Welcome back Haines Hunter, you had us a little worried for a while there, but it's great to see these excellent hulls back in production.
Issue: January 2002
After being caught up in the collapse of OMC, historic Queensland-based boat builder Haines Hunter is now back in Aussie hands, after a consortium of employees and investors took over the helm. That was more than a year ago now and we are now beginning to see the fruits of their enormous efforts.
Recently Haines Hunter secured its resurrection by releasing five new family day/offshore fishing boats under the collective title of Breeze. These initial Breeze boats are all revamped models from the pre-existing range, except for a brand new 5.1m model due off the production line in the next few months. With the exception of the 5m Breeze, which is a traditional runabout, the series are all cuddy cabins in sizes 4.7, 5.3, 5.8 and 6.3m. The line is aimed squarely at entry-level buyers, but all have an extensive options list, which means they can be optioned up to the higher end of the market as required.
During the Queensland launch of the range, Haines Hunter Managing Director, John Haber, explained to the gathering of boating journos, that the Breeze series came about after the company looked carefully at what average boat buyers wanted, then worked backwards to the factory floor from there.
The Breeze family line is established with graphics and deliberate similarities such as wraparound windscreens, smoked-glass cabin windows and matching upholstery.
Keen Haines Hunter fans will immediately recognise the new boats' origins from the old model line-up, but when you look at the Breeze boats in detail the changes are numerous.
John explained most of the changes are more than skin deep. Haines Hunter now has a naval architect on staff and its hull designs are progressively being loaded into a CAD program.
"The Breeze hulls are structurally stronger, tighter on the water and thanks to the wonders of the computer age, internal storage spaces has been maximised in comparison to their predecessors," he said.
Some of these new hulls have also gained weight. For example, the 630 Breeze hull now weighs in at around 1100kg, whereas the previous 620 Warrior it's based on tipped the scales at 950-1000kg.
And this is despite the fact that because the boat is unashamedly aimed at people looking for the best boat they can get on a tight budget, the 630 Breeze is a bare boat, lacking price inflating frills like a bow rail and cockpit carpet. This approach by Haines Hunter is timely, because a significant portion of the boating industry is heading in the opposite direction, offering tricked-up models with a price tag to match. But this can put them out of the reach of some buyers.
Tricked-up is one thing - all boaties love a well put together, fully optioned rig - but the Haines Hunter vision for the Breeze series is to offer maximum boating potential at minimum dollars. It's a vision that sits especially well with many first boat buyers.
When a company launches a new range to the boating media it's not always possible to conduct a comprehensive test on the day. But on this occasion the Modern Boating team did get the opportunity to take the smallest 470 Breeze and the larger and more expensive 630 Breeze out for a run.
The 470 Breeze is a compact and useful cuddy cabin that's ideal as a family day/fishing boat for two. As an entry-level vessel, it's quite possible to put one of these on the water, albeit with less power than our test boat, for an investment in the low 20s. It represents excellent value for money besides, who needs all the frills anyway, especially in a fishing boat. Fish slime and blood quickly combine to lower the value of any new boat.
The interior of all Breeze boats is finished in flow coat. The 470 features the same deep, comfortable bucket seats as those found in the 630 as well as padded shelving and upholstery inside the cuddy. Bait wells in the aft corners are standard throughout the range. These all have plastic cutting boards serving as lids. Rear quarter seats in our test boat were prone to bouncing lose and need to be fixed in place more securely.
There is plenty of space beneath the 470's engine well, so you can get your toes under and brace your legs against the transom. Unlike the 470, the 630's transom is panelled-in, to conceal the usual ancillaries, so it was more difficult to brace your leg against or get your toes under. Both boats have large dash areas, so there's plenty of room for new electronics, while the gunwales are wide and fitting additional rod holders won't be a problem.
On the day of the test Jumpinpin's infamous bar was in a less than friendly mood. But after tackling the conditions on the bar the team agreed these new Haines Hunter hulls can more than live up to their well-earned reputation. But the lack of carpet lining the interior of the 630 Breeze made the hull fairly noisy in the rough conditions.
The rough conditions also emphasised the need to adjust the helm seat. While I can live without the carpet, that seat really cramped me against the wheel when I stood at the helm. Moving the pedestal back a few centimetres will easily rectify the problem. The boat also held plane at 7 knots, which will be a benefit when trolling, or when weather turns bad and slows things down on the trip back to the ramp.
Both boats are fairly Spartan in layout, but the team don't see this as a major problem. For most people buying a new boat is a big investment. Starting off with an almost bare boat, then adding on options as your coffers rebuild can be a great way of getting your own custom-build boat. You get to lay it out the way you want it, not the way the boat builder thinks you want your boat.
This may take a few years, but it spreads the overall cost of the boat, allowing you to get out and enjoy boating more quickly, even if in the beginning you don't have a whiz-bang chartplotter.
Welcome back Haines Hunter, you had us a little worried for a while there, but it's great to see these excellent hulls back in production. Especially in the Breeze range, because they are so affordable.
The 470 Breeze was powered by a punchy 75hp Mercury two-stroke spinning a Mercury Alpha 16" pitch stainless steel propeller. This set-up gives the rig a top speed of 35 knots. The performance delivered by the 75 is smooth and brisk, so people who normally travel light could even opt for a smaller engine, which will help reduce costs even further. The 630 Breeze was also a quick boat with a top speed of 41 knots powered by a 200hp HPDI Yamaha two-stroke driving through a 17" pitch Yamaha stainless steel prop.
Speed and grunt is more important in a boat like this large Breeze, but some people, who don't venture outside much, may find its performance acceptable with less power. Our seat of the pants feeling is that the Yammie was about right for a combination of offshore fishing or pulling wake toys during family outings.
Story by Warren Steptoe
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