If you're looking for a tough name for a boat brand, I reckon 'Bar Crusher' is pretty hard to beat. It evokes images of a boat heroically smashing its way through ugly seas, conquering all before it as its skipper fearlessly battles the elements. Which is probably exactly the image Melbourne-based plate aluminium boat manufacturer Bar Crusher had in mind when the brand was launched 15 years ago.
When these boats are tested, you will typically read of mountainous seas in colourful prose that will accompany photos depicting waves crashing over bows and hulls defying gravity as they launch majestically off the top of swells of Himalayan proportions.
So it goes without saying that Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay did a superb impersonation of a billiard table the day we were to test two of the company's latest models. There was hardly a ripple confronting us as we emerged from the fog enveloping Patterson River onto the mirror-like bay waters. There would be no crushing of bars - or even taming of gentle swells - on this impeccably placid mid-winter morning.
Warren Cleland and Phil Noblett of Bar Crusher Boats were almost apologetic about the conditions, or lack thereof, but having known of the Bar Crusher reputation for taming big seas I was comfortable to take the hulls' ability to pacify ugly seas for granted. Our mission instead, was to investigate the merits of the company's new Hardtop Pilothouse offshore fishers.
We had two of the new craft to sample; the 670 HTP and the 780 HTP (there is also a 730 in the range). All three boats are based on Bar Crusher's proven Waveslicer deep-vee hulls and rigidly-braced fishing platforms, with the added feature of an enclosure designed to provide all-weather protection and overnighting capability. The robustness of the hulls is illustrated by the use of 5mm plate in the hull bottoms, transitioning to 4mm plate in the sides. Floors are 4mm, with eight full-depth stringers providing rigidity and strength beneath decks.
All Bar Crushers also include the company's Quickflow ballast system, which allows water into a cavity in the keel to improve stability at rest.
Fishing functionality is a priority on all Bar Crushers. Both of the craft tested have very generously sized, clutter-free cockpits - the 780 particularly so - for when the action heats up. Hardcore fishos will nod approvingly at the utilitarian checkerplate floors, the easy-to-use large baitboards, the self-draining deck (on the 780 and 730), transom livebait wells, large killtanks, deep storage pockets, combined tackle drawer/leader dispenser and sink unit, salt- and fresh-water deck washes, enough rodholders to equip an armada of anglers - including Bar Crusher's own industrial-strength, cast aluminium coaming rodholders - and lift-out transom doors and sturdy boarding ladders.
Twin batteries are standard features and all HTPs have a fold-away transom bench seat.
Fitted to the forward corners of the 780's cockpit are two additional seats, which conceal a sink on the portside and a gas cooker to starboard.
The deck on the 670 is 150mm deeper and so is not self-draining, but offers the benefit of a deeper cockpit for more security when fighting big fish.
On both boats there are grabrails everywhere they need to be and non-slip adhesive deck matting anywhere you're likely to step. So purely from a fishing point of view, the new craft are pretty hard to fault.
Four-stroke Suzukis powered our test craft, with the 670 propelled by a 250hp unit and the 780 fitted with the big 300hp V6. Both provided more than enough punch to push the test boats along at a brisk pace on the placid bay waters.
The aim of the new Pilothouse models is to capitalise on the success of the company's Hardtop range, but extend the appeal to those who appreciate a little more comfort and shelter from the elements when out on the briny.
The cabins on both the 670 and 780 boast plenty of headroom and great visibility, with the interiors secured from the elements by sturdy folding rear doors. Extra air flow is provided by opening windows in the rear bulkhead.
The interior of the 670 is a little cosier than its larger sibling, but it's nevertheless roomy enough for three to four adults to shelter while underway. Bolstered wraparound seats perch atop aluminium tackleboxes (a compact fridge can also be hidden under the passenger seat) and there is a central compact parcel shelf underneath the windshield. Speaking of which, the windshields are all toughened glass and visibility is excellent in all directions. A nice detail touch is the use of quality automotive-style wipers on all Pilothouse models that incorporate freshwater jets (the reservoir is inside the cabin) in the arms so residual salt and grit can be washed off without risking scratching.
The skipper's 'office' on both boats affords plenty of visibility and all the controls and instruments are within easy reach. Steering is hydraulic. As we continue to demand more from our electronics, it's good to know there is room for a decent-sized chartplotter in the centre of the dash.
A matt black finish on the painted surfaces looks smart against the grey of the carpet lining.
The interior is also insulated and the overnighting capabilities are enhanced by the V-berth bunk arrangement, which can accommodate two to three adults in adequate comfort. A roof hatch leads to the bow for those who prefer to manually anchor. It's worth noting that all Pilothouse models have electric windlass wiring installed in case owners decide to forego the manual option. Both our test craft were fitted with Stress Free winches.
Cabin lighting is provided by quality Hella LED lights in the roof and twin flexi lights make life easier in the bunk area. A 27MHz and VHF radio are mounted in the roof for easy access.
The 780's cabin is a more spacious affair and allows for a little more amenity in the form of a compact fold-out table that can be slotted into the space between the two portside island passenger seats, which can alternately slide together to form a benchseat. The layout differs from the smaller boat, with the bolstered, fabric-lined skipper's seat perched on a 12v Engel compressor fridge. There is also room to fit a reverse-cycle air-conditioner for hotter climes.
Sleeping capacity is three to four, with more than two metres of space to stretch out on the bunk infills. There's a fully plumbed toilet in the forward area and the option to fit a holding tank.
The aim of the Pilothouse range is to provide more flexibility for owners, especially those who don't mind covering a bit of ground, as well as water, to get to where they want to fish.
"We're finding people are using them as caravans. They can sleep in them and when they get to where they're going they can put their caravan in the water," explained Warren.
The new Pilothouse range retains all the tough, durable and practical features that Bar Crusher is known for. They boast good attention to detail, quality finish, a level of practicality that will be appreciated by the most hardcore fishos and an ability to go where other boats may fear to tread. And with a few clever touches, they offer the flexibility to switch easily from fishing to comfort mode.
Pricing starts at around $90,000 for the 670 and $130,000 for the 780.
If you're looking for a thoroughbred fishing machine with a little more in the way of comfort and amenity, you need to visit your local Bar Crusher dealer, or go to: barcrusher.com.au.
SPECIFICATIONS: BAR CRUSHER 670HTP
Hull length (LOA): 6.7m
Towing weight: 2000kg
Recommended power: 150hp
Power as tested: 200hp
Carrying capacity: 6
Fuel capacity: 190lt
Priced from: $90,000
Price as tested: $110,000
BAR CRUSHER 780HTP
Hull length (LOA): 7.8m
Towing weight: 2500kg
Recommended power: 225-300hp
Power as tested: 300hp
Carrying capacity: 6
Fuel capacity: 345lt
Priced from: $130,000 (with 225hp)
Price as tested: $159,500
For more information, tel (03) 9792 299, or: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: barcrusher.com.au.