By: Warren Steptoe

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  • Trade-A-Boat

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"The Haines Signature 485SF is without doubt the driest, softest riding, most forgiving and safest handling hull its size I’ve ever tested," says Warren Steptoe. So yeah, he likes it.




To begin with I must confess a personal involvement in this boat, so if my objectiveness as a boat tester is questioned because of that, there's not much I can do about it. You see, my own boat is a prototype of what in the end became one of the most revolutionary boats ever to come from the Haines Group, builders of Haines Signature and Haines Traveller boats,
and distributors of Suzuki outboards.

The story is worth relating because where the Haines Signature 485SF came from has much to do with where it's at - and why I'm so unashamedly enthusiastic about it. Some time back I tested a neat little Haines Traveller dinghy, designation TD149, and came away mightily impressed. What blew me away was how much better the hull's roughwater ride and general handling capabilities were compared to the multitude of tinnies you see on the water. The TD149's 4.5m hull did everything your average tinnie could do - only it did it much, much better. Even so, as a fishing boat it wasn't perfect and its interior layout left much to be desired.

I later expressed these thoughts to Greg Haines over a coffee on the deck of his Gold Coast canal-side home. Typically, Greg mulled over my words before asking me if I'd consider getting involved in a project to build a better fishing boat based on the TD149 hull. It was from this conversation that a hand-built prototype finally evolved.



The new model was a simple tiller-steered configuration, with wide overhanging sidedecks hiding a rodrack along each side, and casting decks bow and stern. We fitted a huge icebox across the aft end of the bow-deck and a pair of pedestal seats, and then powered the rig with a 50hp Suzuki four-stroke outboard on the stern and a 55lb thrust Minn Kota Riptide electric on the bows. Then I was sent off fishing to see how well we'd done with weight distribution, relative to the general configuration and allocation of interior space.

To trim the story before I start boasting about 125cm barramundi and 95cm flathead, I was so happy with the design that I eventually bought it and I'm still happily fishing from it years later.

So it was from there that the concept Greg and I came up with went into the Haines Group thinktank, and after a couple more prototypes the boat you see here finally emerged for testing.

Due to marketing considerations related to safety regulations in some States, it had grown to 4.85m, with some tweaking of the underwater shape along the way. The side-console is an option that had always been on the drawingboard, while the original basic configuration of casting decks, icebox and so on remained unchanged. The only change was some interior space gained from the extra length.

Even so, you'd never call the 485SF's interior radical so much as simple common sense, at least for those who fish anything from trout to bream and flathead to barra. Can I say "common sense" basically designed it? What else could I say?

Actually, the 485's hull and deck-moulds are revolutionary. Or industry-leading would be a better way to put it…



While the model was in development the Haines Group had for some time also been working on a new resin transfer technology. It was named "RIVALE" which stood for the acronym "Resin Injected Vacuum Assisted Low Emission". The RIVALE method pressure-injects resin into a mould comprising male and female halves, whereas traditional fibreglass (more correctly known as GRP, or glass reinforced plastic) is laid up inside a female mould. With RIVALE you end up with a significantly thinner, much stronger, and yet substantially lighter moulding with a smooth finish on both sides, rather than traditional GRP's rough interior. Material waste and environmental emissions are both dramatically reduced as are production costs.

Haines Group Production Manager John Haines (Jnr) told me that the labour component in building a 485SF hull averages 14 man hours where it took around 50 man hours to build its predecessors. So while RIVALE is more expensive to set up initially, once set up it's a total win situation.



Only one major change from "my" prototype was evident in the finished 485SF, and that was separate hull and deck-moulds with foam-filling between. Bonding everything into a singular unit is another proprietary technology the Haines Group calls "Nexus". This technology gives the 485SF's hull formidable structural integrity and of course it must float so inherent safety aspects aren't to be understated either.

Earlier versions of similar technologies were developed overseas of course, but RIVALE was new in this country. Thus my "industry-leading" comment.

At the time of writing this boat test, it's been some months since my first experience with the 485SF and I've subsequently spent a lot more time in three different versions, with a fourth imminent during final judging for TrailerBoat's Australia's Greatest Boats Awards (AGB). I mention this because two of the 485 SFs I've tested were powered by 70hp Suzukis - one with a 60 and one coming up for AGB with a 90.

Both 70hp-powered boats proved nothing short of brilliant. The 485SF is without hesitation or doubt the driest, softest riding, most forgiving and safest handling hull its size I've ever tested. And I mean tested. Boat tests usually mean a few hours out on the water, and boating being boating (and testers have a few tricks they like to pull on test boats) means you experience conditions on the day as they come and then comment accordingly.

My experiences in the 485SF go way, way beyond that. Responsible boatbuilders like the Haines Group acknowledge that some (usually inexperienced) owners will get themselves into sketchy situations. There's only one way to find out what's going to happen when some ratbag pushes a boat past sane limits, and that's for the testing processes to step beyond sane limits to see what happens.

Suffice to say I've been there and done that and you, the reader, might note how confidently I used the words "most forgiving and safest handling" a moment ago.

The boat powered by a 60 belongs to my mate Scott Mitchell, who chose a 60 because of regulations on a dam he fishes. Scotto's boat is also equipped with all the bells and whistles you can imagine, so it's hardly a lightweight. Its performance with the 60 proved of bit of a disappointment after the two lighter boats with 70s.

Perhaps this is to be expected, because with more weight and less horsepower it's going to lack something. However, keeping in mind that the hull is rated up to 90hp, there's a clear message to potential 485SF owners that, unless they face similar restrictions to Scott, 70hp is a near perfect match for the 485SF hull.

As for 90hp, given how much sheer fun this hull is to throw around with a 70 on the back (and that it performs well enough to tow wake toys with a 70) a 90 should be exhilarating. Who's looking forward to testing for the Australia's Greatest Boats Award? Me? Hell yeah!



Coming back to earth at this point, it has to be said that the boats seen in our pics, and certainly Scott Mitchell's (the bells and whistles version) are fully optioned. Part of the RIVALE concept with the 485SF hull is to allow various configurations, starting with a basic thwart-seat layout without a deck-moulding. The base model 485SF package comes in at just over fifteen grand including a 30hp two-stroke Suzuki and trailer.

From there the price climbs after the deck-moulding is added. It incorporates the liner for the big icebox, which can be plumbed as a livewell. There's also an underdeck fishpit which, due to the foam-filling would serve very well as an icebox. Plumbing for a livewell centrally located in the aft casting deck converts it from dry stowage.

More stowage is available in separate lockers each side of the aft casting deck as well as in another locker situated forward of the icebox in the bow casting deck. An anchorwell is set into a short foredeck, while a side-console is the final option.

One option I hadn't seen until stepping aboard Scott's boat (owing to the fact that it was still under development when initial testing occurred) was a rodlocker incorporated into the boat's interior (deck) moulding along the port side.



If you look at our pics you'll see vertical rodracks holding eight rods. These worked well enough I suppose but to my mind expensive rods are best stowed horizontally where a wayward cast can't snatch one. Rodracks under the sidedecks along each side of my prototype boat were central to its design, so my thoughts about this are clear enough. Having said that, RIVALE's unitised hull construction has enough quantifiable advantages in so many other ways for some compromise to become necessary - and the rodlocker's it unfortunately.

I also noted that to open the locker hatch in Scott's boat you had to lift the passenger seat out of its deck-socket first. It's an inconvenience which only increased my disappointment in the rodlocker. As for negative thoughts on the 485SF, that rodlocker's as bad as it gets!

Since its interior embodies what I feel a fishing boat its size should be, any comment about how good the 485SF is to fish from would be a tad biased. We actually towed a model with an inflatable doughnut for one of the photo shoots I was involved in with the 485SF, and while that's not so much my thing as fishing, the exercise did show how well this boat performed as a tow vehicle.

Swinging a 19in pitch, three-blade aluminium Suzuki propeller, the hull was planing cleanly in just over three seconds, reaching a top speed with a brand new and still "factory stiff" 70 Suzuki of 35kts on the dot. And there's probably a little more to come there as the motor beds in and frees up.


On the plane...

Super fishing friendly layout

The best hull in this size on the water

More dry stowage than you'd expect in an open fishing boat


Dragging the chain...

Rodlocker maybe a little disappointing


Specifications: Haines Signature 485SF



Price as tested: $40,698

Options fitted: Inner deck-moulding, plumbed aft livewell, VHF radio, Furuno GP-7000F, side-console, rodracks, Suzuki DF70

Priced from: $15,100 (with Suzuki DT30 and Dunbier trailer)



Type: Side-console sportfishing boat

Material: RIVALE moulded GRP composites

Length: 4.85 m

Beam: 2.05m

Deadrise: 21°

Hull weight: 320kg plus options

BMT trailering weight: 750kg+



Fuel: 130lt

People: 5

Min HP: 30 (basic version)

Max HP: 90



Make/model: Suzuki DF70

Type: Four-cylinder inline DOHC EFI four-stroke

Rated HP: 70

Displacement: 1502cc

Weight: 160kg

Gearbox Ratio: 2.59:1

Test propeller: 19in pitch Suzuki aluminium



The Haines Group

140 Viking Drv

Wacol, Qld, 4076




Originally published in TrailerBoat 259


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