Strong, silent, speedy Savage
  |  First Published: August 2003

The newly-redesigned SL Series 540 Osprey cuddy gets two thumbs-up

SECTION: NSW boating




The name Savage is synonymous with trailer boats and the company has been designing and manufacturing boats in Australia for more than a century.

For the past decade Savage has been masters of successfully mating aluminium hulls with fibreglass topsides. By using fibreglass, more aesthetic and functional designs can be moulded, giving a stylish, modern contemporary look. As far as I can remember, Savage boats are the only craft to incorporate rolled aluminium edges, which also soften the overall appearance.

Savage also boasts all pressings are seam-welded, not spot or tag-welded to the stringers, making for added strength which gives a hull rigidity and longevity. Savage boats also incorporate the highest-quality polyurethane flotation in their hulls that is impervious to saltwater, petrol and oil.

The company has just designed a new SL series of boats with interesting blends of deadrise and chine designs, along with new-look strengthened transoms to accept the heavier four-stroke motors and make them a more integral part of the boat. There’s also more transom well clearance to allow the engine to tilt fully, keeping the leg out of the water on moored craft.

I had the opportunity test a new Savage 540SL Osprey cuddy cab to see all these new improvements in action.

Testing boats is a year-round task, with time always the enemy as reports usually have to go to press in the following issue. In Summer, with blue skies and warm water, boat testing is a job made in heaven. In Winter…

We launched the Savage at the end of Wharf Road in West Ryde as sheets of rain lashed the ramp and the air temperature hung around 13° – way less after taking into account the wind-chill factor. I felt the rain creep inside my spray jacket and dribble down my chest. I thought to myself, “It’s bloody Winter – what am I doing here?”

The test boat had a bimini as an option which sheltered us from most of the rain, and our waterproofs kept out some of the rest. There were a few brief respites when I managed to dash off a few shots in between showers, desperately trying to keep water off the lenses.

The test boat was powered by one of the new two-stroke fuel-injected Optimax motors from Mercury. The 135hp beast on the test boat was overkill and I’m sure most users would opt for the lower-priced, mid-range 90hp or 115hp Optimax (set to arrive in the country later this year), a naturally-aspirated two-stroke or an EFI four-stroke such as the smooth 115EFI.

Blistering speed

The first test we did was speed: The 540SL Osprey flew across the water at an incredible, and scary, 41 knots (77kmh, 48mph) with the tachometer hard over on 5400rpm. Sporting a big 19’’ prop, the boat showed 29 knots (54kmh, 34mph) at 4000rpm and 19 knots (36kmh, 22mph) at a very comfortable and economical 3000rpm. At that speed, the engine management gauges showed the big black donk drinking around 12.5 litres (3.3 gallons) of juice per hour.

The Optimax has a very low idle at 525rpm and is relatively quiet for a two-stroke. Mercury has spent a lot of time and money in refining their motors and the Optimax models reflect this. An advanced direct injection process, controlled by an onboard computer, delivers precisely measured fuel and air under pressure directly into the combustion chamber to create the most efficient burn possible. A precision, multipoint lubrication system delivers exact amounts of oil only when it’s required. The dynamics of all this is there’s hardly any fuel wastage, no oily smoke, even at idle or slow trolling, and low overall engine noise with the help of Mercury’s one piece cowl design.

Seating was comfortable and the helmsman’s chair was height-adjustable. Mercury’s two optional Smart Gauges give speed, revs, fuel consumption, trim, log, etc. Standard engine instruments are just tacho, trim, hour and fuel meters. The recessed single gear/throttle lever worked well and the hydraulic steering made manoeuvring a piece of cake. The rear of the dash has a slope that will allow electronics to be flush-mounted and the engine gauges sit on the flat. Vision was good through the five-piece, strutted windscreen although I would have liked to see grab rails along the top edge as additional safety.

The cuddy cab is small and would allow only a couple of kids to rest comfortably and the entrance was a bit restricted at only 380mm. There is plenty of dry storage under the bunk cushions. The boat has no anchor well, with warp stored in a space in front of the two bunks. The opening hatch has a groove to allow rope through when closed and there’s a strong cross-bollard just short of the bowsprit. A small platform is provided for those who want to fit a powered anchor winch.

Low-profile, stainless steel split bow rails could do with a bit more rigidity as someone eventually will tie off a rope on them.

Cockpit room

Cockpit room was ample to allow three to fish comfortably, four at a squeeze. I liked the deep, full-length side pockets that ran the whole length of the cockpit. We anglers take a lot of junk with us, whether needed or not. The fully-carpeted marine-ply floor was strong with no sign of flex, showing that it was secured properly and had a bit of thickness.

Under the floor there is a fully-encapsulated polypropylene 100-litre cruise tank which will give ample range. Coamings were extraordinary wide, and at a comfortable height of 710mm made for fairly comfortable passenger seating when the boat was at rest. The two standard rod holders are not enough but the wide coamings allow for any number to be fitted at any angle. The fuel filler is flush-mounted in the coaming.

The new pod feels part of the boat and has very useful boarding platforms either side of the motor. With the aid of the optional boarding ladder, getting in and out of the boat on water or on the trailer was easy.

The battery under the rear split lounge was easy to access and comes with an isolating switch as standard. An in-line water-separating filter is also standard and the oil bottle completes the equipment under the transom. To save piercing the hull, a transducer bracket is welded low down on the transom for all the sensors needed to serve the electronics. Watersports Marine at Kings Park equips the boat with the electrics and they don’t just soldier joints, they use heat shrink as well to guard against corrosion creep.

Pushing the throttle forward, the boat fairly leapt out of the hole and climbed on to the plane in a split second – great for skiing but not too good for passengers who haven’t taken a firm hold. The boat felt a lot bigger than just 5.4 metres and had a lot of go-forward, partly due to weight and the seam-welded hull strength. As the Osprey has a keel rail for protection and stability, the boat tracked perfectly and turned on a sixpence under power without any sign of slippage.

The widened chines give the boat stability at rest and listing was well within limits when all three of us leant over the gunwales. This Osprey 540SL is a serious offshore machine and has all the right ingredients to keep that large safety margin needed when out fishing the wide blue yonder.

With a two-year hull warranty, Savage proudly stands behind its products. If you are in the market for a serious fishing boat that has a bit of cover, take a squiz at the new Savage 540SL Osprey. I think you might be impressed.

Savage 540SL Osprey cuddy


Length; 5.4m

Beam; 2.26m

Keel to gunwale; 1.15m

Bottom thickness; 3mm

Topside thickness; 2mm

Hull weight; 580kg

Max power; 135hp

Max weight on transom; 195kg

Length on trailer; 6.8m

Height on trailer; (without bimini); 2.35m

Standard Features

Painted hull & deck; bowsprit; forward storage bins; walk-thru cuddy cab; gunwale fender strip; anchor storage; transducer bracket; side pockets

oil/battery rack; in-built marlin board; marine carpet throughout; 100L underfloor tank; twin tank breathers; s/s anchor bollard; s/s hand, bow & stern rails; bow eye; navigation lights; battery isolating switch; bilge pump; fuel separating filter; passenger lockable glovebox; 2 x rod holders; aft cleats; underfloor flotation; split rear lounge; hydraulic steering.


Stainless bow roller; ski hooks; rod rack; windscreen grab rails; auxiliary motor bracket; transom ladder; deluxe bucket seats; bimini & clears; front & side clears with zips; tonneau cover; storm cover; bait board; sounder/GPS; Savage trailer; SmartCraft gauges; compass.

Price of boat as tested: $37,900 Inc GST

Includes a Dunbier fully braked trailer with galvanised pack and spare wheel, all safety gear, registrations and on-water instruction.

Boat supplied by Watersports Marine, 11 Binney Road, Kings Park NSW 2148. Ph. 02 9676 1400, fax 02 9676 7588, email --e-mail address hidden--

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