CSB Huntsman 5.85m Sotalia
CSB Huntsman’s handy 5.85m Sotalia is a conventional cabin-style trailer boat of a type that’s perennially popular with Kiwi boaters.
Light, great performance, easy to tow. What’s not to like about this South Island trailer boat?
Named Mcfish, this particular N example, although fresh off the yard at Woodbine Marine, Auckland’s CSB Huntsman dealer, had already clocked up 30 hours on the Honda BF 115, testament to the keenness of its new owners.
The Sotalia’s an easy boat to like: small enough to be stress-free at the boat ramp, reasonably light to tow, with no heed for dual axles or brakes on the Watercraft trailer, and nicely finished. And, as we learned during our afternoon on the water, it’s also a sweet handler, delivering a ride that wouldn’t shame a much larger boat.
Mcfish has a sturdy stainless steel and black canvas bimini top with wrap-around clears. Across the back of the frame, a rocket launcher holds up to five rods, plus the all-white running light. The bimini can be folded down for easier garaging.
The boat’s cockpit benefits from Ultralon flooring, which looks good and is comfortable underfoot, and a full cockpit liner. Across the transom, a raised locker holds the batteries (house and start), along with the isolation switch, while a removable stainless-steel ski-pole supports the aftermarket Manta bait table.
A couple of through-coaming rod holders either side of the cockpit complement two rod holders on the bait station and there’s a boarding ladder on the port side.
The cockpit drains into a sump aft where the bilge pump directs water overboard. Access to the pump (occasionally necessary to clear it of debris), proved easier than I first thought: simply remove the rear seat bins and lie on the floor to reach into the sump. The corner seats can be removed altogether for extra cockpit space, but they do offer handy stowage.
There’s plenty of stowage under the king-andqueen-style seat on the passenger’s side, too, as well as under the floor where the locker is both wide and long. A handy pull-out panel in the front means the locker can accommodate really long items, which can extend into the cuddy cabin footwell.
The side pockets are long as well, though not particularly wide, and there’s additional stowage under the vee-berths in the cabin. Fit, finish, upholstery and all the GRP mouldings are of a good standard throughout and the hull is foam-filled for buoyancy and quietness.
The helm seat is a form-hugging bucket on a gas pedestal. It swivels and adjusts for height and reach. Moulded footrests and simple grab handles help the
boat’s occupants stay put when underway, complemented by the aluminium windscreen support, which makes a good handrail with the clears removed for summer boating.
The Hunstman’s moulded dash console is large enough to fit a seven-inch Garmin echomap CV multifunction display, as well as Faria gauges for the Honda engine, capstan controls, switch panel, compass, Garmin VHF radio and Fusion stereo head unit. Speakers are set into the gunwales.
There’s no cabin bulkhead as such, so access forward is good and the space feels light and airy, even with dark cloth upholstery. A large overhead hatch helps by letting in more light and also provides access to the foredeck.
It’s easy to reach the anchor, fairlead and anchor locker standing in the fore-cabin with your torso through the hatch. The Maxwell capstan is hidden away under the moulded anchor locker cover, which blends in perfectly with the rest of the foredeck.
The vee berths in the bows, with an infill squab, are a decent length and the shelves are wide and deep enough to be useful, but there isn’t a huge amount of seated headroom inside the cabin.
It’s enough for kids and shorter adults, but anyone my height or taller will be touching the ceiling. That said, the Sotalia is only 5.85m long; a taller cabin top would, I think, upset the boat’s nicely-balanced styling.
Like other CSB Huntsman models I have tried over the years, the Sotalia has a sweet-handling, soft-riding hull. It tackled the usual short chop and wind-against-tide seas at the entrance to the inner Waitemata with the aplomb of a much bigger vessel thanks to a really well-sorted deep-vee hull.
The Honda 115hp four-stroke is quiet and unruffled, but there’s a definite surge of power when the variable valve timing comes into play as the revs build – it’s almost like turbo-charging.
Although at the bottom of the recommended horsepower range for this model, the Honda offers sharp throttle response and plenty of power overall. Conditions were a bit lumpy on the day but we still managed a burst of 34 knots at 5,700rpm with revs in reserve, while the hull happily conquered the bumpier stuff cruising at 18-20 knots.
Equipped with Maxtek hydraulic steering, helming the boat was easy. The Sotalia responds nicely, carving sharp turns with ease and going exactly where it’s pointed. It is well-behaved and feels safe and predictable.
LEFT The Sotalia is a nicely balanced package that’s fun to drive, but also safe and predictable.
BELOW The Sotalia’s interior layout is quite conventional, but versatile too, which is why boats like this are so popular with Kiwi families.
RIGHT The Honda four-stroke provides plenty of performance, despite being right at the bottom of the recommended horsepower range.
TOP LEFT An aftermarket Manta bait table is easy to remove when towing the kids around on a ski, boogie board or biscuit is on the agenda.