By: Kevin Smith

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Kevin "Froggy" Smith reckons the Haines Hunter 400 Prowler is the Jack Russell terrier of the boat world — a little battler that punches well above its weight.


Picture this. I'm heading to the boat ramp to test Haines Hunter's new flagship 760R Limited (published in TrailerBoat #276), along with one of the company's other new models. This second boat will also double as a camera boat and, in a shoot like this, would typically be something in the 5-6m range, usually with a cabin or at least a centre-console.

So we arrive at the boat ramp and from afar the new 760R stands proud as the flagship of the Haines Hunter range. But where's the other boat? I scan the area, can't find the boat I'm expecting, and assume it hasn't arrived yet.

Then something catches my eye in the car park. It's a centre-console with what looks like traditional Haines Hunter lines from bow to stern. However, there's something different about this boat, something unique in fact, and if this was to be our other test boat (and by default, our camera boat) then this was definitely going to be one of those interesting tests. I quietly evaluated the boat for some time, contemplating what lay ahead.

Well, I was correct in assuming that it was the other boat. And considering we already had the flagship 760R to test, the camera boat looked - to put it bluntly - like a midget compared to its bigger brother.

This little boat, a new 400 Prowler centre-console, is the baby of the Haines Hunter range. Filming it would be a breeze from the big 760R, but how the hell would we do the same for the bigger boat from this little tub? Well, you do what you have to in times like these - but even so I was quite concerned about how this would pan out, considering the conditions were deteriorating by the minute. It was going to be an interesting day…





Upon first glance the 400 Prowler looks like a miniature version of its larger Haines Hunter centre-console siblings. Instead of being a plain old 4m boat, the Prowler has a nice modern look to it on the outside, with modern lines, a two-tone white and black colour scheme, and Haines Hunter decals.

The inside layout remains pretty simple due to the boat's size, but nonetheless it still has several good features. For one thing, the deck has a light grey speckled non-slip surface - a superior alternative to a white deck to my mind, as it's softer on the eyes when it's bright and sunny.

However, the most noticeable part of the layout is obviously the centre-console itself, as you rarely find boats this size with this setup. Most comparable boats are standard tiller-steers, as centre-consoles can restrict space on small boats and the stability of boats with narrow beams.

On the Prowler the centre-console is proportionately designed to be compact in a way that maintains 360° usability of the available deck space.

Surprisingly, it doesn't affect the stability on the water that badly. The console might be small but it still has enough space for the steering, side controls, fuel below, and a reasonably-sized screen, as well as room to mount a decent sounder / GPS. Beneath the console is open access to a standard fuel container.

The 400 does not have any fixed seating behind or in front of the console as space is a bit limited, but if you really wanted seating it would just be a matter of using your favourite Esky as a seat or a fishbox.

The gunwales have a small coaming which not only allows you to flush-mount rodholders and other accessories, but also brings the gunwale back into the boat so you can actually lean against it. Most comparable small boats have a gunwale that follows the angle of the hull, making them very tricky to lean against.

The gunwales have full-length sidepockets that are great for storing a bit of gear, but on this boat they also serve as a toe-lock running all the way through. What a nice idea! Rounding out the bow is a small anchorwell with bollard and bowroller.

In the stern is a small raised hatch / seat that hides the cables leading to the motor, while also providing some space to stow gear or tackle.





To say I was pleasantly surprised by the Prowler's performance is an understatement. Summing it up is easy: the 400 Prowler is bold, courageous and fearless on the water, and it doesn't mind tackling anything double or even triple its size. It reminds me of a Jack Russell that's not afraid to take on a Rottweiler.

Sporting a Mercury 30hp two-stroke, the Prowler had more than enough grunt to burst onto the plane. The motor was not trim-and-tilt, but rather was set at a standard trim height, which suited both low-down torque and high speed.

Holeshot from the little 30hp two-stroke Mercury was gutsy, and I had no problems while thrashing the 400 around on full lock. You just need to remember that you're on a small boat and that you need some decent sea legs if you want to play around.

Up on the plane I had the 400 sitting at speeds between 12-15kts (22-27kmh) in the chop. Now let me remind you that the conditions were a toilet, to say the least, and it was hardly the kind of day on which you would venture out in a 4m boat. Indeed, 12-15kts is actually good motoring on a boat this size in rough conditions. At this speed you can comfortably manage the steering and controls without stressing about flying off.

As I put it through its paces it really didn't take me long to get a feel for this boat. In fact, it rode so well for its size I ended up doing a few things to it that I probably shouldn't have, owing to the fact that the boat felt just right on the water. I thrashed the little 400 over some large wakes and swells, almost launching it clean out of the water. Then I literally wound it through the swell, then with the swell, and finally side-on. At all speeds I had an absolute ball playing around.

But back to driving in a civilised manner. The hull really did ride well and, considering the conditions, demonstrated a very soft and quiet ride indeed. Stability at speed is good with one person onboard, but when you've got two, the small hull will naturally list to the side that the passenger is standing on. This is to be fully expected due to its size and limited beam. Of course, you can balance things by not having the passenger stand next to you at the console, and instead place them either directly forward or aft.

When stationary the stability is again not too bad, considering the beam. You can move alongside the console or gunwale no problem, but naturally it could be a little wobbly in the rough.

The same is true for most boats this size - it just takes a bit of getting used to.





The 400 Prowler is a boat that's going to stay in the memory bank for some time, and I can honestly say I was really impressed with its "brave heart" attitude on the water.

As for price? Well yes, it does cost more than some comparably-sized boats. However, it's made of fibreglass and is built to last. Being a Haines Hunter, it should also command a fairly decent resale price if properly looked after.

As the test day came to an end and we headed back I noticed another 400 Prowler at the ramp. This one belonged to a chap who had spared no change when it came to rigging it up. It had a mega electronics package, fishing accessories all over, and a four-stroke motor. Apparently the owner ventures offshore in his Prowler - way offshore. You definitely need plenty of confidence to do that in such a small boat.

This boat ticks all the boxes for me. It's small, lightweight, easy to tow with a small vehicle, simple to launch and retrieve, can be stowed in the average garage, and has above average handling. Take one for a spin if you're keen - and if you do, make sure it's not on a flat day.



On the plane...

Classic ride and handling on such a small boat

Full-length sidepockets and toe-locks



Dragging the chain...

A few small grabrails needed

Inside gunwale edges need to be lined with beading








Price as tested: $13,590

Priced from: $ 11,990 (tiller-steer model)





Type: Deep-vee monohull

Material: GRP

Length (LOA): 4.00m

Beam: 1.8m

Weight (hull): 285kg

Weight (package): 650kg

Deadrise: 21°




People: 3

Rec. HP: 30

Max. HP: 40

Fuel: Portable fuel tank up to 30lt




Make/model: Mercury 30LW

Type: Two-cylinder, carbie two-stroke

Weight: 51kg

Displacement: 430cc

Gear ratio: 1.92:1




Haines Hunter

56 East Derrimut Crescent

Derrimut, Vic, 3030

Tel: (03) 9394 1540



Originally published in TrailerBoat #277.


Find Haines Hunter boats for sale.


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