Review: Northbank 650HT
The Northbank 650HT matched with a Suzuki 200hp four-stroke outboard motor combine the best new age technology with timeless Aussie honesty. The combination create an offshore fishing boat you can bank on when the going gets rough.
Northbank Boats let me spend a couple of days testing the new Northbank 600C (cuddy) and new 650HT (Hard Top) in the wild and woolly waters of the Backstairs Passage, a nasty body of water that separates the Fleurieu Peninsula on mainland South Australia from beautiful Kangaroo Island.
The currents run strong, whipping up a torrent where Gulf St Vincent meets the mighty swell of the Southern Ocean, oxygenating the waters and producing an abundance of marine life, including Southern Bluefin Tuna, all manner of sharks, big red snapper, whiting and a great squid fishery.
The hardtop Northbank 650HT is a boat I’d consider high on any buying prospectus. I was invited to inspect the factory and it brought back fond memories of my early days in boatbuilding, but with just the right mix of modern accent. Their lamination schedule includes multiple layers of hand-laid woven rovings interspersed with chopped strand and finished with high-quality resins, flocoat and gelcoats. They don’t use many internal mouldings, instead using the hand cut methods developed over 60 years of fibreglass production worldwide. Yes, they use timber in their constructions; however time is taken to properly encapsulate it with fibreglass by hand for guaranteed longevity. And I reckon I can feel and hear the difference on the water. I’ve driven a few hulls lately that have converted to full synthetic construction, only to be disappointed by the result.
New Northbank hardtop
The Northbank 650 hardtop hull is not new, but the package has been updated with a new enclosed hardtop that enhances the package beautifully. The previous hard top was a very commercial affair, with multiple flat safety glass panes inserted into a full fibreglass structure. Many people like that style of rugged construction and the factory still offers the option; however the new hardtop looks much sharper and it provides terrific top-to-bottom vision almost 360 degrees around the boat, whether seated or standing. If there’s one thing you need when you’re in a rough sea, it’s full vision. The fibreglass roof moulding and curved-edge windows add to the aesthetics and practicality at the same time, providing a solid mounting point for rocket launcher, grab rails, aerials, navigation and work lights and a good place for optional outriggers and spot lights. I’d add a pair of wiper/washers to the options list.
The overall layout of the boat is ideal. The cabin height is very good, with easy vision from the helm. There’s a waterproof hatch leading to the bow which features a strong stainless bow rail, a deep anchor well with Stress Free anchor winch and a bowsprit with SARCA anchor and roller.
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Layout and design
The helm layout is terrific. There’s a tonne of room for accessories and instruments and our demo was fitted with the sensational Garmin 1020xs 10" multi-function unit and a pair of Garmin GMI20 4" marine instruments. They display all engine and house functions including fuel consumption, speed, tacho, engine temperature etc. There’s a handy recess for the fire extinguisher at the driver’s side and the flush-mounted engine controls are much sweeter to use than the binnacles on many competitors. The passenger gets a glove box and a strong "Jesus" bar that came in very handy in 25-30 knots of Cape Jervis mush. Both sides have a stainless footrest and there’s a large kill tank underfloor.
The massive deck and work space on the Northbank 650HT is just like the rest of the boat, simple, strong and superb. It has very deep freeboard with a pair of recessed stainless steel grab rails either side and strong, full length fibreglass side pockets up high enough that you can get your toes right to the edge of the deck. The side pockets are strong enough to stand on when boarding.
The theme continues to the transom and work-station, where a well-proportioned, half-tilt engine well provides optimal deck space while still having plenty of engine tilt for clearance. There is a live bait tank moulded into the stern quarter, plenty of room for custom bait boards and rod holders and a flush transom bulkhead that I would personally fit with a padded trim to ease the impact on my old damaged knees. Most will keep it just the way it is for easy cleaning. Northbank has added a swing-up section that seals the bilge area, keeping the batteries, switch gear and pumping equipment out of harm’s way, yet still providing toe holds.
Our review on the Northbank 650HT boat had an optional doorway and steps through the transom and into the engine well, leading to a single stern platform on the port side with a stainless ladder. It works well and handy when boarding over those high combings.
On the water
We busted out into a nasty wind against tide in 25-30-knot Cape Jervis slop and I can only say that while there was plenty of spray from the strong wind whipping up any displaced seawater, I never felt an anxious moment. The Northbank 650HT gave me the security of a strong and reliable friend by my side. Is it the softest riding boat on the market? Probably not, but it doesn’t suffer from stability problems inherent to many deep-V’s.
Would I make one mine? You bet! This is one of the country’s premium offshore weapons with the size, ride, construction, layout and accessories to please any trailerable offshore enthusiast for another 50 years.
200hp Suzuki DF 200
I jumped into the demo boat, turned the key and was relieved to have another old friend behind me – the Suzuki DF200 outboard motor. I was one of the first of the new era of dealers for Suzuki four strokes when the Haines Group took over distribution in Australia early last decade. Since then I have admired the progression and acceptance of the four-stroke range and felt comfortable that the product was certainly the world-class leader I expected.
The six-cylinder Suzuki DF200 outboard motor and more recent four-cylinder DF200A have come a long way since then, with 200hp outboards reducing from big, heavy slugs into the relative lightweight powerhouse of today’s offerings. These are gutsy engines with whisper-quiet, fuel-efficient performance to knock your socks off.
At only 263kg, the six-cylinder on the demo boat has a good power to weight ratio. Suzuki has combined the power with the added torque of offset gear drive which has been a huge feature of its outboards since the inception of four-strokes with Lean Burn technology. It should be noted that Suzuki now offers a lighter weight four-cylinder Suzuki DF200A outboard motor (231kg) which is the technological equivalent of a modern F-type Jaguar. Both would be an ideal match for the big 650HT with 200hp driving the boat out of the hole impressively and powering right through the rev range beautifully. We didn’t get to do real time figures this trip, but I don’t believe the added 30kg of the six-cylinder version would be immediately noticeable, especially with the performance in the rough.
The 3614 cc six-cylinder Suzuki DF200 outboard motor fitted to the review boat powered the package beautifully with its 2.29:1 gear ratio, allowing it to throw a larger diameter (20P) propeller and thus increasing overall performance. It held onto the backs of waves without dropping a single rev and when we did jump puddles, the large diameter propeller gripped immediately. We had to manoeuvre through many pits and troughs and found absolutely no slippage, even in tight turns through aerated water. Bring it back to trolling revs and the high engine torque allows it to sit on the chosen low speed.
While many will opt for the maximum rated 250hp on the 650HT, I found the tested combination more than suitable, particularly for a dedicated offshore package where your average offshore speed will be around 20 knots. You could expect a top speed of around 40 knots and do it in a fuss, vibration and harmonic free fashion without a hint of fume.
The Northbank 650HT has a large 250-litre fuel capacity in an efficient hull that jumps up on top quickly. You won’t be making too many friends with the bowser proprietors with its minimal consumption even with the estimated hull weight of 1400kg.
- Huge deck room
- Great layout
- Simple quality construction
- Freeboard of 930mm
- Practical sport and game fisher
- No wiper/washers
- Lockable doorway to cabin optional
Northbank 650HT specs
Northbank 650HT price: $109,990
Price as tested
Boarding platform, bow rail, passenger seat, blue hull stripe, plumbed live bait tank, rocket launcher, and more.
$95,000 with V6 Suzuki outboard motor
TYPE Deep Vee monohull hard top
LENGTH 6.8m O/A
WEIGHT 1400kg (approx. hull only)
PEOPLE (NIGHT) 2 (DAY) 8
MAKE/MODEL Suzuki DF200 outboard motor
TYPE Double overhead cam, V6, Multi-point sequential fuel injected four-stroke outboard motor
RATED HP 197
GEAR RATIO 2.29:1
PROPELLER S/S Suzuki 16x20P
25 Liston Rd, Lonsdale SA 5160
Phone (08) 8381 1444
See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #480, on sale July 14, 2016. Why not subscribe today?
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