SOUND WAVES New Zealand’s best known amphibious craft and Fusion are making sweet music in the new Sealegs.
In 2004, the first Sealegs emerged from the water and drove up a beach under its own power. They’ve come a long way since. This year the company launches its 1000th boat, but the latest 7.1 and 6.1 RS (RIB Sport) models share just one component with the original Sealegs: the hydraulic steering ram on the front wheel.
Every other component has been improved or strengthened in the 10-year evolution of Sealegs as the company seeks to produce the most durable, capable and reliable amphibious craft on the market – and its recent partnership with Fusion means it sounds as good as it looks.
FROM LAND TO SEA TO LAND
What sets any Sealegs apart from conventional RIBS is its ability to transition seamlessly between on-water and terrestrial operation. There’s more to piloting a Sealegs than a conventional boat, but not a lot more, thanks to well developed, logical control systems.
Making the transition from land to water and vice versa is simple. Start the Honda to power the hydraulics, lower the wheels and you’re ready to drive bow-first into the water. The throttle lever sets the Honda engine’s revolutions while the joystick selects forward or reverse and controls the vehicle’s speed by regulating the flow of hydraulic fluid to the wheels. AWD models have a maximum speed of 7kph on land.
With all three wheels driving and the outboard at the top of its trim range, drive into the water until there’s sufficient depth to start the outboard and engage the propeller. As soon as the propeller takes over propulsion duties, pull the joystick into neutral mode to stop drive to the wheels, then raise the legs using the labelled toggle switches: the Sealegs is now a regular 7.1m RIB.
Exiting the water is similarly straight-forward. As you approach the shore, start the Honda engine, raise the outboard to the top of its trim range, lower the legs and engage hydraulic drive to the wheels. The bow camera is useful here, letting you see the position of the front wheel, but buzzers let you know when the legs are lowered and locked. As soon as all three wheels have traction, kill the outboard and let the AWD systems take you up the beach.
Ease of use extends to getting on and off the boat, which can kneel or squat like a well-trained camel, lowering the hull to the ground so it’s easy to climb in and out. Once everyone’s aboard, toggle switches activate the hydraulics to lower the legs and lift the hull off the ground again, ready to drive away. Squatting
sold in white or light grey, but darker greys and blacks are popular in Europe and USA. The dark colour scheme and black tubes certainly give the boat presence on and off the water.
IT’S GOT RHYTHM
Damon Jolliffe, Sealegs’ sales manager, says the 7.1m hull is perhaps the sweetest performer in the Sealegs range. On the water it’s a pleasure to helm, riding level and offering a comfortable and accomplished ride.
RIBS seldom fail to impress with their ride quality, but some are definitely superior to others. The Sealegs 7.1 RS rides and handles beautifully. It doesn’t feel sluggish or overweight despite the extra weight of three wheels and hydraulic motors at the boat’s corners, a second engine and associated hydraulic pumps for the terrestrial propulsion system and serious structure built into the aluminium hull to support the vessel on land.
Performance is brisk, thanks to the Evinrude E-tec 150hp outboard, painted black by the factory. We saw a top speed of 38 knots on a cold winter’s afternoon with four adults onboard; hole shots are good, and the boat slides onto the plane easily. The boat rides nice and level, corners smoothly and was less affected by the wind chop than the smaller Sealegs we used as a photo boat.