Warrnambool is a delightful town on Victoria’s west coast. It’s got it all: rolling hills, good rainfall, friendly people, boat ramps with direct ocean access and some great fishing. There’s another highlight, too — the AMF boats on display at Russell Cairns Marine. The TrailerBoat crew was in the area for another reason entirely, but one quick glance at these rugged, Kiwi-built craft had us licking our lips in anticipation — a closer, on-water inspection was called for.
These tough-looking boats incorporate a number of design and manufacturing innovations. The hull is reminiscent of the rare Blue Marlins that were manufactured for a short period by an ex-pat Kiwi builder based at Bermagui, NSW. I reckon the Blue Marlin is one of the best-riding aluminium boats I’ve used, and the AMF is the closest thing I’ve seen to it. Happily, after a test of the AMF 660 I can confirm its strength and performance is a match for that of the Blue Marlin — and then some! But before we get into the guts of the review, a little background is in order…
The 660 Vee-Berth Cabin is part of AMF’s Pro Sport Series of alloy offshore machines, manufactured at the company’s facility at Wanganui, on New Zealand’s North Island. AMF describes the boat as featuring a warped planing hull with small reverse chines. AMF’s hulls are relatively full bodied in a similar vein to the designs of WA-based naval architect Phil Curran, which crop up under a range of banners.
I had a gut feeling the 660 Vee-Berth Cabin was going to be good, and a morning test off Port Fairy confirmed my suspicions. This boat is by no means the cheapest alloy hull on the market, but it’s as solid as the proverbial brick out-house. AMF’s core business is producing commercial boats for New Zealand’s domestic market — boats that often operate in challenging conditions where beach launches and bar crossings are commonplace. The company doesn’t build small boats, either — its range starts at 5.8m.
While the Pro Sport Series of alloy boats are built to commercial construction standards, they still reflect sound recreational design principles. The 660 features a 6mm hull with a 5mm transom and tread-plate floor, as well as 4mm sides. The keel and chines are fully welded inside and out and there are seven full-length longitudinal supports. The quality of the continuous welding is spot on, and it’s left unground without a hint of an error.
The general finish is quite impressive and it’s said the “Nyalic” acrylic coating can be easily repaired and is a harmonious match with aluminium, which is generally a fairly temperamental material. This finish is also used by Surtees, among other Kiwi builders, and it seems to be a decent alternative to two-pack paint. The package looks quite smart and is complemented by simple but stylish decals.
The AMF 660 features closed buoyancy chambers for safety (but no foam), while AMF says all of its Pro Sport Series boats are pre-wired at the factory with isolators and fuses, according to European CE standards.
SUIT OF ARMOUR
The cabin has narrow sidedecks but Russell Cairns demonstrated how simple it was to walk around to the checkerplate deck in calm conditions. I thought we’d leave that manoeuvre to him as I preferred the comfort and security of the cockpit. The use of checkerplate on exterior surfaces presents an image of armour-like strength. Whether the reality of that is true or not, on a practical level the textured surface does at least provide a bit of additional grip.
Stability is excellent. I was 30kg heavier at the time of this test than I am now (yep, the diet’s working), and even with myself and Russell leaning over the side there was only a slight list. The transom steps are completely filled in, providing extra planing surface on take-off as well as increased buoyancy at rest under the weight of the big 200hp Yamaha four-stroke. The pod seems very strong and easy to fish, while the power-to-weight ratio felt just right.
The test boat was supplied with a Kiwi-built Voyager tandem trailer. It’s a premium multi-roller, drive-on tandem that matched the boat well. The package was easily driven on and off at the Port Fairy ramp and it complies with Australian registration requirements with an electric / hydraulic brake combination. A vehicle kit is supplied with each Voyager trailer that includes the electric controller for inside the car.
The biggest difficulty faced in reviewing this boat was finding something to criticise. The cabin’s locking mechanism is a bit “agricultural” yet it’s still effective. It essentially comprises a removable aluminium hatch that’s aligned into the doorway and then locked into position. It’s probably best left at home or in the car when fishing, but it’s actually quite practical for the style of boat. It’s also devoid of the rattling and slamming issues of a permanently fitted door, while still providing full security when required.
The vee-berth itself is simple and allows sufficient room for overnighting as well as storage. There’s reasonable head height even with the low-profile cabin, the latter giving little in the way of wind resistance. The windscreen has an appealingly strong framework, although it’s not as aesthetically attractive as most other bolt-on options. Overall, however, there was plenty to like in the AMF 660. It’s filled with those simple little things that count.
HANDLING AND RIDE
The 660 isn’t overly trim sensitive and it liked to be driven with its nose a little high. With this level of trim tight turns would understandably cause cavitation, but the AMF 660 was considerably better than many of its competitors in this respect. I deliberately gave the package a hard time in and out of the surf in an effort to find fault, but couldn’t find any. Herb Lonsing was with me on the day and even managed to fling Russell out of his chair when he forgot to grab hold during a tight manoeuvre — it was Russell’s fault, not that of the boat. Grabbing hold of the optional folding rocket launcher or dash rail would have been a wise move.
AMF says its boats boast extra strength in the bow and we tested that claim — it cuts with the power of an icebreaker. We tackled the surf with absolute confidence; in general I’d say this is a reliable, dependable and responsive offshore machine any of us would be proud to own.
AT THE HELM
Fishos demand a large, flat dashboard for all of their required instruments, tackle, communications equipment and personal gear. My wife calls me a “flat space bloke” — as soon as she clears a benchtop, I tend to cover it up with stuff again. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of dash space on the AMF 660 and the alloy retaining strip that prevents loose items rolling off the carpet-lined dash was a nice touch.
Hydraulic steering delivered responsive control and there are grabrails and handholds aplenty. The upholstered plastic pedestal seat is appropriate and reasonably comfortable and the seating position and helm layout places everything right where it should be. Forward visibility is restricted a tad by the windscreen and rocket-launcher frame but this trade-off can be excused for the strength and practicality it supplies.
AMF’s Pro Sport Series 660 Vee-Berth Cabin is quite pricey when you draw comparisons and if budget’s your prime concern then look elsewhere — this ain’t your boat. However, if you’re on the hunt for a premium offshore alloy workhorse you should seriously consider test-driving an AMF 660. In my view this is one of the best-constructed alloy boats on the market, with the ride and layout to match. I believe the quality of construction, materials, design and on-water performance are commensurate with its price. The hull’s 10-year recreational-use warranty says it all.
On the plane...
Positive hull buoyancy utilising air chambers
Strong, smooth and confident ride
Dragging the chain...
Overhead rod holder / bimini height may not be ideal for everyone
Bow rail height could be higher for safety
AMF 660 PRO SPORT SERIES VEE-BERTH CABIN
Price as tested: $98,995
Options fitted: Folding rocket launcher, baitboard with ski loop & rodholders, canvas targa top with alloy frame, lockable cabin door, pedestal seats with footrest, Lowrance HDS-7 sounder combo, GME GX300 27Mhz radio, GX600 VHF radio, Vic boat and trailer rego
Material: Aluminium plate (6mm bottom; 5mm transom; 4mm sides)
Weight (hull): Approx. 1100kg
Wright (BMT): Approx. 2100kg
Max. engine HP: 225
Max persons: 600kg
Make/model: Yamaha F200A
Type: 24-valve, DOHC, VCT direct-action, 60° V6 four-stroke
Gear ratio: 2.00:1
Propeller: Vengeance 14 ½ x 17in
234 Taupo Quay
Tel: 0064 6345 8513
Russell Cairns Marine & 4X4
1117 Raglan Pde
Warrnambool, Vic, 3280
Tel: (03) 5561 4354
Story: John Willis and Herb Losing: Photos: John Willis
Source: TrailerBoat #282
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