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Savage 500 Blue Water Review
13th Apr 2011

Savage has aimed this boat squarely at family boating and her obvious ability to multi-task will win her favour with many buyers.

Hook up your boat, motor, trailer and go.

Savage Aluminium Boats' 'Just add water' catchphrase is pretty clever thinking. The company has the resources to put together complete boating packages that do allow buyers to go boating by just adding water. 

Because Savage is part of the giant Brunswick Corporation (it manufactures Mercury and Mariner outboards and MerCruiser sterndrives), it can offer perfectly matched and fully decked-out boat/motor/trailer packages to get you on the water fast. It also does this at extremely competitive prices and offers packages for general boating, fishing, skiing and family cruising. 

The boats feature Northstar electronics, which includes a 27MHz or VHF radio and a quality monochrome sounder. Plus, the boat sits on a top-of-the-line Dunbier centreline skid trailer with 13in wheels, so towing is easier and you wouldn't have trouble travelling over uneven ground. Other inclusions are a rear lounge that folds down against the transom for fishing, or can be easily removed and left at home altogether. An isolation switch ensures you won't accidentally flatten your battery by leaving the electronics switched on when the boat's sitting in your front yard.
Many older boaties will remember early Savage tinnies and will attest to them being very basic outfits, but that's all changed. Sure, these boats are built to a price, but the quality control has improved dramatically and the features they offer have increased tenfold. 

Savage now uses 5000 Series marine-grade aluminium sheets to create smooth hull shapes with minimal flexing and seals the hulls with two-part polyurethane paint. Up to five coats are electrostatically applied and dried using an infra-red system for greater paint longevity. Non-corrosive and fire-resistant polyurethane under-floor fuel tanks are also used, so there are no seams or joints to split or rust through. And Savage now adds under-floor flotation to ensure these boats will float even when swamped. Other features include stainless steel handrails, bow rails and fittings and Savage's latest 'Super Lift' hull design, but more on that later.

Aluminium against glass
To call a Savage boat a 'tinnie' is not quite correct, because the hull and ribbing are aluminium, but the top deck is made from fibreglass. This combination smooths the appearance of the boats and allows the designers more leeway in cabin, dash and side pocket layouts. The end result is a tough tinnie with smooth lines.

The 500 Blue Water is a cuddy cabin boat with a beamy cockpit that's sure to appeal to fishermen. And while the cuddy cabin is a bit squeezy, and would normally only be used to store all the associated gear we fishos take out for a day, two people can shelter in here out of the rain. There is limited under-bunk storage, but all that extra gear would have to be removed before you could sit in the cabin.

However, fit her with a bimini top and a good set of clears and the 500 Blue Water offers good protection from the elements with no loss in fishability. From a layout perspective this boat's walk-through windscreen and cabin make anchoring and docking easy, while keeping the deckie securely inside the boat at all times. The cockpit is also quite deep with high gunwales and offers excellent security for family boating.

Super what ?

According to the Savage team, this boat's latest 'SuperLift' hull design planes faster, tracks straighter, turns quicker and offers better directional control and stability. And normally these claims would not be too hard to test, but on the day of this test, Port Phillip Bay was as smooth as a baby's bum. 

Yes, the 500 did plane effortlessly from a standing start and track dead straight in the calm conditions, but I couldn't determine how she'd handle a following sea. However, running at 30.4 knots she handled turns superbly without losing her tail, or suffering from ventilation. In a straight line she'll take a small amount of 'trim out' to optimise the ride, but I did trim her back in before pulling any extreme turns. From her performance on the day, I doubt that even a novice boatie being stupid and pushing this hull to the limit would get into trouble on calm water. 

But I did have a problem with this boat's steering. She was fitted with a 90hp OptiMax outboard and while this set-up makes the hull literally fly (she'll do 40 knots at WOT), the test boat had no hydraulic steering. Take my advice, if you buy any outboard-powered boat with a motor above 70hp, pay the extra bucks for the optional hydraulic steering, you'll thank me in the long run.

This mechanical set-up felt heavy. Trim out helps, but if you have to turn starboard while the motor is trimmed 'in', it's hard work and not what you'd want in a big sea. Any boat rigged with a 90hp engine and no hydraulic steering will react the same way. You'll just have to pay for the upgrade, which isn't much anyway.

Knuckle down
Still on steering, I also found that the throttle/gear binnacle was mounted too close to the helm, so every time I turned to starboard using both hands I scraped the knuckles on my right hand. Moving the binnacle back a few centimetres would solve the problem.

From a fisherman's perspective, this beamy 5.2m boat offers top stability at rest, even with three adults walking all over her. She can handle the angler, gaffman and camera jock all on one side without burying her gunwales and while her gunwales are high, they don't cause problems with rod butts. You can have as many rod holders as you want and a transom bait prep station is an option. Add a rocket launcher-style rod rack to the bimini and I reckon the snapper in Port Phillip Bay might get a bit of a caning.

The wrap

Powered by a gutsy and fuel efficient OptiMax 90hp two-stroke, the Savage 500 Blue Water is snappy and fast and her $34,900 price tag will certainly get a tick from the bank manager.

This is a well balanced boat/motor/trailer package that's ready to go when you are. And, thanks to her Mercury SmartCraft gauges, you'll have all the information you could require for safe and economical boating right at your finger tips, including accurate fuel and fuel burn data.

Savage has aimed this boat squarely at family boating and her obvious ability to multi-task will win her favour with many buyers. 

WORDS + PHOTOS: IAN MACRAE

Tags: Savage

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