HAINES SIGNATURE 485SF


This boat has particular importance to me because way back in 2003, I tested 485SF’s ancestor, a Haines Traveler TD149 dinghy.

Over a cup of coffee later, Haines Group MD Greg Haines and I were ruminating about how well it handled rough water almost despite its original design dating back to the late nineteen sixties. He made the point and I had to agree that any comparison to the tinnies most fishermen use (including myself then) was a joke.  In retrospect I was wrong to agree. The TD149 hull handled rough water soooo much better than the best tinnies its size I’d ever tested that it wasn’t funny at all!

Greg’s a keen fisherman himself and when our conversation got around to the boat’s interior, we agreed it needed a lot of work. Finally Greg asked if I’d be interested in helping develop a TD149 hull incorporating the ideas we were discussing. From there I drew my vision to scale and craftsmen at the Haines Group’s Wacol plant hand built the concept using ‘glassed over marine plywood for bulkheads and decks.

In the end I liked the result so much I bought it! My boat is a simple tiller steer featuring bow and stern casting decks with stowage underneath, including a metre and a half long ice box across the aft end of the bow deck, and pedestal seats. A rack holding 3 rods tucks away under a wide side deck along each side. There’s a (sort of) console in the centre which contains tackle storage and my camera case slips underneath it. On the bow there’s a 55 pound thrust Minn Kota electric powered by an 150 amp/hr battery. I run two Humminbird sounders including one of the excellent 767 colour LCD units incorporating a mapping GPS unit. It’s powered by an unbelievably economical electric start power trim ‘n’ tilt tiller steer 50hp Suzuki.

As you’d expect of a prototype, the finish isn’t perfect, but several fishing seasons later you couldn’t get this boat off me with a pile of money. From my boat the Haines Group worked up a limited production version, which sold alongside the original TD149 while a comprehensively upgraded full production version was developed.

That’s the 485SF you see here. Now, apart from its life history, there’s something special about this boat. It’s built with a new production process called Rivale. Essentially, Rivale is a new boat building technology where, instead of traditional hand or gun application of resin to mat laid up inside a female mould, tightly controlled amounts of resin are injected into a two piece mould already containing fibreglass mat. Because the quantity of resin can be so precisely controlled, a boat built with this process is thinner, lighter and yet at the same time stronger. And the process is environmentally friendly due to tight control of styrene emissions inside the enclosed mould. Once the moulds have been built, there’s a substantial saving in labour time too. My original prototype’s DNA is obvious in the 485SF, although the hull has grown 35cm and its underwater shape subtly updated while the interior is now a separate Rivale moulding.

The interior and hull mouldings are bonded with another Haines Group proprietary process they call Nexus, which is so strong bonded mouldings will delaminate before parting. Space between the deck moulding and outer hull is foam filled to become a singular unit with formidable structural integrity. I’ve seen this demonstrated by parking a 4WD atop an inverted hull! As if all that isn’t enough to make the 485SF special, Haines Group technicians decided to fully exploit the new process with a series of mouldings that fit together, jigsaw style, to option the interior.   Our test boat has most of the bells and whistles including one of the awesome new Suzuki lightweight 70s. It’s getting towards top of the range with a boat/motor/trailer asking price just over $35,000. At the other end of the scale, with fewer pieces of the jigsaw, is a bare bones twin thwart hull with a 30hp motor for $15,999.

Interior options available for the 485SF include either a side or centre console, bow and stern casting decks, and side decks, underfloor fuel tank, a built-in ice box, a livewell and a live bait tank. Our test boat had all of them. Under the bow casting deck there are two under deck lockers including the ice/fish box (or more stowage,) and a separate anchor well. The stern deck has a central livewell with underdeck lockers each side. And there was yet another stowage locker set into the lower deck just aft of the bow bulkhead. What this boat didn’t have was a rod locker along the portside, nor an electric motor bow mount — both of which were still under development at the time of testing. Rod stowage in this boat was two vertical racks holding a total of 8 rods. This worked after a fashion. But as most readers would be well aware, expensive rods should be stowed horizontally where a wayward cast can’t snatch one. I’m still waiting to see the locker and will reserve further judgement till then.

Being quite familiar with the hull this boat is derived from, putting it through its paces was something I enjoyed immensely. Rarely indeed does a boat test involve pushing a boat’s limits as far as I did with this one. In a few words the 485SF is the softest riding, driest, most predictable boat its size I’ve ever tested. And did I mention sheer fun! Although my passenger’s knuckles did whiten…

Across a mess of boat wakes we indulged in high-G turns and an odd lurid power slide while chop coming at it from all angles show cased the hull’s structural integrity, impressively soft ride, and habit of turning deflected spray downwards. It was an awesome display of just how good a 4.85 metre boat can be. Tinnies weep! For further information visit the website. www.thehainesgroup.com

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