The McLay 725 Cruiser Hardtop represents a growing trend not just for McLay Boats, but builders throughout the country. McLay has seen such an increase that there are four out of six builders at their factory, solely focused on building the hardtop range. Freddy Foote went to Whangarei and put the 725 Cruiser through its paces.
The 725 is a prototype model developed by McLay and since our test, a revised model is in production with a number of changes made and is to be renamed the 745 Cruiser Hardtop.
“From this prototype model we have lengthened the sides out aft and changed the transom, and we’ve also put a plank underneath, just to improve stability at rest more than anything” says McLay Boats Manager Neville Gardner.
This 725, was stocked by Northland’s McLay dealer, Warren Hay Marine in Whangarei. Warren told me that his biggest sellers in the McLay range were the hardtops and he had been selling a number of the smaller 680 Hardtop models coupled with 200hp Verados. For our test day we decided to head out of the Whangarei heads and up the coast for a bit of a fish. Well, I had driven two hours to get there, so I was hopeful of at least not coming home empty handed!
The layout is typical of what you will find right through McLay’s hardtop range. In the large for’ard cabin there is a full sized double berthwhich is made up by inserting two infills into the middle. Storage space is available underneath the squabs, and also on the wide side shelves that run the full length of the lower cabin. If ventilation is needed there is a large aluminium hatch that can be opened, and which also allows access to the foredeck and anchor well.
In the helm cabin, seating is made up of two fitted bench seats, one for the driver and one for the passenger side. For additional passenger seating an infill and backrest can be added along the rear of the cabin with the bi-folding doors closed, which provides seating for four adults. Both passenger and driver’s seats have footrests and while the driver has the steering wheel to hold onto, a large grab rail is available forward for other passengers.
Storage space is available underneath the driver’s seat, and under the passenger seat is a fridge, accessed by lifting the squab. To keep things airy inside the cabin, both port and starboard sides have sliding windows to allow fresh air into the cabin.
A larger carpeted parcel shelf sits below the windscreen and is a good place to keep the car keys, cell phones charts etc, while above a VHF is fitted, as well as a DVD player complete with fold-down flat screen, a great idea to keep the kids occupied when they tire of fishing for the day.
Outside in the cockpit, two seats are positioned directly behind the cabin bulkhead. On the starboard side, a gas cooker and bottle is stored here, while on the portside, a freshwater tank is located. A large underfloor storage locker is accessed by lifting the carpet, and it recedes forward under the cabin. A generous space by any standards, it is big enough to keep half a dozen dive bottles, wet gear, hapuka, bluenose, whatever you want really
Side pockets extend along both sides of the cockpit, while six rod holders are dotted around the top decks, and also built into the removable bait board situated aft.
Divers will love the access in and out of the boat; a large walkthrough is built into the transom on the port side, and can be closed off by inserting the slide-in door, which can be stored further along on a built-in bracket. A dive ladder then folds down neatly onto the generous boarding platform. While this boat hadn’t been fitted with one yet, a live bait tank was to be mounted on the boarding platform on the starboard side, however, it is worth noting that McLay can build a fully plumbed tank directly into the transom, with an acrylic viewing window.
This was my first ever run in a boat powered by a Mercury Verado supercharged outboard, and I had been eager to experience it first hand and to see for myself what all the hype was about.
The 725 is designed to be powered from upward of 150hp outboards, up through to a 275, with sterndrive and twin outboard installations also available.
Our test boat was set-up with a Mercury 225hp Verado, and I have to say that it truly is quite a marvel of technology. The first thing I noticed was just how quiet it was, under full power with the cabin doors open, we were able to converse normally without any shouting in each other’ ears, and there was absolutely no droning of any kind that can usually be found in hardtops with traditional outboards.
Applying the throttle, the power comes on quickly, and with Mercury’s new fly-by-wire technology, there was just no resistance from the throttle lever when pushing down the power, quite a weird feeling to be honest, and it took a little getting used to. I found the best way of applying the power is by gently tapping the throttle lever, It is also worth noting that the resistance of the throttle can be adjusted by tightening a screw.
Swinging a 15” Mirage and pulling full revs on the gauges at 6250rpm, the 225 Verado pushed the 725 to a top speed of 43mph, which is what I would have expected. Handling and manoeuvrability for such a big boat was amazing, I could literally throw the boat into a tight turn at speed and it turned ‘on a dime’, with no prop slip or cavitation.
On the return trip from our fishing trip back to Whangarei harbour, we encountered some truly angry water. The wind was gusting 30-35knots, producing big hole-like troughs between the waves. Enclosed in the hardtop, we powered out way through the waves doing our best to try tomake the ride as comfortable as possible at a relatively sedate 22mph. We did get banged around a little bit as we came off some waves quite hard, but it would have been the same result no matter what boat we were in. As we changed direction, we turned into a following sea, and the boat was easy to control and didn’t stray off line or do anything unsettling.
The McLay probably isn’t the softest riding boat in the world, but what it lacks in that department it makes up for in its awesome stability.
In flatter more comfortable conditions I found the best cruising speed was at around 35mph at 5000rpm, and again the engine was just so quiet, I had to keep looking at the GPS to see actually how fast we were going.
Four of us were able to fish very comfortably in the large cockpit, quite often with three or all four of us on one side of the boat and we kept track of our lines with the changing of the wind and the boat swinging accordingly. I also noticed the cockpit had been finished with lighting for night fishing, and could be illuminated with a large spotlight mounted just beneath the rocket launcher. Additional lighting was mounted on the forward section of the hardtop, which could be rotated around past 360 degrees.
The fishing was relatively successful, and amazingly I managed to catch three and a nice snapper that went down well for dinner that night.
The hardtop market is undoubtedly what is keeping most of the aluminium builders busy lately, and McLay is no exception.
“We are very busy building our whole range of hardtop models, from the new 610 that we released last year to the 650, 680 right up to a new 805 model, that will be our biggest model to date,” says Neville. “People just want that level of comfort.”
As far as a boat that is set up for the serious fishermen, you can’t really fault the 725, and with the designers continually making improvements and innovative changes, I expect the entire McLay range to stay at the forefront of the market.
- Model: McLay 725 Cruiser
- Price as Tested: $126,874
- Designer: McLay Boats
- Material: Aluminium
- Type: Hardtop
- LOA: 7.45m
- Beam: 2.45m
- Deadrise: 18 deg variable
- Hull Configuration: Monohull
- Trailerable Weight: 2000kg
- Engine Capacity: 150hp-275hp
- Power Options: sterndrives, single/twin outboards
- Fuel Capacity: 300 litres