendency for the stern to move laterally in reverse – for close manoeuvring.

This boat is for fishing. There are rod holders in each gunwale and the teak seats each side of the cockpit fold down so the cockpit is free of obstructions. In the transom moulding there is a live bait well (with clear panel in front) on the port side of the transom door, and to starboard is a kill tank. Set in each gunwale is a roller for hauling pots (banned in some Australian states).

The transom door is made from stainless steel tubing so if you back up in a sea, water can come into the cockpit, but the scuppers are big and will drain quickly.

Down below, the 280 is the most civilised Arvor yet. A large double berth is set athwartships, aft of the saloon. Forward is a double berth, which is cut away for day use, and a large infill completes the bed at night.

There’s a single-burner gas stove and sink and basic stowage. The bathroom has a Jabsco manual toilet (with 61-litre holding tank) and basin. There’s a sump here and Peter Collins reckons you could fit a shower, but why not use the shower at the stern?

There’s a place for a fridge in the cabinet beneath the driver’s seat and, perhaps with the addition of a barbie aft, you could stay away as long as you like, in comfort, if not luxury.

The boat is delivered with VHF and sound system, but Collins Marine doesn’t try to guess what electronics a fisho would add. “Some want to spend $2000 and some spend $25,000,” Peter said. “And they have very specific ideas about what brand they want.” So, the electrical system has plenty of spare slots for gear added later.

The hull is a gem. The deadrise is variable, which means the vee of the bottom flattens towards the stern, and there’s a recess for the prop, which improves water flow onto the prop and saves draft. Because the prop is high-mounted, which keeps the shaft angle low, the moulded keel is quite shallow. So Arvor has attached a stainless-steel skeg and shoe to it, connected by a strop to the rudder post’s lowest point. The strop’s job is to keep lines from snagging the prop and rudder. Inside the hull, this keel acts as a sump and houses the pickup for one of the three bilge pumps.

Two large lockable hatches in the cockpit floor lift to reveal the stern gear and the Cummins MerCruiser 4.2-litre straight-six diesel, a common-rail turbo unit, which generates 320hp. This is a simple boat and there is room to move around and reach everything you need. The whole bay is well-finished and easy to clean; Scott, from Collins Marine, tells me he has hosed it out.

As well as the three bilge pumps, there is the automatic fire suppression system, which sprays an inert gas into the bay at a predetermined temperature so you don’t have to raise the hatches. There’s a fuel cut-off in one of the two fully-moulded lockers set outboard of the main bay and separate from it.

A tip: Peter recommends that every now and then, owners should spray the whole engine with WD or CRC, which keeps it looking like new.

PERFORMANCE

I said earlier that the hull is a gem, but I forgot to say why. Push the throttle forward and at 2000 revs and 8.3 knots, we are at the top end of displacement speed. Add 500rpm and at 2500 we are doing 13 knots and on the plane – with no transition; the nose hasn’t lifted one degree. On the stern are trim tabs, which do not seem to be needed for trim; Scott reckons their main use is to correct list.

In turns, the Arvor corners flat, like a catamaran. In fact, the whole experience is like driving a very simple car. She rides well at all times, including in the open sea, where we cruised happily at between 15 and 20 knots. Easy cruising can be had at 3200rpm, which results in 19.5 knots, at which point the big diesel is consuming 47 litres of fuel an hour. Drop the revs to 3000, and at 17.1 knots you are using 37 litres an hour; not much for a 3600kg boat. We took the consumption figures from the Smart instrumentation, which tells you everything you could possibly want to know if you check all the menus.

We punch through the wake of a fully-loaded oil tanker and white water covers the wheelhouse, but we stay dry and the wipers clear the screen – each wiper has its own switch. In normal conditions, the lipped chine throws spray clear.

The gunwale seems to be at the right height for comfort and safety. The kill tank is not big, but fishermen know ways around that.

A mate of mine fished for years from flybridge boats out of Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle. I assumed he was a confirmed flybridge man, but he surprised me by volunteering that he has a very soft spot for the Arvors. I asked him why and he said he admired the Arvors’ traditional looks, seaworthiness, and their versatility; he could imagine himself happily fishing for tailor in the lake or shark offshore, the latter with great fuel economy, a factor which can only continue to grow in boaties’ consciousness.

This is a sort of a crossover boat for Arvor. Without sacrificing any of its practicality, it makes some concession to general recreational use. The cockpit seats six, without resorting to loose furniture, and you can seat three in the cabin as well as the skipper. There’s a circular dinette table here, about which Peter has doubts. He says if he were an owner, he would probably remove it to free-up the seating and use, instead, the removable cockpit table, whose pedestal stows beneath the floor, beside the emergency tiller.

Along side the helms man is a sliding full-height door so the driver can duck out and pick up lines when mooring – equal to an extra pair of hands.

The 280 AS is immensely likeable. You can imagine spending a lot of time aboard. We weren’t out for a long time, but it was a cold morning and the protection offered by the wheelhouse meant we could step off after our trip without suffering the personal wear and tear imposed by the weather – a legacy of the Arvor’s working boat heritage. Not a hair was out of place.

Two couples can sleep down below, but more likely it will be mum and dad, perhaps with a kid or two. “If you want frilly curtains and gold taps, there are plenty of other boats out there,” says Peter.

And best of all, there’s no pop-up flat-screen TV to be seen. A big point in the 280’s favour, in my opinion.

SPECIFICATIONS: ARVOR 280 AS

Length overall: 9.50m

Length overall (hull): 8.48m

Beam: 2.99m

Draft: 0.95m

Displacement: 3600kg

Engine: CMD 320hp

Fuel: 390lt

Water: 137lt

Holding tank: 61lt

Price: $200,000, including VHF and AM/FM CD player.

PERFORMANCE

Propeller: 23" x 22" four-blade

Location: Sydney Harbour

Conditions: Smooth water, 12-knot crosswind.

Load: 3 adults, full fuel and water

RPM Speed (knots) RPM Speed (knots)

1500 6.4 3000 17.1

2000 8.3 3500 21.5

2500 13.0 3800 24.9

For more information, including local dealers, phone Collins Marine, tel (02) 9319 5222, or go to: www.arvor.com.au.


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