Smuggler’s First Bow Rider
– Our Little Rocket Ship
The first Smuggler Bowrider – well sort of… Just over a year ago Dave and Pauline Pringle of Smuggler Marine purchased the Bonito range of boat moulds, with the plan of continuing this popular iconic kiwi brand. Now, less that twelve months later they have decided to fold the two brands into one, making the logistic and marketing process a whole lot simpler, just as has been done with Mercury/Mariner and Evinrude/Johnson in recent times. Dave and Pauline swayed for many months making the decision – and after much consideration they decided that, having worked hard to make the Smuggler brand so well respected, they would run with Smuggler and discontinue the Bonito brand. (See the ‘Looking Back’ column in this issue, where Barry Thompson looks at the history of Bonito.)
Mid 2009, Dave Pringle approached Propeller magazine asking if we would be interested in running a Bonito as our photo boat for the 2010-11 season. As our period with the 175hp Suzuki powered Haines Signature 580BR photo boat was nearing an end, we thought the timing perfect. But what model? We have enjoyed the functionality of the bow rider – particularly for photography purposes, being able to move freely about the boat. We had an eye on the 6.0m 585 Sport – but that had not yet been developed as a bow rider – watch this space… So the only other model in the range was the Bonito 570 BR, which looking at and crawling over the 570 cabin version, the 570 seemed to have good a volume cockpit and it would be easily moved about the country to shows and events over the year, and who knows – as the 6 metre is developed we could step up to that after our photo boat period with Smuggler.
The now Smuggler 570BR has come a long way from the original Scott Robson designed Bonito 522, having been developed and enhanced over the years in cosmetics, usability and functionality. It has also been improved structurally, with the additions of the rear pods on the transom along with other hull improvements, giving the boat a smoother and dryer ride.
After the 522, with various changes by previous Bonito owner Peter Johnson, it was renamed the 535, and now with the latest Smuggler touches it becomes the 570BR. Right through the evolution the construction has remained more or less the same; there is a moulded floor section that runs chine to chine and part way up the side of the hull, as with most of the Bonito range. The build process still incorporates a plywood cockpit sole, with the fibreglass liner sitting on top, rather than replacing it altogether, as is common with some other manufacturers.
“This hull has been a very popular model in the past and there is no reason why it should not continue to be so.” says Dave Pringle, MD of Smuggler Boats. “In fact, we have just developed and released the new Smuggler 570 Multi-Sport – a centre console model based on the 570 hull, released at the recent Hutchwilco NZ Boat Show last month, where it drew a great deal of interest
We (Propeller magazine) took possession of our Smuggler 570BR in April and have already managed to show her off at a few outings. Given Smuggler’s well established partnership with BRP, the manufacturer and distributor of Evinrude E-TEC outboards, we decided to run with Evinrude E-TEC this year on our photo boat, and because we could, we decided to run at the high end of the recommended power range, fitting her with a 150hp Evinrude E-TEC. When Dave Pringle (who is very much a petrol head himself) handed me over the keys – he commented while shaking his head – treat her with respect, suggesting that only those with some boating experience should be let loose with her. Our first trip out certainly proved thrilling and brought a true appreciation of Dave’s words. The power from the Evinrude 150hp E-TEC was exhilarating – each time prior to powering up having to let the team know we were going to add more gas to the engine – the kids grabbed onto the bow rails with white knuckles and smiles from ear to ear.
It was not just the amazing holeshot and instant acceleration – when buttoning off you also had to be alert with not just the torque release, which can clearly be felt when buttoning off at full speed – but ensuring the crew and possessions onboard were not catapulted forward –: I think I must have had the fastest chilly bin on the Hauraki Gulf. Speaking with the BRP team – they put the fast braking down to the large 19’ prop that slows things up real quick, once the power is off. Again, it’s all about learining your boat and something to be aware of, in this instance – ease off the power gradulally!
At all times the hull had great adhesion with the sea, and when trimming in and throwing her into some tight corners the 570BR held on well. With the proviso of perhaps being a little over-powered, the boat handles very well – running best at three-quarter trim. When we encountered some snotty chop, the ride was remarkably improved and made a whole more comfortable by simply trimming the engine back in. While we were out, as usually is the case in Auckland the wind came up and the sea conditions deteriorated. We found that in all conditions – head into, beam on and in a following sea – the hull performed well, with only a little spray coming aboard once or twice.
The 570BR is a breeze to drive thanks to the Sea Star hydraulic steering, an item I would recommend on every V6 outboard engine. Hydraulic steering enables the ladies and those not as strong or confident as some to get in behind the wheel and give it a go – who knows, with enough experience – you won’t be able to use the excuse ‘I can’t ski or wakeboard anymore – because my wife can’t drive the boat!’
If one was wanting to be a little more sensible about one’s engine choice, one would be easily satisfied with the 115hp or 130hp V4 option. I have experienced the same boat powered by a 115hp V4 Johnson, which pushed us along at a healthy 40mph.
One of our first days out was a day with the kids for a little adventure and hopefully a little watersport. With all the gear aboard, off we travelled, the rig sitting upon a DMW Premier 500 single axle trailer. The rig of less than 1500kg tows nicely – we did not opt for brakes as we tow with a sizable V8 Ford Explorer, which has little trouble towing or stopping the rig. We decided to opt for a set of alloy wheels to set off the good looking boat with a good looking trailer. At the ramp the boat was easy to launch off the multi-roller trailer. My wife Carla, and two ‘helpers’ under ten, easily held the boat while I parked the car and trailer.
Climbing aboard I was pleasantly surprised with the roominess offered from a boat of a little over 5.5m (keeping in mind I had been originally gearing up for the 6m model). We had two adults, four children and a small dog onboard; three of the children sat up in the bow for the entire day, leaving one of the four cockpit area seats free. The bow seating area, although a little smaller than some, is comfortable, and nicely upholstered, as was the entire boat’s seating. The coamings seem a little higher than most, which is reassuring when you have smaller crew members onboard. A small but handy locker is under the for’ard squab of the three. There is also a reasonably sized anchor locker behind the bollard and fairlead.
Moving through to the cockpit of the boat – there is a wide access area with two hatches to large storage lockers either side within the consoles; the starboard side also offers access to the back of the helm to the electronic workings of the boat.
There is plenty of storage throughout the boat by way of two underfloor lockers, one between the consoles and one very good-sized underfloor aft locker with two removable locker hatches. (The 120-litre internal fuel tank sits between the two, pretty much smack in the central point of the boat). The side pockets, which are also of a good size, are fitted out with rod holders either side. We mounted our Fusion waterproof speakers in the rear of these pockets, which protect them and help them produce some good base at the same time. Additional storage if you are still requiring more, is available within the helm and passenger seat pedestals and the aft corner bin seats which are removable – great when heading out for a fish and the space is more of a priority than extra seating.
There is more storage available under the transom where the oil reservoir, fuel filter and battery are also stored; all neatly hidden away by a domed-on curtain.
The consoles, as well as offering excellent storage, house the waterproof Fusion MS-IP600 marine stereo (which is also iPod or iPhone compatible – its great having the availability of hundreds of tracks of your personal taste of music – to play depending what mood one is in) and a cabin downlight, the helm has E-TEC i-Command gauges that offer all the engine management information that you could ever wish for from a boat of this size – all programmable and best of all quite easy to use! Next to the gauges we have flush mounted an Eagle Fishlite 640c GPS Fishfinder combo, another easy-to-use unit with good screen display even with the worst glare of the day. Below the steering wheel are two Aquatech switch panels which control the cockpit lighting, navigation lights, bilge pump and underwater lights. These are mounted in the transom either side of the bung and look great at night – and are said to be great fish attractants – will report back on that! The seating position is very good, and I find the driver’s seat comfortable, although one of the only problems I could find on the boat is that tendency to slide off the front of the seat – which could be easily rectified with the building up of its front padding. There are well placed foot rests recessed into the mouldings of both consoles – the boat is neatly trimmed with teak about the stern and we decided to add teak strips to the footrests as well. The Smuggler team have lowered the pedestals slightly to ensure the wind is clearly deflected over the crew – even for ‘giants’ like me at 5’7”! The 570 Bowrider has a very sleek yet solid windscreen with a good solid grab rail mounted around it. The controls are mounted in the right place and comfortable to use, with the electronics easily in view. The standing position for those like me who like a bit of air blowing through is good, with the seat pushing back clear of one’s butt.
On the port side there is a glove compartment built into the top of the console, although the lid does not lift fully open due to the sleekness of the screen – but far enough to toss in one’s valuables.
Both pedestal seats, which swivel 360 degrees, are great when reversed 180 degrees for fishing and entertaining, especially once we had fitted her out with all the Tallon entertainment accessories. With a beam of 2.25m the 570BR has a big volume feel, one of a boat larger than it actually is. I put this down to a combination of good provision for stowage, good beam and the extra usable space of the bow area.
The two aft bin seats are comfortable, with good lumbar support, and stepping over them gives easy access to the transom and boarding platform either side. To port there is a stainless boarding ladder for easy access on and off the boat. The transom and coamings (which have four rod holders mounted within) are nicely dressed with a tasteful application of teak.
Although we have only had our new boat for a short time, the experiences have been great, a predictable (with sensible horsepower), safe, kiwi conditions boat – which is easily managed by a crew of just one or two, with the perceived volume of a boat much bigger than its actual size, with good looks to match.
We are very happy with our 570BR and are looking forward to spending time out on the water getting to know our little rocket ship a little better.
- Model: Smuggler 570 Bowrider
- Price as Tested: $69,000
- Designer: Smuggler Marine
- Material: GRP
- Type: Bowrider
- LOA: 5.70m
- Beam: 2.24m
- Deadrise: 21 degrees
- Hull Configuration: Deep V
- Trailerable Weight: 1250kg
- Height on Trailer: 1.85m
- Engine Capacity: 90-150hp
- Power Options: Outboard only
- Fuel Capacity: 120 litres