Like that great Peter Allen hit song, Everything Old Is New Again, the new Integrity 350 Euro Sedan keeps alive the classic profile and style of displacement boats from an era when cruising was a leisurely pastime, enjoyed by people with enough spare time to do it justice.
But while the Integrity 350 may be classic in style, each boat that comes out of the Taiwanese factory benefits from modern technology and building techniques. The changes may be subtle, but each change and update is designed to make the boat more functional and user-friendly.
Aimed squarely at the ‘grey nomad’ market, the Integrity 350 is for people who want to get away from it all and enjoy life on the water – whether it’s long-range cruising or just escaping for a week or so on one of the waterways around the Australian coastline.
The 350 is modern, but not so sophisticated that it requires a lifetime of knowledge of the sea or a bottomless bank account to safely and confidently operate.
For example, the boat is powered by a single, conventional, B Series, 220hp Cummins six-cylinder diesel engine, coupled with a 4hp bow-thruster. The Cummins has a reputation as a good, reliable engine with a proven history. A big advantage for those wanting to cruise to far-off places is that any diesel mechanic can work on the Cummins engine without the need for sophisticated diagnostic equipment.
The current 350 has a slightly different bow treatment from earlier variants, with the box keel now scalloped at the back to give the four-blade prop more water on which it can bite. Also, the flat stern has been kicked down slightly to act like a trim tab.
The 350 is also easy on the eye, which is important when owners want to spend time on the water and not alongside looking after weathered surfaces. There is no wood on the outside, anywhere – wood caps on the bulwarks look good, but they are a pain to keep looking good after the Australian sun has done its work.
The large-volume interior remains much the same as previous models, except the drop-down cupboards in the galley are replaced with standard items. A binnacle has been added to the lower helm station and the bathroom, which once had two doors, now only has one entry point, to give more room inside. The master stateroom is unchanged, as is the second cabin to port.
One of the big features of the 350 is the spacious flybridge. Rated to accommodate six people, it’s a large area that is just the place to set up a deck chair or two on the roof over the roomy cockpit.
NO NEED FOR SPEED
As expected, the Integrity is no rocket ship. It has a top speed of around 12 knots (22km/h) and cruises very nicely at 8.5 knots (16km/h) at a quiet 1700 to 1800rpm, which gives a range of around 500nm (920km) from the 1135lt fuel tank.
The boat weighs in at around 10 tonnes and with a 4.11m (13ft 6in) beam, it sits well in the water and runs flat at top speed. We had the chance to test the stability when a large flybridge overtook us, throwing up the usual power wave behind it. The Integrity was deliberately positioned side-on to the metre-plus wash. Normally a boat in this position would soon be on its beam-ends, the contents of the cabin spread all over the floor and the passengers hanging on to whatever they could find. Not the Integrity; it merely shook its head as if to say, “What was that?”, before continuing on its way.
Obviously, nothing happens very quickly with this boat. It behaves predictably and safely. Docking a boat with only one screw is an art that is fading over time as advances in drive technology take over. It’s a procedure that can be daunting for the inexperienced, although bowthrusters are a welcome aid for those manoeuvering in tight spaces, such as when backing into a berth.
One technique is to put the gear lever in reverse and the throttle in idle and just use the bowthruster to position the bow. The torque of the prop pulls the boat slightly to the left and any wind and tide can also be used to the skipper’s advantage. It just needs practice – and the slower the better.
The test boat was in Queensland survey, which, according to local representative, Brett Flannagan was quite an exercise as far as meeting the Queensland Government regulations went. Queensland survey rules have always been rather draconian and some of the equipment that needs to be carried is more suited to a small ship than a 35ft boat destined to spend its time recreational cruising in the Whitsundays. It was the first Integrity to be put into survey, so there were plenty of unknowns. Some of the fittings required by the regulations almost defy belief.
LIVING THE LIFE
Two Integrity owners who have been well and truly bitten by the cruising bug are John and Annie Sullivan. Together, the pair manage a website – www.johnsullivan.info – that details their adventures, and those of their accompanying little black dog, Ralph, in long-range cruising. For John and Annie, there is no other life. “We love the freedom and independence of getting away,” says John. “Many people aspire to it, but they never get around to it. Buy a boat and just do it,” he adds.
And Annie says one of the best things about the cruising lifestyle is the view from her kitchen: “It changes every day,” she says.
In 2007, they took a boat around to the Kimberleys and, despite John’s triple-bypass operation earlier this year, they set off in March on a planned 12-month cruise that was to take them to Papua New Guinea and back. It wasn’t to be though, as the weather gods had other ideas and the couple found themselves anchored in Watson’s Bay at Lizard Island for a month. It was some of the worst weather the locals had seen in years.
According to John, the anchorage was like a miniature United Nations, with visiting boats from all over the world riding out the bad weather. They organised regular ‘sundowners’ on the beach and made some very good friends.
The Integrity 350 comes with enough creature comforts for a comfortable week or so away, but as the Sullivans planned to spend the best part of 12 months away, they added a few things to the boat, much of it from experience gained with other boats and from their previous Kimberley trip.
They doubled up on electronics, with two chartplotters, two sounders and two VHF radios. An autopilot was also added – a must for long trips between anchorages – and a water maker that makes between 300 and 400lt a day was also thrown into the mix. As they planned to spend time in some remote locations, a 120lt freezer and 100lt fridge/freezer were installed in addition to the standard 100lt fridge/freezer. Battery capacity was also upped from 300Ah to a whopping 1200Ah. A big-screen, 60cm TV and sound system, with 10 speakers throughout the boat, was installed. And, of course, there is the indispensable barbecue, as well as plenty of fishing rods and crab pots.
The boat normally carries a 13kg plough anchor, but John swapped this for a 20kg plough and plenty of 8mm close-link chain. The anchor is equipped with a chain counter, so John can run out the rode up to seven times the depth of the water if the weather blows up. It certainly came in handy at Lizard Island.
John claims around 50 years experience at sea. “You don’t have to be the greatest seaman in the world to enjoy cruising,” he says. “Then again, you have to expect the weather to turn nasty at times, and it helps if you have a boat like the Integrity 350 that can be turned around in a strong headwind so you can run for shelter safely.
“The Integrity comes away easily in a head sea and loves a following sea,” he added.
Next on the agenda is a circumnavigation of Australia and then probably a trip overseas.
SPECIFICATIONS: INTEGRITY 350 EURO SEDAN
Fuel capacity: 1135lt
Water capacity: 530lt
Base price: $449,000 (drive away)
For more information, contact: Brett Flannagan or Peter Hill, tel: (07) 5546 2999, or visit: www.integrityboats.com.au.