The Aqualine 680 Hard Top is a New Zealand made pontoon style craft that has a great reputation back home, where it’s known as Kiwi Craft, and has gained high praise since 1988.
The current range of Aqualine craft available in Australia stretches from the small but handy 360 tender to the massive 780 top full cabin equipped HT/Overnighter rated for 10 adults. All are totally unsinkable, thanks to large under floor totally sealed air filled compartments that also add a great deal of rigidity to each craft.
The eight person rated 680 Hard Top as reviewed was packed with features for both the really dedicated or the more casual family orientated angler. This massive boat was a lively performer courtesy of the 200 Yamaha on the half pod astern.
Its finish was faultless with smoothed welds, well executed paint work and a neatly fitted hull liner, which extended outside the cabin interior to virtually every surface – even the roof – within the lockable twin door. The main cockpit work area is protected from water thanks to the 15cm high lip.
Up front was a well formed bow sprit, which will definitely keep the pick off the paint. A strong bow rail was standard as was an electric anchor winch. Access to the anchor hatch is available via a wide front cabin hatch.
The Aqualine’s big forward step down cabin area, with its elliptical windows, offered the option of either twin Vee berths (with deep leg well) or bed for up to three to sleep on with ease. Head and leg room was outstanding with plenty of room for even the longest legs and the tallest heads.
Storage within the lockable hard top/full cabin area was in abundance with generously large overhead shelving all around the bunks, a pair of hatch equipped storage compartments in the sleeping area, plus a large neatly formed box on the passenger’s seat. Set into the floor between the forward seating is a large Spanish mackerel sized under floor kill or storage tank, complete with drain.
Seating was deluxe in the big Aqualine. The skipper’s seat was a pedestal suspension item while the mate’s was equally as strong and supportive and mounted on the aforementioned storage box. The mate is also treated to a large side storage compartment plus a pair of grab handles within easy reach.
I found the passenger and skipper seats to be very comfortable and provide all round visibility. The craft featured a two piece windscreen, skipper’s with wiper, and sliding tempered glass windows on each side of the cabin for ventilation. As a full cabin craft the Aqualine 680 offers total weather protection for skipper and mate up front of the paired doors but as always air flow within the cabin is important. Marine and pleasure radios were set overhead with a large fluoro light located centrally within the cabin head lining.
The helm area of the Aqualine 680 was thoughtfully laid out with all items convenient to the skipper. A Raymarine A70D colour chart plotter was set above the wheel to port, along with tacho, speedo and multi function gauges to monitor the Yamaha 200 four-stroke. To starboard were a bank of switches plus side mounted forward controls.
Driving the craft was pure delight with the excellent all round visibility and very comfortable seating.
Half of the craft’s 6.8m length is devoted to fishing room. Four to five anglers could work in this area without much trouble.
To allow access to the overhead rod holders, side steps are built into the rear of the cabin area that could also allow one to walk on the non skid walkaround area either side of the cabin, with the roof as a hand hold.
The beamy, 880mm high, cockpit houses a non skid checker plate surface and provides sure footing while moving about when offshore fishing, which would be the natural domain of this well appointed craft. The external side height is some 1110mm, which offers ample freeboard.
The aft lip of the cabin (set up with six rod holders and a cockpit light) extends rearwards for some distance so an addition of a bimini for further weather protection would be a very easy option. An extendable frame forms part of the Aqualine’s package.
The 2m+ wide cockpit holds 35cm high and 2m long side pockets that would accept any amount of fishing gear. Features included two rod holders per side on the wide decks, a freshwater deck wash aft, a transom mounted cutting board, and a glass front recirculating live well to port under the craft’s walk through boarding area.
Off floor storage compartments within the transom offered plenty of space alongside the easily accessed engine battery and fuel filter within each compartment. The Aqualine’s cockpit drains into an under floor sump with an 1100gph bilge pump.
Divers would appreciate the full width checker plate boarding platform. And the large hand rail set to port would be equally useful when re-entering the craft.
With a maximum 200hp on the pod astern, the rig went like the clappers. Planing at 32.3km/h at 3,000rpm the Raymarine A70D saw 49.2km/h at 4,000rpm, 62km/h at 5000rpm and 71.7km/h at 5,800rpm. Test runs were conducted with two Yamaha 200 aboard and a near full fuel load of 200L under the floor. An excellent cruising speed of 50km/h at 4100rpm saw a fuel consumption rate of only 29L per hour.
As expected, the ride from the 940kg (dry hull weight) Aqualine 680 was exemplary. Moreton Bay chop out wide from Bribie Island was ironed out without the slightest fuss. Kiwi boating conditions are far more challenging than ours and the big pontoon craft showed its heritage in fine style.
A high and extremely buoyant bow gave displaced water no opportunity to go anywhere but off to the sides. The overall ride was enhanced by the craft’s deep Vee 22º deadrise central hull section with its prominent planing strakes along the wetted section. In all, the rig offered a very soft ride under choppy outer bay conditions.
Stability was outstanding – the Aqualine was rock steady under way and at rest. Once the pontoons at the extremity of the hull contacted the water there was no possibility of the hull leaning the slightest bit further.
As good as the ride and stability were, the handling was exceptional. The craft could be thrown around like a ski boat but the grip of the hull prevented any side slip whatsoever. I took delight in making a few smart turns to either side and cutting across chop at speed, which was all finger tip light thanks to hydraulic steering.
Matthew from Brisbane Yamaha put the rig through its paces in fine style doing rapid turns virtually within the length of the hull at fast speed. For such a large craft the Aqualine handled brilliantly.
Given the levels of comfort, handling, and tremendous sea keeping ability, the Aqualine 680HT is well suited to either offshore, bay or cruising work equally. The cockpit work room is exceptional, and features for the angler are not stinted on whatsoever.
The craft’s 200L fuel capacity would see some very long offshore runs completed with ease. Performance from the big 200hp Yamaha four-stroke was excellent, and the engine was both quiet and willing.
The overall finish was top shelf. Exactly what you’d expect from such a long established maker.
While the craft demands a serious outlay at $119,990 (as reviewed) as a long term investment it would certainly return dividends in sheer fishability. Supplied on a dual wheeled Dunbier drive-on trailer, the craft was launched and retrieved without the slightest difficulty.
Enquires to Brisbane Yamaha on phone (07) 3888 1727, fax (07) 3888 9513 or at www.brisbaneyamaha.com.au
|Hull construction:||5mm plate|
|Engine fitted:||200hp Yamaha four-stroke.|
|Overall length:||7.97m (on trailer)|
|Overall height:||3.27m (on trailer)|