BOAT TEST: SIGNATURE 502RF

By: Kevin Smith


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The new Signature 502RF (formerly Haines Signature) might look unconventional, says Kevin Smith, but take a closer look and you’ll see just how clever and original the design is.

BOAT TEST: SIGNATURE 502RF
SIGNATURE 502RF

TEST: SIGNATURE 502RF

They always say that change is as good as a holiday, and that definitely applies to the new Signature 502RF (Runabout Fisher), a boat with a unique design and distinctive colour scheme. Most manufacturers have to keep up to date with modern designs and trends of course, but every now and then something very different pops up. When these designs emerge they inevitably tend to raise eyebrows, but then they're also quite refreshing.

So it is with the new Signature. But what's so different about this particular boat?

Firstly, the 502RF has curvy lines extending from the bow, as you'd expect, but it then changes to a square cut-off in the stern - without tapering or curving back towards the transom. That certainly looks different. However, when you take a closer look at the stern it makes sense, particularly when it comes to creating a bit of extra comfort, space, and safety. The gunwales in the stern are higher than usual without the taper, which is great because it'll keep kids in, rather than out. The seating in the stern is also a tad more comfortable because the back rest is now higher than usual, and with this compact design, the additional space becomes more evident.

The second distinctive feature is a colour break in orange, which is certainly enough to create general interest in the boat. Even so, it's not over the top as far as I'm concerned and the more I studied it the more I liked it.

 

 

SMART LAYOUT

The balance of the internal layout has interesting features incorporated into this family-cum fishing boat. Besides the compact stern there's room for dual-boarding platforms, a transom door, livewell/icebox, and a good size rear lounge that folds away neatly. Beneath this are the bilgepump, filter and battery.

The deck is speckled non-slip material with a carpeted centre section, there's a stowage hatch, and the gunwales have built-in pockets with plenty of space to lock toes in underneath. Another simple but really nice feature is a fish measurer moulded into the side of the gunwale pocket, a far more practical idea than having to plaster those ugly stickers on the boat. Yet another clever touch - and one that makes a substantial difference - is the beading around otherwise hard edges, plus some built-in lighting, as well as specialised multi-purpose fittings called Tallon receivers. These fittings are the base to a number of interchangeable accessories from drinkholders to rodholders and even lighting fixtures. They're quite nifty (check out www.tallonsystems.com to see what I mean).

 

 

AT THE HELM

Console seating comprises adjustable, dual-moulded swivel seats with cushion inserts that can be removed. The passenger side has a glovebox/icebox in the dash, there's more storage space underneath, while the skipper's side has a neat dash setup with a fair amount of space for smaller electronics. Overall it's pretty comfortable, with clear vision through the wide wraparound screen. Between the two is a walkthrough section, which is fantastic for accessing the anchor hatch in the bow. The windscreen folds back and the bow opens up through a hinged door, creating access to the stowage beneath and on either side, as well as to the anchor hatch. In ideal conditions you could leave it all open for extra ventilation while in less perfect conditions you could close it for protection.

A simple bimini top for shade complements the console area. Another notable part of the design and layout is in the recessed handles and moulded non-slip material all the way through to the bow.

On the performance side, ride and general handling were real winners for me. Sporting a 90hp Suzuki four-stroke, the 502 had enough get up and go to suit a small family and could do double-duty as a boat for light skiing. There was an exceptionally smooth transition to the plane but personally I felt the 90 lacked a bit of bottom-end out of the hole.
I reckon that with a 115, this boat would have the ideal setup.

Signature hulls have a unique feature in their "Variable Deadrise" design - in this instance from 21° to 33°. A flat plank design off the keel that tapers to the bow makes it easier for the hull to get on the plane and at the same time maximises fuel economy. The concave hull is yet another interesting part to the Signature range because (in addition to its many other benefits) it helps create a smooth and dry ride. We ran in a 15-knot wind over the current and I'd have to say that maintaining a speed of over 18kts (33kmh) in these conditions was quite impressive. The hull was even foam-filled, which in addition to every other positive characteristic made it nice and quiet.

We conducted our mandatory performance tests, including tight turns at high speeds and out of the hole acceleration. At high speed the 502RF sat firm with moderate cavitation while at lower speeds out of the hole and under full-lock the cavitation was more evident. This was due to the motor being set up slightly high, which is of course easy to change.

 

 

THE WRAP

I spent a fair amount of time testing the Signature 502RF and I'd say it fits right into the family boating and fishing category. It has an interesting design and plenty of standard features that many other boats simply don't offer. It has ample space, performs well, and is ready to go without you needing to spend a big fat wad. It's definitely a value for money package.

 

 

 

 

 

Specifications: Signature 502RF

 

 

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $48,601

Options fitted: Battery, bimini with zips, carbon fibre dash, Garmin 4515, ladder, recessed cockpit lighting, Suzuki control cables and engine fitup, aft lounge folding seating, sports steering wheel, Tallon receivers, Dunbier trailer, transom step, two-tone deck and hull

Priced from: $41,205

 

 

GENERAL

Type: Deep-vee family / fishing crossover

Material: GRP

Length: 5.05m (incl. bowsprit)

Beam: 2.13m

Weight (hull): Approx. 475kg

Weight (towing): Approx. 1120kg

Deadrise: 21-33°

 

 

CAPACITIES

Fuel: 100lt

People: 5

Min. rec. HP: 70

Max. rec. HP: 115

 

 

ENGINE

Make/model: Suzuki DF 90 A

Type: Four-stroke, DOHC, 16-valve

Displacement: 1502cc

Engine weight: 155kg (long shaft)

Gear ratio: 2.59:1

 

 

MANUFACTURED & SUPPLIED BY

The Haines Group

140 Viking Drive

Wacol, Qld, 4076

Tel: (07) 3271 4400

Web: www.thehainesgroup.com

 

 

 Originally published in TrailerBoat #268.

 

Find Signature boats for sale.

 


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