Haines Hunter 580 Classic Review

Issue: January 2003

It’s the Modern Boating test team’s habit to include a separate “engine box” section at the end of the test we publish to comment on the motor and how it compliments, or otherwise, the hull in question.

But in this case we’re not going to do that, because we have already tested a Haines Hunter 580 Classic hull in outboard configuration. This test is more about how the MerCruiser D 1.7lt DTI diesel sterndrive mounted in this boat integrates with the hull.

The Modern Boating team has tested several boats powered by a MerCruiser 1.7lt sterndrive diesel, but this one stands out as one of the best application of this small, but innovative, power plant we’ve seen so far.

And considering the low noise levels and performance this 120hp four-cylinder engine produces, being quiet and powerful puts it right up there with other power options.

However, using this four-cylinder diesel there is a weight penalty. It weighs a total of 296kg by comparison to four-stroke outboards, in the 115-130hp power range, which weigh-in at around 185-225kg.

But because most of the extra weight is carried inboard, rather than literally hanging off the stern of the boat like an outboard motor does, there’s no noticeable effect on the hull’s handling or ride characteristics.

But we must come to terms with the inevitable intrusion into cockpit space inherent with any sterndrive installation.

It’s a stumbling block that can sway the decision between installing an outboard over a sterndrive. Thankfully, the diesel powered Haines Hunter 580 Classic expels any foregone conclusions along that line.

Some buyers are going to prefer an outboard style cockpit, while others are going to take a long objective look at the options and go for the diesel power option.

Besides, the rear quarter seats on each side of the engine box have cushions that are “Velcroed” in place for easy removal. This allows walk-up access right to the transom in each corner.

Yes, there is an engine box protruding into the cockpit, but this little four-cylinder motor is short and is partly enclosed into the covering board across the stern. Fit a cutting board to the top and it becomes a useful accessory.

Haines Hunter’s Ben Hipkins told us that opting for diesel power in a 580 Classic will add around $2000-$3000 against the cost of this boat powered by a four-stroke outboard of similar rating.

Frankly, four-stroke outboards and direct injected two-strokes are so fuel efficient these days, fuel economy is probably not the reason buyers will choose the diesel option.

Some of the advantages of diesel power are that even after many engine hours they tend to retain a higher resale value. Also, there are significant safety aspects. Diesel fuel is far less volatile than petrol and the greater reliability diesel motors generally offer.

There are plenty of folk out there to whom this is a real plus. Even in an 18 odd foot boat like the Haines Hunter 580.

Most readers will also notice that the Haines Hunter’s Classic range is more upmarket than their more utilitarian Breeze range. A fair chunk of the cost differential between a sterndrive diesel 580 Haines Hunter and alternative power options could “disappear” by simply opting for the lower cost, less elaborately out-fitted Breeze hull instead of the full on Classic tested here. In fact, the team suspects that some of the people who would consider taking the diesel power option in a boat like this would prefer the “less frills” Breeze model anyway.

A Haines Hunter 580 Classic is a classic by name and by nature. It’s a cuddy cabin of a size that has been extremely popular in this country for years.

It’s based on a tried and true formula that suits Aussie boating perfectly. The bunks in the cuddy are long enough to stretch out on and actually enjoy a night’s rest.

But the cockpit remains roomy enough for serious fishing, but it still has all the appointments to allow a bit of social cruising if required.

Our test boat had a portable toilet hidden away under the vee bunks in the cabin, but for privacy some kind of curtain would be required to close off the open bulkhead between cabin and cockpit.

The upside of the open bulkhead is that the cabin retains a bright, airy atmosphere and is not at all claustrophobic. Stylish smoked-glass windows along each side of the cabin aid this.

Bow access is through a big hatch in the cabin roof, which leads to the anchor well, bowsprit and a well thought out divided bow rail and fairlead arrangement.

You do have to stand on the bunk cushions to handle ground tackle from the anchor well, but you have to do in most half cabins of this size. And we do acknowledge that most offshore fishers have a habit of handling anchoring chores from the cockpit with the help of a buoy, especially when anchoring in deep water.

Underway the 580 Classic delivered a comfortable ride for both the driver and navigator. Unfortunately, our test boat wasn’t fitted with a bimini top, but the pair of heavily padded bucket seats were sheltered by the superstructure and windscreen.

In rough going passengers might be looking for something besides the handle on the portside to brace themselves against. When standing they use the windscreen frame.

However, the driver and navigator can use the footrests at the end of each bunk for support. The helm seat is fully adjustable and allows people of different heights to either stand or sit comfortably while driving.

There’s plenty of storage in the cockpit side pockets, under the bunks, in the small glove box and in a storage nook next to the passenger seat. The seats are also mounted on storage lockers and there’s an underfloor well between the seats.

Each corner of the transom has a bait-well set into the covering board and there are rails recessed into the cockpit sides.

A rod holder is positioned in each corner where the cockpit sides meet the transom. There are many other fishing accessories that are offered as options.

Out on the water there’s not much else that needs to be said about the hull except that it is fully deserving of its established reputation as a leader in the sea-keeping stakes. Haines Hunter have adopted the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach and have continued to further refine the boat’s fit-out.

As I stated early in this piece, the added weight of the diesel motor and sterndrive has no noticeable effect on the hull. Being mounted further forward than an outboard actually helps the 580 Classic trim better.

At low revs the distinctive sucking noise of the D1.7L DTI is certainly there, although we found it muted and less intrusive than previous installations we have tested. Noise levels are quite acceptable up to around 4000rpm where conversation does become a little difficult. But that would be the same in any small boat fitted with a diesel.

However, it should be pointed out that this does not directly relate to the 4000rpm cruise of an outboard motor. The little diesel MerCruiser was wide open at 4400rpm and had the 580 Classic moving at 33 knots by our GPS. At 3500 rpm, where engine noise was much lower, we recorded 27.2 knots. At 3000 rpm the readout was 21.5 knots and the noise level was noticeably lower again.

It’s somewhere between 3000 and 3500rpm that this hull/motor combination will spend most of its “cruise” time and she’s a civilised little lady around these speeds and revs.

The low-end torque of diesel power and the low-speed thrust delivered by the wide bladed Alpha propeller had the 580 Classic up and planing below 10 knots. We actually managed to have it holding on the plane at 8.1 knots pulling 2100 rpm, and although in rough water the real planing speed might be closer to 10, the benefits of having a deep-vee hull planing cleanly at such speeds is not to be underestimated.

The boat as tested including options fitted, Tinka trailer, safety equipment and registration had an asking price of $58,000.

Engine Room
The Haines Hunter 5.8 Classic was powered by a 1.7lt MerCruiser DTI 120hp four-cylinder diesel. At WOT (wide open throttle) the little sterndrive topped out at 33 knots pulling 4400rpm on the Modern Boating GPS.

At 3500 rpm, where engine noise was much lower, we recorded 27.2 knots. At 3000rpm the readout was 21.5 knots and the noise level was noticeably lower again.

It’s somewhere between 3000 and 3500rpm that this hull/motor combination produced the most comfortable and economical cruise speed.

As mentioned in the main text, the wide-blade Alpha propeller was able to keep the 580 hull planing right down to 8 knots.

This type of performance only goes further to enhance the bluewater operating characteristics of this excellent vessel.

Story by Warren Steptoe