The GT 32 is a comfortable weekender that can sleep up to four adults, but would be ideally suited to a family with one or two kids.
- Chines add a welcome dose of sure-footedness
- Solid, sturdy build – a good, go-anywhere boat
- Spacious cockpit
- Very comfortable fishing platform
- New twist on pontoon boat theme
When pontoon boats first appeared in the 1980s people here were aghast and, to be honest, some early ones had the lines of brick. What wasn’t easily evident was the innate sea-keeping ability, stability and suitability to our often-unpredictable conditions. Once boaties cottoned on to this they climbed aboard in droves – it became one of the great revolutions of modern boating history.
Over the intervening 40 years there has been a gradual refinement in the looks but no big step forward. That is until the Machina 701 rolled into town on its pimped-up custom trailer with its masculine good looks and stealthy angles.
The 701 is the latest addition to the growing Machina range and marks a distinct departure from the usual pontoon hull. Designer/builder of the new boat Lee Cummings has drawn from over 14 years of experience in the design and production of alloy boats to create a unique package aimed firmly at an outdoor-focused clientele and commercial operators who want robust construction, sea-keeping ability, and stability the pontoon boat configuration offers. Each Machina is customized to the owner’s requirements and their first 701 reflects this philosophy with her hi-spec and attention to detail.
The 701 has its foundations on the well-proven principles of strong alloy construction. The hull plates are 6mm marine aluminium and seam-welded to a horizontal keel plate which forms an ultra-sturdy section running the full length of the keel. Topsides are constructed using 5mm and the cabin is a combination of 4mm for the verticals and 3mm for the horizontal structure.
A 325-litre fuel tank is fitted under the floor to provide plenty of range for a boat that is designed to go to out-of-the-way places. The review boat has the hull finished in vinyl but future editions of the boat will be painted. When you see all of this together it gives a reassuring combination of strength and buoyancy
Getting to and from the water has been taken care of with an all-aluminium custom-built trailer manufactured by Machina. In a similar fashion to the boat, the trailer has sturdy good looks, and it has been well-engineered with tandem axles and rollers to make launching and retrieving a breeze.
While aluminium pontoon boats have had a reputation for stout looks, Lee Cummings has managed to create some striking lines and subtle details which have significantly stepped up the appearance and riding of the standard alloy pontoon boat. You don’t fully appreciate this until you see her parked next to one in the yard.
Externally the pontoons are disguised as a hard chine and internally they have been recessed to the edge to give a truly enormous cockpit area for a boat this size. This has no doubt lowered the centre of gravity and in combination with the flat 16o deadrise at the transom being immersed and moving the deep vee of the cutwater downwards has allowed the full length of the chines to be immersed when stationary greatly increasing stability.
With the pontoon’s integral to the hull this means that, ironically, she does not look at all like a pontoon boat. Once planning the pontoons repurpose as hard chines that give a sure-footed feel to the hull.
While some boats can look overwhelmed by the addition of a hardtop, the 701 has a well-proportioned raked-back cab which has been designed to give the look and security of driving a Mack Truck, which it certainly succeeds in. At the business end of the boat, fisherfolk will be impressed with the step-through from the transom.
A large filleting-friendly bait board works well with the rod holders and stern platform close at hand. The wide, U Deck-covered gunwales make good perches, and underneath, a good toe space and thigh brace that is back-friendly. The cockpit is generous in proportion, uncluttered and has plenty of handholds that are ideal for open ocean conditions.
The helm station features generous headroom and great 360° visibility which makes standing or sitting at the leather seats comfortable. The helm area and dash are lined alloy with a solid grab rail to port and a generously sized navigation station to starboard. Dark dash trim helps keeps glare down and becomes a handy holder for phones and keys.
The aft end provides a nice eye-level mount for the Garmin GPSMAP 8412, which provides easy-to-read information on everything from engine gauges of your secret Hawke’s Bay fishing locations. The wheel is a replica of a 69’ Mustang and gives a great feel to the helming experience. On the overhead console an array of other controls including VHF, auto helm, stereo and trim controller which keep the helm station clear of clutter.
Up forward there is a generous infill V-berth that would allow plenty of room for overnight trips. While simple in layout there has been some smart design of the fold-down steps which allow for full length bunks without sacrificing space when not in use. Access to the foredeck is around the side decks or through a standard aluminum hatch, however, any anchoring work can be handled back at the helm station with controls for the Maxwell Capstan.
The powerhouse of the Machina 701 is the Suzuki DF250 V6 four-stroke that spins a 3 X 16 x 17-inch prop. This supplies plenty of power to the boat and is controlled by a Suzuki drive-by-wire system.
On the Water
It’s hard not to behave like a dog with a new stick when you are first confronted with the Machina 701. As she sat on her stylish custom tandem trailer, I circled her and then circled her again. There are some clever angles in this boat and you have to look twice to appreciate them.
The power and superstructure have a purposeful look and yet even on the trailer, you would not immediately recognise her as a pontoon boat. From outside the boat, the impression is of quiet strength. Onboard the impression is of clean space; the cockpit looks capable of swallowing up a mountain of people and gear without any complaints. With the wide point carried forward to the helm station area, the space just keeps on giving.
Stationary, the Machina has the pontoon boat stability that allows you to sprint from one side to the other while chasing fish. In displacement mode the bow sections push out a firm bow wave however, like a trick of the light, she transitions to planning with no perception of having done so from on the helm.
The 250hp Suzuki got us off the mark quickly when we needed it and the chine-shaped pontoons had a sure-footed feel in the turns. Cruising speed seemed comfortable at about 24 knots and 3,800rpm. With the taps opened up she is capable of over 40 knots with ease.
With Hawke’s Bay presenting us with sea conditions that were as flat as roadkill, there was no testing the Machina in the rough stuff. But the ride and exceptionally clean wake boded well for her ability in this area. Such is the nature of this new twist on the pontoon boat idea, you have to get off the boat to see her in action.
While I had plenty of chance to do this from the photo boat, Lee was itching to see his creation. With myself left at the helm he took the chance to leap over for a look. I felt like the kid who had been left the keys to the Ferrari. The 701 had only been in the water one week and this was Lee’s first opportunity to take in his creation in her element. Sometimes watching the designer is equally as fascinating as watching their boats. Like everyone else, Lee did laps around the boat like a dog with a new stick.