REVIEW: MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781

By: MATTHEW JONES, Photography by: MATTHEW JONES


We sent Matthew Jones to Whakatane to uncover the truth about a McLay Cruiser Hardtop 781.

As the sun broke over the horizon, we cruised cautiously past the Lady on the Rock to survey the conditions on Whakatane’s notorious bar. While the 2m north east swell was forecast to ease, we weren’t sure if it would allow us to head out too much further. So it was owner and skipper Maree Allen’s call as to whether we’d proceed across the bar or head back to the trailer and the allure of a hot coffee.

 

MCLAY BOATS

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781

Surprisingly, it looked good to go. And then suddenly it wasn’t. But it was too late for turning around, so my grip and certain muscle groups were tightened and I prepared to kiss my arse goodbye. Or so I thought. Instead, Maree punched the throttle and the big Yamaha responded instantly, rocketing us up and over a curly one. Given we were now airborne I waited with bated breath for the inevitable touchdown.

While the boat itself is as hard as Jean Claude Van Damme on steroids, the landing certainly wasn’t. In fact, no part of the McLay experience caused any pain.

After quarter of an hour punching into a solid 2m swell, all the while maintaining 20kts on the speedo, we tucked into the lee of Whale Island where the sea magically flattened.

 

SKIPPER MAREE ALLEN

MCLAY HARDTOP 781

It’s fair to say Maree’s addicted to fishing, but I can’t think of a more worthy pursuit. She’s worked hard and is now fully enjoying the fruits of her labour – a McLay Cruiser Hardtop 781 aptly named 2 Bizzy Fish’n. Now she works hard chasing marlin and has clocked up a staggering 202 hours on the meter in just six months of ownership.

Thanks to the quality trailer and self-hitching Trailer Mate catch, she also finds the bigger boat easier to launch and retrieve. "Being able to drop a crew member off at the wharf and then drive the boat straight on the trailer is great – it makes life really easy at the ramp," she said. Maree tows 2 Bizzy Fish’n with a Ford Territory 3lt turbo-diesel – a recent upgrade as the previous tow vehicle wasn’t quite powerful enough.

 

FISHABILITY

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781 TRANSOM

As Maree is fanatical about all types of saltwater fishing, her boat needed to be versatile and able to fish four anglers comfortably, and it doesn’t disappoint. From December to March she’s out chasing gamefish any chance she gets and the rest of the time she’s bottom bashing at least twice a week. With a 7.8m McLay at her disposal, she doesn’t hesitate to venture 50-odd miles to Cape Runaway or anywhere in between. Foot holds all round, an easy clean treadplate cockpit floor, large underfloor bins, an abundance of fully welded rod holders and a saltwater wash down system all help in the pursuit of the sea’s bounty.

 

ENGINE

MCLAY CRUISER YAMAHA 250

As for the 250hp Yamaha four-stroke Maree says: "I love it. When we’re trolling at 9kts we’re using around 12lt/h, which is pretty good."

"Yesterday we did 89nm and used 113lt of fuel and it was rough out there, too." But with 300lt of go juice under the floor she’s got plenty of reserve.

With the right boat, fishing adventures don’t need to finish at sunset either. "I asked for a spotlight and decklight so I can fish at night as well," said Maree. She also added blue underwater LED lights for an attractive underwater glow, and the infill turns the front berth into an oversized bed for two with an electric toilet below.

 

LAYOUT AND DESIGN

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP HELM

On board 2 Bizzy Fish’n, everything’s big, tough and dependable – as it should be on an offshore fishing boat. The lockable cabin provides a safe haven for anglers and gear with hatches in the roof, sliding side windows and drop-down rear windows for ventilation and communication. No space has been overlooked, with plenty of storage options beneath the seats, berths and a handy glovebox in the dash.

At the helm there’s ample room to flush mount the Garmin GPSmap 5012 12in touchscreen, Yamaha digital gauges and a multitude of switches. Maree opted for solid seat bases with storage below, so the driving position isn’t adjustable but works well regardless. Visibility through the large glass windows is excellent, with wipers fitted for tackling adverse conditions and cold mornings.

McLay’s attention to detail is to be commended. It includes features such as the transom door that simply lifts out and drops into slots on the transom to secure it out of the way, the twin handrails and solidly built T-style boarding ladder on the boarding platform, and the raised angle of the Maxwell capstan for an easy drop. These are all features that might go unnoticed, but add up to complete ease-of-use. I would however, like to see more non-skid on the Portofino transom and sidewalks for added safety, but these are available options.

McLay’s pressed planing strakes feature gentle curves which provide stability, without adversely affecting the ride. Another McLay hallmark is the brushed Nyalic coating which provides a good looking, yet hard wearing finish. Quality welds and solid engineering further cement the feeling of a high quality package that should provide lasting enjoyment of ownership.

 

THE VERDICT

MCLAY FISHING BOAT

Within a few minutes of leaving the ramp, this rig was truly tested in some challenging conditions on the Whakatane Bar. How it stood up to the challenge was impressive and from that point onward, I developed the utmost respect for this quality package. McLay’s impressive build quality, blend of stability and ride and Yamaha’s outstanding 250hp four-stroke instil confidence. Maree’s already had 10 marlin hit the lures, and in late March she helped pull the first one on board after a 20min fight. "I’m really happy with it and if anybody ever asks why I haven’t done something I say I’ve been 2 Bizzy Fish’n," adds Maree.

 

HIGHS

  • Tough and dependable
  • Excellent build quality
  • Large berths
  • Good ride coupled with good stability
  • Versatile and accommodating

 

LOWS

  • Cabin door catch
  • Lacking non-skid in some spots

 

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781 SPECIFICATIONS

PRICE AS TESTED

NZ$175,000

 

OPTIONS

Yamaha F250DETX outboard, Toko tandem axle trailer, interior cabin lighting, cockpit lighting, remote spotlight, two windscreen wipers, livebait tank, washdown pump, electric toilet, twin batteries, fire extinguisher, GME CD/DVD stereo, Garmin GPSMAP 5012, 1kW transducer, Oceanblue outriggers, Maxwell RC8 Capstan, underfloor kill bin.

 

PRICED FROM

NZ$64,778 (hull package only)

 

GENERAL

TYPE Offshore Fishing

MATERIAL Aluminium

LENGTH 7.8m

BEAM 2.48m

WEIGHT 1450kg (approx hull weight)

DEADRISE 18˚ variable

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 8

BERTHS 2

REC. HP 175 to 300

MAX. HP 300 outboard/350 stern drive

FUEL 300lt (underfloor)

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Yamaha F250DETX

TYPE Four-stroke outboard

WEIGHT 253kg

DISPLACEMENT 4169 cc

GEAR RATIO 1.75:1

PROPELLER 15x15¾in stainless steel

 

MANUFACTURED BY

McLay Boats

299A Union Street, Milton, Otago.

WEB mclayboats.co.nz

 

SUPPLIED BY

Ocean Sports Marine

32 McAlister St, Whakatane

Phone (+64) 7 308 4241

WEB oceansportsmarine.co.nz

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #451, April / May 2014. Why not subscribe today?

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