Issue: January 1997
The Haines Hunter 680 Encore centre cabin has etched its place in history among boat anglers, reef anglers, sportfishers and game fishers alike. The Encore is way up there as one of the all time great fishing boats. It’s legendary, revered even. Haines Hunter went through a bit of a rough patch when the former owners OMC collapsed. But it has bounced back better than ever. With the blinkers of corporate straightline thinking removed, the new management is directing Haines Hunter through a rejuvenating period. Haines Hunter cuddy cabs, like the Breeze models tested a few issues back, are now called Breeze. Centre consoles and centre cabs are now known as Prowlers, while walkarounds like the original 680 Encore are called Patriots.
While some may think the 680 Patriot is just a re-badged 680 Encore there have actually been many changes, some subtle others not. Obvious alterations include a new raked and curved windscreen, a live well that small blokes like me could go close to using as a spa bath and a moulded in bowsprit. Other changes are less apparent, although they do sum up what the 680 Patriot is about. The 680 Patriot is an updated 680 Encore. With its spa sized live well the new model is more functional. And elsewhere we find a multitude of often tiny detail changes that only make a great boat better. Due credit to Haines Hunter for these changes and more credit to them for leaving well enough alone.
When it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it. It’s probable that quite a few readers may not know what it was about its predecessor, the 680 Encore, that earned such a formidable reputation. The 680 Patriot is a walkaround cabin. What makes it special is how well the concept has been executed. Unlike some boats this walkaround layout does not trying to make out it is capable of supporting anyone going forward around the deck instead, the 680 Patriot’s walkaround deck is shallow; barely ankle height. Secure bodily support going forward is provided firstly by a steadying hand on the windscreen frame. Once past that the lower legs can be braced against the bowrail.
The benefit of this shallow design is found inside the cabin. A deep walkaround deck must intrude into the space below decks. In the 680 Patriot the shallow depth of the walkaround provides a real bonus to the amount of space available inside the cabin. Sleeping accommodation inside the cabin is roomy. There’s more than enough room for a cuddly couple. Although two grubby fishermen will be happy to find there’s no need to snuggle up if they don’t want to. Provision has been made for a portable toilet under the center cushion in the vee formed between the bunks, a necessity in a boat this size these days.
The drivers and navigator’s seats are those deeply upholstered bucket type. The helm seat adjusts back far enough for the driver to be able to wedge themselves securely between the seat and the wheel. Passengers aren’t as well looked after as the helm though. In the photos we shot on the bar (below) you can see the passenger is holding on to the screen frame. A fitted grab bar would be better. A vertically-mounted steering wheel is the norm in cabin boats like this, but the team consider fitting an angled boss to the 680 Patriot’s hydraulic steering to lay the wheel down flat should be fitted. Still, the helm was secure and comfortable to control whether seated or standing. When standing the windscreen frame doesn’t impede the driver’s line-of-sight. The view through the new screen is in fact one of the subtle improvements.
The sill of the side panels is low enough to allow a lower line-of-sight, which is useful when coming alongside a pontoon. One thing I can’t help but notice at the helm is the new motor control box. The test Patriot is powered by a brand new Bombadier Evinrude 225hp FICHT motor. Throttle and gear controls for the outboard combine to offer one of the best set ups we’ve ever encountered. Neutral is further back than other units, but once accustomed to this the throttle is predictable and precise. Shifting from forward gear to neutral and then reverse is easy.
Going over the boat in fine detail the folding doors to lock up the cabin are an option some prospective Patriot owners will find attractive. Moving aft into the rear cockpit there’s a small step down, because the helm area is raised to keep water out of the cabin. The entire periphery of the rear cockpit has heavily padded bolsters along the top sides. This allows your toes tuck under when you brace against the gunwales in rough water, or when fighting a fish. Across the inside of the transom is a lounge seat, which can be quickly removed and left at home for serious fishing. But it’s a handy feature to have when the boat is out for a social cruise. On the aft covering board is that huge live well on the starboard side and a step through the transom door to port.
Inevitably with 225 horses out back, it’s a fair reach with a fishing rod to steer line around the power plant. On the transom is a lift-out bait board that drops in to a pair of rod holder type brackets. It can be left in or taken out as required. This lift-out bait board is a work of art in itself. It sits high enough to be used effortlessly and incorporates a work space over a sink with a tray to hold rigging gear or thawing bait. Up front a Muir electric anchor winch comes as standard. Every Encore I have ever been aboard was in the hands of a passionate fishing freak who never did use the boat for anything else. But that doesn’t change the usefulness of the boat for social outings.
Once out on the bay we headed for the notorious Jumpinpin Bar for the photo shoot. The chance to put the Patriot through her paces out on the bar was too good to pass up. The bar was rough, a little short of dangerous, with extensive areas of jumbled chop generated by a tide pushing against the wind. No wonder this hull is legendary. Precise Sea Star hydraulic steering is standard as are trim tabs. These went a long way towards the confidence the 680 Patriot instilled in us out on the bar. These, coupled with the excellent control given by the engine control box, make this boat a pleasure to drive. With 225hp on the transom and using the trim tabs, the big Patriot maintained a level attitude as she lifted onto the plane at a mere 8.3 knots.
The boat could be eased through the mess with minimal fuss, or given some stick with more resultant fuss and plenty of flying spray, but without upsetting its surefootedness either way. In the bad water, the rig was far better than good. It passed great and delved deeply into the realm of sheer fun. This hull definitely gets the Modern Boating seal of approval. If the 680 Encore was anything it was a hell of a hard act to follow. The 680 Patriot romps it in as a great boat made better. Encore for the Encore! It will cost around $75,000 to put a patroit on the water.
Words by Warren Steptoe