By: Bernard Clancy, Photography by: Stuart Grant

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Testing the Bar Crusher 640C — with the boatbuilder on board — Bernard Clancy decides to get airborne




The first note I made when reviewing the Bar Crusher 640C was "first class finish". This is largely due to the perfectionism of the man responsible for building them, Warren Cleland.
Warren is the construction half of the Cleland brothers team; his brother Peter is the marketing guru. Under the Bar Crusher marque, they've got a formidable tinnie production business based at Dandenong on Melbourne's eastern outskirts, where they have just doubled the factory capacity to try to keep up with demand for their popular boats.
The brothers began the business about six years ago by importing basic hulls from New Zealand and finishing the boats here. Now they are built from the ground up at Dandenong under agreement with the Kiwis. And the boats are far better for it.
This is where Warren comes in. He's something of a perfectionist, and demands the same standards from his staff: if you've got a job on a welding torch at Bar Crusher, you have to be very good at your craft.




The latest and biggest in the Bar Crusher range is the 640C, and it's much the same as its smaller brothers but with more space, particularly in the cockpit. To many the boat is quite spartan, but if you're a serious fisho this is what you want.
The Bar Crusher range is identified by its effective water ballast system. Running the full length of the keel is a tunnel which is open at the transom and has "breather" holes at the other end in the anchor well. At rest this tunnel fills with about 400lt of water, adding at-rest weight to the hull, lowering it in the water so that the submerged chines can do their bit as stabilisers. When the boat moves forward this water simply drains away.
This allows a deeper V in hull design (in this instance, 19 degrees) so that performance is enhanced without sacrificing stability.
The 4mm plate hull has no strakes. It has a bare metal bottom but the sides are painted two-pack white with colourful decals as is the style with manufacturers these days. The first third of the hull features sharp spray rails on the chines and these work very well to keep the boat quite dry - although the day of the test on Port Phillip Bay off Sorrento and in the wash of The Rip was comparatively calm.
The hull has a sharpish entry for a tinnie and is constructed with six longitudinal stringers fully welded to cross frames forming a structurally strong, triangulated sub-floor frame. A strong chequerplate floor is then welded on top to give a fully sealed deck with a centrally mounted 300lt fuel tank and a large underfloor kill tank towards the stern. The fuel filler is in the floor, directly into the tank, between the two seats. This arrangement is not ideal, but the result of centrally mounting the fuel tank for best weight distribution.




The foredeck is steeply raked back to the small, high windscreen built into an almost armour-like matt-black frame which can be unclipped and swung down over the steering wheel, negating the problem of low-height carports.
In fact, the set-up of the windscreen, hardtop and clears is quite unique to Bar Crusher. While you're travelling, the hardtop's leading edge swivels down and bolts down to the top of the windscreen. When you're at sea it swings up on gas struts to give you double the sighting space over the small screen. The screen can be covered in clears. The rear hardtop lip has a six-pot rocket launcher. The top of the windscreen rail has a lip which turns down to help spray deflection.
The control station is all business. The twin swivel Reelax seats are fully adjustable buckets complete with armrests and are on open fronted storage boxes which feature footrails on the rear facing sides. There are also excellent rubber-covered footrests in front of both driver and passenger.
The carpet-inlaid small dash is very high and has space for electronics, in this instance a Navman Fish 4500 and Navman Tracker 5500 GPS. The instrument layout below is simple, with VDO instruments (mph only, trim, rpm, fuel) mounted centrally. Trim tab controls and a switch panel is to the right of the Teleflex helm. Because the cuddy is very open, front and centre instrument space is at a premium so the Navman VHF 7000 marine radio must be mounted on the side of the central bulkhead, which is not ideal because you have to duck around corners quickly to check channels. There is a light just above it however, and the handpiece is easily accessible.
There are grabrails either side of the boat for driver and passenger and another in front of the passenger. A small odds and ends pocket is just forward of the throttle.




The cockpit is enormous with exceptionally wide gunwales featuring four aluminium rod holders and a couple of rubberised non-slip panels stuck on for good measure.
Sidepockets are long, wide and carpet-lined on the bottom. The underfloor killtank has been designed to accommodate a couple of decent-sized tuna or dive bottles and behind that in the bilge are the bilge pumps. A small lip surrounds the open bilge to stop fish sliding into it. Water escapes the chequerplate cockpit sole through self-draining holes in either stern quarter.
The stern slopes to a full-width swim platform on which the Suzuki 200 four-stroke outboard was mounted. A very solid, hinged, swing-down, two-step, boarding ladder leads to a walk-through space in the transom on the port side and a berley pot is cut through the platform on the starboard. This lifts out quite easily for washing. Boarding grabrails - which continue up and over the transom to form rear quarter gunwale rails - help out on either side. There are no rear cleats so these rails double as tie-off points.
The matt black Teflon-insert aluminium baitboard, which has three rodholders incorporated, is mounted centrally.
The starboard transom features a deep, hinge-out livebait tank with a smoked acrylic cover. Beneath and centrally mounted are twin batteries with room for oil bottles. These are protected by a swing-down, full-width rear transom seat covered in a tough, rubberised material. This seat, when raised, doubles as a door for the walk-through, or as padded bracing for anglers' thighs.
The vee-bunks in the cuddy are vinyl covered and are the only concessions to creature comfort in the boat. Headroom is good and there's plenty of storage under the bunks but small internal pockets will carry only small items. A large side-opening hatch through the cuddy is the only way to get to the anchor as there is no side-deck access to the bow.
The anchor nestles into a bowsprit-roller combination flanked by a very solid split bowrail. A reasonably sized open anchorwell is designed largely for rope only although you could also fit a reef anchor. Twin bow bollards are mounted in front.




The test day was a cracker on Port Phillip Bay near Sorrento. As we head for the Rip to try to get some action for the camera, your correspondent spied the Queenscliff ferry and decided to have a little fun on its wake. By the time Warren realized what I was about to do his frantic pleas to slow down were too late. We hit the metre-high wake at a very decent clip and immediately headed for the stratosphere.
As they say in the classics: it's not the fall that hurts, it's the sudden stop at the end. I have lost an inch in height because many vertebrae have been severely compacted. Faulty boat? Not a bit of it. Stupid skipper.
Two more mistakes: I haven't jumped the Mallacoota bar for a number of years now because the entrance has been closed and so I forgot that you back off when approaching a wave then power through it. You do NOT go through full knackers. The second blue was forgetting that I was in a tinny and not a heavy glass boat. A glass boat, because of its weight, is more inclined to push through a wave while a tinny will always "bounce" over the top.
Despite getting severely airborne, the Bar Crusher handled my foolhardiness very well. We later clocked a top speed of 70.5kmh at 6000rpm while cruising was comfortable at 43kmh at 4000.
Trimming the motor right out produced the best manoeuvrability in the 640C, which maintained its stability very well through snug turns and high speed sprints without getting skittish. The sharp-hulled Bar Crusher was a very comfortable boat to drive hard, and behaved well even when its skipper didn't.
The boat stayed level and smooth during reversing, and with the rear door "shut" (the rear lounge in the up position) no water should come in.
The boat's custom-built Easytow trailer combines roller and Teflon strips.
The Bar Crusher 640C is not the sleekest vessel ever built, but gee, it's effective. The range is built to work, and this handily sized craft gives every indication of doing just that.
So if you're in the market for a very good tinnie, don't forget to "ask the Cleland Brothers".




* Fishability
* Wide gunwales
* High baitboard
* Great working transom
* High standard of build and fittings
* Stability system and rough water performance




* Small windscreen, cramped dash
* Lack of space for fitting electronics in eyesight
* Fuel filler in floor





Specifications: Bar Crusher 640C




Price as tested: $65,000 with Suzuki 200hp EFI four-stroke
Options fitted: Navman 4500 depth sounder and 5500 plotter, trim tabs
Priced from: $55,000 with Suzuki 150hp four-stroke




Material: Plate aluminium
Length (overall): 6.8m
Beam: 2.47m
Deadrise: 19°
Weight on trailer: 2000kg




Rec/max hp: 150/200
Fuel: 300lt
Passengers: Six
Accommodation: n/a




Make/model: Suzuki DF200
Type: Fuel-injected six-cylinder four-stroke
Rated hp: 200
Displacement: 3600cc
Weight: 260kg
Prop: 3x16x20R s/s Suzuki




Bar Crusher Boats, Dandenong South, Vic, tel (03) 9702 8555,



Originally published in TrailerBoat #191

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