By Freddy Foote
Blue Water Boats is the latest custom alloy builder to release a production range, bringing all the core attributes of big boat performance to a smaller, affordable package. Freddy Foote checks out the new Bluewater 550 Cuddy.
Blue Water Boats have been a quiet achiever on the New Zealand market for a number of years. With their core business being the construction of larger alloy trailer boats and Coastguard vessels, the company is broadening its horizons by the release of a production range of smaller models.
Their new 550 Cuddy is the smallest in the production range, with a slightly large 5.9m version also available.
The new 550 Cuddy is a bit of an all-rounder. Trick it out with a few extra’s and you’ll have a well-appointed fishing boat for day excursions, but it will also double as a great family boat with plenty of room for gear storage and the 5mm hull will ensure you’ll be able to tackle the trickiest conditions in safety.
Blue Water Boats Managing Director, Paul Colcord says the new 550 Cuddy was designed to meet a certain price point in the market.
“We wanted to introduce a smaller model to our line-up, and have them available through a dealer network,” says Colcord.
“We also wanted to set it apart from other models out there performance wise, hence the 5mm hull and also have a basic package price under $45,000.”
Big Boat Feel
The 550 Cuddy shares a lot of the ‘big boat’ DNA that Blue Water Boats is traditionally been known for. As you step aboard, there are adequately sized boarding platforms either side of the outboard pod, with the starboard corner featuring a boarding ladder with a walk through into the cockpit. A grab rail aids in re-entering the boat from the water.
Across the transom are two sizeable lockers for stowage of miscellaneous items such as tackle boxes, etc. They also house all the boats onboard systems such as the batteries and filters. Additional storage is located on the floor under the transom.
The cockpit itself is quite spacious with long side shelves running right up to the helm seating area. Two plastic rod holders are fitted on each side of the coamings. Further storage is located under the cockpit, with one large locker aft and another forward between the seating. The underfloor fuel tank is located between.
Seating consists of two pedestal seats mounted above storage lockers which makes great use of what otherwise would be wasted space. Should you want a different seating configuration, a king/queen style arrangement can also be fitted – a better option if you’re looking at a more child-friendly layout.
Opposite the helm, there is a storage shelf for small items such as keys and mobile phones. Forward in the cabin, carpeted side shelves line both sides while the traditional vee bunks have storage space underneath. Above a large deck hatch provides access to the anchor well forward.
On the Water
Underway, visibility forward through the curved windshield is excellent. The high profile windscreen provides great protection from the wind when you are seated. The seating position is very comfortable and there are well-placed footrest for both the driver and passenger. The large dash incorporates the Honda engine gauges with plenty of room left to mount a multi function navigation/sonar display.
Integral with the rocket launcher is a bimini, which can be folded down so the boat can be stored in a standard garage.
Our 550 Cuddy was fitted with a Honda 90hp four-stroke outboard, which pushed the hull along to a top speed of 32 knots. We couldn’t get any fuel burn figures on our test day, but I would imagine thanks to Honda’s four-stroke technology they would be quite good.
Transition onto the plane was at around 3000rpm, and we found a nice cruise speed in the flat conditions of around 19knots at 4000rpm on our test day.
Power ratings for the 550 Cuddy range from 90hp two-stroke outboards through to 115hp.
The 90hp Honda performed well, but I would have gone for the 115hp two-stroke, as the boat is more than capable of handling it. If you’re wanting a little more punch and performance, particularly if you’re going to do a lot of boating with family and gear, then go for the bigger power..
Once out on the water, I quickly got the feel for how solid the 550 really is. The 550 is no ordinary kiwi tinnie…. far from it. This is a boat that is over engineered, just like all the boats that come out of Blue Water’s West Auckland factory.
Though we didn’t get to experience any really rough water conditions, I am very confident that the 550 will handle the rough stuff just fine. We ran through some tight turns to create some chop and the 5mm hull sliced through it with ease. No banging or thumping and overall a very comfortable ride.
The 550 Cuddy is constructed with a 5mm hull and transom with a 4 mm topsides, 3mm cabin sides and top, and a 4 mm treadplate floor lines the inside.
At rest, with two of us moving around the cockpit, the 550 is ultra stable.
Back at the ramp, the 550 Cuddy is easily handled back onto its single axle trailer and could be launched with just one person. The compact size of the 550 means that it can also be beach launched.
The basic motor trailer and boat package with a 90-two stroke starts at $42,000, while our as tested package was $53,780 with the 90hp Honda four-stroke outboard. The only thing I feel was missing from the package as tested was a MFD and a bait board.
For me, one of the key features of the 550 is the 5mm hull. There aren’t too many boats of this size on the market with a 5mm hull and it really sets it apart, especially in the ride. A little extra weight and stiffness is always good.
Overall I really liked the boat. Well built, in fact, the words overbuilt come to mind, but that’s a good thing.
The Blue Water 550 Cuddy was one of the new releases at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show in May, so if you’re in the market for a 5.5m alloy trailer boat, make sure you check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
- Model & Model: Blue Water 550 Cuddy
- Priced from: $42,000
- Price as tested: $53,780
- Type: Cabin
- Construction: Alumnium
- LOA: 5.6m
- Beam: 2.3m
- Deadrise: 18 degree
- Height on trailer: ??
- Trailerable weight: ??
- Test Power: 90hp
- Propeller: 17” Solas 3 Blade
- Power options: Outboard
- HP Range: 90-115hp
- Fuel capacity: 105L
- Trailer: Hoskings Single Axle