The Return of an Icon
Anyone who has been around trailer boating in New Zealand over the past 30 years will have heard of the Smuggler. The ultimate blue water boat in its class, the Smuggler has had a somewhat disjointed manufacturing history in recent years …that is until now. Thanks to the efforts of David Pringle, the Smuggler name is back. Although the look is different, there’s no mistaking the hull lines that support the new generation Smuggler Stealth 665 range. Available in either open (as tested here) or hardtop, the first Smuggler Stealth 665 was released at the 2004 New Zealand Boat Show. Barry Thompson was given the first of the open models to test, nearly 30 years after testing the original Smuggler 6.3.
For almost as long as I have been writing about and testing boats, I have championed the Smuggler cause. In my opinion there is no better riding boat in its size, period!
Why so? The 27-degree hull has its origins in the Bertram 20 which was built in Miami in 1964. Soon after, the Bertram 20 was manufactured under licence in Melbourne, Australia. In the early 1970s David Mutimer acquired a hull, changed the topsides a little, adding some flare to the transom, and built a deck plug with a very high cuddy cabin, and so the Smuggler 6.3 was born. But that wasn’t all he did. Mutimer “blueprinted” the bottom, ensuring that there were no hooks or rockers along the strakes or keel, and made the edges of the strakes really sharp. The strakes (three per side) taper slightly inwards aft, following the curve of the chine. The widest beam on the hull is about amidships at the helm. The efficiency of the hull is such that at speed it rides high on the inner planing strakes, thereby reducing the wetted surface and with plenty of power on the transom it slices through waves better than any other hull of its size. When it was designed it was and still is the deepest deadrise hull of any production boat on the market.
The bullish bow shape crushes head seas and provides plenty of lift when tracking in a following sea. The bigger the waves the better I liked it. This is one boat that you feel you can really drive hard and believe me, you’ll give up before the boat does!
Soon after he commenced production, Mutimer sold the moulds to Keith Smith in Auckland, who soon designed a runabout deck, and the Smuggler 6.3 became an icon.
In 1978, Prime Minister Muldoon imposed the infamous 20% boat and caravan sales tax, which overnight paralysed NZ’s boatbuilding industry. Keith Smith, along with many other Kiwi boatbuilders, promptly packed up and moved to Australia, and ever since has been producing the Smuggler on the Gold Coast, where it has also become an icon.
Smugglers from the 1970s-80s were heavy and required plenty of horsepower to make them perform. Ron Archer (see sidebar) ran a pair of Johnson 200hp V6s on his Smuggler Reefrunner, Rum Runner, achieved a top speed of 72mph and there were a few set up with 300hp plus MerCruiser sterndrives. Today, thanks to new and even stronger laminates that have allowed the builders to produce a lighter boat, good speeds can be achieved with less power. Now, a 150hp outboard is enough to achieve around 48 mph, a 200hp will return 53 mph and if you want to go all the way the 300hp Yamaha V MAX HPDI we had for the test pushed the GPS up to almost 60mph. Considering we had 300 litres of fuel and 80 litres of water we were well weighed up, so with a lighter load I feel the Stealth/300hp package is good for at least 63 mph. A sterndrive option is also available and if pushed, Smuggler Marine would also consider modifications to the transom to take twin outboards.
The first Stealth 665 Hardtop powered by a Mercury 200hp OptiMax has a comfortable cruise around 40 mph and achieves on average less than 1 litre per nautical mile. Auckland (Half Moon Bay) based Smuggler dealer Ray Bryant Marine reckon this is the sort of boat that the supercharged Mercury 275hp Verado was designed for.
When David Pringle purchased the Smuggler moulds and the manufacturing rights for New Zealand over two years ago he had in his mind that he would try to improve on what was already an outstanding hull. While the secret of the ride was certainly in the radically deep 27-deg hull shape, he chose to add 400mm to the transom and effectively increase the running surface. This also meant the outboard was no longer mounted on an external bracket and the large trim tabs didn’t have to extend out from the transom.
“I always felt the Smuggler had a tendency to porpoise a bit with the heavy outboards way out on the bracket and I also wanted to recess the tabs into the hull for a safety factor”, said Dave.
He also chose to retain the flooding keel to assist the boat’s stability at rest. It works exceptionally well and I found that with two or three adults standing on one side, the angle of heel was probably no worse than any other deep V boat of this size. At rest the chines are about 50mm below the surface at the transom. 140 litres of water is retained just in the aft section of the boat under a false floor and as soon as the boat is in a forward motion it empties in a matter of seconds.
Perhaps the most obvious change is to the topsides where everything is new and looks nothing like the Smugglers of old. The deckline flows naturally with the profile of the boat where the curved windscreen has been position both high enough to deflect the wind from the driver and also to allow 1.88m (6ft 2in) headroom in the hardtop version. “We were very set in making the boat look right both in the hardtop and open models and in my opinion we have achieved it, with an awesome look”, said Dave.
The same windscreen footprint has been used for the hardtop and open models, so owners of the open boats can at a later date retrofit a full hardtop ($11,000) without too much hassle. The layout of both boats remains exactly the same.
One for the Fishos
The new Smuggler Stealth 665 has a cockpit layout that has been seriously designed to cater for the ‘balls out’ fisho and diver, whilst still not forgetting a few comforts and niceties. The cockpit carpet can be removed to reveal an anti-skid fibreglass sole, which is going to suit fishos better. There’s both a fresh and salt water system in the aft deck with moulded sink unit and wide side coamings finished with teak capping.
While the standard seating layout is a single swivelling and fully adjustable Softrider pedestal helm seat and a king/queen opposite, you can have just about any combination you want. Family cruising lends itself to twin back-to-backs, but if you want the maximum cockpit space then I’d go for a pair of pedestals and nothing else. Optional rear seat bins (one large or two small) with hinged top cushions are also well worth having and make great extra storage.
The driving position is excellent and with the fore/aft and up/down adjustment of the seat, plus a moulded footrest on the bulkhead, you’ll have no problem finding your most comfortable driving position. Standing, I look over the screen, but someone of a smaller stature would find it just the right height and be wind free. Seated, I was well protected.
As the Smuggler Stealth comes standard with a huge 300 litre fibreglass fuel tank positioned right down the centreline of the cockpit, underfloor storage is limited to compartments either end. These are large enough for dive bottles and gear bags and a great place to toss the wetsuits or bag of crays. Rods are kept in full-length side trays with purpose made rod racks and there are further upper shelves for extra gear. Then there’s also the huge space under the lift-up king/queen seats, which would be well suited to a couple of air stays, as they are fairly heavy to lift.
Being a cabin boat, there is a virtual cavern forward for all the rest of your boating bits. Inside you’ll find two full-length berths with an optional in-fill, high backrests with storage trays and a Weaver overhead hatch for access forward or ventilation if you are staying overnight. There’s plenty of storage under the squabs and provision has already been made for the electric toilet option.
The Smuggler Stealth 665 makes a great overnighter by simply adding the optional electric toilet in the cabin, gas stove which is mounted in the recess ahead of the passenger seat and hand held shower on the transom.
If you are going to market a boat that can be driven hard in almost any weather then you had better back it up with seriously good construction. The new Stealth 665 comprises three major mouldings, using two layers of tri-axial fibreglass, with multi layers of chopped-strand mat. The strakes are filled in with double bias cloth and chopped-strand mat, then timber, for an exceptionally tough laminate. Individual bearers run all the way from the transom to the bow and these are crossed with an athwarthships fibreglass bulkhead. Dry weight of the hull without an outboard is around 1150kg. Overall, the finish is exceptional and according to the builders, almost bullet proof!
The Smuggler Stealth 665 is a boat that is going to appeal to those boaters who don’t really care if the weather’s bad, they just want to go boating regardless. It’s an offshore boat that can be driven hard, but is also a lovely cruising boat that offers comfort and handling for those who like to travel at a more sedate pace. The Smuggler is a true New Zealand boating icon. Its reputation precedes it and the ‘almost’ all-new 2004 Smuggler is genuinely an even better boat than the one I tested nearly 30 years ago.
- Model : Smuggler Stealth 665 Open
- Price (Boat Only): $46500
- Price As Tested: $96670
- Type: Cabin
- LOA: 6.93m
- LOH: 6.65m
- Beam: 2.40m
- Height on Trailer: 2.7m (Hardtop) 2.4m (Open)
- Transom Deadrise: 27 degrees
- Trailerable Weight: 1800kg
- Engine Capacity: 150hp – 300hp
- Power Options: Outboard / Sterndrive
- Fuel Capacity: 300 litres
- Water Capacity: 80 litres
PERFORMANCE – Yamaha 300 V-MAX
|700 rpm||4.5 mph|
|1000 rpm||6.0 mph|
|1500 rpm||8.0 mph|
|2000 rpm||10.0 mph|
|2500 rpm||18.5 mph|
|3000 rpm||25.0 mph|
|3500 rpm||30.0 mph|
|4000 rpm||37.0 mph|
|4500 rpm||46.0 mph|
|5000 rpm||52.5 mph|
|5500 rpm||56.0 mph|
|5600 rpm||59.0 mph|
All speed recorded on a Lowrance GPS