BOAT TEST: NORTHBANK 540C

By: BERNARD CLANCY, Photography by: ELLEN DEWAR


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Keenly priced and tougher than a cheap steak, the Northbank 540C is yet another South Australian boat that’s worth a look. There’s no way you’ll break this bank, writes Bernard Clancy...

BOAT TEST: NORTHBANK 540C
NORTHBANK 540C

 

LAUGHING ALL THE WAY


Odds are that before September, when Trailer Boat featured the 650 Cuddy, you hadn't heard of the Northbank brand of boats. When I saw the badge on a couple of fine-looking craft at the Melbourne boat show, it was certainly a new name to me.
Scotty Bayes of BL Marine in Melbourne was quick to introduce me to the man behind the brand, Robert Cuming, who told me that Northbanks had been around in South Australia for many years under the ownership of founder and builder Jaan Lindsaar - who retired last year and sold the business to Rob.
While Jaan had been content to service the SA market, Rob has national plans, appointing dealers in every state to handle the five-model range, which begins at 4.9m and goes up to 6.5.
Northbank's Victorian dealer Craig O'Donnell - the principal of BL Marine in Melbourne - soon provided an opportunity to test a couple of boats on an absolutely wild Port Phillip Bay day, which restricted our testing somewhat but confirmed our initial impressions that the Northbank brand is one worth taking a good look at.

 

SOLID BUILD


The 540C is an impressive craft. While there is nothing particularly new in its design, what has been done is far better than most. For example, probably the standout feature of the 540 cuddy is its solid build. Its hull weight of 750kg is the same as some mass-produced boats a metre and a half longer.
In fact, everything is solid; from sidepockets to bulkheads and deck to hardware. It looks great too - the moulding is flawless and the gelcoat finish is up there with the best. And the walkthrough screen is a real walkthrough; not something along which you have to crab sideways.
The little things that finish off a boat are evident too. For example, the fairlead is moulded to accommodate a Teflon strip to protect the gelcoat from anchor-chain damage. The split bow post is a hefty unit, strongly bolted to the foredeck. The side-opening anchor locker is huge.
The foredeck has smooth lines and is well moulded, and access to the pointy end is just so easy through the wide, side-opening central windscreen panel and huge cuddy hatch.

 

CHEWIN' THE CUDDY


Headroom in the cuddy is quite adequate for a boat of this size. Vinyl vee-berth cushions cover storage bins, and there are two parcel shelves either side. But no frilly bits like padding or carpeting - just flowcoat.
The cuddy bulkhead is supported by two stainless-steel pillars either side of the step-down walkway. The three-piece Perspex screen is supported by a stainless rail, which - on the port side - forms a barrier for items on the large dash. There is no glovebox.
The marine radio is also mounted in the port bulkhead behind a protective, slide-up screen. That's not ideal but it's reachable and readable from the skipper's helm. Edging is finished off with chrome stripping that looks classy.
The twin bucket seats are a little thin in the seat, but back support is good. Twin sidepockets adjacent to both chairs are strong and deep enough, and also long enough to hold heaps of gear.
The test boat was fitted with basic Yamaha engine instruments plus a Navman Fish 4350. There was plenty of room on the dash for further instrumentation. A recessed shelf behind the instrument cluster moulding is a good idea for bits and pieces. While the control handle was a little close to the stainless grabrail, there was room to get my hand over it.

 

EXCUSE ME, FLOW?


The cockpit floor is flowcoated with a central carpet strip over a huge wet bin forward and a 100lt fuel tank aft. The deck is angled down to form gutters under the sidepockets so water clears easily into the bilge for the pump to handle.
Gunwales are wide, with four rubber-insert stainless rodholders built in as well as in-moulded grabrails. A fold-down lounge goes right across the transom and features another two rodholders either side of the twin bait bins, which although shallow could be plumbed at a pinch.
The engine well is a sensible size and doesn't steal valuable transom space. A small hinged gate drops to accommodate the motor when fully raised. The fuel filler is high in the well. Battery and oil bottle are high off the floor on their own trays under the transom.
The 540C was fitted with a Yamaha 115 V4 two-stroke, although the boat is rated to 150hp. It handled a very large slop very well when driven sensibly, and really ran nicely in calmer water.
Unfortunately we encountered a faulty fuel feed system, which prevented us pushing the boat to its limit - but from what I saw, I'm sure the boat would handle most seas very well. And after all, it's a family runabout; not an offshore racer.
The Northbank 540C is a good looker as well, with its nicely moulded raised foredeck and wide blue strip around the upper hull. Fitted with bimini and clears, it will be a very serious contender for those who know their boats and want something built to last.

 

 

HIGHS


• Build quality - solid as!
• Spacious walkthrough
• Plenty of storage space
• Room to fish over the stern

 

 

LOWS


• Seats could be upgraded
• No frills
• Positioning of controls could be improved

 

 

 


Specifications: Northbank 540C

 

 

HOW MUCH?


Price as tested: $37,990
Options fitted: Bimini and clears, rocket launcher, radio, sounder, baitboard, rodholders, folding lounge, safety gear
Priced from: $34,500w/ 90hp motor

 

 

GENERAL


Material: GRP
Length (overall): 5.4m excluding bowsprit
Beam: 2.34m
Deadrise: 21°
Rec/max hp: 130/150
Weight: 750kg bare boat
Weight: 1400kg on trailer

 

 

CAPACITIES


Fuel: 100lt

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model: Yamaha Saltwater
Type: V4 two-stroke
Rated hp: 115
Displacement: 1730 cc
Weight: 171kg
Prop: Three-blade 17in s/s

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


BL Marine, Preston, Victoria, tel (03) 9478 1420.

 

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #186

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