REVIEW: HAINES HUNTER 650 HORIZON / MUSTANG 2000 BLUEWATER / WHITTLEY CRUISER 630

By: Bernard Clancy, Photography by: Ellen Dewar


With so many excellent trailerable cruisers out there, finding the one right can be perplexing at best. TrailerBoat hopped aboard three of the best Australian-made offerings to help you narrow the field.

Looking for a trailerable cruiser? Don’t know where to start looking? Confused by the options available now that Uncle Sam has come marching in with so many flashy models?
In this special comparison, TrailerBoat looks at some of the Oz options, three of the best cruisers available around the 6.5m mark. All three compare very favourably with the imports. All have their own strengths and weaknesses, and all will give you and your family many hours of boating and cruising pleasure.
We have the Whittley 630 from the cruiser specialists, a family company that has been building trailerable cruisers for a long time. Then there’s the Haines Hunter 650 Horizon, a cruising version of a very popular fishing boat, and the Mustang 2000 Bluewater, again a development of an all-purpose family runabout/fishing boat.
While the Whittley and the Haines as presented to us can be compared side by side, it would be unfair to make straight comparisons with the Mustang because the boat had nowhere near the amount of gear on board that the other two had. And, as tested, it was some $35,000 cheaper than the Whittley and $30,000 cheaper than the Haines. That’s some bikkies, but once you start adding things like a gas cooker ($387, full camper covers ($2722) and rocker launcher ($1815) plus any more of the 20-plus options available, then the price is going to quickly get closer to the other boats.
I’d prefer to look at the Mustang as an example of how you can start with a proven hull and build a cruiser to your own budget.
The Whittley was pretty much a hamburger with the lot, although there were a few options you can add, such as a barbecue to mount on the aft rail. The Haines also had just about everything you would want but in a package that’s perhaps a little more fisherman friendly.
So, as far as we can, let’s kick some tyres.

HAINES HUNTER 650 HORIZON
Haines Hunter builds a lot of boats, and its range is one of the most extensive in Australia. According to the company website, it builds 32 different models. Of course, many of those are a variation of the one hull. A prime example is the Haines Hunter 650 Horizon, the cruiser version of the 650 Classic, the fishing model built on the same hull. In fact the fishing influence on the Horizon cruiser is still very strong as it has inbuilt rodholders, a livebait tank and a rocket launcher.
Being a fisherman, this was a big plus for me. I can’t see the point of cruising around on the water without at least dangling a line occasionally!

FAMILY CHARIOT
With plenty of space, the Horizon is a real family boat. Generally speaking, once you begin sticking things on boats, space seems to decrease at an alarming rate. But the design of this boat actually seems to promote storage space.
A classis example of this is the bed space for a smallish person under the passenger seat/galley arrangement, which is accessed from the cabin. Most boats this size rely on transom benches and cushions to create extra sleeping space (as, indeed the Haines does) but this space is an absolute bonus for either sleeping or storage purposes.
The cabin, with bone-colored ceiling lining and blue cushions, is very roomy. Sitting head room is excellent. An electric toilet is central in the ample vee berth. The parcel shelves are very spacious and the test boat had a neat row of clear plastic boxes containing clothes for the family – a great idea. Indeed, the family that owned this boat had installed an incredible amount of gear aboard – personal belongings, fishing gear and all manner of water toys and clothes.
The cabin also featured good lighting, both artificial and natural, a sink, large fire extinguisher and a flat screen TV and DVD player for the kids against the forward bulkhead. A canvas door zipped closed for privacy.
The skipper’s position is excellent. The bucket seat is comfortable and the steering position good. The throttle is recessed into the coaming in just the right place and all instrumentation is directly in front in three tiers, with engine instruments on top, Navman Tracker 5500 and Fish 4500 directly in front on the middle tier and radios beneath the helm. The good footrest completes one of the best setups I’ve come across and shows Haines Hunter’s attention to ergonomic detail. In a cruiser, you’re going to be sitting in this position for long stretches and you have to be comfortable.
Having said that, the passenger seat is a real compromise. To accommodate the bunk underneath it, the seat is a small, straight-backed cushioned bench facing across the boat. The owner said his wife didn’t mind it at all, assisting her comfort by placing her feet on the top of the box on which the skipper’s chair is mounted. I also found, though, that my head was too close to the windscreen rail so that a nasty wave could give you a whack on the noggin. The back of this seat folds down cleverly to reveal a locker for plates and cutlery.
A CD player is centrally mounted and there’s a capacious lockable glovebox in front on the port side.

STRATEGIC THINKING
Beside the passenger seat is a single-burner stove and a triangular sink with two cupholders. A large storage cabinet is under the sink. Incidentally, there are plenty of other cupholders positioned strategically around the boat. A Waeco electric fridge slides neatly under the helm seat.
The cockpit or living area sole is covered in a light brown carpet. Coamings are fully lined and storage areas are hidden behind back cushions, which open easily for access. In fact the cockpit is very adaptable, with the U-shaped lounge cushions able to be folded down or removed. A table can be installed centrally and lowered later to form the base of a double bed.
Batteries and the bilge area are easily accessed by lifting the rear backrest. There’s a small transom door that gives access to the boarding steps built into the hull beside the Honda 225 outboard, as well as the ladder on the port side. The rails either side are handy, too.
On the fishing side there are four rodholders, a rocket launcher, livebait well in the starboard quarter, and baitboard, deckwash hose, and shower.
The boat rode really well on a very small chop, with perhaps just a hint of wave slap. Wide open throttle saw the boat run at 73km/h at 5500rpm on the GPS, with 55km/h reached at 4000rpm for a comfortable cruising speed.
In summary, the 650 Horizon is an impressive craft. Certainly, the family that owns this one absolutely love it.

WHAT WE LIKED
Ergonomic design
Storage space
Fishing adaptability
Spacious cabin

NOT SO MUCH
Passenger seat is a compromise
Canvas cabin door

 

Specifications: Haines Hunter Horizon 650

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested:   $95,000
Priced from:   $78,000

GENERAL
Material:    GRP
Length overall:   6.75m
Beam:     2.4
Deadrise:    21°
Rec. max HP:   230
Weight:    Approx 1300kg

CAPACITIES
Fuel:     210lt
Water:     t/c

ENGINE
Make/model:    Honda BF225
Type:     Outboard four-stroke
Rated HP:    225
Displacement:   3471cc
Weight:    267kg
Prop:     t/c

 

 


MUSTANG 2000 BLUEWATER
The Mustang 2000 Bluewater is an entry level cruiser. It doesn’t have the sophistication of the Haines or the Whittley, but then it doesn’t have their price tag either.
Its overall length of 6.5m is just a tad short of the Haines the Whittley, though much of the latter’s extra length is made up of its stern swim platform on a 6m hull. Hull lengths are very comparable.
The Mustang is a very good looking boat, having a raised foredeck that is not as pronounced as others and yet there is still plenty of head room in the cabin. The foredeck hatch covers the huge anchor well which can be accessed easily through a large glass cabin hatch further back or around the foredeck. There was no anchor winch fitted to this boat, but obviously it would be an option.
In fact our test boat was new on the water so lacked the after market options that are a part of setting up every boat, particularly a cruiser. The options list is extremely extensive.
A split bowrail has a holder for a reef anchor and the bowsprit, designed more as a bowroller, could be rigged to carry an anchor without too much trouble.
The cabin is light and airy, helped significantly by the white vinyl cushions and light interior lining, which look quite smart. Shelving, with padded backrest, is wide, and a toilet occupies the vee in the berth. A single interior light, coupled with the large overhead hatch and twin oval-shaped porthole windows supply plenty of light.
The cabin can be sealed off behind a rather weighty, sliding lockable door, which slides in behind the helm station. But the doorway itself wasn’t overly large.

AT THE HELM
The action station has twin bucket seats and the position at the helm is excellent with a three-tier arrangement of instruments on top, electronics directly in front and radios under the helm. A good footrest completes the picture.
But what really spoils everything is the position of the throttle, which had been mounted so close to the helm that when pushed forward you couldn’t turn the wheel without whacking your knuckles on the throttle lever. It’s something that can be easily fixed, simply by mounting the throttle a few inches further back or making a recess in the side panel, but in this day and age these sort of fit-out mistakes simply shouldn’t happen.
The helm seat is mounted on a stainless steel framework, into which a portable ice chest will slide. The passenger seat is mounted on a moulded box with inbuilt footrest, and when the seat is swung up, hey presto, a sink appears. Beside the sink is a storage cupboard with a padded lid, which also serves as a dicky seat. There is no stove, though.
Cupholders are moulded into the dash in front of the seat and there’s a long, but shallow, locker in the bulkhead immediately in front. An open side shelf will hold quite a few odds and ends and the grabrail is handy.
There is no grab or reinforcing rail around the wraparound windscreen. Clears are fitted to the boat and full camper covers are an option, as is an overhead rod rack.
The cockpit is fully lined but the large sidepockets are open. A central table can be fitted to service the rear lounge, which folds down to hide batteries and the bilge. Side rails are built into the coamings and four rodholders are in the gunwales.
Boarding platforms make up both sides of the Honda 150, with a rail on the port side as well as a telescopic ladder. A hand-held shower is built into a recess in the port stern and a wet storage locker or livebait tank is in the starboard quarter.
From a performance viewpoint, the Mustang handled the low slop well but leaned a little into the wind, but only, strangely, at cruising speeds. The boat seemed to straighten the quicker we went. It achieved almost identical figures to the bigger, heavier Haines – 73 km/h at 5550rpm flat chat and 55km/h at 4000rpm at cruising speed.

WHAT WE LIKED
Helm position
Price
Light weight

NOT SO MUCH
Throttle fitted too close to wheel
Stability
No anchor winch

 

Specifications: Mustang 2000 Bluewater

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested: $63,500
Options fitted: Bowrail, bimini, clears, stainless steel seat frame with cooler
Priced from: $59,999

GENERAL
Material: GRP
Type: Cuddy
Length overall: 6.5m
Beam: 2.34m
Deadrise: 21 degrees
Rec. max HP: 200
Weight (BMT): 1732kg

CAPACITIES
Fuel: 185lt
Water: Optional

ENGINE
Make/model: Honda 150Hp
Type: Four-stroke
Rated hp (ea): 150
Displacement (ea): 2354cc
Weight (ea): 217kg
Gearbox ratio: 2.14:1
Propeller: 14 1/4 x 17

SUPPLIED BY
Aussie Boat Sales
34 The Strand,
Williamstown, 3016, Vic
Website: www.aussieboatsales.com.au
Phone: (03) 9397 6977

 

 


WHITTLEY CRUISER 630
The Whittley Cruiser 630 is aptly named: it is a cruiser. It has no pretensions to be a fishing boat, except that there’s a rack arrangement on the swim platform that could hold rods, but would primarily be used for either a barbecue or baitboard.
And there’s one plush-lined sidepocket long enough to store a couple of rods in. Apart from that, it’s all about cruisin’.
And cruise we did, in quite a degree of comfort. Whittley, of course, has been building cruisers for a long time and it does it damn well, especially since introducing its new-tech hulls and fully-moulded everything.
This is a really lovely boat. Not only is it stylish, but it is very practical with lots of little things and different ideas adding up to a great package.
For example, the Porta Potti is mounted against the central bulkhead on the starboard side, which makes it easier to get to than if it was in the central vee. The vee berths are made of thick foam covered in a quality scarlet fabric. The cabin lining is a bone crushed-look fabric resembling velour. It looks classy. A couple of scarlet scatter cushions complete the effect. The carpet is bone-coloured. Storage on the padded and fully-lined shelves is good and twin spotlights supplement excellent natural light from long, stylish side windows.

CABIN COURTING
Access to the cabin is excellent. There’s plenty of head room helped by the clever two-piece sliding, lockable plywood door, the top section of which covers an open bulkhead section in front of the passenger seat and the other section covering the door space. This means that with the door fully open (slid in behind the dash) plenty of light and air can enter the cabin.
While the door setup is terrific, I wasn’t taken by the plywood, which appeared a little cheap on such a classy boat. It certainly breaks up the moulded plastic look, but maybe the wood needs a better finish or veneer. Though a new boat, the door had already suffered some rubbing marks.
Moving out of the cabin is easy because the passenger bucket seat is set back on a moulded box. To the front left of the seat on the coaming is a moulding that contains the single-burner stove and sink, covered by a solid ply lid. Beneath these is an Engel fridge and under the seat there is a large storage cabinet and another for a removable ice chest.
The seat swivels to face the rear (as does the skipper’s seat) and can be locked in any number of positions. The skipper’s bucket seat is comfortable. The height can be adjusted to the helm’s wood panelled dash, where the instruments, electronics and radios are all front and centre. The moulded footrest is in just the right position, too. Throttle placement for the MerCruiser 4.3lt 220hp engine was just right, with the foldaway central cockpit table stowed neatly underneath.
Above all this is a moulded targa arch which can be used for radio aerials, attaching camper covers, stereo speakers and downlights. It looks good and is very functional.
The cockpit has U-shaped benches around the transom and over the motor. With the central table lowered, the benches double as a bed. The transom itself has a bolster back, allowing you to sit on it while you’re playing out back on the huge swim platform.
Sidepockets are foam-padded on the coamings and lined inside, with, as I said earlier, the portside one being long enough to take a couple of fishing rods. The starboard sidepocket is shorter.
The walkthrough portside gate swings down to form a step. Add hot and cold water for a shower and the dishes, lights on the swim platform, as well as grabrails and ladder, and you’re really cruisin’.
And despite the weight of the big MerCruiser, the 630 is no slouch, achieving 68km/h at 5000rpm and cruising at 54km/h at 4000rpm.
The boat felt solid, rode flat, with no sign of wave slap or any nasty little quirks. But boy, was it noisy! Stability at rest was excellent.
When the 660 was released a year or two ago, it won many accolades, including a boat of the year gong. This little sister is in that class, too.

WHAT WE LIKED
A classy boat
Use of space
Ergonomics
Swim platform

NOT SO MUCH
Plywood door, lids
Very noisy

 

Specifications: Whittley Cruiser 630

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested: $99,744
Options fitted: Electric anchor winch, rear deckrail, hot water

GENERAL
Material:    GRP
Length overall:   7.7m
Beam:     2.43m
Deadrise:    21 degrees
Rec. max HP:  220
Weight  on trailer:   Approx 2500kg

CAPACITIES
Fuel:     208lt
Water:     100lt

ENGINE
Make/model:    MerCruiser
Type:     Sterndrive V6
Rated HP:    220
Displacement:    4300cc
Weight:    385kg
Drive:     Alpha One
Prop:     17-inch stainless steel

SUPPLIED BY
JV Marine,
Braeside, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9798 8883

TO SUMMARISE
While we have three similar boats here in terms of the market, each has its own appeal and will attract different customers.
Firstly, let’s look at some key areas of comparison: liveability, fitout, and performance.
The cabin of the Whittley 630 is large, airy, spacious and plush. The Porta Potti is mounted behind the bulkhead on the starboard side and is probably easier to access than one fitted in the middle of the vee-bunk, though night use would still be a little awkward. The Haines had a mini sink in the cabin and another in the cockpit, whereas the Whittley’s was in the cockpit and the Mustang’s sink was under the passenger chair.
The Haines’ cabin was well fitted out and had perhaps a little more storage than the Whittley. The Mustang was very bright, with white vinyl cushions rather than fabric, and storage was adequate. The vinyl covering will be a plus for some.
A big plus for the Haines was the additional sleeping space or storage ‘tube’ under the passenger seat moulding.
Entry to the Haines cabin was through a fairly narrow space covered by a zipped vinyl curtain, whereas the other two had solid sliding doors. The Mustang was a little tight on entry, too, while the Whittley doorway was the largest.
All three boats had brilliant control centres, with all instrumentation front and centre. Perhaps the Haines was the best from an ergonomic viewpoint but the others weren’t far behind. The only black mark here is the aforementioned throttle position on the Mustang, but that’s easily fixed.
Whereas the seating arrangements on the Mustang were traditional twin buckets, the other two boats had very different setups. The Whittley’s second bucket seat was set back and angled slightly, while the Haines’ was a rather austere, straight-backed bench facing sideways. But that’s the trade-off for the berth underneath.
Kitchenette setups in the Whittley and Haines were similar with single burner stoves, sinks and fridges, although the Whittley’s electric fridge was a small Engel fitted into the moulding as well as a removable cooler. The Haines had a removal Waeco electric fridge under the helm seat. The Mustang had no comparable setup, simply the sink under the passenger seat and a slide-out icebox under the helm seat.
All boats had a removable table doubling as support for transom beds, but all had different configurations, with some fold-down seats across the transom and others along the side of the boat. All combinations seemed to work well.
All had ample storage in the cockpit area (the Haines probably had the most), with the sidepockets cunningly hidden behind seat backs. All coamings were fully lined and looked the part.
From a performance viewpoint, the Haines and the Mustang produced almost identical figures, remembering that the heavier Haines was powered by a 225hp Honda and the lighter Mustang a 150hp Honda. The Whittley, the heaviest of the three boats, and the only one powered by a MerCruiser sterndrive, was a few clicks slower and very noisy.
In fact, I was surprised by the extent of the noise feedback from both the Haines and the Whittley until I realised that the camper covers were probably sucking it back into the boat, but certainly the MerCruiser made conversation at speed very difficult.
Because the Mustang is fairly light compared to the others, it didn’t feel as ‘solid’ in the water at speed as the others did, but I imagine performance would improve as you added weight to the boat. Stability at rest also didn’t appear to be as good as the Whittley or Haines, although it was still quite satisfactory.
The Whittley rode very well indeed as the company’s new generation hulls are demonstrating. The Haines also rode well as is traditional with their hulls. I guess I took more notice of how the boats rode at cruising speeds rather than flat out because that’s the speed they’re going to be mostly driven at, one would imagine. All three were good and far better than some American boats I’ve tested.
On the trailer the Whittley is heavy at 2.5 tonnes and will require at least a medium-weight 4WD, whereas the Mustang is considerably lighter at around 1700kg and could be towed behind the family big six. There’s a substantial cost saving right there.
So, all things considered, how do they rate? As presented, the Mustang was at a disadvantage because it did not have the equipment levels of the other two so we’re not comparing apples with apples. However, it did have a $30,000-plus price advantage and the opportunity to build your own cruiser. These points are not to be sneezed at.
As far as the other two go, toss a coin. Heads you win, tails you still win. And I guess any decision is going to involve a discussion between mum and dad. I know my partner absolutely loves the Whittley, but then again she hasn’t seen the Haines. If I had a gun at my head and was told I had only 10 seconds to choose, I’d probably go for the Haines, simply because I’m a fisherman.
Then again, as I rapidly become an ‘old fart’, I can help but think about the Whittley’s wonderful swim platform at the back where I could set up a chair and a rod and snooze the arvo away while Her Highness reclines with a good book on the transom lounge in the shade behind the mozzie net.
So, you see where I’m coming from? In this market, the queen will most likely have the final word!

Originally published in TrailerBoat #212

 


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