SHOOTING THE BREEZE
So you are vacillating between fibreglass and an aluminium trailerboat. Usually they are nautical miles apart when it comes to aspects of behaviour on the water, finish, performance and much more.
You have to look at exactly what you are going to demand of a hull before you make the decision. If you are going to tow it off sealed roads, drag it up onto rock bars and hack your way through timber while on the water, aluminium is more likely to suit you than ’glass, which requires a little more care with the gelcoat to keep it in tip-top condition. But fibreglass comes into its own for quietness on the water; moulded, flowing lines that allow for more comfortable and ergonomic interiors; and a better finish overall.
It used to be that price had people heading towards a big tinny, but as you will find out, that is no longer the case. A big range of equivalent ’glass boats is now competing well with aluminium.
We took a neat little number from Haines Hunter for a spin down at the Gold Coast recently. It is designed and built to fire a shot directly over the bow of equivalent-sized alloy boats; and as you will read, the R&D crew at Haines Hunter may well have scored a direct hit.
GET A FEEL FOR IT
The 520 Breeze is a boat based on Haines Hunter’s well-proven VF17 Legend hull. It has a similar layout in that it features a walkthrough windscreen that folds out to allow a hatch in the foredeck to open up, granting superb access to the anchor locker.
A short bowsprit is fitted along with a roller, and a solid bollard is fitted for tying off the ground tackle. On either side of this short companionway are large storage bins protected by the deck and helm and passenger seat modules.
The seats behind the windscreen are large bucket-style numbers. They are plush, nicely covered and swivel inwards to a point that allows occupants to vacate. Their size in this cockpit space restricts them from turning 180°, but this did not prove to be a problem. With optional ski post fitted the passenger seat would have to be lifted off its post and repositioned facing fully aft to prevent the observer from craning his or her neck.
A neat lockable glovebox was big enough for the usual baggage for a day on the water. A handrail also featured in a rebate, and a “can only” drinkholder with no room for a stubby cooler was flush-mounted in the dash.
A carpeted hatch in the deck between the helm and passenger seats is optionally insulated, and it’s big enough to take wet and sandy beach clothes and towels. This area looks to be about 50lt in volume, and it’d make a pretty good esky.
From the front of the seats to the aft corners, extra-width sidepockets provide ample storage for things like towels, fishing rods, fenders, paddles and safety gear.
Seats for other passengers are positioned in the corners of the cockpit and are nice and snug so you stay secure in high-speed turns. The bases can be removed should you want to stand here and fish, and your baits would happy surviving in the large bait wells in each aft corner coaming.
Both of these come unplumbed and would make good cold storage for bait or drinks. They are easily rigged with pumped water and aerators, or you could just use them to store more odds and ends.
Under the transom bulkhead, a single battery cranks the engine, while a deep bilge catches any sand and rubbish floating around on the floor. It was masked off with a curtain that press-studded into place and looked very neat.
Over the transom, fuel filler and fuel tank breathers were fitted into the side of the engine well. With no duckboards for embarking and disembarking, you might want to look at some sort of drop-down ladder system to board over the back.
With the stern of the boat in deeper water on the beach, it was difficult to board; otherwise, tick the options box and have boarding platforms and a ladder installed.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Fitted with a 90hp E-Tec Evinrude spinning a 17in stainless propeller, the boat was quick out of the hole and accelerated well to 66kmh on the GPS, at which time the tacho read 5500rpm.
With 115hp being the max for this rig, it would have a lot of potential as an entry-level family skiboat with performance to burn. Low-speed planing at 2400rpm also produced a handy wakeboarding stern wave.
Fitted with non-feedback mechanical steering, the boat could be easily handled at high speeds in tight turns; but it did exhibit some cavitation when the leg was fully trimmed in. Dropping the engine another hole on the transom mount bolts could probably fix this.
The 520 Breeze was a dream to drive with a bit of positive trim. One aspect of this model engine that will take getting used to is the lack of a visible telltale, with only a single water vent being situated at the rearmost of the engine mass out of sight of most of the occupants. Not having an overly large amount of faith in warning electronics of any brand, it is always nice to have a visible indicator to alleviate any worries about the water pump.
The boat’s 21° of deadrise delivered a very smooth ride indeed, while fairly big chines and a comparatively wide beam helped keep it stable at rest. It proved a really fun little boat to drive, being both surefooted and predictable.
Coupled with its deep cockpit, comfortable helm chairs and smooth interior mouldings, the 520 Breeze is bound to appeal to the ladies as well as your fishing buddies. And for an as-tested price of less than $30,000 complete with the very clean and quiet E-Tec 90, this little beauty is going to win over a lot of first-time boat buyers.
* Great design, build and finish
* Exceptional value
* Good performance
* Needs boarding platform and ladder
* Some cavitation in tight turns
* Drinkholders won’t accept stubby holders
Specifications: Haines Hunter 520 Breeze
Price as tested: $29,000
Options fitted: Canopy
Priced from (BMT): $28,000 w/ E-Tec 90
Length (overall): 5.1m
Weight (hull only): 560kg
Fuel: 90lt underfloor
People: Five adults
Rec/max hp: 90/115
Make/model: Evinrude E-Tec 90
Type: Inline three-cylinder direct-injection two-stroke
Rated hp: 90
Gearbox ratio: 2:1
Propeller: 17in stainless
Motorama Bayside Marine, 3218 Old Cleveland Road, Capalaba, Qld, tel (07) 3843 8170, email email@example.com or visit www.motoramabaysidemarine.com.au
Originally published in TrailerBoat # 189