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A legendary performer in Melbourne’s bays, the Whittley Sea Legend 650 is worth telling tales about. You should hear the story about the snapper, says Bernard Clancy.


The really astonishing thing about Barney Friend's Whittley Sea Legend 650 is the number of rodholders aboard. Indeed, it is possible to fish 19 rods at once from stainless-steel racks which surround the cockpit.

Then there is a five-pot rod rack overhead and twin six-pot vertical racks pinned to each sidepocket. Fair dinkum, the firepower on this boat would out-gun a Royal Australian Navy battleship.
Barney tells the story of one snapper expedition on Port Phillip Bay when he had 16 rods out, snapper hooked up on 14 of them and he captured eight!
When he fishes snapper tournaments he usually bags out in about five minutes. He hastens to add that he only takes what he needs, tagging and releasing the rest. How does he do it? Well, for starters, he has a job to dream for … he's Retail Sales Manager at JV Marine in Melbourne, so you can be assured that whatever Barney's selling you, the prototype has probably already been through the Friend-ly testing process.
TrailerBoat decided to revisit the 650 to see just how one performed on the water and we couldn't have picked a better boat. This one has been worked harder than a brewery draught horse by Barney and mates and it shows. Though quite clean, it bears the scars, scrapes and stains of a battle-hardened warrior. It's been set up to work and it obviously does.




Having come from the Whittley stable, which has a peerless pedigree in cruising boats, the Sea Legend is not purely a fishing boat. It's a shandy, with about equal space devoted to the front and back halves, i.e, a full cabin and a fishing space that's not as large as others in its class. The Sea Legend probably compares in layout more closely to the Haines Hunter 630, Cruise Craft and Signature models of similar size.
So in trying to serve two masters, if you like (him and her), there has to be some compromises although I think Barney uses the bunks in his boat to store yet more rods!
The cuddy is quite comfortable without the trimmings of Whittley's cruiser range yet still better than most fishing craft. Sitting headroom is okay - it is fully lined, has a head in the V, long sidepockets, a glass overhead hatch and interior light. Access is easy through a zippered wide-opening canvas flap which covers both the open bulkhead on the vertical and a cut-out dash on the horizontal to make head ducking when getting into the cuddy almost a non-issue.
Radios (Navman VHF 7200, GME Elecrophone and a CD player) are all mounted in the cuddy out of the weather (and sight, too, unfortunately).
Beneath the dramatically raked five-piece windscreen the very deep dash has a couple of carpet-covered recesses in front of the passenger for odds and ends. The screen wasn't as solid as I would have liked, despite reinforcing from a grabrail around the front of the screen only.
Both bucket seats are fixed to substantial mouldings which incorporate rear facing "dicky" or lure-watchers' seats. These seats are hinged to swing up for access to huge storage areas underneath but this is a two-man operation because they can't be propped open while you retrieve stuff from under. Gas struts (yeah, I know, more expense) would be handy. Recesses in these mouldings house fire extinguisher and EPIRB.
Plastic grab handles are mounted in front of the passenger and to the left of the skipper's position with speakers mounted either side of the seats.




Yamaha's digital three-dial set-up showing speed, fuel management and tacho for the 225hp four-stroke are mounted in a central black console with a huge Lowrance LCX104C directly in front. I suspect that is Barney's major focus. A compass is mounted high and well back on the deep dash. The anchor winch control is mounted left of the helm, switch panels either side. Everything is in the right place - with the exception of the radios, and I also found that while underway the throttle and helm were too close together and I kept whacking my right hand on the throttle, particularly in tight turns.
The skipper's position, with no adjustments possible, is a little tight, especially when standing in rough seas, but the footrest moulded into the bulkhead is good. A bimini, clears and rocket launcher rod rack with powerful spotlights complete the action station.
The raised bow of the boat features a split rail, a stainless steel anchor (no less!) on a bowsprit fitting and a large under-hatch rope locker. A narrow walkway around the bow was okay, although the electric winch meant you wouldn't have to make that wobbly old journey all that often. Reelax outriggers were mounted on the side of the boat.
As I noted earlier, the cockpit is not huge but Barney utilises every square inch. The liner sole has a non-skid surface and a large hatch in the floor. The sidepockets are not long enough for rods but on this boat that's the last place you'd want to carry them anyway.




The transom is where all the action is with a centrally-mounted live bait tank which is deep but narrow. It swings down for access to batteries and oil bottles and the bilge and highlights effective use of space around the outboard well. There is a deckwash hose in the transom as well. Cleats are recessed in the slope-back hull on which there are handrails. The hull features a moulded, open boarding "door" or space but this is blocked by the rod rack across the transom and it is quite difficult to get aboard. There is no padding on the coamings.
There was no berley bucket and really nowhere to mount one such is the design of the transom. The motor is mounted on a stern platform with two lower sections either side for easier boarding via the starboard-side boarding ladder.
Underway I found the Sea Legend a much heavier boat than I would have imagined although Barney did say he had 150lt on fuel and 25lt of water aboard - then, as an afterthought - about 60kg of snapper sinkers! On the other hand, Barney says the boat, on its dual-axle, electric braked Mackay trailer, is only 1650kg. I expected something much heavier than that.
The 650 needed the trim tabs to run straight and true to correct a distinct lean to port at speed on a small Port Phillip Bay chop. We achieved a WOT of 78kmh at 5900rpm and the boat cruised comfortably at 50kmh at 4000rpm, which is quicker than most.
In figure-eight runs the boat was predictable and easy to handle. It backed down well but wasn't a speedster off the mark. In a fishing boat, who needs to be?
There's no doubt Barney Friend has set up this boat to catch fish and it does that admirably, both in colder southern waters and those off Bermagui. It's a good all-rounder, and being a Whittley, you know it's well built, although the finish was a little below Whittley standard I thought it worked very well as a fishing boat.




* Build quality
* Great looks
* Economical performance
* Exceptional fishability




* Helm, throttle too close together
* Wobbly windscreen
* Wobbly bow rails
* Non-adjustable seats




Specifications: Whittley Sea Legend 650




Price as tested: $91,821
Options fitted: Twin batteries, deck wash, extra switch panel, 2 x spotlights, s/s bait board, Navman VHF radio and aerial, four cockpit lights, regos, junior outriggers, transducer, vinyl cabin divider, anchor winch, s/s plough anchor, remote control spotlight, flush mount control box with dash key switch, spare wheel, bracket and cover walkway (trailer), six-person safety gear, Lowrance 104C colour sounder/plotter, 2 x 12V outlets, s/s rodholders




Material: GRP
Length (overall): 6.59m
Beam: 2.35m
Deadrise: 23°
Weight on trailer: 1650kg dry




Rec/max hp: 200/225
Fuel: 210lt
Water: 25lt
Accommodation: Two people




Make/model: Yamaha F225
Type: Fuel-injected V6 four-stroke
Rated hp: 225
Displacement: 3352cc
Weight: 275kg
Prop: 19in s/s




JV Marine, Braeside, Victoria, tel (03) 9798 8883


Originally published in TrailerBoat #192

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