Some nine years ago experienced shipwright Jim Theodore realised a long-held dream when he commenced building his own line of top-shelf GRP trailerboats and he has gone on since to win a swag of industry awards.
The company's latest release is the Theodore 720 Offshore Enclosed Hardtop, with this example powered by twin 150hp Suzuki outboards, although power choices are varied and include a single outboard to 300hp, twin outboards to 300hp or a diesel sterndrive to 300hp.
This vessel completes the 720 range of high-performance, multi-award-winning craft and readily achieves its designer's goal of 40-plus knots (74km/h). Just as important, however, is the very impressive ability of this craft to handle offshore conditions with impressive levels of comfort and ride quality that is most impressive in a 7.2m vessel.
Stepping aboard it was hard not to be impressed by the helm station, with a plethora of the very latest and greatest electronic gadgets and gizmos, such as the adjustable SeaStar Optimus electronic helm. Also impressive was the Simrad NSS Series multifunction navigation system, with one main screen 16in GPS/plotter, radar, sounder (forward scanning), plus two seven-inch screens. Other features included an autopilot, Simrad SonicHub sound system, including Bluetooth, and a Simrad VHF Radio with additional wireless handset. That's enough electronics to keep a gadget geek occupied for hours - but all intended to make the most of a day or more on the water.
I also took the time to inspect the finish of the pristine gelcoat and found it right up there with the best in the industry.
Manoeuvring out of the marina, the benefit of the twin engines and counter-rotating propellers became obvious as handling and steering at slow speeds were superb. Nudging the throttles forward, the craft leapt onto the plane, seemingly effortlessly and almost soundlessly. These big Suzukis are whisper quiet at idle - almost inaudible, in fact - and even at higher revs as we planed along at 30-plus knots (56km/h) conversation was easy.
The helm position offers good sight lines through the windscreen as well as over the extremely comprehensive instrumentation.
TheĀ wheel and throttles fell readily to hand and the craft felt comfortable to skipper, either sitting or standing. Plenty of headroom is on offer even for those of lofty dimensions and there are well-placed grab rails for seated or standing passengers.
It took only a light touch on the throttles and we were up and planing with plenty of throttle in reserve. It's also worth noting a very important safety feature of this twin-outboard configuration in which, in the event of a single engine failure, the remaining powerplant can continue to operate efficiently in planing mode. I actually put this to the test and with one engine only still maintained an impressive speed of 32 knots (60km/h).
A fast ebbing tide encountering a strong southwesterly wind resulted in the dreaded Gulf St Vincent chop, with steep, almost vertical, metre-high waves running very close together. In most craft you'd back right off the throttle and prepare for a jarring ride, but I kept the Theodore on the throttle and we charged across the unpleasantly lumpy surface, getting airborne at times, but always coming down without any teeth-loosening impacts.
We were able to keep the ride manageable by using the trim of the two motors in conjunction with the trim tabs to position the hull in such a way that it always came down squarely on its V-bottom, rather than on one side or the other. Regardless of the running angle, the 720 just ate the chop and despite throwing considerable spray around, we stayed totally dry and I greatly enjoyed the ride.
The cockpit layout is extremely flexible and can be varied depending on the owner's requirements. Options include forward seating on pedestals, or on moulded fibreglass bases that provide extra storage lockers, such as on this vessel. In addition, rear-facing cockpit seating is available.
The 720 is very well laid out from a fishing perspective, with the hardtop boasting a solidly constructed rod rack with a capacity for six rods and a further six Reelax rodholders mounted along the gunwales. There are two bait lockers, a recirculating 50lt livebait tank just below the transom-mounted baitboard and both fresh- and salt-water washdowns.
The standard 300lt alloy fuel tank is built to survey standards and can be upgraded to 450lt, as on this vessel, by eliminating the aft under-floor fish/storage box.
Under-floor approved buoyancy foam is now fitted to all Theodores, whether built to survey or not, and these rugged vessels are constructed with hand laid-up moulded fibreglass incorporating a moulded fibreglass stringer grid system. A 10-year structural hull warranty is provided on non-survey vessels.
Other features include two heavy-duty sealed starting batteries - one for each engine - along with a separate heavy-duty house battery, plus a 20A Xantrex built-in battery charger with shore power, a 12v BEP control panel and a BEP fume detector in the bilge.
Auto/manual bilge pumps with high-water alarms are located in the aft and forward compartments.
While we don't have the space to list all features available on the 720, they include a 12v, stainless steel, ultrafast drive up/drive down, self-loading drum anchor winch, with under-deck mount and stainless steel hawse pipe, along with a Sarca anchor and stainless steel Sarca bow roller.
A Ritchie offshore compass is mounted forward of the helm, central to the skipper's sight lines, quality Hella LED lighting is used throughout, there are both salt- and freshwater pumps and there is a large V-berth with integrated portable toilet housing for a Sealand portable toilet.
A Lewmar tinted foredeck access hatch provides natural light, along with Luran hatches elsewhere, while cabin access is via a lockable, acrylic contoured door. The through-hull and bilge valves are marine-grade stainless steel as are the various grabrails and the bowrail.
A further concession to offshore safety is assured with the self-draining, self-closing scuppers and the watertight compartments in the transom to house the batteries.
The 720 Offshore Enclosed Hardtop as tested, with all the bells and whistles, including $35,000 worth of electronics, is priced at $230,000, including trailer. More basic versions, also with trailer, begin at $150-160,000, depending on power choices.
If you're in the market for an offshore-capable large trailerboat, superbly constructed and mirror finished, that offers high-speed offshore capabilities with tons of fishing room and a considerable degree of safety and comfort, you should definitely schedule a test run in this vessel.
SPECIFICATIONS: THEODORE 720 OFFSHORE ENCLOSED HARDTOP
Weight dry: 1985kg
Power as tested: Twin Suzuki 150hp four-strokes
Fuel capacity: 450lt
Carrying capacity: 8
Priced from: $150-$160,000
Price as tested: $230,000
For more information, contact Theodore Marine, tel (08) 8242 0788, web: theodoremarine.com.au.