Haines Hunter V17 Legend Review

Issue: October 2003

During its lengthy history Haines Hunter has produced its fair share of boating legends, so it stands to reason that it designates a whole series of its latest models as ‘Legends’. And among these is the V17R, which is already very much a real legend. Historically, the V17R goes back a long way, far enough as a matter of fact, for the shine on its reputation to fade and become tarnished some years ago. But times change and boats have come a long way since the original V17R earned itself a formidable reputation. 

In 2003, the Haines Hunter V17R was revamped and thanks to its recent upgrade this particular Legend seems set to once again earn itself a place close to the hearts of Australian boating families. V17R circa 2003, returns to where its illustrious predecessor left off as a remarkable example of what an all-round family boat can be. But it also now adds another new dimension, value for money. The V17R on test was powered by a 115hp, Yamaha V4 two-stroke outboard and had several options fitted, which pushed its retail price up into the high $33,000 bracket. 

However, by losing a couple of options and opting for a 90hp motor drops this price to below $30,000. We also found while running our performance figures that this hull, we’re using another Haines Hunter model with the same hull as a camera boat, powered by a 90hp V4 two-stroke offered spritely performance and a top speed of more than 35 knots. It started the Modern Boating team wondering how well a 75hp or 80hp donk would go to gain even further cost saving’ I expect quite well enough for anyone more interested in fishing than screaming about toying inflatable toys and who went boating lightly loaded. 

This would allow options such as a shade canopy to be back in contention without breaking the bank, or for those more serious about their fishing, perhaps even fitting a four-stroke motor. You’d still be looking at a lot of boat in an extremely competitively priced package. The package includes Haines Hunter’s upgraded ancillaries. From now on all appropriate parts will be stainless steel, every hatch and lid will securely latch closed, data dot ID will be installed in every new Haines Hunter boat and excellent Navman electronics will be supplied unless a customer stipulates otherwise. 

With all this onboard, we took the 2003 V17R out onto southern Moreton Bay in the Jacob’s Well/Jumpinpin area. Just the kind of water many of these boats are going to be calling home. About the only thing a family couldn’t do with this boat is sleep onboard. Being a Haines Hunter, it has a soft riding, tophandling hull that’s more than capable of coping with anything the average big river or small bay can dish out and in comfort. For skiing, a tow bar and ski racks are options. Rear quarter seats come as standard, but a full width rear lounge is another option and a back-to-back passenger seat another. 

With comfortable seating for four adults, or obviously two adults and a couple of kids, plus maybe another depending on the seating options selected; a thundering monster of a ski racer it isn’t. Even so, we couldn’t help ourselves and tossed the V17R around as hard as sanity would allow, to find it had impeccable manners to go with the ample performance from this 115hp powered boat. Short of the fluoro green hair and body piercing set, we think the V17R will become a popular family ski machine.

In between fishing, skiing and dragging shrieking, grinning kids around on inflatable wake toys, the V17R will also get you to that distant beach for a picnic. OK, OK, we’re showing our age talking about picnics we know, but we haven’t heard any upbeat new millennium cool substitutes for the word yet. 

Who cares what you call them, when we’re out with the kids we make a habit of pulling up on a nice beach somewhere and mucking about in the water, having a cold drink or two, a sanger; whatever. Does a 2003 V17R have storage space for the towels, food, sundry junk and more importantly, can it keep the drinks cold’ Yes to all of those. There are storage lockers on each side under the foredeck, another underneath the deck between the seats in the helm area, big side pockets and a lockable glove box in front of the passenger seat. 

There’s even more storage under the aft lounge and transom covering board to stuff more junk and keep it from underfoot. Cold drinks can be supplied from a pair of wells set into the transom covering board. Some would consider these to be bait wells and indeed one of them can be plumbed as such, still, add ice and drinks and they become coolers. A boarding step each side of the outboard is standard and even the stern cleats are recessed to keep them out of the way. 

Both the fuel and oil reservoir fillers are sited in the engine well where any accidental spills won’t end up inboard. Fishing, now here are some interesting points for discussion. Because we now have dedicated sportfishing boats in all manner of varieties, a V17R isn’t going to be called a ‘serious’ fishing boat. It doesn’t have casting decks and tournament size live wells, nor the other accoutrements normally found on a the latest sportfishing machines. Somewhere short of the sportfishing elite, there are a great many people who treat their fishing seriously and will find this boat entirely to their liking. 

The boat has bait wells and rod racks in the side pockets, which are upholstered and padded (standard fitment) to make them comfortable when you lean against while fishing. Even the quarter seats have lift out cushions that give you access to the aft corners where their lines can be properly controlled around the back of the boat. But was in the aft corners we found the only thing we didn’t like about the new V17R. Fortunately, it’s no big deal, just a couple of clips that hold the quarter seat cushions in place. These are left protruding when the seats are lifted out leaving them perfectly positioned to bite pieces out of a leg unfortunate enough to get too close. 

But for bite on the water the 115hp was the maximum power rating for this hull, which may make it the power of choice for families who enjoy towing each other about on wake toys. However, the Haines Hunter crew assured the team it performed extremely well with a 90hp motor. Both motors were V4 two-strokes, which makes comparisons even more interesting. As luck would have it, we were using a Carnival (which shares the same hull) powered by a 90hp outboard swinging a 17″ prop as a camera boat on the day of our test. 

As you’d expect, the 90hp powered Carnival lagged noticeably behind the 115hp-powered V17R. Nonetheless, once you took the Carnival away from a direct power-to-weight comparison with the V17R, the Carnival was a well-balanced rig. Comparative top speeds of 42.2 knots for the 115hp boat and 35.3 knots for the 90hp powered vessel show that the V17R would perform admirably with the 90hp engine. It would even suffice for some casual ski work, but serious wake freaks would be well advised to invest the extra bucks for the 115hp engine. 

What we haven’t mentioned is the most profound change in a 2003 V17R, the foredeck. Bowriders have become tremendously popular and deservedly so, but there remains a place in the market for runabouts like the V17R. A runabout’s solid foredecks offer better protection from the elements. The V17R’s now has a hinged walkthrough centre section, which allows access right up to the bow to handle the anchor. Historically, restricted bow access almost rang the death knell of runabouts such as the original V17R. All that needs to be said about that is ‘yep, but that’s history’. 

On the other hand, the new V17R is history in the making, as one of the best and most versatile allround family boats we’ve ever enjoyed a few hours out on the water in. We liked it ‘ a lot! 

Words by Warren Steptoe