When Savage recently launched its new range of boats on the Gold Coast, much of the fanfare centred around the stylish red and black Jabirus and Piranhas.
These sleek, sporty-looking tinnies were hard to miss in their vibrant colour schemes, yet the boat that surprisingly stood out to me was the oddly named Karva — a functional little dinghy which, just like me, is practical, useful, and equipped with rugged good looks. Oh, and it also has a wide beam for its size.
The pages of TrailerBoat are filled with exotic boats of every description, most of which any one of us would have in our shed at the blink of an eye if only the budget could stand it. Sadly, not all of us have a spare $60,000 lying around (and that’s just the deposit).
The economy end of the market is where much of the action is these days. More to the point, even if you’re lucky enough to have a good seagoing boat you still need a smaller tinnie to fish the rivers and estuaries when the weather turns crook. And what about that trip to the gulf with your mates? Let’s be honest, who doesn’t need a tinnie?
Enter the 435 Karva. It’s big enough to fish three and small enough to tow easily on long trips without sending the fuel needle on the tow car into panic. You don’t have to worry about scratching the paint over oyster beds and gravel roads (because there isn’t any paint), and you don’t have to shout at your mates to keep their dirty boots off the teak deck, or, for crying out loud, the leather seats. No, this boat comes with the basic necessities and at the end of the trip it returns to pristine condition after a good hose out.
LITTLE BIG BOAT
At 4.35m the Karva is a biggish little tinnie which, at around $12,000, places it at the cheaper end of boating. Part of the saving is in the Vortex motor (in our case a 25hp) which Savage’s parent company, Telwater, has started importing from China. These engines use older technology and might not be as sophisticated as modern, fuel-injected motors with engine management systems and exotic construction materials. They are basic, produce adequate power, and should get the job done if they’re reliable. Savage offers a three-year warranty, which strongly suggests the company faithfully believes its products will go the distance. In theory, being simpler engines, they should also be easy to maintain, which could be an advantage in remote locations.
As part of a new push by Savage into the tinnie market, the Karva has a plate-style, slab-sided hull with 3mm sheet below the waterline and 2.5mm sides. The transom also uses the stronger 3mm thickness. A number of extruded ribs are welded to the sides and floor to stiffen the hull. The seats are also welded in to provide more hull rigidity.
The Karva has a sharp vee-entry at the bow, which then flattens somewhat as it runs to a moderate-vee at the transom. The sides and bottom meet as a welded tongue and groove construction at the chine line. An extruded section then forms a one-piece keel, with similar sections welded to the boat to form a deeper chine.
Layout-wise, the Karva is a straightforward, open-plan hull with simple thwart seats and tiller-steering. Foam under the seats means it has what the industry calls “basic floatation” while a flat section at the bow houses a rotomoulded plastic anchorwell, which I imagine is quieter than alloy when retrieving the anchor. A lowly placed alloy rail extends from each side of the bow. The simple boxy metal seats have room for two but not a great deal in the way of comfort, so BYO cushion if you plan an extended trip (or wear some of those nifty, padded bike shorts — Ed).
Of course, these alloy boats easily lend themselves to customisation and leave plenty of room for “home brand ingenuity” to make them suitable to the owner’s needs.
There is a partly-covered storage area in front of the bow seat. It would hold safety gear and similar items but does not leave much passenger legroom if you want to sit facing forward.
Between the seats is a flat marine ply floor covered in bright blue carpet. This floor is a steady fishing space at rest and on the launch day I noticed how stability wasn’t unduly upset even with several boat journos (some of them “wider in the beam” than others — Ed) standing to one side.
At the stern is a cradle for the fuel tank, situated behind the driver’s seat with low grabrails each side. Tiller-steering keeps costs down and leaves more room in the boat for fishing or storage. While it takes a while to get accustomed to this style of steering if you’re used to a wheel, like all tillers it is very direct, and the motorcycle-style throttle can respond rather suddenly if you’re not careful.
On test day in the calm Gold Coast Broadwater we had the Karva planing at 10kmh (5.4kts). With a passenger in the bow it stayed flat as it accelerated to a fast cruise of 25kmh (13.5kts) before reaching 34.5kmh (18.6kts) at full revs. There was no tacho to confirm it but the motor was probably around its maximum continuous rev range of 5500rpm. As the motor is right there at the driver’s shoulder it tends to be a bit noisy at higher revs. Steering is a little heavy and there is no trim control, but turning was nonetheless smooth and positive, allowing for good manoeuvrability at speed. At trolling speeds the steering is light and the Karva will turn in its own length for easy docking.
So how does it rate overall? Savage expects the Karva to “carve a” (oh dear — Ed) place for itself in the competitive fishing and utility boat market. Savage is probably on its way to achieving that aim with a boat that is well priced for its size. I would say that buyers looking for a no-frills option would be going after this boat in droves.
On the plane...
Lots of space
Rugged knockabout boat
Easy to get around on flat floor
Dragging the chain...
An entry-level boat so don’t expect bells and whistles
SAVAGE KARVA 435
Price as tested: $11,990
Options fitted: Nil
Priced from: $11,990
Type: Open monohull dinghy
Weight (hull only): 190kg
Rec. HP: 30
Max. HP: 40
Make/model: Vortex 25hp
Type: Petrol four-stroke
Gear ratio: 2.08:1
Get Wet Boating, 6 Dominions Rd, Ashmore, Qld, 4214, Tel: (07) 5539 6477, Web: www.getwetboating.com.au
Story & Photos: John Ford
First published in TrailerBoat #281
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