View from the bow

Smug­gler Marine’s boats ex­tend the boundaries of func­tion­al­ity and de­sign. The lat­est it­er­a­tion, the Strata 780 Su­pers­port, is a new take on the bowrider con­cept.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY NOR­MAN HOLTZHAUSEN

Smug­gler Marine’s new 780 Su­pers­port RIB is a classy, high-per­for­mance ves­sel that ex­cels in ver­sa­til­ity.

Like all of Smug­gler’s proven Strata range of RIBS, the 780SS is a com­bi­na­tion of fi­bre­glass hulls and Hy­palon tubes and these make for a spa­cious, sta­ble plat­form in a range of con­fig­u­ra­tions.

A slight ex­ten­sion of the 750 hull, the 780SS’ new lay­out pro­vides up to five ad­di­tional seats in the for­ward area. When added to the six seats in the main cock­pit, this gives the boat a re­mark­able 12-seat ca­pac­ity. Ac­cess to the bow seat­ing is through a split wind­screen – a wide walk-through be­tween the for­ward area and main cock­pit.

This bowrider con­fig­u­ra­tion will ap­peal par­tic­u­larly to wa­ter­sports en­thu­si­asts. Wake­board racks are fit­ted either side of the hard­top, and a Fu­sion stereo and speak­ers have been in­stalled to belt out the ap­pro­pri­ate beat.

In the tran­som a strong Smug­gler pole-mount pro­vides a base for a ski pole, al­though in the re­view boat this was oc­cu­pied by a stain­less steel bait­board and rod holder unit – which in­di­cates the dual pur­pose of the boat.

Smug­gler Marine owner Dave Pringle makes it clear that he builds boats to suit what his cus­tomers need rather than sim­ply pro­duc­ing a sin­gle de­sign. Few people have a sin­gle­func­tion boat – most use it in a va­ri­ety of ways. Con­sider that the fore­deck area can be com­pletely en­closed with a tight-fit­ting cover and, with the walk-through wind­screen closed, this ef­fec­tively cre­ates a cuddy cabin up front.

With the clears zipped up you have a snug, shel­tered helm area, suited to the va­garies of New Zealand weather and ideal for fish­ing or other ac­tiv­i­ties on less-than-ideal days. There is even a zip-up back­drop that at­taches to the back of the stain­less

Of course, we could not take the Strata 780SS any­where near its top speed of 50 knots – we don’t have the Amer­ica’s Cup­type drones that can fly that fast.

hard­top sup­ports, cre­at­ing a fully-en­closed cabin, ideal for those cold win­ters days or when caught in a squall.

From bow to stern the ex­tended cock­pit floor has been cov­ered in foot-friendly Ul­tralon non-slip deck­ing – wet bare feet are likely to be the norm for pas­sen­gers. Tek Dek pan­els on the board­ing plat­forms, where a bit more wear and tear is ex­pected, and Uv-re­sis­tant wa­ter­proof up­hol­stery means that clean­ing the en­tire boat is a sim­ple hose-down job.

Coun­ter­ing the very open cock­pit are sev­eral dry stor­age ar­eas. For­ward of the helm and pas­sen­ger seats are very large dry lock­ers – big enough to sit in – and a toi­let with hold­ing tank is an op­tion.

Un­der the king and queen main seats is an­other large stor­age space, big enough for scuba tanks, life­jack­ets, or any other para­pher­na­lia that may be re­quired for wa­ter­sports. The hard­top is mounted on Smug­gler’s typ­i­cally high-qual­ity stain­less work, with the model des­ig­na­tion laser-cut into the side sup­ports.

The pre­vi­ously-men­tioned wake­board hold­ers sit on either side to­gether with rod hold­ers, while a gen­er­ous rocket-launcher-style rod holder runs along the back of the hard­top.

Again, as is typ­i­cal on Smug­gler boats, the helm po­si­tion’s very com­fort­able. A fully up­hol­stered seat, with ad­justable bol­ster for back sup­port as well as a raised foot sup­port, of­fer mul­ti­ple driv­ing op­tions while seated or stand­ing.

The boat uses max­tek hy­draulic steer­ing from Ab­so­lute Marine. En­gi­neered for heavy-duty

com­mer­cial as well as recre­ational ap­pli­ca­tions, it’s suit­able for in­board, out­board and twin-en­gine con­fig­u­ra­tions.

Smug­gler’s car­bon-fi­bre helm off­sets the fully dig­i­tal in­stru­men­ta­tion, in this case a 12-inch Sim­rad NSS Evo 3 sys­tem and the Yamaha Com­mand Link en­gine mon­i­tor­ing dis­play. Con­trols for the an­chor winch and trim tabs com­plete the helm con­trols.

An­other neat fea­ture of the Smug­gler Strata range is the tucked-away an­chor po­si­tion. The bowsprit is po­si­tioned be­low the for­ward tube, mean­ing the Strata 780SS can be nosed up against the wharf or an­other ves­sel with­out the an­chor caus­ing dam­age. All Stratas have a brass keel strip, plus a stain­less plate be­hind the tow­ing eye, both de­signed to protect the fi­bre­glass from knocks and scrapes.

The stern is, of course, set up for wa­ter­sports, with a gen­er­ous board­ing

plat­form on either side and a wide board­ing lad­der on the port side. Un­like many RIBS, the board­ing plat­forms ex­tend al­most to the end of the tubes so climb­ing aboard is easy. Al­though there is no step-through on the tran­som, it’s an easy mat­ter to clam­ber over us­ing the stern seats as a step.

Hang­ing off the back is a Yamaha F250 four-stroke, the new 4.2-litre big-bore V6 block. Renowned for its awe­some holeshot per­for­mance, this has the lowend grunt to get the 780SS up and go­ing quickly while re­main­ing smooth and eco­nom­i­cal. A 300-litre un­der­floor fuel tank pro­vides up to 275 nau­ti­cal miles of range at 25 knots, more than enough for any­one’s day trip.

The fish­ing op­tion’s as­sisted by a live­bait tank built into the stern, while a salt wa­ter wash­down pump helps keep things clean. Ad­di­tional rod hold­ers are fit­ted into the tran­som sur­face.

The 750 hull’s ex­cep­tional sta­bil­ity is well-proven and the ex­ten­sion to 780 has done noth­ing to change that. Its deep 27o dead­rise pro­vides a smooth ride even through se­vere chop. The ten­der­ness this deep vee might ex­hibit while at rest is

com­pletely elim­i­nated by the big pon­toons.

The side pon­toons pro­vide su­perb sta­bil­ity when the boat’s sta­tion­ary. Plan­ing strakes un­der the hull en­sure the pon­toons lift clear of the wa­ter at speed, mak­ing the hull both ef­fi­cient and smooth.

Re­view­ing this boat was slightly more com­plex than usual due to the need to pro­duce both the print story you’re read­ing and a video to be dis­played on the boat­ web­site.

Co­or­di­nat­ing the re­sult­ing cast of thou­sands took some do­ing, and with the usual squally Auck­land win­ter weather we headed out with some trep­i­da­tion into the rain on a less-thanideal day. Luck­ily con­di­tions cleared.

Film­ing with the drone proved to be a bit of fun. Of course, we could not take the Strata 780SS any­where near its top speed of 50 knots – we don’t have the Amer­ica’s Cup-type drones that can fly that fast.

We also tem­pered the ac­cel­er­a­tion, since that big Yamaha got the boat flying very, very quickly. All of which is good for its wa­ter­sport pedi­gree, of course, where pulling up skiers re­quires a se­ri­ous amount of grunt.

The one area where this boat will per­haps not please the wake­board en­thu­si­asts is in the size of its wake – the hull is too ef­fi­cient to push big vol­umes of wa­ter, and a very mod­est wake was all we could muster.

The boat comes on a dou­ble-axle braked, multi-roller trailer, and with the tubes in­flated is slightly over the stan­dard road-le­gal tow­ing width. An over­width board is pro­vided for day­time tow­ing, while the tubes can also be par­tially de­flated to re­duce the ex­ter­nal beam suf­fi­ciently to al­low the boat to be towed at night.

All too soon it was time to stop play­ing and give the con­trols back to Pringle so we could head back to the of­fice. Once again Smug­gler Marine has pro­duced a high-qual­ity ves­sel suited to mul­ti­ple uses.

The down­side per­haps is that it is not op­ti­mised for any of those pur­poses, but in­stead is a multi-pur­pose boat that will serve its own­ers very well ir­re­spec­tive of their in­ter­ests. BNZ

BE­LOW The Smug­gler Strata 780 is a ver­sa­tile all-rounder in ways most large RIBS are not.

RIGHT The cock­pit is spa­cious and easy to live with. The moulded step on the tubes is a nice touch.

LEFT Pur­posedesigned racks for your wake boards.

BE­LOW A cool place to re­lax – the su­perbly­padded bow area.

RIGHT Those knife-like strakes give the Strata im­mac­u­late cor­ner­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. Hold on to your hat.

BE­LOW Only one is­sue with this beau­ti­fully-ap­pointed cock­pit – you don’t want to spill fish guts all over it.


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