BOAT REVIEW Assault Pursuit 8m Amphibious Strange Magic

May 2022 Trailer Boat Reviews
Words by Sarah Ell. Photography by Chris Cameron.
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Assault Pursuit 8m Amphibious
DESIGNER Assault/Family Boats
BUILDER Assault Boats
CONSTRUCTION GRP composite with Carbon Hypalon tubes
PRICE AS TESTED $395,000
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 8.6M
LENGTH (Waterline) 8.0M
BEAM 2.9M
DISPLACEMENT 1900kg
ENGINE 1 x Yamaha F300
FUEL CAPACITY 250L
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Solid performance and relatively light weight for an amphibious vessel
  • Excellent system integration with Garmin OneHelm
OBSERVATIONS
  • Easy to operate in both terrestrial and marine modes

New Zealanders have led the world in developing amphibious RIBs, and the latest offering from Assault shows more than a dash of that Kiwi ingenuity.


The Pursuit 8 Amphibious is designed and built by Auckland company Assault, which manufactures a range of conventional RIBs for Family Boats. It’s a sturdy, practical boat which both performs on the water and is easy to launch and stow. The design is a development of the current Pursuit 9m and 11m models, but with a completely re-designed hull and transom for optimised performance with the integrated three-wheel amphibious system developed by Orion Marine.
Family Boats was already importing Gemini RIBs from South Africa, but decided to develop their own models for the NZ Market and particularly to suit Orion amphibious systems. Family Boats will still be running the Gemini hull in some models, but for the Pursuit 8/9 and 11 models, the composite hulls and tubes are manufactured in West Auckland. Family Boats MD Peter Carlson said this made it easier to be hands-on when developing the amphibious version, working with father-and-son team Kelvin and Amos Kay at boatbuilders K2 Marine.
“The project started with a customer who saw the 9-metre Assault Pursuit and said he really wanted a boat like that – but with wheels,” Carlson says. He also wanted it be only eight metres long, with a deeper vee, with an eye to boating out of Cooks Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.

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After the initial approach at the Hutchwilco Boat Show in May last year, design work got underway, with completely new moulds built for the hull, including a D-shaped transom to create a small platform in front of the wheels. The hull is fully composite, enabling the builders to keep the weight down to under 1900kg without fuel or crew.
We meet the Pursuit out at Motuihe Island, a short blast away from Half Moon Bay for the Family Boats team. On the water it looks like a regular, practical and smartly-finished RIB, with its deep vee and hardtop fibreglass cabin providing shelter for driver and passengers. It’s not until you look more closely that you see a wheel tucked away under the bowsprit and another pair on the stern, folded up either side of the 300hp Yamaha outboard.
Hopping aboard, the Pursuit 8 has a large cockpit, with fore and aft adjustable forward-facing and smaller rear-facing seats under the hard cabin top. The cockpit floor is covered with soft yet durable grey U-Dek foam, and there’s a small enclosed cabin forward. On Strange Magic there’s a head down here, and a door through to the bow, but this can equally be a fully enclosed cabin space with a bow seat forward of it. Beyond this is a small foredeck, from which the anchor gear is accessed. It’s also easy enough to sidle around the hardtop cabin to the bow using the handrails on the cabin top for security.


At the ‘business end’ of the boat is the pair of aft wheels, which fold down in amphibious mode and tuck away each side of the outboard behind a solid transom when on the water. The V-twin petrol Orion motor driving the wheels is concealed in a central locker/engine box under a squab. This whole unit hinges forward for easy access.
The transom features a couple of rod holders, a removable bait board (with additional rod holders) and a washdown outlet. The U-Dek-covered swim platform is easily wide enough to fish from in calm conditions, making it easier to clear lines over the motor and wheels. Good-quality fold-down cleats either side complete the picture aft.


The throttle controls for both the Yamaha outboard (the standard package is F250XCB four-stroke, but this boat has a 300hp) and the push-button system for the Orion motor are handy to the helm, adjacent to the large Garmin chartplotter. This boat has a Garmin OneHelm system, so both systems can be monitored on the electric switch-panel touch-screen. The electric steering for the outboard switches over to the Orion system once the wheels are deployed.
The helm position provides good visibility, with a supportive bolstered helm seat and a handily positioned teak footrest. There’s good support offered by the folding armrests, useful storage in the seat bases and handy side-pockets, too. Sliding side-windows give good ventilation and there are a pair of wipers for the three-pane windscreen, though we didn’t get a drop of spray on the safety glass.


On the water, the Pursuit’s high bow and rigid deep-vee hull give it good handling, especially in the turns, and impressive speed: it can get up to a top speed of around 43 knots, with a very comfortable, cushioned ride provided by the substantial tubes. Powering along, you’re well up above the water and because no parts of the wheel system are in the water, there’s no added drag.


With the fast and fun ride over and now approaching the shore, getting ready to go amphibious is a straightforward process. The Orion button is a push-start, then it’s a matter of deploying the wheels hydraulically, again through a simple push-button system. The Garmin screen can display the bow camera view so you can be sure the wheel is fully down, then the outboard needs to be trimmed right up and, bumpity-bump, we’re up onto the sand and powering forward as a vehicle rather than a boat.


There’s a moment when the electric steering needs to be switched over from the outboard to the Orion motor, but once we’re away, the Pursuit powers steadily up the sand. It’s neither fast nor especially graceful, but there’s also no mucking around with backing trailers: we’re already on land and making our own way. Once fully on the hard the boat can also ‘squat’ by lowering the stern to make it easier to get on and off, and there’s a boarding ladder that folds down off the starboard side.
The Pursuit drives along at about 7kph, then when you’re ready to go back in the water again, you simply drive it back in. And once the boat is fully afloat with the outboard trimmed down, it’s a one-button operation to bring the wheels back up – and voilà! You’re a boat again!


There’s obviously a demand for these craft: Family Boats has already sold five amphibious Pursuits 8m on the strength of the first boat. To suit other tastes, the company is also developing a bigger amphibious Pursuit, a centre-console version of the 8m, plus an 8m Pursuit without wheels. Family Boats/Assault plan to produce 10 a year.
Amphibious vessels are a game-changer for beachside residents, but they are not a cheap boating option – the Orion system is itself worth more than $100,000, and the base package price for the amphibious 8m Pursuit is $355,000. But if you have a property close to the water, there’s then no need to buy a boat trailer and tractor (Family Boats also offer a custom road trailer for the Pursuit 8m Amphibious).
And for many customers the convenience of being able to drive up the beach or boat ramp and then straight home at the end of the day is priceless.

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