Become a Beachcomber
Trailer Boat magazine is giving away this fantastic Savage 540, a former Boat of the Year winner. Yes, it could be yours -- read on to see how it stacks up in the real world. Pick up a copy of the magazine at your local newsagent, for your entry form
The aluminium hull makes it light for its size, so it’s easy to tow with the family car and a breeze to get in and out of the water, although a roller trailer would make it a touch easier. The 540 would, in fact, make an excellent first boat for anyone who wants to skip the smallest tinnies and the like. And we’re not the only ones impressed with it, because it won the AMIF Boat Of The Year in the ‘Cruiser Trailerable - Aluminium Under 6 metre’ division in 2008.
The 540 Beachcomber is available as the sterndrive shown hereabouts or as an outboard powered model. The 2.26m beam is the same for both, but the sterndive is 300mm longer at 5.95m. However, despite its extra length, the sterndrive loses space in the cockpit because of the engine cowling. So, does that make it feel more cramped? Well, no. The thing about sterndrives is they create a low profile that makes the boat seem longer. Most of the perceived (and real) length increase is in the broad flat area immediately behind the rear seats. Then there’s the swim platform that stretches the eye even further and no powerhead to distract the view.
The top of the engine cowling is padded, with a step-cum-footrest moulded into the front edge, along with moulded drinkholders on either side. So it makes an extremely comfortable perch. The padded area isn’t big enough to act as a sun lounge, but you can recline on it or place some fishing accessories.
The rear seats nestled in between the sides of the engine cowling and the bulwarks are comfortable and secure. In fact, they’re not a bad spot for children because they’re so well enclosed and the rear handrails are right next to them. These rails are welded in place and can never come loose. Also, there’s another moulded drinkholder in the side of the liner next to each seat. Another reason this position might find favour with children is that it’s very stable. We tested this boat on the same day as the Offshore Pro and used it as the camera boat. Severe chop with wave heights of around 1.5m made it difficult to get steady shots but given the conditions, this region of the boat proved to be the best.
While we’re discussing the stern area, have a look at the generous swim platform. If you’re going to take the family beachcombing, you can’t go past a swim platform. They just can’t be beaten as starting points for swimming or snorkelling. One criticism I had of the boat, though, was the lack of a ladder for the platform. A ladder that extends well down into the water could easily be stowed and would significantly increase the comfort and convenience for swimming from the back of the boat. There is a ladder available for the platform as an extra, so if you expect to do some swimming and diving, this may be a good accessory to tick on your list. Aside from its suitability for swimming, the platform is an ideal height for boarding. It’s also the best place for skiers and wakeboarders to prepare.
The marine carpet makes barefoot use extremely comfortable. It extends up the inside of the hull behind the long, padded storage boxes, reducing wave noise. The boxes are low enough at the top to get oversized objects in and out of them, while they finish above deck level so you can get your toes under and right to the edge of the inner hull. Why would you care about that? Ask someone who fishes all day if it would make a difference standing two or three inches farther away and make up the distance by leaning. Fishing can involve standing and waiting for quite a long time, even when they are on the bite.
At the helm, the height adjustable main swivel seats are comfortable but don’t have armrests. The pedestal mounts seemed strong enough to deal with heavy boned people like me. And so the seats stood up to a major test on the day, passing with top marks. If anyone was likely to shake something loose under the conditions on the day, it would have been me. But all was well.
There’s more storage in front of the foot areas in the console and a lockable glovebox with a small recessed flat area just in front of it. Again, each seat has a drinkholder next to it. There’s even more storage under each of the three seat pads in the bow, especially for the anchor rope. There’s no provision for ice or bait, but apart from that, the Beachcomber has plenty of storage areas. Two people fit in the bow section and the boat comes with a padded insert to cover the footwell, converting the whole bow into one big padded seat.
Split bowrails allow easy access to the bowsprit and stainless steel bowroller. TrailerBoat’s prize boat comes with a sand anchor kit and split bollard with pin. There’s also a couple of fenders, but these are extras. For standard jetty protection, there’s a bump strip around the hull.
The five-piece windscreen opens in the centre for access to the bow. This area also doubles nicely as a fishing spot. Just inside the windscreen is a grabrail in a perfect position which the hand seems to find the instant you get into the boat.
The bimini isn’t standard, nor are the overhead rodholders. In fact, there are only two aft-mounted rodholders. Obviously, if you were to do more fishing you’d simply customise the boat to suit. Fortunately, our prize boat does have a bimini. It complements the lines of the boat nicely, but is low and I was unable to stand, however the gap between the top of the windscreen and bimini rail allows you to stand.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
A speedometer, tacho, fuel, oil gauge and trim gauge comprise the standard instrumentation. A Northstar Explorer 657 combination fishfinder/chartplotter is available as an option. The switch panel is at lower right. At the helm, your hand naturally finds the mechanical throttle lever and built-in trim switch.
The 540 sterndrive is powered by the in-line four-cylinder MerCruiser 3.0lt TKS. Like some other engines in the MerCruiser family, this is a carburetted model. Mercury set about automating all the things to get a carburetted engine running and called the system TKS, which stands for Turn Key Starting. So, although it’s carburetted, this engine requires no pumping or priming and has no choke. We found if the engine was slow to start, pushing up the throttle in neutral was all that was needed. The rev range is lower than a corresponding outboard at 4400 to 4800rpm. In fact, because of the different power and gearing characteristics of the engine, a corresponding outboard is a 115hp unit.
Torque is transferred through an Alpha drive which would have to be one of the most widely used units in the Mercury range. The only real problem with a sterndrive is that the prop can’t be lifted enough to get it out of the water like most outboards can. This means that if your boat is going to stay in the water for any length of time corrosion could be an issue. However, most owners will be taking the boat home after each outing, finishing with a flush.
The 540 sterndrive has good torque and it gets on plane fairly quickly. We’ve actually had this boat out a couple of times under varying conditions. The rough weather on test day wasn’t ideal, although it did handle the swell quite well. However, much reduced throttle, unwavering attention to oncoming waves and constant manoeuvring are essential in dirty weather.
Our first trip on a fairly calm day demonstrated much improved handling characteristics. One advantage of a sterndrive is the low position of the motor in the hull makes for a very low centre of gravity. This means the boat sits flatter in turns. It doesn’t quite turn ‘on rails’, but it is flatter. Deadrise is 14.5° at the transom sharpening up toward the bow. So, it’s a combination that does everything pretty well. A mild reverse chine helps with both handling and stability when fishing.
The alloy used in the hull is 3mm thick. The pressed form gives it the strength needed to endure weather well beyond the comfort zone. It’s well reinforced and braced both longitudinally and laterally. It’s also worth mentioning that the hull is foam filled up to the deck so you can’t really sink it.
Options include a baitboard, canopy and zips, deluxe bucket seats, engine and wiring harness pre-rig, metallic painted topsides, side curtains, and a swim platform ladder. The basic features of the Savage 540 Beachcomber combined with the options available will get you just the boat you’re after. There aren’t many boats in this size that will do all the things the 540 will do, as well as it will do them. If you’re looking at a boat in this size range you’ll almost certainly like the Beachcomber and it’s our bet that your family will, too.
WANT TO WIN IT?
Of course you do. To find out how, pick up a copy of Trailer Boat magazine at your local newsagent.
(The competition closes on 27 March, 2009.)
Price as tested: Approx $38,000 to $40,000-plus depending on accessories
Options fitted: Lowrance combination display, Tallon system receivers and baitboard, plus more to come for the final prize version
Standard fittings: Anchor, lockup glovebox, and glass windscreen
Type: Monohull welded
Material: 3mm aluminium plus foam flotation
Length overall: 5.95m
Beam: .... 2.26m
Deadrise: . 14.5°
Weight: Approx 970kg (w/eng.)
WOT: .... 66kmh
Fuel: ........ 110lt
Rec. HP: .... 135
Make/model: MerCruiser TKS 3.0lt
Type: In-line four-cylinder four-stroke petrol
Rated HP: .. 135
Max. rpm: 4400 to 4800
Gearbox ratio: 2:1
Propeller: 19in Black Max
132-140 Frankston-Dandenong Rd,
Dandenong, Vic, 3175
Phone: (03) 9791 5822
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