Haines Hunter 535 Carnival Review

Issue: January 2001

Not since Haines Hunter introduced the first Australian designed and built bowrider, the 540SLA, back in the late 1980s has it released such an exciting and impressive little family boat as the 535 Carnival. Just as that 540SLA broke from traditional company styling, so the Carnival embraces bold, flowing American-style lines and a superb fitout.

Throughout its history, Haines Hunter has mostly achieved its best work when developing something new. It happened with the 540SLA, their walk-arounds, the maxi trailables, and now with a fresh approach to the family bowrider. The general media reaction to the Carnival hasn’t been as frenzied as it has been with some of those other milestones but I, for one, am extremely excited and very taken by this new bowrider.

Haines Hunter are quite open about the 535’s intentions. It is an Australian designed and manufactured bowrider aimed at competing directly with the US imports. As such it has much in its favour. First, there’s price stability. With the Aussie dollar hitting an all-time low in recent months, the $31,000 price tag makes the Carnival an even more attractive option. The other major plus in a land of outboard lovers is that most imported bowriders are sterndrive powered. Wellcraft and Bayliner (with a 16-footer tested last issue) are the only companies to offer outboard models under 5.5m.

In standard form the Carnival is a very complete package. The only options are a ski pole (something that any ski-loving family should consider) and a canopy, which in our harsh summer sun is another essential piece of gear. To compliment the sleek styling and the high standard of finish and fitout, the Carnival has a performance that is as good as anything else.

The handling is excellent as the boat responds so well to throttle and trim, though with an alloy prop fitted there is a limitation on how much the trim can be used before the prop will ventilate. Some of the more specialised performance props would produce a different result. Non-feedback mechanical steering is standard, and while I am a believer in hydraulic steering on most boats, simply because of the nullifying effect such a system has on engine/prop torque, the mechanical steering on the Carnival was fine for the 115 Ficht. While there was torque under excessive trim, under most operating conditions the mechanical steering was as good as any other.

The interior is roomy and comfortable, with Haines Hunter taking every advantage of the generous 2.23m beam. There is an aft lounge with neat little returns down each side of the cockpit that will comfortably seat three, and reasonable space between the two forward bucket seats to walk through to the bow. In addition, these pedestal seats will rotate without jamming against the side coamings. However, I thought the pedestal seats could be a little lower because the solid top rail that follows the curve of the wrap-round screen sat annoyingly across my line of vision.

Height-adjustable seating would be an excellent option, though its not too difficult for the dealer/manufacturer to lower the pedestal post if need be. That aspect aside and I don’t see that as a major issue, this is a great little family runabout. It runs well with mid-range outboards, in particular the smooth-running Ficht 115 Evinrude. On top of that, it looks a stunner out on the water.

Best of all, the price tag puts it well within reach of the young boat enthusiast or the family man looking for something to get his growing family out on the water each weekend.

Haines Hunter rate the hull for a broad range of engines from 90 to 150hp, and our test with a 115hp V4 Evinrude Ficht on the transom suggested that top range power is not necessary. In fact, the Carnival would run like a scalded cat with 150 horses bolted on the transom.

With a 115 the Carnival runs near on 42 knots (48mph) while fully laden the top speed is probably going to drop a notch or two. That’s plenty for a general purpose family runabout. Anyone more serious about their skiing may consider a new V6 Evinrude 135, but that’s about all. There are no tricks on the underside of this hull. It’s a very conventional vee hull, rounded at the bottom of the vee, with no plank, no flat, nor any cutouts. And like many other conventional vee hulls that ignore all the trends and tricks, it performs without a fault.

In addition to what I consider to be a good top speed from a mid range outboard, the 25 to 30 knot cruise speed in the 4000 to 4500rpm range is just about perfect for this type of boat. The hull comes onto the plane with little effort and gives a comfortable and dry ride. Responding to throttle and trim, the vee bottom lifts high and clean on top of the chop to produce a crisp ride.

Story by David Toyer