Trailer Boat Reviews
Words by John Eichelsheim. Photography by Andrew Mcinstray and John Eichelsheim
Build Quality
MODEL Circa 790
DESIGNER Bruce Farand
BUILDER Circa Marine Ltd
CONSTRUCTION 6mm plate bottom, 4mm topsides and decks
LOA 8.1M
BEAM 2.48M
ENGINE Yamaha 300hp V6
Weight on Trailer 2400 kg
Length on Trailer 9.2M
Height on Trailer 3.1M
Passenger Capacity 6 people
DEADRISE 20 degrees
  • Competent bluewater performance
  • Well built
  • Nicely presented
  • Open hardtop layout works well for fishing and diving
  • High quality CAM alloy trailer
  • Squeaks in under 2.5 tonnes on trailer

While Circa Marine never really went away, it’s been more than 20 years since the Whangarei engineering company produced aluminium trailer boats for recreational use in New Zealand. But if the new Circa 790 is anything to go by, the return to the mar

In the interval between the last of the old Circas and the first of the new ones, Circa Marine has built a series of superyachts, several 50 to 70-foot Dashew passage-makers and around 1,000 26-38ft alloy boats for Toyota, Japan. With around 70 staff, the company currently fabricates hulls for Sealegs and Naiad, alongside the new range of Circa trailer boats, in addition to undertaking general engineering, repair and refit work on vessels up to 60m.

Circa’s recreational models will be marketed by Whangarei company Offshore Boats NZ. Circa Marine supplies hull and decks packages which are then fitted out and finished by Offshore Boats, which also fits the high-quality CAM aluminium trailers underneath the boats.

Circa Marine principal Bruce Farand designed the boats 30-plus years ago, cutting them out on the workshop floor. He did such a good job, says Barlow, there was no reason to change the hulls with the new range, which currently includes the 790 and a 660 hardtop (see sidebar), but Circa Marine and Offshore Boats NZ worked together on new hardtops and deck layouts.


Farand and his right-hand man Steve Lowe told Boating NZ that Circa trailer boats were always a sideline, but one they were keen to get back into. Ongoing discussions between Circa Marine and Offshore Boats NZ resulted in a new range of Circa trailer boats.
Building the Circas keeps staff busy and is good training, says Farand, who intends “to keep building them for as long as Offshore Boats NZ keeps selling them”. In addition to 790 and 660 models for Offshore Boats NZ, an impressive looking 9m Circa is currently under construction.

Built tough
The new 790’s construction is robust, with 6mm hull plates and lots of structure under the floor. According to Farand, the hulls are “built like the proverbial outhouse.” Strong and stiff, they are also very fair, so there’s minimal filling required. The 790 is painted above the chines.

One of the benefits Circa can offer is a degree of customisation many mainstream trailer boat manufacturers can’t or won’t provide. This is the first 790 to hit the water and the layout is fairly generic, but there are many custom options, including an enclosed hardtop.

After taking delivery of the bare boats, Offshore Boats NZ finishes them to a high standard, fairing the hulls, coving the panel joins, adding the glass, and laying SeaDek on the side- and foredecks before fitting engines, lighting and electronics.

The teak rubbing strip on the belting is a traditional Circa feature that carries over to the new models, while the teak rubbing strip in the forepeak under the anchor chain and teak capping on the transom doors are new. As reviewed the boat was fitted with carpet, but SeaDek has been ordered for the cockpit.

The 790’s styling is conservative, with a fairly tall, angular hardtop, but there’s excellent headroom inside with good vision through the three-pane toughened glass windscreen. No wipers were fitted. The hardtop is quite narrow, since Circa has gone with relatively wide side decks and gunwales for easy access to the foredeck, but as it’s open to the large cockpit, it doesn’t feel cramped. Sliding side windows provide additional ventilation.

Because the 790 is narrower at the waterline than at the gunwale, wide side decks/coamings help bring the centre of gravity inboard, improving stability at rest. When you lean against the gunwale, your toes line up nicely with your thighs. The coamings are also wide enough to sit on. This boat has a relatively deep-vee hull and a modest beam for its length compared to some others in the class, but it’s not especially tender.

Ready to fish
This 790 is set up for sportfishing, with OceanBlue outriggers and a tuna tube in each corner of the transom. Rodholders are plentiful, the rocket launcher is sensibly angled to keep rod tips from clashing with fishers in the cockpit. A raised transom bait station (bait board to come) contains a large live bait tank, off-the-floor, with protected battery storage underneath.

The cockpit also enjoys 12V outlets for electric reels, a powerful saltwater washdown and side-shelves that easily hold dive bottles. There’s additional storage for dive gear or other equipment in an underfloor wet locker. Either side of the transom, 10mm-thick acrylic doors open onto swim platforms, each with a fold-down boarding ladder and handrails, one of which is a drain for the bait station. The cockpit drains to a bilge pump in the sump aft on the centerline.

Hella Marine LED floodlights illuminate the cockpit and  LED lighting, including concealed strip-lighting, features throughout. Underwater lights are Blue Fox. Up on the bow, the winch is a Lewmar Profish, operated remotely from the helm, the anchor is a Max Set6 stainless steel model and a wrap-around painted aluminium bowrail extends from the front of the cockpit. Cleats were conspicuous by their absence, but they will be fitted before the boat is sold.

Practical layout

The Circa 790’s seating arrangement is fairly standard for an open-backed hardtop: a pair of swivelling bucket seats with fold-up bolsters and two aft-facing seats on boxy aluminium bases that provide plenty of storage. Offshore Boats NZ has made some changes to the seats for subsequent boats, which will see low backrests for the aft seats and higher seat bases for the buckets.

There are other specification changes, too, including replacing the Frontrunner inside the hardtop with paint. Paint will better match the boat’s clip-in ceiling panels. In addition, fabric upholstery is coming for the bucket seats.

Frontrunner will still be used to line the fore-cabin, which has plenty of shelving, under-berth stowage and the ability to accommodate a toilet if desired, and the two-metre berths (with infill) are long enough to stretch right out on.

The helm position works well. The console steers away from any curves, but there’s sufficient real estate for a large-screen MFD, in this case a 12-inch Simrad EVO III Touch with high and low CHIRP and StructureScan, Yamaha CommandLink display, electronic throttle and shift lever, Zipwake automatic trim tab controls, Fusion Apollo head unit, anchor and assorted other switches. This vessel has a 1kW transducer, but no dedicated sounder module.

The Icom VHF radio is tucked away under the handy little odds-and-ends shelf to the right, mirrored on the left-hand side of the hardtop, while the footrests are simple welded pipe. A grabrail under the windscreen prevents objects on the dash sliding off.

Reputation confirmed
Power for this boat is a 300hp V6 Yamaha outboard spinning an 18-inch Reliance stainless steel propeller which propels the big Circa to an impressive top speedof around 45 knots. Cruising at a very comfortable 30 knots, fuel consumption is 50 litres an hour.

The Circa 790 is a big trailer boat, but it feels very nimble on the water. Throttle response is immediate with the 300hp, but Offshore Boats reckon the boat should go very nicely with a 225hp Yamaha, which shares the same block. Under acceleration the 790 barely lifts its bows as it slides onto the plane, running nicely level at any speed.

The 790’s ride is soft and forgiving and it exhibits poise in the turns, reinforcing the fine reputation for ride and performance in a seaway Circa boats once held. The decision to not change anything below the chines was a sensible – and it seems the smaller 660’s performance is equally impressive when its smaller size is taken into account.

The new Circa 790 is also a dry runner, especially compared to the old model, a result of more volume above the chine and the fact the engine is now on a pod. At 30 knots, spray leaves the boat’s spray rails a long way aft, almost opposite the back of the hardtop. That would indicate more than half of the hull is clear of the water, reducing water drag, but the boat still feels solidly planted and not the least bit skittish.

As Offshore Boats NZ’s principal said, “That’s how a boat should go!”

The Circa 790 is carried on tandem-axle Custom Alloy Marine (CAM) trailer, with hydraulic override brakes on one axle. Callipers and discs are stainless steel. One of the benefits of an aluminium trailer is reduced weight. The Circa 790’s aluminium trailer saves around 300kg so the whole rig squeaks in at around 2,400kg on the road – no need for expensive, electrically-operated brakes.

The Circa 790 and Circa 660 will be introduced to the New Zealand public at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat show, May 16-19/>