BOAT TEST HAINES SIGNATURE 542F


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Those looking for a fibreglass boat between five and six metres long are faced with a bewildering array of rigs to choose from. Haines Signature has always sent a consistent message of getting what you pay for, and this sweet cruiser-fisher proves that in the long run, it’s better to spend a bit more for quality.

BOAT TEST HAINES SIGNATURE 542F
Haines Signature 542F

The Haines Family Group has more than a few fingers in different pies when it comes to building fibreglass boats. It seems to have a model for every conceivable purpose, whether it be fishing, skiing or cruising. But the 542F is one that will fill a niche for those wanting the best of both worlds when it comes to fishing and family boating.

Tested on the Broadwater at Queensland's Gold Coast, I was hard pressed to uncover any gremlins hidden in this boat's performance.

The variable deadrise on this and other Signature hulls is a concept that, for want of a better description, turns the outer half of the planing hull surface into a massive chine. The very deep 33° of deadrise off the keel line produces a soft entry to tame nasty chop before tapering into a gentle 22° curve to offer exceptional stability at rest and a flat attitude when turning.

The stability at rest will surely impress serious bottom-fishing anglers, who will also appreciate the reasonably high gunwales, deep cockpit and the roomy area under the sidepockets under which to anchor the feet while fishing. The strips of non-skid ribbed aluminium screwed to the floor are an added safety feature when standing and fishing over the sides.

However, those same anglers should take a careful look at the padded seat that folds down along the rear transom bulkhead. Its leading edge almost touches the floor when collapsed. This prevents feet from tucking under the folded seat and makes fishing over the stern a more precarious affair.

When your hands are full, your feet need a place to tuck into in order to maintain balance in rocky seas. The rear lounge is an optional extra, and while it's a feature that will obviously appeal to families, keen anglers may choose not to install one.

TORQUE OF THE TOWN

While we're at the back end of the boat, two hatched baitwells - one plumbed - serve the anglers aboard or can provide useful storage for drinks and ice.

The hatch lids open inwards and come into contact with the engine cowl, which over a period of time might damage the paintwork. They should be hinged on the opposite side.

Speaking of the motor, you would be hard pressed to ask for more from this 115hp Suzuki four-stroke, which punched the hull forward at 66kmh while running at 5900rpm.

It was hard to determine at which point we left the hole on acceleration, as the hull shape allows the boat to slide onto the plane with a remarkably flat attitude. Settled into cruising mode, an economical 4200rpm was good for just under 46kmh.

This engine was spinning a 14¼in prop, which can bite a whole lot of water and did it with ease. The torque generated from this engine anywhere throughout the throttle range was amazing and gave the boat extremely good acceleration. Such was the torque generated by the big blades, the boat heeled over slightly when given a handful of throttle. Gutsy indeed, and quiet too!

Landing off big wash was soft, and very little spray was generated by the chines, which bodes well for a dry ride in rougher conditions than those we experienced on our test day.

Manipulation of the helm was direct and easy on the arms - precisely what one would expect from the hydraulic Sea Star steering. Should the buyer wish to install an engine of larger powerhead proportions, a hinged flap on the transom bulkhead drops down to allow intrusion of a tall powerhead cowl into the cockpit without contacting the coaming.

SWALLOWS GEAR WHOLE

If you are a hoarder or a tackle junkie, you will love the amount of storage space in this ship. Ample sidepockets run right through to the cabin bulkhead for stowing gaffs, smaller rods and so on.

A couple of tackle lockers sporting clear trays in the aft corners will help you squirrel away things like hooks, sinkers and lures, which often find their way onto the floor or in the sole of some unfortunate person's foot. These aft lockers were only accessible on the test boat when the rear lounge base was lowered - another reason to leave it at home when serious fishing is on the cards.

The helm was neatly laid out with a central platform available to house a compass: there's also a neat fascia lower down to allow flush-mounting of a fishfinder/GPS combination unit. As often seen in Signature boats, the dashboard panel is hinged and opens out into the cabin for access to the wiring looms.

LOST IN SPACE

The deck between the swivel seats has been designed in such a way as to eliminate the need to fold in half somehow in order to climb inside the cabin. This feature is going to get a big tick from retirees or those with bad backs.

Once inside the cabin, you'll find the area to be spacious and well lit by a tinted ceiling hatch that allows you to access the ground tackle when standing on the cushions in the bow. Large people can fit comfortably through here when working the anchor and chain over the moulded bowsprit.

Access to the sharp end is also available via a narrow single foot-width walkway around the cabin - the forward third of which is surrounded by a substantial stainless-steel bowrail. On deck you'll find a hatched anchor well, which is capable of holding a reasonably large Danforth pick or a small grappling anchor.

NOT SHORT ON QUALITY

Experienced boat owners should be aware of Signature's reputation when it comes to quality and standard of finish.

While definitely not the cheapest boat on the market in this very popular size range, the boatbuilder's cupboard full of Boat of the Year Awards from the last decade should justify the extra investment at the dealership.

Overall finish, construction quality and the brand-name fittings used throughout the boat are all above average. And Signature boats hold their resale value well - the hulls have a very respectable linage and deliver sparkling performance to match.

The 542F presents as a neat family all-rounder package and will option up nicely into a useful offshore fishing rig without pushing mum and the kids out into the cold.

The power option on the test rig offered a tonne of punch for those wanting to pull a couple of skiers or a wakeboarder out of the water, and the economy of the four-stroke will appeal to those who regularly venture outside in search of snapper or tasty reefies.

As with the majority of family boats, there is some level of compromise in terms of accommodating passengers comfortably while still retaining fishability - but overall, this boat succeeds admirably.

HAINES SIGNATURE 542F

Price as tested: $46,550 with braked tandem Mackay trailer
Options fitted: Bimini, full cockpit carpet, bowrail, compass, stainless-steel boarding ladder, Clarion stereo, hydraulic steering, folding aft lounge, swim platforms, cockpit lights
Priced from: $45,050 with braked tandem Mackay trailer

GENERAL
Material: Fibreglass
Length (overall): 5.53m
Beam: 2.13m
Deadrise: Variable, 33-21°
Rec/max hp: 115/150
Towing weight: 1690kg

CAPACITIES
Fuel: 96lt
Water: 45lt (optional)
Passengers: Six adults

ENGINE
Make/model: Suzuki DF115
Type: EFI four-stroke
Rated hp: 115
Displacement: 1950cc
Weight: 195kg
Gearbox ratio: 2.59:1
Propeller: 14¼in aluminium

SUPPLIED BY
Runaway Bay Marine Sales, Runaway Bay, Qld, tel (07) 5577 2666, email sales@runbaymarine.com.au, or visit ww.thehainesgroup.com

HIGHS
Intelligent storage features
Exceptional level of finish
Excellent ride
Spacious, usable cabin

LOWS
Pricing sits at top end of market
Bait tanks lids hit engine
Rear lounge restricts movement somewhat when fishing over stern

Story & Photos: Rick Huckstepp
First published in TrailerBoat #176

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