When Smuggler released their Strata 770 the first boat outside the Sealegs brand to receive the Sealegs’ system of hydraulically retracting wheels they gave their RIB range of boats a whole new meaning when it came to versatility.
Released at the 2012 Auckland On The Water Boat Show the Smuggler Strata 770 was an instant success and since then seven had been sold, including the world’s first diesel sterndrive powered ‘Sealegs’.
The Smuggler Strata 770 isn’t a totally new design and is based on the Strata 750 which is effectively the same boat but without any wheels. Originally a joint venture between Smuggler Marine and Southern Pacific Inflatables, the Strata 770 still has its tubes supplied and fitted by Southern Pacific to the hull built by Smuggler Marine in their factory in Henderson, Auckland.
The basis of the Strata 770 is the incredible Smuggler hull, which in my opinion is undeniably the best riding production boat of its size on the market. With a staggering 27 deg deep vee, the original Smuggler was released in 1977 as the Reefrunner and was an immediate success.
While in the past 34 years it has changed totally in everything above the waterline, apart from an extension to the transom in 2009 by Smuggler Marine which not only increased the running surface by 400mm it also added built in trim tabs and a portofino stern, the underwater running surface has remained much the same. Hard to improve on perfection!
The Strata 770 is based on the same basic hull as used for the Smuggler Stealth 720 and Strata 750 RIB.
No Hidden Secrets
With more than 700 amphibious Sealegs boats in more than 30 countries the reliability is already proven, so there’s no guesswork. For Smuggler Marine, the adoption of the Sealegs system came with a proven track record with no hidden secrets and a technology that has been tested to extreme limits.
David Pringle, managing director of Smuggler Marine, says the Smuggler Strata 770 powered by Sealegs technology targets a new market without reinventing the wheel, literally.
‘Our customers have been asking for an amphibious version of the Strata RIB,’ says Pringle. “We’ve always admired the Sealegs technology so we are very keen to use their expertise”.
To adapt the Sealegs to take the amphibious componentry and internal Honda engine used to power the hydraulic legs and drive the Strata 770 on land, a number of changes had to be made. The bow section was modified to not only take the front leg assembly but also a through hull anchoring system was installed.
At the transom the hull was lengthened by 200mm. The wheels retract behind specially designed D-tubes, aft, making them partially hidden. Overall now with the wheels in the retracted position the Smuggler Strata 770 is in fact 8.3m overall.
Only the highest quality Filipe and Pennel Orca Hypalon fabric is used in manufacturing of the tubes. The standard Smuggler hull is cut off above the chine and a flanged added to accept the tubes. This tapers from 60mm overhang aft to 400mm forward, with the tubes at the rear sitting on the water at rest. There are three air chambers in each tube, plus a couple in the hull for added buoyancy.
Internally the layout has changed very little from the Strata 750. Central is a large centre console that incorporates an electric toilet in the console and a split-level fascia to handle plenty of electronics. The double helm seat built over the Honda engine has a reversible backrest, which is great when you’re fishing. Twin rear seats either side of the outboard has extra storage under.
Forward is a large seating area in the bow, which doubles as a sunpad, plus there’s also a central console seat with more storage below. Under the sole is an extra large 320-litre fuel tank, which gives the 770 a huge range.
The Smuggler hull used for the 770 already has an enviable reputation for its rough water handling ability and as a standard Strata 750 was already an awesome boat to drive. The addition of the Sealegs technology has done nothing to change that and in fact with that little extra length and weight may even have improved it a little. THe hull was also lengthened to take the extra space required for the Honda engine and seat console.
The Smuggler Strata 770 is designed for outboards in the 200-300hp bracket and now it seems is also to be made available with sterndrive power. With the outboard powered Strata, the on-the-land component of the propulsion is taken up with a Honda generator. However in the case of the sterndrive package, the engine is also being asked to supply the power source on land. The engineering behind this is quite complex and has resulted in considerable analysis and design of exhaust, cooling and hydraulic systems by a combined team from Smuggler, Sealegs and the engine suppliers Volpower New Zealand.
When this magazine went to press, the first Volvo Penta D3 /220hp diesel powered Smuggler Strata 770 was due for initial trials, before being shipped off to its French owners. (If all goes according to plan we will have a full technical report in the next issue of PPB)
Our test boat was powered with a Yamaha 300, spinning a 19” three blade stainless prop to 6000 rpm. This was the first 770 to be Yamaha powered, with all previous running Evinrude ETEC 200s.
Outboard power options vary from 200hp to 300hp and with it the top end speed. An Evinrude ETEC 200hp is good for 50 mph, an ETEC 225hp, 52mph and an ETEC 250 runs to 54mph. The 300hp Yamaha on our test boat topped out at almost the same speed as the ETEC with the very accurate Yamaha 6Y9 Premium instruments indicating 54-55 mph @ 6000 rpm.
You would think that being such a deep vee, it would be a hard boat to get onto the plane quickly. Not so. In fact this would have to be one of the ‘slipperiest’ boats I have come across. Even with a slow easing forward of the throttle at low rpm, the Strata 770 glides onto the plane at a low 2000-rpm, without any noticeable transition between being off the plan and planning. The tubes obviously help by providing addition lift.
On a mirror smooth Auckland Harbour I could have run the boat all day at full throttle and done a record run to Great Barrier, but when the fuel indicator was showing 99 lph, I got felt I should back off a little. Drop the rpm back to 4500 and the speed still remains at a respectable 40mph, with the fuel consumption virtually halving, Bring it a touch back to 4000 rpm @ 35mph and the fuel show slips to 40 lph or 1.3 litres per kilometre.
Perhaps the more telling numbers are what the boat had actually done before I stepped aboard. After 420nm and 33.8 hrs of boating, the Smuggler Strata 770/Yamaha 300 had used 623 litres or 18.4 lph average. Not bad economy I would have thought!
The 600mm wide tubes have been fitted relatively low and at rest they provide the necessary stability factor from the 2.8m beam. Three, four or five people on one side makes very little difference.
Underway the tubes are clear of the water apart from the trailing edge around the transom and provide an extra wide shield against water spray. What I also liked is the way the tubes extend past the rear wheels when in the up position and look more to be an integral part of the boat rather than an add on.
Big Bore Yamaha
Yamaha’s F300B is a big bore 4.2 litre displacement engine a variable camshaft timing system that significantly increases power and throttle response at low and mid range RPM. This allows the engine to deliver impressive “out of the hole” performance and mid-range acceleration.
The engine is full of specialist engineering and technical features, such as using a thermally applied plasma fusion process on the cylinder walls. They have no conventional steel cylinder sleeves, yet the cylinder walls are 60% harder than steel. Sleeveless cylinders mean larger cylinder bores for increased displacement, resulting in more power and torque. This is all achieved without increasing the overall size of the engine.
It also results in better cooling properties and dramatically lighter weight, making the 300D the lightest of any 300hp outboard at 259 kgs.
Plus all air entering the engine block is routed through a single 75mm electronically controlled throttle valve. Working in concert with the multi port fuel injection system, together they help ensure the precise amount of air and fuel necessary for optimum power and fuel efficiency.
How It Works
On water, the Smuggler 770 has the power of a Yamaha 300 at its call, but obviously that isn’t going to work on land. This is where the Sealegs technology takes over from the Smuggler 770. On land the Smuggler 770 gets around via three retractable hydraulic aluminum legs with 25-inch knobby tires. It’s an all wheel drive system powered by a 32-hp, 4-stroke Honda motor stowed beneath the driver’s bench seat
The front and rear legs can be lowered and raised independently, making it possible to drop just the bow or stern for easier loading and unloading of passengers. Retract the legs and wheels fully and they nest nicely against the tube and above the waterline. Hydraulic power assist steering makes it effortless to drive and when required all wheels can be locked together to provide full on three wheel drive.
Both motors are controlled from the center console, with the steering wheel capable of steering the outboard and the wheels simultaneously. Push- button controls raise and lower the hydraulic legs and wheels, and a throttle lever on the side of the console determines the RPMs of the 32-hp Honda motor that powers the wheels. Instead of a gas pedal, the drive stick on the top of the console controls the speed and direction of travel forward or reverse) of the hydraulic motors. But don’t expect carlike performance on land.
The Sealegs tops out around 6 kmh on land, and the air-cooled engine can run for only about 30 minutes at a time on land without overheating. This is not a huge barrier, since most Sealegs are kept at holiday homes and the ride to and from the beach to launch is never far.
Utilising the drive system, the Smuggler 770 is capable of climbing and descending up to 25-degree grades of soft sand, rocks and such, enabling them to launch (and land) the boat most anywhere and reach otherwise inaccessible beaches without worry of being stranded when the tide recedes.
Having a chance to drive the boat both on the water and the land, I found it didn’t take long to get a smooth transition and no matter where you do it, you can always guarantee a crowd will gather. Even now after seeing countless Sealegs coming up the beach over the years, I am still in awe of the system and the fact that it is another great Kiwi invention.
The fact that most modern day amphibious vehicles struggle with the aesthetics and some look very agricultural, not so the Smuggler 770. In fact, the slower speed gives it a statelier pace, like it’s telling onlookers that awesomeness doesn’t need to be rushed.
- Make: Smuggler Strata 770
- Packages From: $NZ220,000
- Material: GRP/Hypalon
- Type: RIB
- LOA: 8.3m (Wheels Up) 7.7m (wheels down)
- Beam: 2.80m
- Deadrise: 27deg
- Hull Config: Deep Vee
- Height on Trailer: 2.05m-3.0m
- Engine Capacity: 150-300hp
- Power Options: Outboard or Sterndrive
- Fuel Capacity: 320 litres
- Trailer: DMW dual axle braked.
Notable Standard Equipment
5 year structural hull warranty, Hypalon tubes, carbon dash, brass keel strip, 320 litre fuel tank, Systems 60 Sealegs
Notable Options on Test Boats
Built in chilly/sky bin, Saltwater wash down, Live bait tank, Hardtop with S/S supports, Lowrance HDS 12” Plotter/Sounder, Raymarine autopilot, Fire extinguisher, remote anchor winch, Fusion IP700, Cobra VHF, Lewmar winch, Electric toilet in console.
- Make : Yamaha
- Model: F300B
- Type: Four Stroke
- Horsepower: 300hp
- Cyl Type: V6
- Max RPM: 6000 rpm
- Propeller: 19” 3Bl S/S
- Retail Price: $NZ 40608.