BOTA TEST: AQUALINE 680 HARD TOP ENCLOSED CAB
The trans-Tasman competition is on, with yet another impressive Kiwi-built offshore fishing machine hitting our shores. To top it off, the Aqualine 680 Hard Top Enclosed Cab is also competitively priced, writes Kevin Smith.
TEST: AQUALINE 680 HARD TOP ENCLOSED CAB
You either immediately love the look of this style of craft, or you need to dig a little deeper to discover the reasons behind their growing popularity. With their sharp, boxy lines and multitude of angles, I'll be honest - aluminium pontoon boats do have a different, even military sort of look to them. They look set to head into battle with the ocean at a moment's notice, and after getting to grips with Aqualine's 680 Hard Top Enclosed Cab, I soon learned those ready-for-anything looks weren't deceiving.
Any vessel specifically built to wage war on both the ocean and its marine inhabitants has to have a tough construction and a good layout. With a 5mm-thick hull, the Aqualine has seven separate buoyancy compartments for added safety, and a number of pressed and folded angles throughout the craft to maximise its strength.
The buoyancy chambers on the outer edge of the hull are similar to those found in rigid inflatable boats (RIBs), but in this case the pontoons are aluminium, with all the added strength that goes with that. Apart from their buoyancy, these chambers are also vital to the craft's performance and stability, and they also work incredibly well to deflect spray coming up off the hull. On top of the pontoon section there's a recess and small, flat, non-skid platform - this affords access to bow area, where you'll find a small wraparound bowrail, a hatch-top to the cabin, and an anchor.
The cockpit section has a full hardtop that, instead of being open from the stern, has a double-door system with glass that can clip onto the small corner seats when open. Cabin doors for Queensland? Well, there are several benefits here, the main one being their ability to lock away your valuable electronics and gear. They also add to your comfort, especially on longer hauls when it can get a bit chilly.
Inside, the open-plan cabin has a really spacious and practical layout, with a decent console that offers room to move, good ventilation, a windscreen wiper, a comfy skipper's seat, a double passenger seat (with storage), sidepockets, stowage hatches and a fair-sized killtank. I thought the position of the killtank didn't blow my hair back, as after a long day at sea the last thing I want in the cockpit is the smell of fish, but there are always different options available - in this instance you could use the livebait tank for fish, and seeing as there's so much space you could easily carry a separate Esky too. One aspect I really appreciated was the good number of sensibly-placed grabrails both inside and out. Wherever you find yourself on this boat there's a decent grabrail close by, and that's an important thing when it comes to moving around when offshore or travelling at speed.
At the stern is the main fishing office, which is spacious enough to fit you and all your mates. It also offers good access to the batteries, pumps, filters and livebait well. The gunwales are high, wide and have big sidepockets, but they do have a small angle to them that might be a bit uncomfortable if you need to lean into them when fishing.
READY FOR BATTLE
For firepower this 680 was loaded with a 200hp Yamaha four-stroke, which was more than ample to see this missile streaking across the ocean. Once you put the hammer down it claws its way out of the hole and up to top speed at a rapid old pace - the 200 really suits this boat from low speed all the way through to its top end of 39.8kts (74kmh) at 5800rpm.
The hull has some weight to it but thanks to its unique design it provides a very good soft, dry, and stable ride. It's nicely balanced too, which is evident in the way it reacts to trim. Boats with heavy hardtops and forward cabins often ride bow-down due to their weight distribution, but here Aqualine got it right - you can pull the bow right up on the trim and set it to suit the conditions. It also turns on a dime, both out of the hole and at high speeds, and in general I'd have to say this is one of the better performing boats I've sampled in some time. Best of all, it's got the performance and handling to get you out of the crap when smashing through a bar in poor conditions. That alone instils plenty of confidence.
The Aqualine 680's distinctive looks may not appeal to everyone, but if the styling doesn't push your buttons then you can rest assured its potent performance and practical layout will. Boats like these can handle long-range trips, overnighters and even weekends away, and although this Aqualine already comes with many standard features, there's still a heap of space to really kit it out for some serious offshore antics. When it comes to hardcore offshore fishing platforms, the Aqualine 680 Hard Top Enclosed Cabin is right on target.
On the plane...
Excellent cab design
A very neat and well presented boat
Dragging the chain...
A better placed killtank would be nice
Inside gunwale angle could
prove uncomfortable to
Specifications: Aqualine 680 Hard Top Enclosed Cab
Price as tested: $119,000
Options fitted: Yamaha F200, bulkhead (doors), anchor winch, electronics, freshwater tank and deckwash, adjustable gas-lift driver seat, cockpit and cabin spotlights, stereo system, rocket launchers
Priced from: $107,000
Type: Monohull enclosed hardtop cabin
Length (overall): 6.8m
Weight: 940kg (hull)
Deadrise: 22° variable
Water 90lt (fresh)
Min. rec. HP: 150
Max. rec. HP: 200
Make/model: Yamaha F200 AETX
Type: Four-stroke, 24-valve, DOHC VCT, direct-action, 60° V6
Engine weight: 274kg
Gear ratio: 2.00:1
Kiwi Engineering & Marine
18 Victoria Avenue
Invercargill City, Southland, 9810
Tel: +64 3214 1388
174 Eastern Service Rd
Burpengary, Qld, 4505
Tel: (07) 3888 1727
Originally published in TrailerBoat 263.
Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.