Buyer's guide to classic Haines Hunter boats

By: John Willis

Here are 10 of the most sought after used Haines Hunter boats on the market.

Few trailerboats in Australia command as much interest or excite buyers on the second hand boat market as a used Haines Hunter. Whether it’s fitting a new outboard to an offshore fishing boat or restoring a project boat into the family runabout, used Haines Hunter boats are regularly near the top of the list for most sought after classic trailerboats.



Here are 10 of the most sought after classic Haines Hunter boats that (if you're lucky) show up on the used boat market.



Haines Hunter Formula 233

While there are many claims to the origins of the Formula 233, my investigations have led me to confirm the claim by Garry Haines (backed up by a Donzi 16 brochure from 1964) that the original Formula Thunderbird was "Designed by a team composed of Don Aronow, Dave Stirrat, Jim Wynne and Waltman W. Walters, internationally known marine consultants, designers, ocean racers and builders."

The Formula 233 is strikingly similar to Dick Bertram’s Lucky Moppie Surfrider designed by C. Raymond Hunt. The history is all important for this iconic boat, built here in Australia by Haines Hunter. The Formula 233 has long been known as the pinnacle of offshore hulls, used by keen recreational and commercial operators alike. These big hulls need a minimum 300hp outboard motor to get them up and running, but when they are up there’s no stopping them!

Haines Hunter hasn’t produced the Formula 233 hull since the Haines brothers left the company in 1980. They were available in outboard or sterndrive configurations, and they generally needed twin rigs to get the required horsepower.

There are a number of great hulls in this size on the Australian market today, including the latest model Haines Hunter Patriot 760 and recently unveiled 760R. However, the Formula 233 is an icon that was born out of the romance and panache of the American and Australian offshore racing scene. This one wrote the rulebook for deep-vee monohull design!



Haines Hunter 445F

The Haines Hunter 445F evolved from the early Bertram 14 (or V15), and the John-Haines-designed 146 hull. The Haines Hunter 445 is actually a little wider than the originals, making it considerably more stable at rest. It has a deeper shoulder and better flotation to carry larger and heavier engines. This was one of the first fibreglass centre-consoles available in Australia, and this sought-after model is probably more popular now than at any other time in its long history. Whilst originally made to suit outboard motors in the 40-50hp class, it is not uncommon to see the latest offerings carrying outboards as large as 90hp.



Guide to used Haines Hunter v17L boats

The Haines Hunter V17L runs close to being the most popular package in the Haines Hunter boats range. Its sleek lines and low lined cabin stole the hearts of the Australian boating market from its introduction in the early to mid ’70s. The seakeeping abilities of this hull are legendary, and it ranks as one of the softest riding boats ever produced. The Haines Hunter V17L always ignites debate amongst anglers faced with the continuing riding comfort versus stability argument, as the V17 hull is very deep and narrow, and quite sloppy at rest. However, it’s a bullet when underway in the slop and will easily out-ride many larger competitors. The fine entry, strake and chine design evolves directly from the original Hunt-designed "Hydrolift" hulls, and the package performs very well with outboard motors from 90-115hp. Many people are refurbishing these great boats with new engines, but care must be taken with anything above a four-cylinder donk, as the 20in transoms sit very low at rest, and too much weight at the stern can lead to swamping.

The V17 was available in the V17L (shown here), V17C (a traditional half-cabin) and the V17R (runabout). There are many variations of this terrific hull. The "L" was the most popular, but while outwardly looking quite modern, its internal layout is somewhat lacking by today’s standards. It has a very low cabin with difficult bow access, a low windscreen that leaves the operator quite exposed, plus a very narrow cockpit running down to a low enginewell with rear-moulded seats.

All the pitfalls can be excused with one exclamation – "What a great hull!" Indeed, the current-model Haines Hunter 525 ProFish is a direct descendant of the V17 hull, but with a much more user-friendly interior.


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Haines Hunter Sea Wasp 400

Evolving from one of the first hulls ever built by the Haines brothers, for such a little boat the Haines Hunter Sea Wasp is legendary for its roughwater performance. These tiller-steer pocket rockets are often seen frolicking in the surf at shallow, ocean bar crossings, and were very popular for recreational and commercial fishos right from their origins some 50 years ago. Second-hand packages have always been in hot demand, which led to an updated Sea Wasp joining the Haines Hunter fleet in 2009. Outboard motor options ranged from 20-40hp, mostly with pull-start. If you’re after a small, trailerable package with big boat performance, a used Haines Hunter Sea Wasp will get you buzzing at a budget price.



Haines Hunter 490SLR

A personal favourite, the Haines Hunter 490SLR is a highly functional boating package. The 490 series hull was developed in the early ’80s. Like the Haines Hunter 445, it was widened for stability and its deck options included the SLR (runabout) and SLC (Cabin). The side-opening windscreen and foredeck of the Haines SLR is a real advantage for easy access and anchoring, and the open deck layout gave plenty of room for fishing and watersports. This functional boat is large enough for some serious coastal expeditions, but still small enough to be easily towed by smaller family vehicles to rivers, lakes and estuaries. It makes a terrific single-handed fishing boat, but is right at home as a family skier. Horsepower ranges for an outboard motor range from 50-90hp, whilst skiers will nowadays commonly fit 115hp engines.



Haines Hunter 560F buyers guide

By the late ’80s the boating and fishing world was enjoying specialised and ergonomically pleasing layouts. Whilst there was never a question as to the seakeeping abilities of the early Haines Hunters, they were mostly quite primitive in their layouts for the keen fisherman or diver.

The Haines Hunter 560F, and its larger brother, the 580SF, gave the first inklings of the major design changes to come. They combined the benefits of the early 19 and 565 deep-vee hulls with a much more practical short cabin with enormous deck room. The only real difference in the two hulls were the transom layouts, with the Haines Hunter 580 initially trialling one of the first half-pod configurations (it later went full pod for strength and buoyancy).

Whilst the Haines Hunter 560F still had a conventional enginewell transom, its overall layout and construction made it a better offshore-style boat that was still towable by the average family vehicle.



Haines Hunter 565L

The 565L of the late ’70s is often regarded as one of Haines Hunter’s finest achievements. To appreciate this you just have to drive one. Their seakeeping abilities are perhaps second to none in the size range, with a heavy deep-vee hull that is more popular today than at any stage of Haines Hunter’s long history.

The 565 hull evolved from the original 18ft Bertram, through the 19R and finally to the 565. They say "imitation is the highest form of flattery", and if that’s the case then there is plenty of cause for pride at Haines Hunter.

Like the V17L, the layout is quite primitive by today’s standards, but they still look and feel sensational on the water. They are keenly sought after on the used baot market, and while most of the original packages were fitted with outboard motors up to 150hp, you will often see refurbished boats today sporting engines of 200hp or more.

The Haines Hunter 565L was perhaps the first true outboard monohull "canyon runner" for offshore fishing, and you will still see plenty of 565s at any trailerable gamefishing circuit around the country.


HAINES HUNTER 1600 / 1800 / 2100SO SERIES

Haines Hunter SO Series boats

Fishermen often forget that Haines Hunters were born from the offshore boat racing circuit. The famous "Esso" series of boats still has one of the best performance hulls for the purpose. Built in 1600, 1800 (shown) and 2100 configurations, they are direct descendants of the boats that John and Garry Haines raced to victory in nearly every offshore or skirace event across Australia.

The really early models were easily identified by a more rounded deck and a four-piece windscreen. The Haines 2100 "Essos" were used as the skiboats at Queensland’s "Sea World" displays for many years. They are popular for both fresh and saltwater sportsboat enthusiasts and are at home flying across the top of swells in offshore events.



Haines Hunter 635L

It wasn’t until relatively recent developments in the outboard motor industry that boats larger than around 6m could carry enough fuel to feed thirsty, carburetted two-strokes. Before that, the only practical alternative was for boats to be powered with inboard four-stroke engines, mostly with sterndrives. Hence the greater majority of Haines Hunters above 6m were fitted with MerCruisers. In the case of the Haines Hunter 635L, they were generally MerCruiser’s 470 freshwater-cooled, four-cylinder engines, or occasionally a V8 alternative, mostly with the Alpha 1 drive unit. There were only a few built with an outboard soon after the model’s release around 1980, but it became progressively more popular and new versions were produced right through to the late ’90s.

I must admit that after spending many years in one while gamefishing on the NSW South Coast, the Haines Hunter 635L is my personal favourite. Again, its layout isn’t ideal, but the big lockable cabin and extremely high freeboard is more than comforting when confronted with difficult sea conditions. The big enginebox in the cockpit is difficult to fish around with today’s stand-up style of tackle, but it provided a good base for a gamechair at the time.

The towing weight of a Haines Hunter 635L on a tandem trailer easily exceeds two tonnes, putting it in the realm of breakaway brakes and large 4WD tow vehicles. A Haines Hunter 635L behind a Ford Bronco was once a fishing dream package.



Haines Hunter V19R

Along with the V17, the Haines Hunter V19R is thought of as a legendary boat by many Australian boaters.

Few hulls have created so much interest, with fishing and boating websites full of eager amateur and professional boatbuilders rejuvenating and refitting these wonderful boats from yesteryear — and this is despite the fact that these great old hulls are very dated by today’s standards.

For example, most fishing boats now have 25in transom heights replacing the older 20in offerings. We’ve seen too many failures of older deep-vees with heavy engines drowning themselves as the wash rose over the transom and back into the boat through the slop stoppers. We’ve also come to expect ergonomic mastery in our boats with all manner of creature comforts backed up by great function through deck layout and design.

Nonetheless, underneath the inevitably burnt orange design lurk extremely solid hulls. In fact, these boats were so well built that Trade-a-Boat acquired one (probably built somewhere from the mid-1970s to early ’80s) and restored it into our project boat.


Find used Haines Hunter boats for sale


Originally published in TrailerBoat#271, July / August 2011


Unpainted Haines V19 hull
Follow our Haines Hunter V19R project boat story including videos and boat restoration guide.


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