Everyone wants to go bigger, and in the case of Sealegs, the company has responded to demand to introduce a larger version of one of their most popular models. Freddy Foote checks out their latest model – the new 7.7m Sport D-Tube.
Sealegs has firmly entrenched itself as not only a great New Zealand technology company, but also a great Kiwi boat builder.
As well as partnering with boat builders around the world by supplying their Sealegs technology to make boats amphibious, the Kiwi company has steadily been developing their own range of boats with now seven designed and built models in house, complimenting the handful of other boats developed in conjunction with other boat manufacturers.
Designed and built in-house and based on the 7.7 Wide Console RIB Sealegs, the new Sealegs 7.7m Sport D-Tube joins the company’s popular 6.1m model in the D-Tube range. The new larger model is set to appeal to those who want more volume in their amphibious craft, coupled with additional features to make it an all round and capable fishing machine.
Sealegs CEO David McKee Wright says the new model was developed to meet market demand.
“Our new 7.7m Sport D-Tube was developed in response to international sales demand. The initial response has been fantastic, and the new model is now in full production,” says McKee Wright.
“The 6.1m has been a favourite boat for us, especially in Australia where they love the durability of the aluminium construction and the versatility that a centre console configuration offers.”
“Customers told us that they wanted a boat with a large open area for more fishing space and higher sides so that they could lean over more when playing a fish.”
McKee Wright is correct. The new 7.7m Sport D-Tube enjoys an open and functional layout that fisherman will enjoy.
Aft, there is access into both corners should you be playing a fish, and scuppers will ensure any water that comes over the side drains out quickly.
There is wide shelf storage on both sides of the cockpit built into the top section of the D-Tube, and the top of the coamings come equipped with three rod holders on each side to compliment the two incorporated into the removable bait board.
In the centre of the transom sits the engine box for the 22hp Honda that powers the Sealegs hydraulics system. This provides extra passenger seating and frees up the helm seat console for storage.
The helm seat itself features a fold back bolster, meaning you can push it forward should you want to drive standing, or so you can sit and face aft while at rest fishing or socialising with your passengers.
The helm itself is very impressive and is certainly very busy. Featuring prominently is a 12” Simrad MFD with the Yamaha engine instruments and drive controls alongside. Below, is a Raymarine VHF radio, with a Fusion Marine Stereo alongside, linked to a pair of speakers in the bow, and another on the helm console.
While underway, skipper and passengers are well protected via the single piece windscreen, and there are numerous handholds throughout the boat for passenger comfort and security.
Should you wish, a bimini or a T-Top is available as an option providing extra protection from the elements.
Access to the bow area is easy with plenty of room on either side of the helm console. In the bow, there is a small seat with wet storage underneath.
The entire cockpit floor of the 7.7m Sport D-Tube is finished in 3M anti-slip deck tread, with this same product continuing onto the tops of the coamings as well.
The Sealegs system works by having powerful motorised wheels, one at the front and two at the rear which gives the skipper a variable speed of 0-10km/h (forward and reverse) powered by an onboard 22hp Honda driven hydraulic power pack.
Once in the water, the Sealegs wheels are quickly retracted into the ‘Up’ position and are completely out of the water. The boat is then driven and used as normal. When approaching land, the Sealegs wheels are lowered into the ‘Down’ position while still moving in the water.
The 7.7m Sport D-Tube is rated from 150hp outboards through to the 200hp four-stroke Yamaha option we see on our test boat.
With the 200hp Yamaha four-stroke humming away on the transom, we achieved a top speed of 38.5 knots @ 6000rpm, using 72lph. Peg that back and you can expect to see a cruise speed of 19.5 knots @ 3500rpm using 21.9lph.
In my experience, a Sealegs vessel is always a little heavier than something more conventional, and of the same size, so a bigger outboard is preferable.
Overall the 200hp Yamaha four-stroke performed well. It’s a big boat, designed for a total of eight passengers plus gear and with the high capacity 180L fuel tank you’re going to want the extra thrust of the 200.
The ride was very good. The aluminium hull very quiet underway and even tackling some rougher water, there was no hull noise or slapping. Most of all, in the more blustery conditions we encountered on the Hauraki Gulf, the 7.7m Sport D-Tube was also very dry, the chines doing a good job of deflecting any spray down and away from the boat.
If I were to be critical, I would say it was probably a little sensitive to lateral balance. Due to the positioning of the wheels aft, trim tabs are unable to be fitted. No big issue, you can easily balance the boat by shifting your passengers around.
The 7.7m Sport D-Tube has a beam of 2.26m which is slightly narrower than what you would usually find in a boat of a similar size. There is a reason for this. Sealegs have a strong export market, and so the boat is designed to fit in a shipping container. The narrow profile doesn’t seem to impact the stability of the boat at rest. The chines resting in the water and with three of us moving around the boat, it showed very little sign of lean.
The 7.7m features a six chamber, 5mm aluminium pontoon D-Tube construction and it’s also important to note that like all Sealegs boats, it is built to the very stringent and demanding standards of CE and United States Coastguard.
So who will the 7.7m Sport D-Tube appeal to? Fishermen for sure. Those who want an open layout and the ability to cast baits 360 degrees. I can see the boat having great appeal to the Australian market, especially fishermen who like to venture into the remote waters of the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland. The 7.7m Sport D-Tube will allow anglers to access floodplains and shallow mangroves, and explore remote areas that would be impossible in a conventional boat. What’s more, with the wheels down, and the boat itself out of the water, they’ll be able to fish well out of reach of the crocs!
Overall I loved the 7.7m Sport D-Tube. Sealegs have done a great job of meeting customer demand – delivering a boat that has plenty of room, exceptional functionality and performance both on and off the water.