Author : FREDDY FOOTE
OUT OF THIS WORLD
Arguably there is no better blue water trailerboat hull than the Smuggler, and coupled with a Southern Pacific RIB design, it’s an outstanding performer in rough water. Freddy Foote hit the water in this awesome blue water beast, the Southern Pacific 750 Vortex.
The 750 Vortex is somewhat of a joint project between Southern Pacific Inflatables, and Smuggler Marine. Together they have modified the hull to create a new mould, with Smuggler Marine making the mould in Henderson, and all the fit-out and finishing work being done at Southern Pacific Inflatables in Browns Bay. It is also possible to lengthen the hull to around 8.0m if need be.
I had previously tested the 630 Vortex model last year (see October/November issue), and I was most impressed with its design, features and handling. So with word that a 750 model was in the works, and with a proven Smuggler hull, it was one of those boats to get excited about.
This boat, the first model of its kind, was in the hands of its new owner, Murray Jacobs of Auckland. Murray had previously owned a smaller Southern Pacific Vortex model, and after speaking with Neil Curtling at Southern Pacific, decided that the new 750 Vortex was just what he needed. From his holiday spot at Omaha, just north of Auckland, the 750 would be the ideal boat to zap out to Little Barrier Island or the Mokohinau, a couple of his favourite fishing spots. The extreme deep V hull design and RIB features would also ensure that if the weather turned nasty, getting home would never been too much of a problem.
As with all Vortex models, the internal layout can be customised to suit an owner’s needs. Being a keen fisherman, Murray wanted his console to be positioned in such a way that he would still have enough room aft for three people to fish comfortably.
Aft, three lockers are set into the base of the transom. In the port corner is a live bait tank, which is accessed from above. When not in use, a squab fits over the top and makes a seat for passengers.
In the starboard corner is additional storage space for miscellaneous items, while the middle hatch houses water pumps and fuel lines/filters. Murray has also fitted a salt water wash down hose which sits just below the bait board, while next to that is a freshwater wash-down hose, which is hooked up to an 80-litre freshwater tank. Both hoses recoil into the transom.
Under the cockpit floor is a large storage area, which is self-draining and is ideal for wet gear, of to store the day’s catch.
On the inside of the tubes, ropes run the length of the boat – good for passengers to hold onto, or for those climbing into the boat from the water. A boarding ladder is also available in the port corner.
Forward of the console is a seat, which is built into the console itself. This seat does not provide access to the storage space underneath, as it can only be accessed from the main console entrance at the helm. However, additional underfloor storage space is available and this is where Murray stores dive bottles, to distribute weight further forward. Also to help distribute the weight throughout the boat, the batteries are also located here, to run the additional pumps; Southern Pacific opted for slightly larger batteries to power all the boat’s systems. Forward again in the bow, a large underfloor anchor locker houses all the anchoring tackle, and an optional feature fitted is the capstan and Samson post.
Despite all the underfloor storage available, the 750 still boasts a healthy 200-litre fuel tank, and with a modern high-tech outboard, is going to provide plenty of boating on a tank of fuel.
At the helm a large King bolster seat has been fitted. The base of the seat can fold down if preferred, but with its positioning it’s not absolutely necessary, given that it still provides enough room to stand comfortably. Surprisingly, you can still sit and drive very comfortably by peering to the side. Again, the seat style and positioning is open to customisation by the owner.
The helm was neat and stylish, and housed a large Simrad multifunction display, as well as the regular engine instruments by Honda Marine. Trim tab controls were also fitted within easy reach.
The internal dimensions of the helm console are certainly huge, giving plenty of room to stow all your gear for the day.
The helm area is finished off nicely with the large bimini top, which is a must for such an open boat as the 750 Vortex. It is bolted down in four places, so it can be removed relatively easily if it’s being stored in a garage when not in use. The Bimini top also accommodates a rocket launcher, VHF aerial and a large floodlight to illuminate the cockpit when fishing at night. Additional cockpit lighting is also fitted into the cockpit sides.
The tubes are made of Hypalon, which is the toughest of tube materials to use, and resistant to most things it comes in contact with. For extra protection Murray has a lash-on piece of Hypalon that goes over the sides of the tubes at the aft section of the boat where most of the fishing happens. It provides extra protection to the tubes for when fish are dragged over the side.
On our test we ventured out of the Omaha River and out into Little Omaha Bay for a few photos. We then ventured out around Takatu Point to Kawau Island, stopping at the Yacht club in Bon Accord harbour, before heading back to Omaha in the afternoon.
The boat’s handling was exceptional, a testament to the hull design and quality construction. Test day was perfect for testing such a boat. A large high was sitting over the North Island at the time of our test, and the sea conditions produced a mixed bag, with some nice flat water around Kawau Island, and rounding Takatu Point, wind against tide conditions produced varying sea conditions that the 750 absolutely thrived in.
We took the boat through the rolling swell, head on, quartering, side on and following, and the 750 with its radical 27 degree V just ate it all up. It’s the type of boat on which you can just hold the throttle down all the way, and hold on and enjoy the ride.
It’s a very easy boat to drive, as it does all the work for you. I didn’t even touch the tabs, and Murray says he only uses them if he has the boat loaded up with passengers and gear, to compensate for uneven weight distribution.
Traditionally, the Smuggler hull loves horsepower, and the harder you push it, the better it goes, and as we have said before in previous tests, the boat will take more than you will.
This model has been rigged up with a Honda 225 four-stroke, an excellent package choice. The quietness of the Honda is amazing, allowing you to talk to your crewmembers in normal tones even when underway at around 4000rpm.
In a piece of flat water found in the shelter of Kawau Island, the 750 achieved a top speed of 50mph, pulling 5600rpm. 50mph is really plenty, and as Murray commented, about as fast as he wants to go. But if you’re after a high performance RIB, then there is no reason why the boat can’t comfortably accommodate more horsepower – say a 300hp HPDI Yamaha, or a 275hp Mercury Verado.
At rest, the 750 is exceptionally stable, for two reasons. Firstly the tubes don’t let the boat lean to one side, and secondly, the hull features a flooding keel, in which around 150 litres of water is taken into a cavern built into the bottom section of the hull. These features, coupled with the 27 degree transom deadrise, mean that an outboard with a shaft length of 30 inches is required.
For a boat of its size, it’s actually very light, with a trailerable weight of just 1400kg. In fact, Murray doesn’t tow it very far at all, mostly just down to the ramp on the Whangateau Harbour, in which case he uses an old Ford tractor.
In my experience with Southern Pacific Inflatables, I have always found them to be well designed; well finished and excellent performing boats and the 750 Vortex is no different. Neil says that he has plans to make a cabin model, which will completely enclose the forward section of the boat and provide more shelter and accommodation for overnighting but overall for its purpose and use, the 750 is simply an awesome boat.
- Price as Tested: $115,000
- Designer: Southern Pacific/Smuggler Marine
- Material: Hypalon/GRP
- Type: RIB
- LOA: 7.5m
- Beam: 2.75m
- Deadrise: 27 degrees
- Hull Configuration: Mono
- Trailerable Weight: 1400kg
- Height on Trailer: 3.1m
- Engine Capacity: 300hp
- Power Options: outboard
- Fuel Capacity: 200 litres
Performance – Honda 225
Speeds recorded on a Lowrance GPS and rounded off to the nearest 1/2 mph.