Issue: December 2002
For those fishos who rate 360 degrees access around a boat before the need for luxury sleeping accommodation, but still need to ‘camp’ onboard occasionally, the choice of boats available on the Aussie market is fairly limited. But having said that the new Haines Hunter 650 Prowler might answer a few prayers. Interestingly enough, camping is a fair analogy to describe the sleeping set-up on the 650 Prowler. And some may find the atmosphere down in the massive centre console ‘ or cabin ‘ a little claustrophobic, not that the average fisho is likely to notice.
In the cabin it’s sheltered, dry and the bunks are big enough for a couple of smelly blokes to keep their distance in comfort. Plus, thanks to a large hatch in the cabin top and a reasonably sized entryway, airflow is not a problem. More importantly for those who say ‘beauty mate’ to the above, the real ‘beauty’ of the 650 Prowler’s accommodation is that it doesn’t interfere with the boat’s fishability. The centre console/cabin ‘ whatever you prefer to call it ‘ can also be used purely as dry, out of the way, storage space. And as any experienced centre-console owner will tell you dry storage is something that’s normally lacking in most centre consoles.
But Haines Hunter have also looked after folk with more sophisticated needs by including plenty of options to make the cabin more comfy. These include interior lining, carpet, a bunk infill, portable toilet, and either a clipon vinyl, or a solid lockable door on the cabin entry way. And for those of us who often end up in places where sandflies, mozzies and bush flies reek havoc, insect screening on the entry way, the hatch and possibly the portholes in the cabin walls would make it very habitable indeed. Even with all these features included the 650 Prowler leans more towards being a serious fishing machine than a family boat; however, it doesn’t rule it out of that role either.
But a family investing 60 to 80 grand on a boat would expect it to be capable of more than just one task. The only other comment the team would like to make is that the addition of an easily removable rear lounge would actually make the 650 Prowler quite a good ‘family day on the water’ boat and well worth adding to the option’s list. While the Haines Hunter 650 Prowler may not be everybody’s cup of tea, when it’s compared to other boats of this style on the market, there’s no doubt it’s a boat that some fishos are going to find difficult to go past. This boat is just as much a run-around as a walk-around.
There’s plenty of space around the entire cabin/console with full height coamings, reasonable body support wherever you are inside the boat and a dead flat deck underfoot. However, leg support is compromised slightly, because the transom is flat from deck to covering board. There’s no way of tucking your toes under. If it bothers anyone too much this could be easily fixed (albeit at added cost) by adding upholstered cockpit coamings as an option. Leg support is also not perfect in the forward area where a shelf is positioned around the hull’s interior at shin height. Although in practice, leg support in the bows is actually good, not perfect, but quite OK out on the water.
From a fishing perspective, the 650 Prowler’s amenities are top shelf. The transom covering board features four in-built bait wells, one of which on the test boat had been plumbed as a live-well. The test boat also had a bait preparation station mounted above the transom. To port there’s a step through to the marlin board and an optional handheld shower/deck wash hidden away in the aft bulkhead. There are also flush-mount hatches in the transom that housed the batteries. A neat folding ladders aids boarding from the water or for when the boat is backed up to a beach for alighting. For fishos worried about getting blood and slime all over the cockpit carpets these are a clip-in design and easily removed if not required, or for cleaning.
Standard seating in the 650 Prowler is a pair of deep, upholstered, bucket seats behind the cabin, plus another padded seat set into the cabin front. There’s also a well-placed footrest for the helm person to brace against. Seated in the passenger seat I did occasionally find myself looking for something to grab onto, the best I could do was the frame of the bimini top. The passenger is protected from spray coming from the bow, but being a centre cabin/console, spray deflected out to the sides of the boat can be blown onboard by an unfriendly breeze.
The test boat had a radio console mounted underneath its stainless steel framed bimini top. The console was something of a work of art in itself and contained a matched pair of GME VHF and 27MHz radios, safely tucked away behind see-through spray covers. Also mounted on the bimini frame was a rod rack and a pair of Reelax outriggers. Haines Hunter intend to remount these so that when stowed they stand vertically and slope aft. The team agree, the ones in the photos did nothing for what was otherwise a good looking boat. In the bow is a huge anchor locker, plus there’s a tube on the bowrail for a reef pick.
The positioning of the fairlead, the height of the bowrail and the availability to sit while waiting for the command to drop the pick were all spot on. A power anchor winch is an option some may consider, although the ‘offshore set’ tend to use a buoy to raise the pick from deep water anyway. Out on the water she was a big, soft-riding, deep-vee hull with a bluewater pedigree longer than both arms stretched out – typical fishing story. We normally conduct Haines Hunter tests out on the Jumpinpin bar and its environs and to say the 650 Prowler performed impeccably in these conditions is an understatment. She showed us how a 6m bluewater boat should perform. I’d already spent some time in this particular boat on the Southport Seaway and beyond during a Honda press day, so I was in the lucky position of only needing to run Modern Boating’s performance figures before simply enjoying the rest of the test.
The 650 Prowler is no lightweight, the bare hull weighs-in at more than a tonne, which only makes the boat ride in choppy water even better. By the time a motor and trailer, a pair of marine batteries, plus a couple of hundred litres of fuel and the usual etceteras associated with fishing have been added, you’re looking at a 4WD to tow it all. Alternately, the dry storage option is an increasingly popular one. Neither is it too hard to imagine quite a few 650 Prowlers moored at pontoons beside some canal-side homes here in southern Queensland where the poor people have to choose between the Gold Coast, southern and northern Moreton Bay, Bribie Island, and the Sunshine Coast. I must go out and buy that Lotto ticket later today.
To park on one of these Haines Hunters on your front lawn will set you back around $60,000. The Haines Hunter 650 Prowler as tested with the optional 225hp Honda and trailer costs approximately $82,000.
Words by Warren Steptoe