In 1998 CSB Huntsman released the Dorado, which, after nearly 800 boats has proven to be its most successful model ever and arguably New Zealand’s biggest selling 5.5m boat. However, despite the popularity there has been a call for some time for something similar but bigger – a boat that encompasses all the best of the Dorado and then some. Hail the CSB Huntsman Sotalia, a boat that fills the gap between the 5.5m Dorado and the well established 6.2m Series 6000.
Firstly, why Sotalia? Sotalia is a dolphin found in the Amazon River and follows the company’s previous naming of the La Plata and the Dorado models that are also named after species of dolphins.
“There hasn’t been a new fibreglass production boat of this size released on the market for a few years so we felt we needed to do something”, said Geoff Robinson, MD of CSB Huntsman Boats.
Amongst the prerequisites for the Sotalia was while it needed to be a bigger boat, it should still be suitable for a single axle, non-braked trailer and not need a 4WD or similar to tow it.
“We went from the 5.5m Dorado and then if anyone wanted to move up they had to go to a minimum of the Series 6000, which at 6.2m was just a little too big in all aspects for some people”, says Geoff.
He adds, ” The new boat had to be big volume, with maximum beam, freeboard and as big a cockpit and cabin layout as we could fit into the available space”.
The Sotalia is 200mm wider at the gunnel than the Dorado and interestingly carries 100mm more beam than the Series 6000, albeit 350mm shorter. It is the same beam as the 7m Huntsman Crusader! The hull is over 150kg lighter and the trailerable weight is probably down by around 400kg over the Series 6000.
Despite the extra dimensions of the Sotalia, there is a gain in hull weight of fewer than 100kg over the Dorado and the tow weight, considering the Dorado would have a smaller outboard is only up by around 150kg.
The hull is effectively based on the Crusader that has the same planing strake structure and opposing chines to the keel. This is designed so when you gun the throttle the boat gets up onto the plane easily and provides exceptional stability at rest. With a 21.5 deg deadrise at the stern, it’s also made to handle rough water.
Broad Power Options
The Sotalia is rated for 115hp to 200hp outboards, although in my opinion 200hp is an overkill and the engine range we tested, 130hp-150hp, is the perfect combination, with good top end and plenty of low-down punch, as well as good economy.
We had the opportunity to run the boat twice, once at Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu with an Evinrude ETEC 150 and a few weeks later at Lake Hood (Ashburton) with an Evinrude ETEC 130.
Lake Wakatipu provided us with the rough water we needed and the Sotalia didn’t disappoint. Lake Hood was mirror smooth. For a boat of its size it outperforms many of its peers. The hull works as it is designed to, with a slippery transition onto the plane and a marginal bow lift. It reaches maximum speed very quickly. The ETEC 150 topped out at 49 mph with a 17″ Viper propeller and the ETEC 130 at 41 mph @ 6000rpm also running a 17″ Viper. A change to a 19″ on the ETEC 130 would bring the rpm down by 200 rpm and probably increase the top end speed by one mph or so.
Both power options suited the Sotalia – it just depends on how fast you want to go. Both engine packages offered a nice comfortable cruise around 4500 rpm with reasonably good fuel economy. You have the option of 20″ or 25″ transom heights and the transom moulding has been designed to take a variety of mechanical steering styles.
The benefit of the maximum beam is really evident when you transfer weight in the boat, either underway or at rest. It’s stable and produces minimal heel. In high-speed turns it hangs on, grips and turns flat, with enough bite to dislodge any unsuspecting passengers.
The driving position is designed so when sitting you look through the one-piece perspex screen and are out of the wind. If you stand to drive then you’ll find the remotes easily at hand and with the seat base slid back you can stand comfortably.
CSB Huntsman builds its boats with a heavy duty top railing around the windscreen so this doubles as a hand hold and eliminates the need for a separate stainless steel handrail.
Another major consideration when designing the layout was to maximise the storage areas as well as make it a comfortable layout for six people. The standard seating package is for five, with a portside back-to-back, single skipper seat and two rear seats, but there is enough space to replace the single helm seat with another back to back. Or you can go for a couple of single swivel seats forward and really open the cockpit up for fishing space. The rear seats/fish bins slide out of the way under the aft deck when not required so you gain a bit more fishing work area.
The fully lined cabin has wide side trays with padded backrests and seating for at least four average size adults and a couple of 1.71m long berths. An optional central infill turns the whole area into one big pad if you are keen to go overnighting. The area under the squabs is all filled with foam buoyancy so there is no storage available.
A separate headliner allows the large Maxwell deck hatch to be mounted flush. From here you can do all your anchoring, but there is enough space under the anchor locker hatch to fit a fully automatic rope/chain winch.
The cockpit of the Sotalia is 300mm wider and the coamings 150mm higher than the Dorado, so you are talking a big increase of working space, be it for fishing, diving, towing water toys or family cruising. The increased height of the coamings also offers a feeling of extra safety, which is something that anyone boating with small children will appreciate. The same can be said for the rear seats that come up high enough so you don’t feel like you’re about to fall out over the transom when the throttle goes down.
Non-feedback steering is standard (hydraulic is an option) and the remotes can be either flush or recess mounted. The split-level facia is designed to take three large digital displays above and up to a 7″ sounder/plotter/GPS, with space also for a stereo, VHF and all the necessary switches.
The back-to-back seating tilts up to expose a massive storage area underneath. The other big storage area is under the cockpit sole, where you can stow all your wet gear such as dive tanks, dive gear, wakeboards and waterskis. Both side shelves have rod holder racks under the coamings for rods up to 2.2m long. There are smaller upper shelves forward to look after your keys, cellphone and sunnies.
The rear bin seats provide some more storage or can be used as bait bins. Between the two seats is a dedicated locker for the battery and oil tank, plus, with the addition of a stay to hold it up, the lid can be utilised as an aft table. This could also be converted to a handy bait board with the addition of a polyethylene or teflon surface.
The Sotalia comes standard with two coaming mounted rod holders, with provision for two more in the moulded area between the rear bin seats. Standard are a couple of flush mounted drink holders and the optional ski pole doubles as a good handhold. A testament to the level of thought that has gone into the layout is that part of the rear deck area has moulded armrests for the rear seat passengers.
While the boat comes with a 100-litre underfloor stainless steel fuel tank there is still space under the aft deck and behind the bin seats for two 25-litre tote tanks.
An optional cockpit bimini is available and folds down below the windscreen line for when you need to get the boat back in the garage. Quick-release stainless steel fittings make getting it on and off easy. Side and front clears are also available for all-round protection.
Released at the Waikato Boat Show in mid October, the Sotalia is a typical Kiwi style family cabin runabout. It brings together all the best of the model range from CSB Huntsman and packs them into a big-volume small boat. Next year the Sotalia will come out with a full washout GRP inner liner.
Due to the big demand for the boat and the fact that the inner liner was still many months away from completion, the company felt it was better to get the boat on the market with a traditional GRP underfloor top hat section with GRP cockpit sole, rather than miss the coming season.
“We feel the boat is currently a bit over-engineered, so when we bring on the new liner we can relook at the structural engineering of the boat and should be able to drop some weight out”, says Geoff.
He added that after this final feature is introduced they will complete the CPC Certification.
He is confident that the Sotalia will eventually overtake the Dorada in sales and while I feel the Dorada will remain a popular choice for a long time to come, I would have to agree with him. Despite the fact that the Sotalia has been a long time coming it has been well worth the wait. Not since the Dorado has CSB Huntsman produced a model that is unquestionably destined to be one of the best in its class.
If you thought the Dorado was a good boat then you are going to love the Sotalia.
- Make: CSB Huntsman
- Model: Sotalia
- Designer: CSB Huntsman Boats
- Price As Tested: NZ $ 58,237
- Packages from: NZ $ 48,925
- Material: GRP
- Type: Cabin Runabout
- LOA: 5.85m
- Beam: .2.35m
- Deadrise: 21.5 degrees
- Trailerable Weight: 1200 kg (approx)
- Height on Trailer: 2.20m
- Engine Capacity: 115hp – 200hp
- Power Options: Outboard only
- Fuel Capacity: 100 litres
Performance ETEC 130 ETEC 150
|1000||1.5 mph||1.3||4.0 mph||1.9|
|1500||3.0 mph||2.6||7.0 mph||4.5|
|2000||5.5 mph||5.4||8.0 mph||9.7|
|2500||11.0 mph||11.2||14.0 mph||11.5|
|3000||16.5 mph||16.6||22.5 mph||16.5|
|3500||19.5 mph||19.5||27.5 mph||22|
|4000||24.0 mph||24.2||34.5 mph||28|
|4500||27.5 mph||27.4||39.0 mph||34|
|5000||32.5 mph||32.4||44.5 mph||49|