BOAT TEST: PROFILE 900HW
New Zealand’s Profile Boats flagship 900HW is certainly eye-catching, but the real treasure is in what lies beneath that dazzling paint job. Matthew Jones discovers all that glitters is gold.
Precious gold can take many forms: hard-fought Olympic medals, high-priced ingots and priceless sunken doubloons, to name but a few. But sometimes gold also comes in the shape of a nine-metre aluminium pontoon boat - gold-coloured to be literal, but that's not the point. The metaphorical gold is in the attention to detail and clever innovation that makes this dazzling fisherman's dreamboat a true treasure.
Firmans Marine has been an integral part of the Napier (New Zealand) boating landscape since Brian Firman's grandparents switched from selling caravans to boats more than 40 years ago. A true family affair, Brian Firman and his older brother Gary bought the business from their parents in 1988. Brother David and sister Sandra also put in the hard yards until, one by one, they moved on to other things. Brian has been sole owner since the turn of the century.
Profile Boats had been around for five years before Firmans Marine acquired the business some four years ago. Since taking over, the team have produced in excess of 120 boats, ranging from a 4.65m runabout to the flagship 900HW - at 9m (the biggest Profile Boat to date). There are also plans for a 10.5m hull on the drawing board.
In its homeland Profile Boats took out both the Aluminium Fishing Boat Under 6m and the prestigious Boat of the Show - Overall Winner awards with its 585 Centre Console at the 2012 Hutchwilco Boat Show. Both boats sport the same Fusion Gold paint job and clever functional innovations that only an experienced team of passionate boaties can deliver. Firman just missed out on scoring the Aluminium Fishing Boat Open prize, with the 900HW losing out to a larger boat by only a couple of points.
Drawing on all his 27 years-experience in the marine industry (and countless hours on the water), Firman saw opportunities for improving the existing Profile Boats range.
"We've made a few changes to the angle of the hull at the back, so they trim better with the spray coming off further aft," explained Firman.
"Pontoon boats are traditionally fairly pushy, so we've had a good play with the hull, and double-braced the ribs and all the profiles under the floor.
"We've also improved the sliding window design so the frame is on the inside. When viewed from outside the side window looks exactly like the front, just nice and smooth," he said.
As far as customisation goes, it's pretty much whatever the customer wants - within reason of course. Firman and his team have the experience to guide customers in making the right choices.
"The customer was quite specific about the electronics on this boat, but left the rest up to us. Originally they wanted
bigger screens, but this was going to make the dash far too wide," says Firman. "We mocked it up using cardboard cut-outs and had to point out that the dash was going to end-up halfway across the cabin, so they've gone smaller. We'll guide them through if someone's suggesting stuff that, in reality, is not practical."
I got a sneak peek at the wiring job behind the dash before the covers went back on for the test. The quality of workmanship behind the scenes was impressive.
It seems boat show judges and boating writers aren't the only ones impressed with Profile Boats' handiwork either. Our test boat and its near-identical twin take the number of vessels sent to Australia to five, with a further two residing in New Caledonia.
"We got an inquiry from a customer in Perth, who had seen our boats on the Internet," said Firman. "They ordered two virtually identical rigs; one to be based in Perth and the other heading north of Cairns.
"One has been set-up for gamefishing and features a single walkthrough transom, game poles and a livebait tank, while the other has been set-up for diving, with a twin walkthrough transom instead," he said.
When it came to the fitout, the design brief was clear.
"The customer required a good heavy-weather, offshore-capable boat to handle the West Coast of Australia," Firman continued. "They wanted to be able to shut the door to escape the elements, while also being able to cook, sleep and shower."
Having the amenities outside the cabin offers privacy and means divers can come straight up the boarding ladder and into a nice hot shower, leaving their wet gear in the cockpit. The toilet's been angled to provide good legroom and rod racks have been optioned so you can wash your rods when showering - saving time and water.
Stepping into the cabin reveals generous headroom, with an overhead grabrail positioned off-centre to ensure safe passage into and out of the cockpit. The galley is equipped with a decent-size sink and gas hob. Cold ones or the Sunday roast are in easy reach below and the colour co-ordinated, dazzling glass splash-back adds a nice touch.
With the day's catch prepped and eaten, the dining table drops down to create additional accommodation, with beds for three, or four at a pinch. The bunks cleverly extend into the bulkhead for additional legroom.
With 250lt of water, great cooking facilities and abundant storage, the Profile 9m is clearly set-up for family life.
Firman is passionate about gamefishing and diving. He started fishing the Nationals in 1988 and hasn't missed one since; he holds NZ light-tackle records for yellowfin tuna and mako shark. It is this on-the-water experience that shines through in the Profile's innovations.
Firman details a couple of the changes they've made: "There's no other pontoon boat on the market that gives you toeholds under the pontoons. We've raised the floor a little, yet retained all the buoyancy and structural integrity (including upper gunwale buoyancy for survey standards) and taken the floor right in underneath the pontoon. A solid footing makes a huge difference when you're fighting a big gamefish."
A standout on the boat is the stylish and functional bait station.
"We've also been playing around with maximising transom usage because there's a huge amount of wasted space on many boats," says Firman. "We've got a solid bait station, with the baitboard at 900mm - kitchen bench height - a tackle drawer beneath and the batteries, switches and fuses within easy reach. A barbecue can be added as well."
The walkthrough transom features Profile Boats' wave-deflecting transom door, which was put to the test backing through sloppy conditions - I can confirm it works well. With the door out, we took on a fair amount of water reversing into the slop and this was quickly dispatched by the bilge pump. With the door in, little water found its way onboard.
I initially had my doubts about two of the three batteries placed just above floor height, but with the locker door closed water is forced into the deep bilge well, where it can be quickly dispatched. The sophisticated electrical system features three calcium batteries (one house and two start), CTEK chargers and twin-circuit voltage sensitive relays (VSRs) so the three batteries can be linked if extra juice is required.
Opposite are a plumbed livebait tank, with superb accessibility and an 80psi washdown pump to make light work of clean-up. The number and placement of the 22 heavy-duty rodholders was impressive.
Standing in the cockpit invoked adrenaline-fuelled visions of landing the 'big one' and I couldn't help but be impressed with the huge 7.5m² cockpit space.
Excellent thigh-height gunwales, combined with backside-friendly non-skid, make for a comfortable place to sit when fishing.
While driving from Gisborne to Napier the day before the test, I had my doubts that we'd get the boat into the water, such was the appalling weather. Firman was equally anxious. However, the next morning, with a break in the clouds, we launched into boisterous conditions that would be a worthy test of boat and crew.
Having twin screws on a boat this size made close-quarters handling easy even with the swell surge, swirling wind and an extremely tight seawall that made launching a hazardous affair. Once in open waters the conditions grew increasingly unpleasant.
For a big boat, the Profile was exceptionally manoeuvrable among the waves, taking tight turns comfortably within its stride and without any prop cavitation from the twin engines. The stability of the pontoons and security of the hardtop came into their own and made light work of the conditions.
The overall ergonomics of this boat are commendable. Mercury's SmartCraft Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS) was a pleasure to use. The combined trim switch made trimming both engines at once a no-brainer.
Having dedicated chart and depthsounder displays on twin Raymarine E90W units and freshwater washers on the wipers, were luxuries to boot.
With both outboards in full swing, we recorded 39kts in sloppy conditions and a fast cruise of 19kts at 3500rpm, at a reasonable 36lt/h for both engines. Profile Boats also offers sterndrive and single outboard (350hp Yamaha V8) options as well.
Being able to tow a boat of this size home is certainly a bonus, but it comes with a catch. At just under five tonnes fully laden and over the legal 2.5m width, the Profile is a formidable towing prospect even for Firman's Ford F150 ute. However, getting the boat back onto the trailer is as simple as driving it straight on and locking her in.
› Size-defying performance and manoeuvrability
› Fishability-plus, with a super-sized cockpit
› Great ergonomics and excellent headroom throughout
› Private, separate and roomy toilet/shower
› Attention to detail and well-thought-out design
› Only one grabrail on the boarding platform
› The cabin door must be closed to access the underfloor cockpit bin
› Size makes for a challenging towing proposition
A high level of customisation and outstanding workmanship, combined with excellent stability, comfort, fishability and golden touches make this a truly special boat, and one that I'm sure her new owners will be very happy with. Handling and performance defy the Profile 900HW's physical size and it's packed full of little treasures designed to make a real difference to your boating experience.
PRICE AS TESTED
$NZ280,000 w/ tandem axle trailer
Twin 200hp Mercury Verados
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN
2000 7.4kts 12lt/h
2500 9.2kts 20lt/h
3000 14kts 28lt/h
3500 19kts 36lt/h
4000 21.5kts 46lt/h
4500 27kts 58lt/h
5000 32kts 78lt/h
5500 35kts 104lt/h
6000 39kts 146lt/h
*Sea-trial data supplied by the author. Fuel burn is for both motors combined.
MATERIAL Aluminium alloy
TYPE Planing pontoon monohull
LENGTH OVERALL 9.2m
PEOPLE (DAY) 10
MAKE/MODEL 2 x Mercury Verado
TYPE Supercharged four-cylinder petrol outboard
RATED HP 200 (each)
FUEL SYSTEM EFI
DRY WEIGHT 231kg (each)
PROPS Enertia 17P
FOR MORE INFORMATION
220 Prebensen Drive,
Napier, New Zealand
Phone: +64 6 835 9718
Fax: +64 6 835 6223
Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #436, February 2012.
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