Some boats kind of slip beneath the radar. There are around 10 Nimbus 305 Coupés already in the hands of satisfied Kiwi owners and importer Sports Marine has another five on order from the Sweden factory, but this one is the first we’ve had the opportunity to review.
- Performs and handles very well
- Efficient hull works well with modest horsepower
- Over 3000 535s sold
- In continuous production since 1983
- Although missing a few luxuries, the SF535FB version is still well appointed
Haines Hunter has sold over 3000 SF535s and the model’s been around so long it’s become part of the fabric of New Zealand power boating. It’s so familiar, we sometimes forget just how good the SF535 really is.
The most recent take on this popular Kiwi staple is the initiative of Seacraft, Haines Hunter’s retail outlet for Auckland and Northland. Sea Craft wanted to further broaden the appeal of its most successful model by offering an alternative spec aimed at the diver/fisher market.
The boat reviewed here is the first of the SF535 FB (Fishing Boat) factory packages available and it will also be offered to other Haines Hunter dealers around the country.
I had the opportunity to spend some time on the water with the team from Seacraft – Bob, Dennis and both Rebeccas – all whom are very proud of their company’s history and products. They are looking forward to embracing new outboard and electronics technology to drive the retail side of the business.
When the SF535 was first released, outboards were exclusively two-stroke and those fitted to the 535 ranged anywhere between 90hp and 150hp. With the advent of four-stroke outboards, which were substantially heavier than equivalent two-strokes, engines at the higher end of the 535’s recommended horsepower range were at the extreme end of the load capacity for the boat.
Four-stroke outboards have come a long way in the last 30 years. Modern engines are much lighter and perform better than the early models, so trailer boats like the SF535 reap the benefits at both ends of the horsepower range.
The SF535 is usually equipped with a Yamaha 115hp, a four-cylinder, fuel-injected four-stroke that combines strong performance with light weight. However, the SF535 featured here has a 90hp four-cylinder four-stroke on the transom to highlight the model’s hull efficiency with moderate horsepower.
Seacraft supplied two Haines Hunter SF535s for this story – one a new ‘FB’ promotional version with the F90 Yamaha and the second, by way of comparison, a higher-specced example with an F115 Yamaha. Engines aside, the two boats are identical except for trim and equipment levels.
The 535’s long-term popularity can be attributed to its handling and performance, validated by a discerning client base, states Seacraft’s Dennis McCorkindale, as well as its generous interior volume.
Some aspects of the layout, such as the battery box on the floor, the absence of any transom lockers (where the battery might go) and the modest-sized helm console fascia, can be put down to the model’s age. But these are minor criticisms: the SF535 still looks the part and, more importantly, still out-performs most similar-sized craft and quite a few bigger ones as well.
So, the question is: how does it go with 90hp on the transom? Well, after a couple of hours tooling around in Seacraft’s new promotional package, the short answer is, very nicely!
By specifying an F90, Seacraft saves its customers a few thousand dollars on the standard version. And there’s plenty more savings to be had with this factory-rigged package.
Compared to the other SF535 in this story, this package lacks a few of the luxuries of the standard boat. For example, instead of carpet on the floor it has easy-clean Capri Marine vinyl flooring, while the rear corner seat cushions have been removed. Up front there’s no electric capstan, so anchoring is manual, and there are just two through-gunwale rod holders.
The seating comprises a pair of cushioned Springfield swivelling pedestals on HiTech Softrider aluminium bases; the higher spec’d boat has a deluxe helm seat and king-and-queen seat arrangement with lots of storage in the seat base. While losing out on seat base storage, twin pedestals provide a net gain in cockpit space, which will suit the fishing fraternity, and the pedestal seats with their removable upholstered cushions are comfortable enough.
Other standout differences include lower-spec electronics – a seven-inch Lowrance Hook MFD instead of the Elite 7Ti unit in the other boat – and a simple canopy instead of a bimini top with clears.
But in other respects, the SF535 FB differs little from the higher-priced version: the good-sized cabin is lined and features good-quality upholstery on the berths, the gunwales are still capped with teak, there’s a stainless-steel boarding ladder and the deck hardware is identical.
Under the gunwales of both boats, the lined cockpit features rod racks on either side for a couple of fishing rods, poles or other long objects and the padded shelf facings are upholstered in vinyl.
It might be the least expensive version of the SF535 available, but the FB is certainly not a bare bones package.
The factory fit-out includes the VHF radio, electronics, switches, standard Yamaha LAN digital gauges, hydraulic steering, canopy and a single-axle, DMW Premier Series multi-roller trailer with smart alloy wheels.
At retail level, customers can upgrade the basic package with any of the features of the standard boat, depending on their budget and requirements. Every new Haines Hunter, regardless of model or specification, is CPC-compliant and the hull laminates are hand-laid and squeegeed for strength, stiffness and weight saving.
“We considered offering the boat with tote tanks, which would have shaved a few more dollars off the price, but we’ve stuck with the 120-litre underfloor fuel tank,” says Dennis, “because older people, especially, don’t want to be heaving tote tanks in and out of a boat. This also leaves the floor clear for gear bags or fish bins.”
This boat should have plenty of appeal for older folk – and not only because of its lower price, reckons Dennis.
“By offering the SF535 with the F90 we’ve tried to break the ‘expensive’ barrier in the minds of our customers, but this package will also appeal because it isn’t overpowered, it’s economical and it’s easy to manage on and off the water.”
It’s certainly not overpowered with the Yamaha F90, but nor is it underpowered. The F90 and the F115 share a displacement of 1832cc and weigh virtually the same. Consequently, acceleration with the F90 is good and load carrying ability should also be satisfactory.
Seacraft tried a few different propellers before settling on a 16-inch Talon, but a different propeller may be appropriate depending on the boat’s intended use. Two up with half a tank of fuel, top speed with the Talon was a respectable 36 knots at 5800rpm.
Also very respectable is the SF535’s handling and ride. This is a nimble and reassuring boat to drive, the deep-vee hull showing its pedigree with excellent manners and a soft, dry ride. For a relatively small boat, it handled the conditions admirably whenever the sea got a bit sloppy.
Compared to the F115-equipped SF535, which we also drove, the promotional package gave away a couple of knots at the top end. It wasn’t quite as snappy or responsive as the 115hp, but with just two people aboard, there wasn’t really a great deal of difference in performance or handling.
By any measure Seacraft’s SF535 (FB) promotional package works well. Performance with the Yamaha F90 is more than satisfactory, and by trimming the specification level, Seacraft has been able to pare back the price, providing a new entry point for this popular model.
A few minutes behind the wheel is all it takes to confirm why the Haines Hunter SF535 has been in continuous production since 1983. The newest addition may be missing a few luxuries, but in every way that matters, it is unmistakably a Haines Hunter SF535.