REVIEW: SILVER HAWK 540DC

By: David Lockwood, Photography by: John Ford, Coastcolour


Australia and its swag of tinnie manufacturers have a new rival, Silver, and believe-it-or-not the boats hail from Finland. David Lockwood notes that reasonably priced import has innovative features to suit both family and fisherfolk alike

If you thought Australia had a mortgage over the iconic tinnie, that rough-and-tumble, neverfail trailerboat, think again. Aluminium dinghies have long been popular in North America and now, out of the deep blue, a Finnish-built fishing-and-family craft is destined to carve out a niche on our local waterways.
Why would two Australians punt on importing a Finnish-made tinnie in a market as established, parochial and loyal as ours? Silver boat importer, Howard Lee, who owned a popular brand of American trailerboat, said he was touring the major domestic boat shows but seeing nothing new. Meantime, his business partner had a colleague in Sweden with a Silver boat and he was raving about it.
One thing led to another and the two flew to Europe to see the Silver craft for themselves. "The boats are foam filled, have a superior ride, with sporty and modern lines," said Howard, as we bob about Middle Head in Sydney Harbour on a day destined to test the mettle of the Silver.
Not that Silver is an altogether new player in the world of aluminium boats. Established some 15 years ago, the Finnish boatbuilder is now the biggest production manufacturer of aluminium runabouts in Europe, I’m told. Output is currently running at about 3000 boats a year and growing.
The Silver boat range includes a number of interesting bubble-like cuddy cabin models, several walkaround or centre cabin designs, and centre console and dual-console designs. The tinnies range from 4.0 to 6.50m in length, with the big models designed for serious rough-water boating in Europe and elsewhere.
The subject of this test, the Hawk 540DC was a good example of the Silver marque. The DC stands for dual console, which could also be interpreted as a bowrider layout, which this all-round family and fishing boat has to please the broadest possible market. As an interesting aside, the low-salt content of the sea around Finland means that anglers in the coastal regions can catch both sea and freshwater fish. But I digress…

BUILT TO LAST
Besides its location — Finland has the Baltic Sea, the Ikea Sea (I jest, of course), many a fjord, and at least 1500 lakes — it’s the construction that makes this tinnie manufacturer a little different from most. The boats have aluminium hulls, foam-filled sides or sponsons, and then an internal fibreglass liner for a splash of panache.
Local tinnie manufacturers such as Savage and, eons ago, Quintrex used hybrid construction, but the Silver boats take their so-called AluFibre structure further. The entire liner is moulded GRP, not just the dash or consoles, leading to what might be considered the best of both words, that is, a boat you can drag into shore and hold against a lousy oyster-encrusted ramp, as well as please the discerning family once aboard.
Built to CE standards and backed by a three-year hull warranty, the hull of the Hawk 540DC is made from 4mm-thick aluminium on the running surface and 2mm for the topsides. Welded crossbeams and longitudinal stringers provide stiffness to the hull and, with the aforesaid foam in triangular-section pontoons, the Finnish factory claims its Silver boats are unsinkable.
Impressively for its modest length, the Hawk 540DC is a self-draining boat, so you don't need to worry about putting water aboard.
With plenty of buoyancy and lift in the bow, there’s little chance of shipping water going forward. However, a small amount of water dribbled inside the cockpit at rest with three adults back aft. But there are gate valves to shut off the self-draining plumbing lines if you're concerned about this.

CROWD PLEASER
Starting at the pointy end, the boat features a split stainless steel bowrail riveted to the hull, under-seat storage including a centre section with moulded GRP pan intended for stowing the anchor — an anchor well in the foredeck isn’t included — and a handy section of aluminium tread plate for safe disembarkation over the bow.
There are fittings for the clip-in navigation lights, decent stainless steel catches and suitable robust nylon cleats. Plumbing routes around the hatches prevent the ingress of water into the storage holds, so these can be considered real dry storage.
The boat had twin top-shelf Todd bucket seats (standard on all Silver boats imported here), set behind a deep acrylic windscreen with some distortion in its folds.
Ahead of the co-pilot is a moulded glovebox, storage for personal effects, room to mount an aftermarket stereo, a drinkholder and the boat's battery near the foot space.
Meanwhile, the dash to port has a spread of Mercury outboard-engine gauges, room to mount a small depth sounder, a compact switch panel and a 12V accessory plug. A grabrail tracing the windscreen and flip-up seat bases let you drive on your feet if needs be.
Seating extends from the bow arrangement for two to a three-person aft lounge, under which is more dry storage space. There are also two storage bins outboard of the transom, with bungs. If you forget to screw them in, your bait will drain into the bilge. The swim ladder will come in handy when not fishing.
With three adults leaning into the hull sides, the boat heels at first but then goes no farther as the buoyancy of the foam-filled sides kicks in. However, I wouldn't class the boat as having an especially big cockpit by Australians standards.
But packaged on a Boeing trailer, the 1195kg rig will be an easy tow for those with just a mid-sized family car. And, with a four-stroke outboard, the 105lt of fuel should suffice for a full day on the water.

THE RIDE
As for the ride, the Hawk 540DC was very smooth across the harbour and around South Head, which might be considered unusual for a tinnie. The hull has a deep-vee for a boat of this style, with 18.5º of deadrise, plus a fine entry. The potential tenderness of the hull is offset by the foam-filled sponsons.
Matched to a Mercury EFI 90hp (67kW) four-stroke outboard spinning an 18in three-blade prop, the Hawk 540DC offered an easy and family-friendly drive that was assisted by hydraulic steering. This was the only option besides the factory-made stainless steel targa arch with four rodholders. Two bolt-on rodholders were fitted in the cockpit. A canvas bimini top is something you will need to have fitted locally, but no big deal. Canopy makers are mobile and come to you these days.
Back at the helm, the boat held onto a planing speed of 10.6kts (about 20kmh) at 3000rpm, ran nice and level at 3500rpm and 16kts (about 30kmh), and cruised most compliantly inshore and offshore at 4000rpm and 22.4kts (about 41.5 kmh).
Top speed was 36.5kts (about 68kmh) at 6000rpm, with various fast-cruise speeds clocked between 4500rpm and 5500rpm. All the while the four-stroke outboard was nice and quiet, as was the foam-filled hull.  And no creaks or thumps from one that felt like a one-piece boat.
It was also a remarkably dry. All together, performance is a real strength.
The importers are using the catchphrase "The game has changed". 
Whether the Silver boats claw ground off our tinnie manufacturers remains to be seen. In the tinnie market, prospective skippers tend to buy on price. The Silver Hawk 540DC package costs about $10,000 more than a similar length Stacer bowrider with a two-stroke instead of a four-stroke outboard. If you upgraded the outboard you would still be a long way ahead.
But what can be said about the Silver tested here is that it ran really well at sea and a smooth ride isn't something Australians normally associate with a factory-rolled tinnie. The boat also looks good. And it’s different in other ways.
Little wonder the importers are loath to use the term ‘tinnie’ to describe the Silver. Take a test drive and see for yourself.

WHAT WE LIKED
A refreshingly new craft in the ho-hum tinnie market
Terrifically smooth ride across bumpy water, thereby taking the tinnie to new performance heights
Foam-filled sponsons make the boat unsinkable and quiet
Plenty of buoyancy and stability to keep the water out
You don’t often find a self-draining hull in a tinnie of this size
Upmarket interior with a fully moulded GRP hull liner
Family friendly seating and goof storage space

NOT SO MUCH
New badge in a highly competitive market
Price premium compared with our local tinnies
Australians prefer welds than rivets for affixing things like bowrails to their tinnies Difficult access to bilge and pump
Aft bait tanks drain inboard if you forget to bung them
Small cockpit by Australian standards

 

Specifications: Silver Hawk 540 DC

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested: Approx $46,996 with Mercury 90hp four-stroke outboard, Dunbier trailer and options
Options fitted: Baystar hydraulic steering, targa arch, safety gear and regos.
Priced from: $44.995 w/ Mercury 90hp four-stroke outboard, and Dunbier trailer

GENERAL
Material: Aluminium with fibreglass liner and foam flotation
Type: Moderate-to-deep vee planing hull
Length overall: 4.85m inc. integrated swim platform
Beam: 1.95m
Deadrise: 18.5º
Weight: Approx 430kg (hull only); 1195kg on road

CAPACITIES
Passengers: 7 adults
Fuel: 105lt
Water: n/a

ENGINE
Make/model: Mercury 90hp four-stroke outboard
Type: EFI four-cylinder four-stroke outboard
Rated HP/kW: 90/67 at 5000 to 6000rpm
Displacement: 1.732lt
Weight: Approx 181kg
Gearbox (ratio): 2.33:1 outboard
Props: Standard 18in alloy three-blader

SUPPLIED BY:
Scandinavian Boat Imports,
25 Rutland Avenue,
Castelcrag, NSW, 2068
Phone: 0431 947 821
Website: www.silverboats.com.au

Originally published in Trailerboat #226

 


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