Savage 540 SL Osprey bow rider
  |  First Published: November 2004

SAVAGE has stood the test of time and is one of the well-known brands in boating circles. Way back in 1898, JJ Savage built his first boat and since then thousands of Savage boats have graced our waterways.

Export is now a large facet of the Melbourne-based Savage factory with boats in Japan, Europe, New Zealand and the Pacific region.

Savage’s credentials are impressive. Every Savage aluminium boat sports a strong gusset frame with cross and longitudinal bracing. The hull and topsides are fully seam-welded for strength and integrity. Aluminium used is an exclusive marine grade – harder than conventional alloys yet allowing a smooth hull shape with little or no flexing.

Savage exterior paintwork is very durable: Up to five coats of paint are electrostatically applied with the finish hardened in an infra-red baking oven.

Savage employs rubber cushioning between the hull and the ribbed frames. Rubber used is a superior non-carbon grade that helps prevent corrosion, the bane of boats in salt water.

Underfloor, polyurethane foam is for buoyancy and soundproofing. Unlike polystyrene used by some manufacturers, polyurethane is impervious to petrol, oil and salt water.

Savage boats are now backed by the global resources of Mercury Marine and all boats come with Savage’s comprehensive two-year after-sales warranty.

It had been a while since I stood at the helm of a Savage so when the assignment came through to conduct a revue on the 540 Osprey bow rider, I looked forward to meeting the boys from Watersports Marine at West Ryde boat ramp for the test.

The new SL series looks good and for a bow rider, has plenty of cockpit room. SL stands for Super Lift – a revamp on design that gets the boat up and running faster. These new Savages also have wider chines for greater stability at rest.

Once again, I do have to say bow rider seats are the most uncomfortable in the house. They get all the bangs and bumps and in rough, windy water and occupants get wet. However, for kids, this is all an adventure and they just love being up front with the wind in their hair.

We had the maximum number of ponies allowable on the back with the extra-long shaft 140hp Saltwater Mercury pushing a 21” propeller.

The Osprey has a bow rider section measuring 1402mm x 1101mm and it was well-padded including the backrests. All cushioning can be removed to give a raised casting area. A small self-draining anchor well holds the grappling gear and enough rope to fish outside. Stainless split bow rails, bow roller plus a split cross-bollard make up the hardware up forward. All this is easy to get at via a tinted five-piece, walk-through, wrap-around windscreen. Passenger and helm seating is comfortable with the driver’s seat adjustable fore and aft and for height. The passenger seat has height adjustment.

There are drink holders for both driver and passenger. The test boat had a bimini and a VHF radio. Mercury’s range of SmartCraft gauges gives instant engine status and a four-way switch panel takes command of the electrics.

When seated, visibility is good through the screen with no restrictions and the right hand rests easily on the throttle lever. All floors are carpeted. Across the transom is a full-width, padded and split bench seat with upholstered back that can be positioned up for more cockpit room or removed when the boat is taken out with just two aboard. Lowering the backrest reveals the single battery compartment, fuel filter and battery isolating switch. Savages are one of the few boats that come with rubber gunwale strips to protect the boat when docking – a nice touch, as we all have stories to tell about ‘jetty rash’ which happens when we come in a bit too fast.

Two rod holders are standard and there are small stern cleats. I would have liked to see stronger fittings here as sometimes excessive loads are put on these cleats. Rear grab rails act as hand grips when climbing the fold-away transom ladder.

With 1604mm x 2302mm of useable inside cockpit space, the Osprey 540 has a fair bit of room and a family of four shouldn’t feel as if they were on top of each other. Coaming height is a very comfortable 740mm, which will keep the young ones inside and give adults hip grip when fishing.

Full-length cockpit side pockets are deep and there is also dry storage up front and a small lockable glove box.

The Osprey leapt forward as the Mercury, fitted with a stainless steel Vengeance propeller, strutted its stuff. The boat tracked straight and responded instantly to helm instructions.

Trim is important on this boat and a close eye is needed on the tacho as the trim button is activated to bring the motor out, lightening the load on the helm. With the motor tucked in, the Savage pushed through the chop with no hint of slam or excessive bow lift.

At rest, the boat tilted slightly with two of us hanging over the side, simulating landing a fish. Having an extra-long-shaft motor keeps the engine pan well above the water even in full reverse, when the water just gurgles around the marlin board.

Watersports Marine had set this boat up well and it showed no vices in the short time I put her through the hoops. As you can imagine, with 140hp on the back you haven’t got much time to smell the roses and I’m sure a 100hp donk will give a safe and speedy ride.

Paintwork, fittings and finish on Savages are of a standard a lot of other manufacturers strive for. The 540 SL is well worth a look if you are in the market for a bow rider.



Depth freeboard700mm
Depth keel to gunwale1150mm
Topside thickness2mm
Bottom thickness3mm
Max HP140HP
Max weight on transom195kg
Weight (hull only)580kg
Length on trailer6.8m



Standard Features

Painted hull & deck, gunwale fender strip, anchor storage, transducer bracket, oil/battery rack, inbuilt marlin boards, underfloor buoyancy, 100lt underfloor tank, twin tank breathers, bow eye, glove box, 2 rod holders, aft cleats, nav lights, fully carpeted, bow bollard, split bow rails and stern rails.


Aux motor bracket, transom ladder, Navman sounder and GPS, deluxe bucket seats, canopy and zips, front clear curtains, side curtains, bimini top, tonneau cover, storm covers, hydraulic steering and compass

Boat as tested including DLX Dunbier braked trailer with spare wheel, tie-downs, safety pack, fire extinguisher, all registrations & 12 months insurance: $36,990.

Boat supplied by Watersports Marine, 11 Binney Road, Kings Park, NSW 2148. Ph. (02) 9676 1400, fax (02) 9676 7588.

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