Improving With Age
It’s 20 years since Barry Thompson tested the very first Sea Nymph Hustler 570 produced in New Zealand and with the latest variant, Hustler 620 he found a lot to remind him of the boat that started it all.
The Sea Nymph 620 Hustler is unquestionably New Zealand’s most recognised bowrider and for over 20 years has enjoyed a status that no other similar style boat has attained. Mention the Hustler and boating people know exactly what you are talking about.
The Sea Nymph Hustler started life in Australia under the Cruise Craft name and was one of four models that Sea Nymph Boats began producing under licence in 1984. The 570 was one of the first production bowriders in the country and while North Islanders loved it, sales in the South Island were not so hot. The open bow and draughty nature of the design didn’t find favour with the southerners. Some ‘experts’ in the North however commented about the open bow that could dip into a wave and flood the boat.
The 570 Hustler was an innovative and refreshing approach to a somewhat staid runabout market and its design suited a broad range of users, from skiers to fishermen. Success was almost immediate and production continued through to late 1990 when the company was sold. The original hull used until 1990 was the same as the Explorer cabin.
In 1991, under new ownership the Hustler was re-released as a 604 with a portofino stern, a new deck and screen design, and was based on the popular Blazer 604 hull. In the late 1990s further changes were made to the Hustler, when it was extended to a 620 and a slightly larger custom-built 640 was also offered. Both models are still available under the current Sea Nymph ownership.
It’s actually come a full circle, as the latest Hustler 620 has gone back to the flat transom, just like the original 570. The portofino stern style has been retained above the water line but the pod-like outboard bracket has gone, in favour of the running surface being extended 350mm right through to a full beam transom. Further hull modifications included moving the chine out 70mm to make a ‘double chine’ and this, along with the stern extension, has improved stability at rest.
The transom extension has proven a bonus in a number of ways. Firstly, there is the added stern buoyancy which means the boat handles the extra weight of modern 4-stroke outboards with ease. Secondly, the boat rides and handles better with the extra length and thirdly, there is more stern storage space inside.
I tested the boat on a calm to moderate Auckland Harbour and it didn’t do anything unexpected. With the 225hp Honda it was quick onto the plane and reached maximum speed very easily. Running down a choppy inner harbour I held the tacho to 4000 rpm @ 35 mph, with ½ engine trim on the indicator.
When I tested the very first Hustler 570 it was rated 90hp – 175hp and top speed with a V6 150hp outboard was around 80km/h. Today the Hustler 620 is still rated from 90hp, but the top end has been raised to 250hp. According to Robbie Hopper at Sea Nymph, a 90hp outboard is still good for 35 mph, and the hull shape means it gets up onto the plane without a struggle. Personally I think it’s too small for a boat of this size and for my mind I wouldn’t fit less than 140hp. There is still an inboard sterndrive petrol/diesel option, with the whole package fitting very snugly into the transom area. It protrudes less than 150mm more into the cockpit than the outboard version.
The ride is comfortable, but I did have to compensate for the occasional ferry wake. Flat out in the calm water I got 53.5 mph @ 6200 rpm on the GPS. I had the engine well trimmed out and the Hustler got a little lively. However, with a touch of “in” trim the boat levelled out and ran more predictably without getting flighty.
As can be seen from the running photos in the article, the boat can be made to run very level if you get the trim right. Tabs would have helped to keep us a little more level in the strong cross wind.
And no, the open bow doesn’t dip into waves and swamp the boat. Given that owners are not likely to take the boat out through the West Coast surf, I doubt they will ever have a problem. If they are worried about that or the cold draft sweeping through the opening to the bow, then a clip-on cover will sort it out. Sea Nymph also offers a full slotted door should you want to leave the front open (great for the kids), yet eliminate the rush of cold air into the cockpit.
It’s two years since Hamilton based Robbie Hopper purchased the Sea Nymph moulds and with them the right to build all 22 models in the range.
“I immediately looked at where the market was heading, plus what models would be best to start with and settled firstly on the 480, 566 and Blazer, with the Hustler only coming on stream at the June 2004 New Zealand Boat Show”, said Robbie.
“We had been asked right from when we first took over the company if we were still going to build the Hustler, 620/640, of which the previous company had only ever built a couple. Really it was not a matter of if, it was when”, he added.
When the first of the new generation Hustler 620s was finally unveiled at the 2004 NZ Show, it was greeted with the same enthusiasm as the 570 and 604 before it and the company has sold six more since.
Robbie says, “We were a little sceptical about how it would go against the rash of imports now coming into the country, but we are more than pleased with sales to date.”
When it comes to the interior layout, Sea Nymph is able to offer a wide variety of options from a basic stripped-out, no-carpet interior to suit fishermen, to a plush finish with all the appointments for those into family day cruising.
“We have the ability to spec. the boat right up to the same level of fit and finish of the US bowriders, but we have found that it’s this one (our test boat), that has proven the most popular”, said Robbie.
He describes it as their practical layout with essential appointments and seating layout that kiwis like. Seating is twin back-to-backs with twin removable bin seats aft. The port side seats are considerably wider than the starboard pair, so you can seat four kids comfortably or three adults closely. As one who likes to drive standing when it gets rough I found the driver’s seat didn’t work well for me as it was fixed and in such a position I couldn’t get my feet firmly on the cockpit sole. However, the problem was nothing that a slider or a single helm seat wouldn’t fix.
The driving position when seated is excellent, with a good view of the instruments and over the bow. The screen certainly does its job well and it would be well worth while adding a bimini and clears to complete the driving package.
The seats are mounted on moulded bases which can be accessed above for storage and also slide out to form sun lounges. If you’re into fishing then the rear bins can be left at home to increase the working area of the cockpit. Overall, our Hustler 620 provided seating for 6-8 in the cockpit, and has the bonus of the bow seating area as well.
Storage is plentiful in the 620, which is a must in a boat like this, especially when you’ve packed the family and friends aboard for a day trip to a beach. It’s amazing just how much gear you end up taking!
There are large areas under the front squabs in the bow, in the two lockers in the bulkhead between the bow and cockpit, underfloor, in side shelves, passenger glove box, under the seats and below the stern. Whatever space was available has been well utilised. For example, the 2m plus underfloor locker is extra long to stow wakeboards, skis, fishing rods and the beach umbrella. You can drop in a triple dive bottle rack either side of the engine well under the transom and the dive gear can all be stowed underfloor. There is a separate raised mounting tray in the bilge for the batteries and an oil tank if necessary – very tidy and out of the way.
A 150-litre stainless steel fuel tank takes up the rest of the central area under the cockpit sole, with built-in buoyancy compartments either side.
First impression of the Hustler 620 was its quality look and image, where by adding a few small ‘extras’, Sea Nymph has transformed what could be a very plain looking boat into something a little classy. The Hustler features a compound curved opening Taylor/Sandbrook windscreen, which in a small way adds a new look to the profile of the boat. Our test boat came with the optional walnut finish on the split-level helm, with the instruments mounted on their own dedicated panel above a Humminbird M97 GPS and Uniden Solar VHF. Steering was Seastar hydraulic. The side decks are finished in teak with stainless steel rod holders and recessed handrails. Even the upholstery has been given the treatment with a pleated blue and cream presentation.
The Sea Nymph Hustler is certainly back with the 620, and over the last 20 years the Hustler has just got better and better. While bowriders will never be the biggest selling boats on the local market, the Hustler 620 is certain to once again carve out its own niche and remain for a long time yet as one of New Zealand’s most popular bowriders. Next year, Sea Nymph will be developing a new cabin version, based on the same hull.
- Model: Sea Nymph Hustler 620
- Price as Tested: $75000 (est)
- Designer: Sea Nymph Boats
- Type: Bowrider
- LOA: 6.20m
- Beam: 2.50m
- Deadrise: 22 degrees
- Engine Capacity: 90hp-250hp
- Power Options: Outboard / Sterndrive
- Fuel Capacity: 150 litres
PERFORMANCE – HONDA 225HP
|700 rpm||3.5 mph|
|1000 rpm||5.0 mph|
|1500 rpm||7.0 mph|
|2000 rpm||8.5 mph|
|2500 rpm||13.0 mph|
|3000 rpm||24.0 mph|
|3500 rpm||28.5 mph|
|4000 rpm||35.0 mph|
|4500 rpm||40.0 mph|
|5000 rpm||44.5 mph|
|5500 rpm||49.0 mph|
|6000 rpm||52.0 mph|
|6200 rpm||53.5 mph|
All speeds recorded on a Lowrance GPS and rounded off to the nearest 1/2mph.