REVIEW: HAINES HUNTER 700

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

To make sure he got it right, we sent JOHN FORD to test the new Haines Hunter 700, twice. He reports from Sydney and Melbourne on the Enclosed and Runabout versions

HAINES 700 ENCLOSED FORD 677 Copy

REVIEW: HAINES HUNTER 700

HIGHS

• High-quality gelcoat finish and mouldings

• Heavy-duty quality fittings

• Soft ride

• Big, safe boat for rough conditions and long distances

LOWS

• Bi-fold door to cabin needs a better fixture to keep it open

• No clear windows on bait tanks

Haines Hunter isn’t known for doing things by half, and the proof is in this fire-breathing, testosterone-charged beast on steroids. But you have to be careful when writing about the brand because if I were to say anything adverse, the HH cheer squad would call out for my blood, so I always approach a test with care.

No boat elicits more controversy, more undying loyalty than from the Hunter hordes. Owners of even the grottiest, fish-scaled 25-year-old 525 or 600 will bet the house on their rig outperforming anything else in a race back from the shelf in a howling gale. To be fair, much of the support is warranted, with many genuine classics emerging from the Hoppers Crossing factory over the years.

HAINES 700 ENCLOSED FORD 459 Copy

So it was a great deal of anticipation that we recently launched the twin 200hp Yamaha powered 700 Enclosed into the drink at Botany Bay. The monster proportions on the trailer promised an impressive experience, and the dedicated fishing layout talked of generations of angling expertise and design know-how.

Seeing the boat on its Easytow alloy trailer for the first time is a bit of a shock. It’s bloody big. Okay, it might be shorter than the 760 from which it is derived, but the decreased length with the same gunwale height and enclosed cabin seem to add to the ginormous impression.

HAINES 700 ENCLOSED FORD 411 Copy

THE BUILDER

With the 760 and 675 already in the Haines Hunter range, you might wonder why the 700 was introduced, and it was a question I later put to company owner, John Haber. He maintained that it’s all about offering a complete range of dedicated fishing platforms to a customer base demanding bigger boats for the current mega distances being travelled. So it has more room than a 675 – and if you see them together, the difference is significant. It also comes in under 3500kg on a trailer, and the longer 760 struggles with that when laden with fuel and a full quiver of tackle. Then there’s the issue of costs, with the new boat some $40,000 less expensive than its grander sibling.

Haber explained that the yard’s full-time naval architect worked on the design of the new boat to save as much of the fishing capability of the 760 without sacrificing any of its seakeeping prowess. Even so, for a trailerboat, it still pushes the boundaries of weight and maxes out to a street legal 2.5m beam. It’s tall too, so watch out when you’re backing it into the garage first time, because chances are it’s not going to fit under the roof.

The concept of the 700 wasn’t just a matter of chopping 600mm from the cockpit of the 760. Because the boat is built to survey, it needed to pass stability tests and go through computerised handling parameters before the final new moulds were commissioned. Part of the design brief included retaining a self-draining deck, and with the floor sitting some 300mm above the waterline, it was achieved with margin to spare, to easily allow for the extra weight carrying home the big ones that didn’t get away. Just how high the floor is can be shown if you go to wash your hands from the deck. I tried and couldn’t stretch to the water, falling short by a good 300mm. Maybe those of the stature of editor Tim could reach, but it’s beyond a normal human.

HAINES 700 ENCLOSED FORD 687 Copy

In typical HH fashion, no fibreglass is spared in the hand-laid construction. Layers of woven rovings are strengthened with gun rovings and a precise weight of resin to obtain the correct measure of strength and weight, while a vinylester barrier under the gelcoat maximises osmosis protection. Under the floor is a deep stringer matrix encased in fibreglass and resin that is foam-filled in the voids not taken by the 380lt fuel tank and oversize kill tank.

When we jumped aboard the feeling of size endured. Here is a cockpit with room for a cockpit crew of at least three to move freely. An 800mm gunwale and secure toeholds are in just the right place and high enough to keep you onboard yet low enough to allow pumping of standup tackle without hitting the side.

HAINES 700 ENCLOSED FORD 707 Copy

THE FINISH

That gargantuan killtank, two plumbed livebait tanks, an eleven-slot rocket launcher, grabrails, a dive door and one of the best tackle tables in the business all enhance the fishing experience and reinforce the Haines fable. If you can’t get comfortable and catch big fish from this cockpit, you should take up golf.

Before getting underway, I settled in to make myself comfortable at the helm. Twin fair dinkum and very comfortable helm chairs face a two-panel armour glass screen with opening side windows under a perfectly moulded hardtop. The dash has loads of room for large screens, comfortably accommodating a set of 12in Garmin XSV screens and a 7in one for engine monitoring. Vision from the driver’s seat or a standing position is excellent. The enclosed cabin offers exceptional weather protection and would be at home under a tropical sun or facing a bitter wind off Tasman Island.

The forward cabin is high enough for standing and has sleepover-size bunks and a pump-out electric toilet, while up on the bow a Viper drum winch sits inside a robust rail behind a prominent bowsprit and underslung plough anchor.

HAINES 700 ENCLOSED FORD 699 Copy

THE RIDE

Clicking the twin 200 Yamahas into drive, we were away, rising effortlessly onto the plane and to a cruise of 24kts at 3500rpm, riding high above the short chop of the bay as we headed offshore. The ride was soft, and the boat felt a little nervous, so touches of trim tabs were applied to settle things down. After getting a feel for the boat, the throttle was sent to sunset, and the engines kicked us enthusiastically toward the horizon. But things weren’t all that happy, and as we hit 35kts the boat fell off the keel to port before I gathered it back with a touch of lock and trim. Nothing too scary, but a bit unexpected.

Offshore we met a steady swell and 18kts of breeze shaking up a 1m chop as we veered eastward into the sea. We launched over the bigger waves for one of the softest landings I have experienced in such conditions, and my faith in the brand was confirmed. But the tendency to fall off the keel returned in some directions, particularly down sea where continually adjusting tabs and trim was needed for fast passage.

Something wasn’t right, and I wondered if the weight of the high superstructure had ruined what should have been an enjoyable ride.

Suitability for purpose

9

Innovation

7

Design and layout

8

Quality of finish

8

Handling and ride

7

Stability at rest

8

Ergonomics

8

Standard equipment

7

Value for money

7

X-factor

9

TOTAL

78

The team at Bayside Marina were as perplexed as me and suggested we talk to the factory about what might be wrong. As it transpired, I was heading to Melbourne in a few days and John Haber arranged for me to have a drive of a different boat to see how it compared. According to Haber, setup is critical and he wondered if this might explain our experience. So while I organised the southern trip, Alex started exploring calibrations on the Sydney boat.

A few days later on Port Phillip Bay with Phillip Pierias from Port Phillip Boating Centre, we got a fill-up at the bowser (boom-tish) and launched at Altona ramp into sloppy, conditions under 12kts of wind. Okay, it was a runabout version and in more benign conditions, but enough to check the boat’s behaviour. With Haber and Pierias along for the ride, there was plenty of advice about handling the big Haines. And despite full noise attacks above 40kts across every angle of the sea and at 30kts across the wake of big cruisers I couldn’t fault the ride. To be fair, the steering still felt light, and the feeling at the wheel was a touch flighty, but trimming the tabs a couple of notches took care of that.

Because the driving position is so high above the water and the screen deflects wind so effectively, there is little appreciation of how fast you travel. It’s only at 25kts before you get any sensation of speed and even when flat-out across the bay, it was a surprise to see the readout on the GPS hitting 44kts.

Not long after getting off the water, I got a call from Marina Bayside in Sydney, and it turns out they discovered a set of engines with conflicting trim angles. According to Alex, the intermittent leaning problem on the enclosed version was solved.

HAINES 700 ENCLOSED FORD 459 Copy

THE WRAP

The 700 is a different experience to most boats, and you need to respect the 400 healthy horses pushing things along. Mind you, while a lot of more gung-ho drivers will relish that sort of power, a single 300 or probably even a 250 would be enough. It will take new owners a few hours behind the wheel and in different conditions to feel confident and it needs the tabs to keep it on track. But once mastered, you can cover long distances in quick time.

At the risk of offending the cheer squad, I reckon the 700 isn’t for everyone and at around $200,000 with a suite of electronics, not everyone can afford one. It’s for serious offshore adventurers looking to tackle big seas and big oceans. If you want to put in the time, it will reward you, and in the right hands, it can sure put a big smile on your face when given its head. 

HAINES HUNTER 700 SPECIFICATIONS

PRICE AS TESTED

$196,000 (Enclosed)

OPTIONS FITTED

Electronics, Ultralon decking, baitboard, Rockford Fosgate Sound system, toilet, alloy trailer, rear lounge, and more

PRICED FROM

$165,000 (Enclosed), $150,000 (R)

GENERAL

MATERIAL GRP

TYPE Planing monohull

LENGTH 7.23m overall

BEAM 2.5m

WEIGHT 1500kg hull

DEADRISE 21°

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 7

FUEL 380lt

REC. MAX HP 400

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL 2 x Yamaha F200

TYPE Inline four-cylinder fuel-injected four-stroke outboard

RATED HP 200 (each)

DISPLACEMENT 2785cc

WEIGHT 221kg (each)

GEAR RATIO 1.86:1

PROPELLER 14.25in x 17in

SUPPLIED BY

MARINA BAYSIDE

1-13 Mangrove Lane,

Taren Point, NSW, 2229

PHONE (02) 9524 0044

EMAIL sales@marinabayside.com.au

WEB marinabayside.com.au

PORT PHILLIP BOATING CENTRE

Factory 2, 10 Wallace Ave,

Point Cook, VIC, 3030

PHONE (03) 9369 0099

EMAIL sales@portphillipboatingcentre.com.au

WEB portphillipboatingcenter.com.au

Check out the full review in issue #502 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.

 


Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.