Finding the right boat is never an easy job, and just when you’ve found something that’s right for you, the price kills your dream. Boats a big investment once you get over that 5m mark, and I know countless people who get all revved up over a boat and then find the price leaves them nowhere to go but back to the catalogues.
The range of New Zealand built Tristram boats is one example of boats that I’ve found to offer exceptionally good value for the family orientated boatie. We tested the first one late last year with Westside Boating, the Tristram 691 Millennium, which left quite an impression on me.
The 641 Avant Garde is the smaller sister to this boat and offers the same well laid-out design on an impressive hull. If your spouse needs some coaxing to agree to your buying a boat, this is one rig you should definitely take her along to see. First impressions count, and this is a great looking boat.
It doesn’t take much of a look around to appreciate the smart and tidy layout with smooth rounded mouldings, contrasting carpets and seat coverings, along with the room and features to enjoy yourself out on the water.
I’ve been in hundreds of boats over the past 20 years, and I’ve found that most comfortable boats which have a few luxuries often lack space. It all looks good, but once you get in the boat with a bit of gear and a few bodies it becomes very cramped, making it impractical and more difficult to enjoy yourself. If there’s one thing I hate in a boat, it’s tripping over things that have nowhere to go once you’re out on the water.
It’s imperative that big boats like this one have more to offer than just features. Features are great, it’s just how they are placed and used in the boat – and they’ve been well placed in the Millennium.
Starting at the stern, a boarding ladder leads onto the duck board, which has a lower section in its moulding to make the job easier to get in and out of the boat. The thing to keep in mind here is not just stepping in and out of the boat when on dry land, but how easily you can get in and out when swimming.
If you have kids and plan to do some swimming it’s nice to know that they’re not going to find it hard to get back into the boat. Make sure that the duckboards are not a mess of control cables that you can get caught on. Most times the cables should come through on the opposite side to where you board. Even so, they should be neat and tidy.
Once in the boat you’ll find there’s only one rear seat, which is in the other corner. This isn’t a concern, however, as the helm seating has four positions so the crew can sit up under cover. Having the weight centrally in this fashion also helps the ride.
All the batteries, oil bottles and so forth are hidden in behind the transom, with the centre section of the transom hinging up to reveal the bilge and location of these items. The transom layout still gives you adequate room to move around and fish in either corner or over the side.
Side pockets are deep and long, with holders to keep fishing rods out of the way and up off the bottom of the pocket so you can still stow other items in them.
The main focus from here is the helm section, where we see the prime sitting and storage area. The seats are very cleverly designed, being moulded to fit onto the deck and against the sides of the cab as if it’s all in one. The front section of the bench-style seat is higher than the rear. People sitting on the front section look forward through the windscreen, and people sitting on the back section face the stern. Both seats are a good size and very comfortable.
What is impressive with this design is that the rear seat hinges forward to reveal the huge amount of storage that’s under the two seats. The seat actually hinges at the top of the backrest so it opens right up so larger items can be placed in and removed with ease.
It’s a very good way to offer good seating and to maximize an impressive area of storage. The driver’s side follows a similar design but with a different backrest set-up, which folds out the way so the seat top can hinge.
On the deck between the two seats is underfloor storage which acts as a fish box or day esky, giving you the space to leave the deck uncluttered.
The helm itself is simple yet continues to follow the stylish lines of the rest of the boat. A curved upper section displays the instruments with enough room for a number of gauges. Below this is the flat sloping section for flush mounting the electronics, followed by the standard toggle switches either side of the steering wheel. A nice little extra in this area is the open slot style glovebox to slip your keys and wallet alongside the radios.
Leading into the cabin is a nice wide entry recessed at the top so you don’t scrape your back while going in and out. It’s great for northern areas where good ventilation is important. For Southerners, a clip section can be added to keep the cold out and to provide some added privacy when using the toilet, which is housed under the bunks.
With the centre section in place the two bunks become one good-size bunk with storage below, and generous side pockets wrapping around the side of the cabin. If you want more ventilation through the cabin you can just open the hatch at the bow, which is also used to gain access to the anchor well.
The effort that’s gone into the design of the Tristram doesn’t stop with the interior. The hull delivers good stability and a ride capable of handing some pretty rough conditions.
It was pretty rough on the test day and it didn’t take much to appreciate the softness of the ride. Even when we smacked into those short deep troughs that throw spray out there was no bone-jarring shudder.
The beauty of this is that you can find those modest cruising speeds and not get bounced around all the way back home, constantly working the throttle back and forth between waves.
Having the 200hp Yamaha outboard on the back made this job easier as there was ample power there to keep the boat at those desired speeds. Too small an engine and you get sucked into the trough all the time and then struggle to get back over the next wave and onto the plane. All of this uses more fuel, makes it hard to drive and generally gives a poor ride.
Because Tristram is a new name in Australia there’s not a lot of feedback or many boats about to ask owners. With the good ride these boats offer and the smart layout, this situation will gradually change especially when you go back to the initial point of this review in the pricing.
The Tristram 641 can be purchased for under $60,000. That’s still a lot of money, I know, but if you have a good look at what else is available in similar styles you’ll see that it’s a competitive price.
There is a reasonable range to choose from, both larger and smaller and in a few different configurations. Further enquiries can be directed to Westside Boating (07) 3818 0400.
Make/model - Tristram 641 Avant Garde
Construction - Fibreglass
Length - 6.4m
Beam - 2.42m
Weight - 1703kg boat/motor/trailer
Deadrise - 22 degrees
Fuel - 170L underfloor
Max hp - 225
Height on trailer - 2.20m
Flotation - Foam filled
Price - from $59,990
1. The 641 Tristram glides smartly through the water and makes short work of choppy conditions.
2. Throughout the entire boat you’ll find smooth, curved lines. Here the transom layout allows good entry and tidy presentation and seating.
3. The helm seats provide an immense amount of storage below, with easy access.
4. The overall plan is very user-friendly.
5. The helm seat offers plenty of room for all instruments and is comfortable to drive both seated and standing.
6. The cabin bunks are 2m long and boast plenty of room to stretch out with more storage below.