BOAT TEST NOBLE 685 CENTRE CAB

By: Kevin Smith


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Kevin Smith gets to grips with a primo privately-owned fishing rig, the Noble 685 Centre Cab.

BOAT TEST NOBLE 685 CENTRE CAB
Noble 685 Centre Cab

Plate-aluminium builder Noble Boats International is a well-established player on the Australian boating scene and examples of its products have made the finals in TrailerBoat's Australia's Greatest Boats shootouts in 2010 and 2011. Recently a fully-featured Noble 685 Centre Cab came TrailerBoat's way, and while it isn't a new model, it's an interesting boat that certainly warranted a closer look.

DREAM TEST

This test was a touch different because the 685 in question is privately owned. To that end it was kitted out with some serious fishing hardware to suit its intended purpose - offshore angling exploits out of Sydney. This review therefore ended up being a bit of a triple whammy, as I got to give it a full test, chase a few elusive kings around Sydney Harbour and also get the owner's point of view after owning and running it for a year - priceless info a boat tester couldn't hope to uncover in a standard one-day test.

When you arrive at a ramp in the dark and see a boat of this size with a hardtop complete with radar, a quiver of antennae and rods, plus squid lights shining off the transom and a brightly illuminated cockpit, you know you're in for something special.

As a private craft this boat is already bristling with features, like the aforementioned squid lights, plus a built-in alloy berley bucket, boarding ladder, large baitboard, a livewell, rear lounger, and heaps of rodholders in the stern.

The gunwales are straight and high, with large sidepockets and toe-locks below plus a wide coaming with non-slip on top. Instead of a standard alloy deck the owner opted for Regupol flooring, which makes a world of difference when it comes to noise transfer off the hull; it's also easy to clean and comfortable underfoot. The fully-selfdraining deck is another safety bonus, while the plumbed killtank is huge - it even has its own lighting.

The cockpit can seat four instead of the standard two and below each seat is a built-in Esky-style cooler. The skipper's office comprises a spacious console with a dash packed with an assortment of electronics, including a Simrad NSE12 with radar, sounder, broadband, structure scan and more. A large wraparound screen with clears and a plush-lined hardtop offers plenty of protection from the elements. The cabin is larger than usual as it drops down below the deck line; there's also a lockable cabin door for security and even a proper flushing toilet for the ladies.

When driving it I found the seating didn't suit my height (176cm) whether I was sitting or standing. It's nothing too serious and could be rectified by fitting adjustable seats, or adding a spacer to raise the existing seat. Also, I found the access to the cabin was a touch tight, requiring a few contortionist manoeuvres to get through the door. Again, it's not too big an issue, unless you plan on using the cabin on a regular basis.

Along the side of the cab the walkaround section is raised with a full bowrail; it's wide enough to get through without a struggle. I really do prefer having access to the bow via a walkaround section, even though you do lose a bit of cabin space as a result. Access to the anchor is easier, while you can make full use of the bow area for fishing or relaxing, too.

There's an awful lot to this 685's layout, with simply too many features to list. However, the really impressive thing is that, despite all the features and fittings, there's no compromise of space - it's certainly been well thought out.

BALANCING ACT

To my mind larger plate-boats between 6.5m and 7m share plenty of similarities when it comes to performance, which is no surprise when you consider their similarities in hull design. The distinctions normally come down to one boat being a touch dryer, or one boat riding a touch softer - then something a little different like this Noble pops up and really catches your attention.

The 685 has a significantly deeper vee off the bow and heavier deadrise in the stern; it's a design that makes for a softer ride in rough conditions, but one that should be quite wet as a consequence. However, in this case Noble has achieved what is one of the better combinations I've come across on a plate-boat, with a variable 38° deadrise off the bow, 24° deadrise in the stern, and multiple chines amidships.

The design is quite technical so I won't get into too much detail here - in laymen's terms, Noble claims it assures a soft, dry and stable ride, even in rough conditions, while optimising speed and economy.

When put to the test, the 685 lived up to that claim, and even though the conditions were calm, Sydney Harbour's frenetic water traffic was more than enough to stir up the pot, throwing some beastly wakes and chop our way. In fact, I reckon some of the wakes off the ferries are probably about a metre in height - when one catches you unaware at high speed you know all about it!

The grunty 225hp V6 Yamaha four-stroke offered punchy holeshot. It was set up to handle reasonably tight turns so there was no major cavitation. Getting up on the plane was effortless, and you could tap off to a comfortable 3600rpm for a speed of 12kts (22.2kmh). A further tap on the smooth, electronically-assisted controls took us to 5400rpm (WOT) and 35kts (64.8kmh).

Personally I felt it lacked a bit on the top end and I reckon a 250hp unit would have been ideal. A bit more poke would also eliminate having to work the throttle between three quarters and WOT to achieve a reasonable high speed, while also marginally improving economy.

Thanks to that technical design, this boat slices through chop and swell with ease. While stability is normally compromised on deeper-vee hulls, I was certainly impressed at just how stable the 685 was underway, and at rest. Another thing that's common in deeper-vee hulls is the spray that deflects off the bow, and again I was most impressed at how this design deflected it further back to keep the screen and cab dry. Also, the tabs were certainly beneficial for tweaking the ride to suit the conditions.

It all added up to a ride that allowed me to sit back and relax at higher speeds than usual and in rougher conditions than usual - meaning longer offshore runs shouldn't pose any problems.

FISHABILITY

As a purpose-built vessel designed to suit an obviously avid angler, I had no complaints concerning this boat's fishability. It's a top-notch fish-fighting rig, and its centre-cab / walkaround layout makes it an ideal offshore fishing boat. As mentioned, the walkaround affords easy access to the bow, where you're greeted with a decent-sized area for casting lures and fighting any subsequent battles that may ensue.

That sizeable cab, meanwhile, is a great place for storing tackle - indeed, it took the crew the best part of 15 minutes to clear out the owner's gear to get a good look inside. Of course, it's also a great place for the kids to entertain themselves, or a comfy nook for a nap.

In the stern the boat is set up to suit both bottom bashing and gamefishing. It has the usual baitboard, fish-tank-style livewell for monitoring livebaits, plenty of rodholders, bolstered coamings, a big killtank, outriggers, downrigger, and plenty of other fishy accessories.

Now even though there's a lot going on the idea was to maintain space, and with careful placement of all these items the stern has been kept nice and open. Realistically, it will comfortably fish three to four.

If trolling is your forte then the Yamaha 225hp is quite economical at low troll speeds of between 3-8kts (5.6-14.8kmh), where it uses up to 11lt/h. Higher troll speeds of between 9-12kts (16.7-22.2kmh) registered between 15 and 33lt/h.

THE WRAP

Sydney's kings were on the chew the week before, so naturally they were nowhere to be found on the day of the test. Nonetheless, it was interesting to put the Simrad NSE12's sidescan imaging to good use when searching for a wreck in the channel. As everybody knows, a rubbish day's fishing still beats any day sitting in the office.

For me it was the ride that really stood out on this boat. You don't often come across a boat that strikes a good balance between ride, comfort, performance and stability, but the Noble 685 has it nailed. On top of that, it has a decent layout to suit both serious fishermen and families alike, and considering it was already a year old, I was also impressed at how good it still looked, both inside and out.

As tested this 685 weighed in at a fair 2900kg due to all the extras, so you would need a decent vehicle to tow it. With a price tag of approximately $135,000 it's also far from a budget boat, but let's not forget that it's packed with over $40,000-worth of extras.

Overall, the Noble 685 Centre Cab is an awesome fishing vessel that can handle some serious ocean abuse, and it will comfortably take you both far and wide.

On the plane...
Generous use of non-slip on coaming
Spacious cabin
Softer, smoother, and dryer ride than most plate-boats
Grabrails in all the right places

Dragging the chain...
A wider dash to flush-mount large electronics would be good
Cabin entrance is quite tight
Seats could do with height adjusters

SPECIFICATONS

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested: $135,000
Options fitted: Highly customised boat with way too many to mention
Priced from: $95,000 (incl. 225hp Yamaha four-stroke and Dunbier trailer)

GENERAL
Type: Deep-vee plate-aluminium fishing boat
Material: Alloy (5mm bottom; 4mm sides)
Length: 6.85m
Beam: 2.5m
Weight (hull): 1650kg
Weight (BMT): 2900kg
Deadrise: 24°

CAPACITIES
People: 8
Rec. HP: 225
Max. HP: 300
Fuel: 400lt (2 x 200lt)
Water: Twin 60lt

ENGINE
Make/model: Yamaha F225F
Type: 24-valve, DOHC with VCT direct-action 60° V6 four-stroke
Weight: 253kg
Displacement: 4169cc
Gear ratio: 1.75:1
Propeller: 17in

MANUFACTURED BY
Noble Boats International, Putney, NSW, 2112, Tel: 0435 837 538, Web: www.nobleboatsinternational.com

Story and photos: Kevin Smith
Source: TrailerBoat #283

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