Fit for a King
In just over ten years, Kingfisher has grown to become one of the leading aluminium boat manufacturers in the Bay of Plenty area, and has gained a reputation for attention to detail and willingness to satisfy customers’ needs and wants. The Kingfisher 650 Striking is an excellent example of the firm’s work. Freddy Foote travelled to the Bay of Plenty for a day on Tauranga harbour in Kingfisher’s latest creation.
On arrival in Tauranga I was welcomed by a beautiful sunny Bay of Plenty day and when I met Wayne Bakewell, the man behind Kingfisher, he told me he was hoping that sea conditions would be bumpy enough to demonstrate the true rough water handling of the boat. Test conditions were quite the reverse with miles and miles of blue flat water. Our test boat had already been sold, and its enthusiastic owner was only too happy to demonstrate his pride and joy for this boat test. A keen game fisherman, Gavin Hingston had downgraded in size, having previously owned a launch, but wanted a boat that he could handle on his own, be still large enough to travel to some of his favourite fishing spots around the Bay, while still having the option to overnight if need be.
Aesthetically, the 650 is a very attractive boat that definitely looks the business. The teak finish along the top of the gunnels and on the duckboard gives it that little something extra. Wayne very much prides himself on the finish and construction, with every little aspect of the boat coming under the closest scrutiny. Firstly looking down the side of the boat, the profile has quite a curve to it. Anyone with a physics orientated mind will know that curved is stiffer than straight, so in the event of a collision with a rock or container, the boat should take a knock alright. The 650 has also seen a few cosmetic changes from other Kingfisher models of the past, and now, we see the transition from the sides of the boat into the transom, more rounded and following more flowing lines. The 650 has a 5 mm thick hull bottom with 4 mm sides and 3 mm cabin. The framework under the floor features continuous welds the full length, ensuring that everything is held together firmly. The 650 is a very roomy boat, with every bit of space utilised to the maximum. The cabin is ideal for weekending, with Gavin having already stayed overnight four times. He says that you can comfortably sleep two adults and even three at a pinch! Plenty of storage space is available underneath the squabs, and there is an electric toilet located under the centre squab.
Anchoring access is perfect through the cabin hatch, with a switch control located within easy hand reach for the Quick windlass. There is also a small amount of side shelf storage available along the cabin sides. In the cockpit, the large dash is well finished and tidy, but because the boat has a diesel sterndrive the display gauges are bigger and take up more room than those for an outboard. However, there was still room on the dash for a Furuno 1650 GPS plotter. The seating layout has two pedestal seats forward, as well as two rear facing passenger queen style seats, with storage underneath. The cockpit is functional and fisherman friendly. Deep side pockets on each side take care of rod storage, and there is also the benefit of the optional rocket launcher. A large underfloor storage space is also provided, which is either a dive bottle locker or wetbin for your catch. Twin batteries are located in separate lockers on either side of the engine box. The little 4-cyl. engine doesn’t encroach too far into the cockpit, and with a fitted squab on the cover means this is yet another sitting area. The engine cover opens forward and the special hinge mechanism means the whole cover is removable for better access while servicing. Gavin says he can fish four out of his boat comfortably, and has the option of a bait board either side, which basically keeps everyone out of everyone else’s way. Stability at rest is excellent and the boat isn’t subject to erratic shifts when the crew is moving about – something that is a must when a boat like this is obviously going to be used for fishing and diving offshore.
The coamings feature thick padding inside, designed to add extra comfort to the thigh area when leaning forward tackling that big kingie. The tops of the coamings are covered with flexi-teak, giving the boat a real classy finish. Flexi-teak covers the top of the duckboard, which also features a self circulating live-bait tank as well as a berley pot. treadplate floor is fitted, covered by a removable rubber floor matting, the idea being to have a floor cover that is removable so that the entire cockpit can be hosed out after a successful fishing trip. Access is available to the bow by walking around the sides, with the treadplate continued up on the foredeck. To prevent water running off the bow and into the cockpit, a deflector had been fitted which diverts the water off over the side. Another good feature was a small groove along the top of the gunnel, which prevented water running over the side and down the front of your pants when you’re leaning up against the side.
Sterndrive or Outboard?
The helm arrangement for driving is ideal, in either the seated or standing position, with excellent visibility forward. The passenger seat is within easy reach of grab rails to the side and also directly in front along the edge of the dash. These proved very effective with three of us standing when we ran the boat in the rougher conditions. On our test day we had the clear canopy visor fitted, which added extra protection from the wind and combined with the bimini top gave the impression of being in a hardtop. The canopy actually extends to enclose the whole boat, making it an ideal weekender. Our test boat was fitted with a 1.7- litre MerCruiser diesel with Alpha drive, an option that ideally suits Gavin, as it enables him to troll for gamefish, and also provides excellent fuel economy. This boat is certainly equipped for long distance trips and with a 180-litre fuel capacity the destination options seem endless. On a recent trip, 3 days of trolling used only 85 litres of fuel! I was pleasantly surprised to find the little MerCruiser both responsive and powerful, pushing us to a maximum speed of 34.5 mph @ 4300 rpm. While that isn’t exactly fast, it’s more than adequate for what the boat is utilised for. I mean really, just how fast do you actually need to go on the open sea? Most days you can’t do more than 25 mph anyway, because it’s simply too rough! Wayne is proud of his soft riding hull designs, and the 650 was no different. Exiting Tauranga harbour and heading out around Mt Maunganui we experienced a few nice big rolling swells, and even taking the boat through a few that were coming into the beach, the boat performed faultlessly. First impression is of a safe, sturdy boat that rides well. Handling wise, the boat performed very well. I was able to throw it into a sharp turn at 30 mph and the boat just dug in and held right through the turn, with absolutely no power loss or prop slip. Another thing that I liked was that the motor required very little trim, and that the MerCruiser trim gauge was ultra sensitive.
One or two presses of the button and the trim went all the way from low through to high. Manoeuvrability was excellent, especially in reverse, and ideal for backing up on that big marlin. Hitting the throttle into full reverse, water expectedly flowed up over the duckboard but never made it up over the transom. As a package, our test boat was fairly much customised, and Wayne likes to be able to offer his customers anything they want. Everything that is aluminium on the boat comes standard, and other features such as the flexi-teak finish is an owner option. The Kingfisher 650 Striking has undoubtedly an accent on fishing, and the layout really supports this idea. Overall, the 650 is genuinely hard to fault. I can see the 650 not only being a favourite amongst the fishing fraternity, but divers as well. The large cockpit gives plenty of room to move, and the added duckboard makes access in and out of the boat ideal – truly a boat designed by a fisherman for fishermen. Wayne and his team at Kingfisher Boats have obviously put a lot of thought into the design and construction and the final product is sure to be a winner.
- Model: Kingfisher 650 Striking
- Price as Tested: $89,000
- Price Boat Only: $24,400
- Designer: Kingfisher Boats
- Material: Aluminium
- Type: Cabin
- LOA: 7.0 m
- LOH: 6.5 m
- Beam: 2.45 m
- Deadrise: 18 degrees
- Hull Configuration: Deep V
- Trailerable Weight: 1600 kg
- Height on Trailer: 2.55 m
- Engine Capacity: 115-200hp
- Power Options: sterndrive or outboard
- Fuel Capacity: 180 litres