Southern Boats say that they pride themselves in presenting one of the finest handcrafted alloy boats available and after looking over the first of the new Southern XP816 HTE models I can’t disagree.
Co-owner of Southern Boats, Peter Carlson says that such is the dedication to perfection by his team of builders in the Mosgiel, Dunedin factory, that it takes around 600 hours to build a boat the size of the XP816, probably twice that of many of their competitors.
“ We have raised the bar when it comes to alloy boats and with Southern we consider that presentation and finish is as important as the construction and detailing of every boat we build, plus a proven performance and handsome good looks”, adds Peter.
In the previous issue of Alloy Boat I tested the Southern XP776 HTO (hardtop open), a boat that has been around for sometime and is still one of the company’s most popular models with over 40 built. As a long range fishing and diving boat it ticks all the right boxes and is the perfect day boat with overnight options. However with any boat there is always room for improvement and in the case of the XP776, it was really just a matter of adding a bit more space.
The XP816 may externally look much the same as the XP776, although it is 300mm longer, and the layout is much the same as you would find in the XP776 HTE (hardtop enclosed) model, but underneath the hull has undergone some changes. The hull carries the same 20 degree deadrise at the transom, 2.5m beam on the chine but the chines have been lifted aft, resulting in more rocker in the bottom and the planning strakes have also been cut right back. This was done to decrease the lift aft and maintain the extended hulls nose-up attitude. Something that is quite noticeable in a following sea. The full bow section carves through the water and just the physical size of the boat means it’s going to handle adverse seas with ease.
The chines have been lifted in the forward sections and taper further aft than on the XP776. This helps to eliminate any ‘slapping’ when underway. Overall weight of the hull has increased by around 190 kgs more than the XP776 and that weight is certainly a bonus in rougher water.
Construction is 6mm plate on the hull and 4mm topsides, with an infused grp hardtop. Everything is sprayed with a two pot paint finish and the XP816, like all Southern’s is only available fully painted.
To achieve such a high standard of finish takes a lot of work and skill by the builders, so it’s interesting to learn that there is no ‘bog’ in the hull and all the welds are ground back to achieve the perfect finish.
Outboard or Inboard
The XP816 is specified with outboards from 200hp to 350hp and is suitable for not only twin outboards but is also designed for petrol or diesel sterndrives. Currently in production is an open XP816 that will be powered by a single Yamaha 350hp V8. For long term cruising or gamefishing the diesel option would be the perfect choice.
I had the opportunity to run the boat off Pauanui and around Slipper Island in a reasonably smooth sea. As expected the XP816 ran well and at 42 knots (48.3 mph) with the throttle hard down it just ate up the miles from the Pauanui bar across to the island. Being ‘inside’ gives you whole new perception when cruising and I find I seem to drive slower than in an open boat. The XP816 was really sweat at around 4200 rpm @ 30 knots (34.5 mph).
It’s a boat that’s designed to handle just about anything you’re going to find off the coast. Custom made alloy tabs are operated with Lenco rams and being a hardtop are needed to level the boat in any windy conditions. The big hull with big horsepower leaps onto the plane and reaches maximum rpm very quickly. I was very impressed with the ease in which the boat gets on the plane, with virtually no transitional ‘hump’. For those into trolling, then the Yamaha 300 runs around 7 knots (8 mph) @ 1500 rpm and according to the fuel guage is burning a low 10 lph. Top end that changed to 99.6 lph and at 4000 rpm (28.1 knots/32.4 mph) that dropped back to a very conservative 43 lph.
The extra cockpit space is essentially designed so you can fish four people comfortably without getting in each others way. It also gives you more stowage area aboard and a bigger boat on the water that still comes under 2500 kgs on the trailer.
From the rear bulkhead forward there is little to distinguish the XP816 from the XP776.
Forward are two alloy units, one housing a sink unit with hot/cold water and the gas bottle, the other with a very neat and compact single burner CAN stainless steel cooker with the califont under.
Overhead on the hardtop overhang, Southern have included a Hella Seahawk cockpit light as standard equipment and this really illuminates the large cockpit space. Rods can be stowed in the rocket launcher or in any of the four extra wide and full length side shelves. There’s also the option of lockable rod lockers, but with the lockable cabin it’s probably not worth the extra cost. Four rod holders are recessed into the side decks so fishos will have no shortage of places to stow their sticks.
The transom is the same as the XP776 with a live bait tank, twin lockers above and battery storage below, plus space available for a 70 litre chilly/kill bin. Single or twin bracket mounts can be used for a very large central Manta baitboard. Plus you again have plenty of options available from sink units or another bait bin to tuna tubes or a built in cutting board. It’s really up to you what you want to compliment your fishing.
The walk through (with drop in wash board) to the boarding platform leads onto a very solid and purpose built stainless ladder that will really suit any divers aboard.
Open or Enclosed
The other big difference between the previous XP776 and the XP816 is that the 776 is an open hardtop model, whereas the 816 is a hardtop with a fully enclosed wheelhouse. A full alloy bulkhead with lockable double doors divides the wheelhouse from the cockpit and provides a nice cosy and warm area when you need to get inside out of the weather. You do have the option of running all clears or a combination of a soft clear centre and solid side panels.
Interestingly in the smaller XP776 the trend has been split between open hardtops in the North Island and enclosed in the South Island, although I think the trend for the XP816 will be towards fully enclosed, no matter where you do you boating. With fresh water, a califont, stove, fridge, shower, head and berth options for 2-4 people, the XP816 is a true weekender.
The first XP816 has large vertical windows either side of the doors, which I found extremely good idea as the skipper and anyone else in the cabin has full view of the entire cockpit. Adds a more social atmosphere to the layout and helps bring both areas closer together. Something that anyone backing up on a fish would find beneficial. You have the option of both or either rear windows on vertical sliders, although the large sliding side windows in the wheelhouse offer ample extra ventilation. Front windows are all safety glass with a Roca wiper to help clear the way for the skipper.
With the bulkhead in place the layout inside takes on a more weekender form with plenty of options for extra berths and seating. The standard layout has a pair of adjustable Tough Plastics bucket seats mounted above alloy cabinetry, with a pair of small jump seats either side aft. Both units are dedicated to storage with excellent front and top access, plus there’s a 40 litre Novacool fridge under the port seat. Southern prefer to put the galley in the cockpit so there’s no gas or cooking odours inside, but if you prefer can mount a small gas or electric cooker behind the port seat.
The moulded helm is the only other item of fibreglass in the boat and it is designed to handle plenty of equipment. A stainless footrest doesn’t get fitted until the boat is sold so that it can be mounted in the best position to suit the particular owner.
Centre piece in our test boat was a Lowrance HDS12 touch screen MFD with a Raymarine 49E VHF, Fusion RA205 and Unidock flanking the Seastar helm. A trio of Yamaha digital gauges looks after all the engine management data for the Yamaha 300hp outboard on the transom.
Under the forward cabin there are two full-length berths (2.1m) plus a central infill to turn the entire space into a massive berth. Storage is provided under the squabs and in side trays that run down either side. Being a weekender having a head is important and in the XP816 this has been tucked away under the starboard squab. Standard is a pump in/pump out head, but you do have the option of a fully plumbed system with a holding tank. The cabin head and sides are all fabric trimmed and a privacy curtain is provided.
The Southern XP816 is a boat that from the first moment I saw it I knew I was going to like it. Well I liked it a lot and the more I looked through the boat and then experienced on the water, the more I liked it. No boat’s perfect and every boat is designed for a purpose, some you may like, some you don’t. Well all I can say is if you are shopping for an 8m hardtop alloy boat, the XP816 has to be on your list. Quality, finish, performance and also the all important look of the boat gets 10 out 10 on my score card.
The Southern XP816 is one of the first of the totally new models introduced into the Southern range since the company changed ownership in 2013. The thirteen model range now extends from an all new XP496 through the wide bodied (2.8m) XP896.
The company doesn’t plan to be a mass producer of boats, rather produce a smaller number with the highest quality.
“Our plan is for around 35 boats a year and right now we are well on target for that”, says Peter. He adds that the interest in the new range extends not only throughout New Zealand, but he is also looking at potential export markets in Australia and the Pacific Islands.
- Make & model: Southern XP816 HTE
- Manufacturer: Southern Boats
- Priced from: $NZ174,700
- Price as tested: $NZ199,999.
- Type: Hardtop
- Construction: Aluminium 6mm/4mm
- LOA: 8.10 m
- Beam: 2.50 m
- Deadrise: 20 deg
- Height on trailer: 2.95m
- Trailerable Wgt: 2250 kgs
- Test power: Yamaha 300
- Propeller: Saltwater 2 SDS 17”
- Top speed: 42 knots (48.3 mph)
- Power options: Outboard/Sterndrive
- Power range: 200-350hp
- Fuel capacity: 300 litres
- Trailer: Southern Trailers