A few years ago when I first reviewed one of the New Zealand-made Aqualine alloy pontoon boats, I was impressed although I did note it was a bit bare-boned, lacking features which make it fishable.
When assigned to review the Aqualine 590 Hardtop, I was keen to see how they had progressed.
It’s always a pleasant journey up the old Pacific Highway to Cowan just north of Sydney where Huett Marine have been in business for many years. Run by Roger, wife Sue and son Craig, Huetts have gained a reputation as boat sellers that put the customer first. Trained marine mechanics, Roger and Craig are fountains of knowledge on all things boating.
I pulled into the yard on one of those days made in Heaven – blue skies, no wind and a very balmy 26° and within minutes we were on our way down to the Parsley Bay ramp at Brooklyn, just a ten minute drive away.
I have yet to see a Kiwi boat that’s not made tough and sporting an excellent finish and this 5.9m Aqualine Hardtop was no exception.
Because safety is always paramount in my thinking, this boat already scored well with its level flotation rating. That means if swamped, it will float level in calm water.
A transom-width swim platform supports the 115hp Evinrude E-Tec outboard. Craig had experimented with a few propeller sizes and came up trumps with a four-blade, 15” Cyclone stainless prop which gave just over 5000rpm at wide open throttle.
The small transom door is sealed by a guillotine-style plate and there’s a plumbed live bait well inset into the transom which would hold around four or five slimy mackerel and maybe half a dozen yellowtail.
Under the removable rear lounge is the single battery (I would ask for a twin battery system to be installed with a four-way battery switch if you tend to go offshore with a heap of power-hungry electronics) and the oil reservoir for the motor. All are placed on a shelf away from any intruding water.
A cutting board/bait preparation table is at an ergonomic height and I thought the deck wash, which runs off the live bait pump, was a great idea to keep everything clean.
Underfloor is a 150L fuel tank is ample for sorties which take you a long way from shore. For easy wash-down, the deck is solid, sealed chequerplate.
Also underfloor is a huge, drained kill tank to house the catch. A spring keeps the lid open so you can use both hands to put in or take out fish.
Four plastic rod holders (I would replace with aluminium or stainless steel) are set in the gunwales and covered with plastic caps.
Although not my favourites, the boat comes with king/queen seats. I find they are intrusive into cockpit space and although they contain storage, I would opt for pedestal seats.
Above the hardtop is a six-shooter rocket launcher and the compulsory all-round white light. There’s lots of room under the hardtop and the view through the hardened glass windscreen was excellent.
As it was a warm day, I slid back the side windows to allow air to circulate. In rough weather, the electric wiper will be a godsend to retain forward vision. The inside of the hardtop is fully lined and there’s a fluoro light overhead.
Evinrude’s I-Command gauges on the walnut dash are a treat. It’s easy to see status of the engine portrayed in any configuration you want and I could have spent an hour going through all the functions.
Our test boat had the big-screen Navman Trackfish 6600 GPS/sounder combo and a Navman VHF radio complete with the emergency DSC to give a position fix. There’s plenty of dash room to add to the electronics.
Also on the dash are the controls for the electric anchor winch, a nice touch for those who don’t like going up forward and getting their arms lengthened pulling up the pick.
The single arm of the concealed control box is just nice for the right hand and the waterproof, fused, six-gang switch panel looks after all the electrics.
The fully lined cabin has a homely feel and there are side pockets for handy storage. A small adult could curl up and sleep. Two small slits port and starboard let in light and there is a small, smoked hatch in the cabin top with access to the foredeck. In the forward bulkhead is the hatch to access the chain locker.
A step down from the gunwale is a small, non-slip ledge to get to the bow from the cockpit. Something all boats should have to stop ‘wharf rash’ is the large, heavy-duty rubbing strip standard on the Aqualine 590HT.
I have to say the Aqualine is one of the best-riding plate boats I have been in. The deep vee takes all the brunt out of the chop and we kept dry as a bone, shielded by the hardtop.
Steering is very positive with the boat going exactly where you point it, even against wind and tide. There were no vices at all with this boat in cross or following seas. The lean test inevitably showed very little heel and the high gunwales give a feeling of safety.
Due to the high level of flotation, a bit of interior beam room is sacrificed but three can fish very comfortably without any fights.
Aqualines have a distinctive shape that takes a little getting used to but I found beauty in the lines, which gave the rig the look of a workhorse. I would be more than happy to fish outside in this rig because it sports all the safety features I demand.
2 pontoon storage hatches; rear boarding platform; heavy-duty rubber gunwale fenders; 4 rod holders; bow roller; foredeck hatch; drained anchor well; hydraulic steering; pedestal bucket seats; navigation lights; underfloor 150L fuel tank; in-floor kill tank; plumbed live bait well; king/queen seats; windscreen wiper; full-width removable rear lounge; hardtop with glass front windows and sliding glass side windows; cockpit light; bunk cushions; custom trailer; deck wash; rigging and cutting board; rod rocket launcher; boarding ladder; VHF radio; I-Command E-Tec gauges; Navman TF colour GPS/Sounder combo; electric anchor winch; 1100gph bilge pump; 6-way switch panel; battery isolating switch; battery box; bow rail; walk through transom; transom rail; ski hooks.
Price as tested including all registrations, safety gear, custom trailer, 115hp Evinrude E-Tec and on-water instruction: $68,500.
Boat supplied by Huett Marine Centre, 1131 Pacific Highway, Cowan, NSW 2081. Ph 02 9456 1444, fax 02 9456 2477. email --e-mail address hidden-- website: www.huettmarine.com.auReads: 3002