TEXT BY BARRY THOMPSON
Who said a pontoon boat has to be aluminium! When Smuggler Marine’ David Pringle lost a sale for one of his Smuggler Stealths to a big aluminium pontoon boat, he figured he had to do something serious about it. The radically unique Stealth 695XS, New Zealand’s first GRP ‘pontoon’ boat is the result.
When the Smuggler 695 was released at the 2004 New Zealand Boat Show, it turned heads. The icon was back and this ultimate blue water performer was unquestionably one of the stars of the show. Since then, Smuggler Boats has sold 15 in either open or hardtop forms (plus four RIBs) and whilst David has been pleased with the number of boats built, he knew he was missing sales.
“The biggest question we get asked is how stable is the boat, with such a radical 27-degree vee and although the flooding keel really pulls the chines down at rest, people still take a lot of convincing”, said David.
The flooding keel holds 150 litres of water and at rest drops the chines about 30mm into the water. When you accelerate, the water exits the open cavity in three seconds.
“When I recently lost a sale to a good friend of mine who just couldn’t see past the small compromise you pay in stability in return for the prestigious ride and handling, I knew I had to do something serious.”
David knew that he could do little with the running surface of the Smuggler hull, as this was its pedigree and to alter it with a flatter vee would have entailed a whole new set of moulds and effectively destroying the iconic nature of the Smuggler name.
“We thought let’s make a pontoon boat of sorts, that would satisfy the potential clients who sought more stability at rest and perhaps even improve what was already a great hull”, added David.
So where is the Smuggler 695XS different? Firstly it is now 7.35m overall and not 6.95m, the extra length being gained in the side pontoons.
The pontoons are very obvious, so obvious that when I arrived with the boat at the Westhaven boat ramp a small crowd gathered to have a look. The boat was less than a week old and no one apart from the Smuggler staff and a few observant boaties during trials had seen it. They are not something that you miss, but in saying that they are also not unattractive and the way Smuggler Marine has designed and fitted them, they mould very well with the lines of the original boat.
The basic idea of the pontoons is to give the boat stability at rest and believe me they work. It’s amazing how another 500mm of beam at the waterline can make such a difference at rest. Sitting stationary, the rear of the pontoons is in the water about 50mm. At speed they are effectively out of the water, but then when you hook the boat into a hard turn, they take over and act much in the same way as any pontoon design or RIB.
In the rough water the boat tends to land on the pontoon first and I found there was a lot less need for the trim tabs, with the pontoons taking over some of the levelling aspects on reentry.
For the test we also ran a 21” Viper that is a performance based propeller, rather than a high lift propeller such as a fouror five-blader, which is more common on the Smuggler with this power.
The design criteria were determined by two limiting factors – the overall beam of the boat and the aesthetics. Due to the hull beam tapering considerably from the midsections to the transom, there was enough width available either side aft to add another 250mm and still be within the current 2.40m beam. The fibreglass pontoons run virtually parallel with the centreline of the hull and extend 4.5m forward from the transom, with a 400mm overhang aft.
They weigh around 40kg each and have a chrome brass belting for protection, and are foam filled. The overhang also has the added bonus of being a perfect step for boarding the boat and because of this has been covered with an antiskid pattern on a flat upper surface. It also means the running surface has been extended.
Each pontoon is fitted to the existing hull with a waterproof elastomeric adhesive sealant and then through bolted forward and screwed at various points. The best thing is, it can be retrofitted to any Smuggler and with some modifications, that even includes the earliest Reefrunners and Gulf Cruisers from the 1970s and 1980s! Cost is about $5000 fitted by Smuggler.
Interior Styling Internally, there are also a few changes to the earlier 695s, with internal GRP linings on the cockpit sides that are designed to keep the stowage areas tidy and to be more suitable for the fishing clients.
The layout of the open runabout and the hardtop are identical apart from the screen/hardtop arrangement. The screen ‘footprint’ is designed to accept either a wrap around alloy screen or a full fibreglass hardtop. To date the hardtop has been the most popular.
Our test boat was fully spec’d with loads of extras, such as the TMC electric head inside the cabin. The cabin layout is conventional with twin single berths and infill to make a huge double, with sitting headroom for 2-3 adults and loads of storage areas. A Lewmar overhead hatch assists in ventilation and light, with a polycarbonate sliding top hatch and drop in washboards allowing you to close off and lock the cabin. A mirror on the forward bulkhead helps to accentuate the size of the internal space. If you are looking to buy this boat for weekending then you’ll have no problem with the bunk lengths, unless you’re playing for the Breakers!
Although the day I tested the new Smuggler 695XS was reasonably pleasant, I was pleased we had the enclosed hardtop to keep off the cold wind. The more boating I do in hardtop boats the more I get to like them.
There’s something to be said for being open with the wind in your face, but as you get older, the comfort that a hardtop presents becomes more attractive. Sliding side-windows and a driver’s side screen wiper are nice features on the 695XS.
The driving position is good, either seated or standing and the carbon fibre facia is large and exposed with room for all the necessary instruments and electronics. We had a Lowrance LCX25, Simpson Lawrence auto anchor switch, Cobra VHF, Trimmaster trim tabs and BEP switch panels, plus the standard BRP instrument cluster. The Seastar steering was light and positive and if you like a few sounds when you’re driving then the Fusion system offered plenty of decibels.
Opposite on the port side and forward is the gas cooker, neatly hidden under a wooden lid, with the gas bottle under the seat.
There are a number of seating options available, but standard is a back-to-back to port and a single swivelling helm seat on a Softrider pedestal. Interestingly when I tested the Smuggler Stealth 695 Open (NZP Dec/Jan 2004/05) I made a comment that the lift-up king/queen seats would be well suited to a couple of gas stays, as they are fairly heavy to lift. The new 695XS has them fitted as standard!
Storage has also been increased, with the addition of another storage compartment in the back of the seats. Add to this the portable chilly-bin seats and you have seating for four to six and copious storage available. There is also a big underfloor area forward, with the rest of the centreline taken up with the 300-litre underfloor fuel tank, 80-litre water tank and an aft storage locker. Two dive bags stow nicely in the forward locker and three dive tanks fit easily in the aft one. They can double up as fish or bait bins and with the split carpet you can have an easily cleaned fibreglass working space aft, whilst still retaining the carpet in the hardtop forward area.
All cockpit water drains into an aft locker that overspills into the bilge and this is then automatically pumped overboard. Batteries, cut-off switches, extra fuel, fenders etc and tackle stowage space is also provided under the aft deck. Rods can be stowed in dedicated rod holders either side of the cockpit or you can add a rocket launcher to the hardtop.
There is a moulded sink unit with fresh and saltwater systems in the transom with a recessed step through onto the boarding area opposite. Teak slats add a nice touch to the boarding area that is fitted with a stainless steel drop-down ladder.
Easy To Push
The first Smuggler Stealth 695XS is powered by an Evinrude 200 ETEC, which returns a top speed of 50mph @ 5200rpm. On a reasonably calm Auckland Harbour the boat cruised nicely around 4500 rpm @ 41.5mph and like all Smugglers before it, the handling and ride in moderate to rough and even very rough water is outstanding.
This is a boat that likes power. With a 300hp Yamaha VMax, the 695XS will reach close to 60mph, so anything between, such as a 225hp or 250hp is going to also be ideally suited. It’s big enough to handle the weight of the biggest outboards and doesn’t look out of place with any of them.
Personally, I would stay with a 200hp outboard as it gives a good all-round performance and provides reasonably good fuel economy to match.
I said when I tested the first Stealth 695 Open that the 2004 Smuggler is genuinely an even better boat than the one I tested nearly 30 years before. Well, the Smuggler Stealth 695XS is even better than that. The icon lives on!
- Model: Stealth 695XS
- Priced From: $100,000 (approx)
- Price as Tested: $115,500
- Type: Cabin
- Construction: GRP
- LOA: 7.35m
- Beam: 2.45m
- Deadrise: 27 degrees
- Height on Trailer: 2.68m
- Trailerable Weight: 1960 kg
- Engine Capacity: 150-300 hp
- Power Options: Outboard /Sterndrive
- Fuel Capacity: 300 litres
- Water Capacity: 80 litres
Performance – Evinrude 200
|2000 rpm||9.0 mph|
|2500 rpm||13.5 mph|
|3000 rpm||18.5 mph|
|3500 rpm||26.5 mph|
|4000 rpm||37.0 mph|
|4500 rpm||41.5 mph|
|5000 rpm||47.0 mph ETEC|
|5200 rpm||50.0 mph|