Haines Signature 550BR

by admin
Haines Signature 550

Author : Barry Thompson

Take a Bow

Trans Tasman co-operation is alive and well, as the new Haines Signature 550 Bowrider clearly shows.


It’s almost 16 years since Christchurch based Reflex Products Ltd teamed up with John Haines in Australia to build Haines Signature boats under contract in New Zealand. By 1990 Reflex had secured the full manufacturing and distribution rights for Haines Signature in New Zealand. Today it is regarded as one of the major manufacturers in New Zealand and through its unique association with Australia’s largest GRP trailerboat builder is able to offer an extensive range of both locally produced and imported models. The 550 Bowrider falls into the former category and is one of a number of Haines Signature models that Reflex builds in its extensive Bromley factory. Currently there are six models built under licence, – 670C, 550C, 550BR,530C and 492C, 492S, although a number of others are currently under consideration. Production runs at around 10-12 boats a month from an annual build of around 240 boats a year, including their own Like all Haines Signature models built in New Zealand, the boat first underwent a ‘kiwification’ to make it more acceptable to the local market. While in the past this has meant a number of significant changes, in the case of the 550 Bowrider it was quite subtle. It is a packaged bowrider that fits nicely into the market and whilst bowriders are not a major sector for local manufacturers, the same cannot be said for those from the USA.

Bayliner and Sea Ray and more recently Four Winns have had an enormous impact on how we view bowriders, and local manufacturers, while slow to accept the trend, have responded to a limited extent. Haines Signature offers six bowriders, from the 460BR to the 610BR in its 24-model range, and all are derived from the same hulls as used for cabin models. All are available through New Zealand dealers, although currently it is only the 610, 530 and 550 bowrider models that have found their way across the Tasman. The 550BR we tested was very close to home as it’s one of our two company boats this summer and by the time I got hold of it, it already had about 15 hours clocked up. Most of that time was spent in family boating and fishing, with the occasional sea biscuit being towed behind. Those who participated in the Propeller Magazine/Latimer Hotel Poker Run late last year in Christchurch would have seen the boat in the event. That was our ‘official’ launching and shortly after that, the 550 was shipped to Auckland, where it is meticulously looked after by Doug Dukeson, co director and advertising manager of NZ Propeller Magazine.

“We have had a great summer break with the boat”, said Doug. “It has performed better than I would have expected for a boat of its size and while I must admit I did have some reservations about it only being 5.5 m long, it handled the Auckland Harbour water conditions very well, from glassy smooth to reasonably rough seas. “We have had up to six people in the boat and neither the ride nor handling of the boat was adversely affected at all”, Doug added.


Part of the reason for this is unquestionably the very special running sections of the hull or SVDH (Signature Variable Deadrise Hull) which carries a world patent. According to Haines, the design offers several advantages over the traditional V bottom hull, giving improved stability at rest compared to a conventional deep V boat and lower planing speeds for a flatter, drier ride. The hull design, says Haines, has another special feature, the way the hull manipulates the water. Water flows transversely over the warped hull, created by the concave section and as water cannot be compressed it creates enormous amounts of lift and therefore lower planing speeds. The benefits are also translated in a more efficient hull which is more friendly on fuel consumption. During our tests we did feel that in the calm water when towing water toys the 550BR effortlessly stayed on the plane at low speeds. When the throttle is punched hard, the hull leaps up and it quickly reached maximum rpm. A wide ski plank – 350 mm at the transom – extends almost the full length of the running surface and with two wide down-turned strakes per side plus a double chine, the water doesn’t get much of a chance to ride above the chine. About a metre from the bow the strakes are still over 80 mm wide.

Looking at the SVDH for the first time you may be excused for thinking that the designer (John Haines) had got carried away and maybe gone a little too far. But once you experience the boat in rough water you get to quickly understand that the principles actually work. The ride is comfortable and the spray minimal. However, the compromise for that excellent ride in the rough is the annoyance of bad chine and strake slap at low speeds. This can be eliminated to some extent by trimming the boat down, but it’s not so easy to steer. So what’s

more important to you, a soft ride in rough water or a noisy ride in the calm? Since our test on the 550 BR Reflex have now added foam under all the for’ard sections which should also help eliminate the noise. Our test boat was fitted with a Suzuki DF140, which is hardly surprising since the Haines Group also holds the distribution rights for Suzuki outboards in Australia and New Zealand. The DF140 four-stroke is a four-cylinder, multi point sequential electronic fuel injected engine that is both compact, lightweight (186 kg) and for its size packs a mean punch. It is both quiet and economical. We tried a couple of propeller combinations to see if there was much difference. With only 1″ variation in pitch, but the same diameter (14″) there were in fact only marginal differences throughout the range. The 20″ three-blade Solas which gave a top speed of 42.5mph @ 6000 rpm and the 21″ three-blade Solas was about 1 mph faster at 43.5 mph, but at a more economical 5800 rpm. At 4500 rpm the 20″ pulled 31 mph and the 21″, 33.5 mph. At 3500 rpm there was half a mile an hour in favour of the 21″. Below that there was little difference. Both ran around 3 mph @ 500 rpm.

Sit Down in Style

The 550BR is really a sit down to drive in style boat with no pretence for standing. However if you are like me and in certain situations prefer to see over the screen rather than through it (the one on the 550BR is extremely good) then your ‘standing’ is more a balancing act with one knee on the seat cushion and the other acting as a brace. The design of the single swivelling bucket seats are such that you can’t comfortably sit on the backrest. Optional back-to-back seats are available and would fix the problem. However, when seated the driving position is great, with all the instruments and controls within easy view or reach. I loved the UFlex soft grip steering wheel. This is a boat that must have a flush mounted control box and while there is no provision for flush mounted electronics, the bracket mounted Navman Fish4200 fishfinder right in the centre of the dash looked right in place and didn’t obstruct the view of the instruments or compass mounted into the top of the facia. An imitation walnut panel behind the instrument cluster adds a nice touch. I was a little concerned about the flimsy way in which the centre of the windscreen was supported and in rough water, with flexing you may find the central opening panel could pop inwards. We had already bent the centre panel prior to the test, but a heavier extrusion would certainly have eliminated that problem. Stitches Upholstery made a nice job of the bimini which is high enough to stand under and provides excellent all protection from the sun. Clip on clears can be fitted when the trip back home looks like being dodgy. Although a bowrider, where the area up forward is used to its maximum advantage, the space allocated is not large, (just over 1 m long) but about right for a boat of this size, being ideal for a couple of kids to sit, with storage lockers underneath, and comfortable corner backrests. I liked the use of a wide stainless fairlead and solid bollard and the extra-voluminous anchor locker. There is space provided for a small capstan also. The cockpit layout in our test boat was very conventional with twin for’ard moulded seats and a rear full width bench seat. However, there is an optional rear sundeck with storage locker under behind the rear seat. At 600 mm wide this necessitates the rear bench moving forward and encroaches a lot into the cockpit space. If you are a fisherman, forget it! If you are a sunlover and prefer cruising around the bays on a nice day, then go for it! At first glance there doesn’t seem to be an over abundance of storage space provided. Wide side trays under each coaming look after the rods etc, but with nothing in the seat base and no underfloor lockers due to the fuel tank and positive foam buoyancy taking up all the space, where does everything go? Behind and under the bench seat there’s enough space to more than handle just about everything from spare tote tanks to dive and fishing gear. When Doug and his mates go fishing, they leave the bench seat behind and thereby open up a huge uncluttered cockpit area. Add in a couple of plastic bins for the bait and the catch and you’ve got yourself a nifty little fishing boat. A deep glove box ahead of the forward passenger is a great dry storage area for things like the cellphone, handheld VHF, EPIRB and car keys and as it’s self draining, with a bag of ice tossed in it can also double as a chiller for your drinks. Over the transom, attention to detail extends to the moulded anti skid throughout the engine well and boarding areas, a dedicated fuel filler moulding and tidy routing of all the fuel and control cables. The 550BR has a fully extended transom with recessed areas either side suitable to fit trim tabs. No portofino stern as such, but the design provides all the benefits of having one. Overall the 550BR is a handsome little boat that carries all the best attributes of the Haines Signature range. The SVDH hull certainly seems to do the business and coupled to the finish and overall layout of the boat it’s got to be a winner on both sides of the Tasman.


  • Model: 550BR
  • Price (Boat Only): $21,000
  • Price as Tested: $48,045
  • Designer: John Haines
  • Builder: Reflex Products
  • Type: Bowrider
  • LOA: 5.80 m
  • LOH: 5.50 m
  • Beam: 2.22 m
  • Height on Trailer: 1.90 m
  • Deadrise: 33-21 degrees
  • Trailerable Weight: 1.340 kg
  • Engine Capacity: 115-150 hp
  • Power Options: Outboard Only
  • Fuel Capacity: 145 litres

related articles