Natural evolution

Warren Steptoe | VOLUME 24, ISSUE 1
The 485SF proved to be the softest-riding, driest, most predictable and safest boat of its size I’ve ever driven.
The new Haines Signature 485SF blends new technology with a fisho’s hard-won know-how.

When the Haines Group released the 675F model we tested in Club Marine Vol 23 No 5, it introduced a new boat-building technology in which tightly-controlled amounts of resin were injected into a two-piece mould (instead of traditional hand or gun application of resin to mat laid up inside a female mould).

This process, known in the industry as RTM (Resin Transfer Moulding), produces mouldings (hulls, decks and various components such as the workstation on the 675F’s transom) that are smoothly finished on both sides. This is in contrast to conventional GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic, aka fibreglass) laminates, which are usually smooth on the mould side, while the ‘backside’ is left as it comes after hand lay-up. As is usually the case in ’glass boats, you don’t see this backside as it’s inside the hull.

The new RTM method has significant advantages. Due to improved control, boats built with RTM use less material, so they ultimately weigh less. Because boat builders have better control over the whole process, they’re stronger, too. And they’re more environmentally friendly, because enclosing the mould limits styrene emissions. Basically, hulls built with RTM are nicer to look at, thinner, lighter, stronger, cheaper, and ‘greener’.

Haines Group technicians learned a great deal about RTM with the 675F, and while their next new model was underway (that’s the 485SF tested here) they developed an even more sophisticated process called RIVALE, which stands for Resin Injected Vacuum Assisted Low Emission. “Resin injected” and “low emission” are self-explanatory, while “vacuum assisted” refers to vacuum bagging – a technique sometimes used by US boat builders, but rarely seen in mass produced hulls here until now.

In Australia, RIVALE is cutting-edge technology, achieving all of the above, plus a radical reduction in labour time. Haines Group Production Manager, John Haines Jnr, told Club Marine the labour component during production of the 485SF hull averages 14 man-hours, whereas the hull for the 485SF’s predecessor (built by traditional hand lay-up techniques) involved around 50.

STEPTOE’S BOAT

This humble correspondent tested that predecessor – the Haines Traveller TD149 fishing dinghy – back in 2003. Over a cup of coffee, Haines Group Joint MD Greg Haines and I were ruminating about how well the TD149 hull handled rough water – despite it being a John Haines Snr design dating back to the late ’60s.

We agreed that any comparison to the tinnies favoured by serious fishermen (including myself back then, it must be said) was a joke. However, I went on to say that if the TD149 was to take on the best tinnies and beat them at their own game, in terms of a fishing-friendly interior it still needed some work.

I often criticise serious fishing boats for their chronic lack of two things: secure rod stowage (keen fishos usually like to take three or more rods each), and an ice box (to cool drinks and food, and preserve fish destined for the table).

We brainstormed our ideas until Greg, a keen fisherman himself, finally asked if I’d help develop a TD149 hull incorporating the ideas we were discussing. From there, the story drags on over many months. I first drew my ‘vision’ to scale, then the craftsmen out at Wacol, west of Brisbane, hand-built the concept using ’glassed over marine plywood for bulkheads and decks etc, inside a TD149 hull.

Long story short: I liked the end result so much I bought it. ‘My’ boat has a simple tiller steer configuration, but it features pedestal-seating and bow and stern casting decks, with stowage underneath – including a 1.5m-long drained overboard ice box across the aft end of the bow deck.

Along the sides, racks holding three rods each tuck away under wide side decks. A 55lb thrust Minn Kota electric motor, powered by an 150amp/hr battery, is mounted on the bow, and two Hummin bird sounders, including one of the excellent 767 colour LCD units incorporating a mapping GPS feature, help find the fish. It’s powered by an unbelievably economical 50hp Suzuki.

As you expect with prototypes, the finish isn’t perfect, but several fishing seasons later, you couldn’t get me to part company with this boat without a high degree of what the CIA call “extreme prejudice”.

So far, this ‘TD450Q’ has racked up well over 200 1m-plus dam barra (over a hundred of which I caught myself), plus some hefty flathead (including a 96cm monster) and a zillion bass, mangrove jacks, bream, spotty mackerel and more – all while proving a totally user-friendly and generally delightful boat to own and fish from. Oh, and did I mention that double century of 1m-plus barra includes my PB – a 125cm, heavily built specimen that would easily have topped around 70lb? As fate would have it, I caught it one night on Lake Awoonga, near Gladstone, while Greg was fishing with me.

RIVALE STRENGTH

From this prototype, the Haines Group worked up a limited production version, which sold alongside the original TD149, while the RIVALE technology was developed around what finally became the 485SF you see here. It was introduced to the boating press in late 2008 at the launch of Suzuki’s new generation 70hp and 90hp motors.

My boat’s DNA is obvious in the 485SF, although the hull has grown 35cm and its underwater shape has been subtly updated, while the interior became a separate RIVALE moulding in itself.

The 485SF’s inner and outer mouldings are bonded with another Haines Group proprietary process it calls NEXUS (which is said to be so strongly bonded that mouldings delaminate before parting) – the space between them is filled with foam, creating a singular unit of supreme strength. This was amply demonstrated at the press day by parking a 4WD atop an inverted hull.

As if all that isn’t enough to make the 485SF perhaps the most interesting and innovative boat to come along in quite a while, there’s more. Somewhere during development, the Haines Group technicians decided to fully exploit this new RIVALE process with a series of mouldings that go together in a jigsaw-like fashion, so the hull can be configured in a variety of ways.

Our test boat has most of the bells and whistles, and is powered by one of those new 70s. It’s getting towards top of the range, with a boat/motor/trailer asking price of just under $35,000. At the other end of the scale is a bare bones twin thwart hull with a 30hp motor for $15,999.

OPTIONS GALORE

Interior options include a side or centre console, bow and stern casting decks and side decks. Underfloor fuel tankage, a built-in ice box, a livewell and a live bait tank are also available. Our test boat included all of these.

The bow casting deck had two underdeck lockers, including a big ice/fish box (or more stowage) and a separate anchor well. The stern deck had a central livewell with underdeck lockers each side. And there was yet another underdeck locker set into the lower deck just aft of the bow bulkhead.

What it didn’t have was a rod locker along the portside, or an electric motor bow mount – both of which were still under development at the time. Rod stowage in this boat was two vertical racks holding a total of eight rods. This worked well enough, but expensive rods are best stowed horizontally so a wayward cast can’t snatch one – and I’m still waiting to see the locker.

DOWN TO BUSINESS

Being entirely familiar with the hull this boat is derived from, I couldn’t wait to put it through its paces. As events transpired, Club Marine magazine’s previous editor, Kevan Wolfe, happened along at the time to serve as ballast. Kevan kept the side console configuration trimmed nicely level (and offered his usual stream of wry comment), while I got down to business with the 485SF.

Having worked together for so many years, Kevan and I are pretty comfortable with each other in boats, but rarely do boat tests involve pushing a boat’s limits as far as we did here. We did this firstly because the 485SF proved to be the softest-riding, driest, most predictable, and safest boat of its size I’ve ever driven. And secondly, because it was absolutely sheer fun – although Kevan’s knuckles did whiten a few times…

Being a press day, the hull had a confusion of boat wakes to contend with and yet we indulged in high-G turns and the odd lurid power slide. Choppy water came at it from all angles, showing the hull’s awesome structural integrity, impressively soft ride, and habit of turning deflected spray downwards. It was an awesome display of just how good a 4.85m boat can be – tinnies weep!

Kevan got out a stop watch to find we were planing from a standing start just a few hundredths past three seconds, and my handheld GPS revealed a top speed of 65km/h at 5900rpm. This with a brand new, literally straight out of the box 70 – experience with my 50 indicates it may well produce more useable power when it frees up after 50 hours or so.

If speed’s your thing, once the motor’s freed up, I think it might be worth trying a slightly smaller pitch than the prop our test boat was fitted with, which I suspect would produce a higher top speed by generating more revs. That may be of more interest to tournament fishers intent on reducing travelling times, than the average amateur fisho.

Bear in mind the 485SF’s exceptional high speed manners would be a fine match for towing wake toys, too – here its twin seats and open configuration would suit the job very nicely, indeed.

Since its interior so closely embodies my thoughts on how a fishing boat of this size should be, I guess any comment from me about how good the 485SF is to fish from would come across as just a mite biased. Still, I might point out that my boat’s results do a fine enough job of speaking for themselves.

Perhaps market reaction is a better measure of how good this boat may be for potential buyers. Well, despite the global economic crisis, and the fact no one is denying the Australian boat industry is doing it hard right now, the orders for the 485SF continue to roll in.

SPECIFICATIONS: HAINES SIGNATURE 485SF

Length: 4.85m

Beam: 2.05m

Hull weight: Approx. 320kg (plus options)

BMT towing weight: 750kg-plus (depending on options)

Deadrise: 21 degrees at transom

Engine: Suzuki DF70

Fuel: 130lt optional

Price (as tested): $34,500

More information: The Haines Group, www.haines-marine.com.au

PERFORMANCE RPM Speed (km/h) Comments

500 3.3 Slowest trolling speed

2500 10.7 Minimum planing speed

3000 20.9 Cruising speed

3500 30.0 Cruising speed

4000 38.7 Cruising speed

4250 43.5 Cruising speed

4500 46.3 Cruising speed

5000 51.7 Cruising speed

5900 64.8 WOT


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