Still, as good a day boat as it undoubtedly is, what appealed to us was it would be just as easy to live onboard for a weekend.
Issue: October 2002
To build a boat that's going to be truly comfortable for a couple to live onboard for a few days, the hull needs to be at least 7m in length. It also requires the clever use of available space and astute design. Haines Hunter has combined these elements to create the new 700 Horizon cruiser.
The 700 refers to the boat's overall length of 7m. However, the Horizon is based on the same hull that sits under the extremely popular 680 Encore, the predecessor of the new 680 Patriot. Both the Encore and the Patriot are proven offshore performers making this hull the ideal platform on which to build the latest Horizon.
The Modern Boating team has taken a 680 Encore out to Breaksea Spit, north of Fraser Island, on several occasions. By water this is a journey of around 100km, before you have to contend with the nasty bar crossing at Breaksea Spit. And that's after crossing the 100km of Hervey Bay's reputedly sheltered, but usually anything but, user-friendly water to get there.
Hervey Bay can be a right mongrel of a place if there's a northerly or westerly wind blowing. So having made the crossing a few times now, gives the team plenty of experience to draw from when expounding the virtues of this hull.
The Modern Boating team can attest to the excellent rough water handling characteristics of this boat. And that's a rock solid base on which to build a boat that's aimed at weekends away for a couple, or day trips with the ankle bitters.
Because we already know the hull, this test is more an examination of how well the 700 Horizon's interior layout works. Is this new boat a good weekender' Put simply, yes.
Starting at the sharp end, there are no real surprises. There's the usual vee-berth in the bow, similar to those found in just about every cabin boat sold in this country. Moving back from the vee-berth, the head ' bathroom to landlubbers ' is situated on the starboard side with a small lounge opposite this to port.
The head is generously proportioned, considering this is only a 7m boat, so is the cabin entryway. This has been cleverly cut away to make the door much easier to negotiate, while letting in plenty of light and air for ventilation.
A big hatch in the cabin roof, and two opening portholes in the sides, also aids the flow of air through the sleeping area. The starboard porthole also ventilates the shower cubicle/head.
It may be a poor reflection of the world we live in, but being able to lock the cabin is essential for peace of mind when the boat is moored, or left at anchor while its occupants are off exploring or socialising.
In summation, the cabin vee-berth is big enough, you don't need to be a dwarf to use the shower and 'loo and there's even a small lounge seat to relax on.
About the only thing left to add to the sleeping quarters is linen and pillows. Depending on where you intend spending your weekends on the water you may need to consider insect screens.
A hot-water system would also come in handy. This hot water system is an option and it's difficult to imagine anyone ordering one of these boats without it.
The test boat was powered by a MerCruiser sterndrive, which is capable of delivering hot water at the turn of a tap via a heat exchanger attached to the engine's cooling system.
This boat comes from the factory set-up as a day boat, but the test vessel had other options fitted, including a foldaway galley that was hidden away under the portside lounge in the helm area.
To be a true weekender, the galley would be a necessity. Once the upholstery has been unclipped and stowed ' we suggest tossing the cushions down onto the vee bunk if you've drawn the short straw for breakfast and your partner's still lying down ' out of the way, the galley is quite large.
Cooking facilities may be limited to one of those single burner gas stoves, you see on many small cruising boats, but there's dedicated cutlery and crockery storage, plenty of cupboard space and a generous bench top.
Clip the upholstery back in place and the entire upstairs section is returned to an open living area. This boat also has more lounge space than you could possibly fill with backsides for a day on the water. The helm seat can hold two with another two sitting on the lounge concealing the galley. Two more on the aft lounge and another one on the rumble seat behind the helm ' that's seven by our count. We reckon it would be more comfy for four, plus maybe an ankle biter.
Being able to move about the boat, sitting here and there as you see fit, makes for easy days on the water. Still, as good a day boat as it undoubtedly is, what appealed to us was it would be just as easy to live onboard for a weekend.
It means upping the investment to almost $98,000, but what does a unit down the coast cost these days ? And a unit can't be moved about as can a Haines Hunter 700 Horizon!
Weekender or day boat, one thing there's never too much of on any boat is storage space and this one isn't lacking in that department either. Aside from the space beneath the lounges, in the galley and under the bunk in the bows, there's a cavernous underfloor locker between the galley and helm.
One item the boat was missing was a footrest for the helm seat. We couldn't help notice the Haines Hunter people were also putting their foot out expecting to find a footrest under the steering wheel. It was so obvious we asked them, why no footrest ? Their answer was a little sheepish. 'Well, that's the one thing we didn't get fitted in the rush to get this boat onto the water for your test!' We can live with that.
To gain access to the powerplant, to check fluid levels and belts, is by way of a hatch forward of the transom.
The transom swim platform is huge. A small door closing the step-thru, so tiny tots can't fall overboard, seals it off. A folding swim ladder would be another option we'd choose if setting up one of these boats.
There's a handheld shower next to the step-thru for use on the transom platform. Kids and adults can wash off the sand and salt, before coming onboard keeping it out of the living area.
The moulded stern piece contains an icebox that sits where the live bait tank is on the 680 Patriot. But in this life it's clearly an icebox, ideal for keeping the drinks cool for the weekend. So in the end the only real problem we had with the Haines Hunter 700 Horizon was sorting out our next free weekend.
The approximate base price for a Horizon 700 with 5lt MerCruiser, Bravo II leg and trailer is $95,000.00.
The test Haines Hunter 700 Horizon was powered by a MerCruiser 5lt MPI V8 driving through a Bravo II sterndrive leg. We were happy with the match of power and hull, because they complemented each other nicely. Plus, the sterndrive made a heat exchange type hot-water system possible ' a consideration not to be underestimated in this instance.
With only the Modern Boating team onboard ' and no gear ' the V8 MerCruiser could be persuaded to hit the rev limiter when running a standard Mercury 19' prop. We recorded a top speed of 33.8 knots during the test, which is probably fast enough not to want to prop it up further. However, the team still wonders if the complement of gear this boat would normally carry may add enough weight to keep the motor off the limiter.
Other speed to rpm readings were: 8.2 knots at 2200rpm; 18.8 knots 3000rpm; 23.8 knots at 3500; 27.6 knots at 4000; and 33.8 knots at 5200rpm.
Story by Warren Steptoe