Haines Signature 535BR

Haines Signature 535BR Boat Test
Boating New Zealand Magazine - February 2012

Haines Signature 535BR on the move
Haines Signature 535BR cockpit
Haines Signature 535BR from the bow
Haines Signature 535BR on Lake Wanaka

Review Haines Signature 535 BR

Quotes “Even caught in the middle of a choppy Lake Wanaka, the 535 held her own.”

Haines Signature’s latest bow rider takes the proven form of the 580BR and puts it into a smaller package.

Test conditions: a choppy Lake Wanaka, moderate southerly

By definition, a bow rider must do two things: seat people in the bow and make the owner look good whether driving, cleaning or towing the boat. Haines Signature recognises the voguish image stereotypically associated with bow rider owners and its new 535BR plays to it perfectly.

The 5.35-metre boat is the latest release from the iconic Australian company and is based on the 580BR, but this little sister is finding favour with boaties wanting something easier to handle on and off the water. It’s being built for the New Zealand market out of Christchurch’s Reflex Marine and Haines Signature yard and Reflex believes the 535 is perfect for the active boatie. “It’s targeted at families really, for cruising and teaching the kids to water ski,” they say. “But it’s flexible too, with removable rear seats and rod holders. Obviously you won’t see this off Three Kings, but it’s great for use on lakes and inshore areas.”

From the first glance the 535 has a sleek-looking appearance. A curving windscreen blends into the boat’s lines seamlessly, and the bow doesn’t sacrifice any shape to cram more people forward as some bow riders do. New boats are offered in marine white, with full size hull bands or strips below the gunwale, just above the chine, or a combination of both.

Up, up and away - Fitted with a 140hp Suzuki four-stroke and 19-inch prop, the 535 hesitated briefly before get itself right out of the hole when Boating tested her. However, since then the hollow swim platforms fitted to each side of the transom, blamed for causing a suction effect before releasing the boat onto the plane, have been foam-filled and glassed over. Perry Allen of Torque Marine, Wanaka’s Reflex and Haines Signature agent, says the difference the change has made is unbelievable. “She’s a completely different boat now. It’s made a huge difference and now when you take off, rather than being sucked down by the platforms, they almost act like a trim tab and help lift the bum clear of the water. She’s as smooth as silk now, it’s amazing how something so small can make such a big difference.”

A flat section, roughly 200mm wide at the transom and tapering forward, runs the length of the keel and helps achieve planing at lower speeds. Two planing strakes assist with hole shot, and once up and running the 535 tracks straight right to a top speed of 37 knots (42.8mph). No adults were putting their hand up to jump in Lake Wanaka for a ski when Boating tested the 535 before Christmas, but a video on the Boating Facebook page shows an adult barefoot skier being hauled along behind the boat with ease. Likewise, pulling kid after kid up on water skis or a wakeboard won’t be an issue.

Turning a corner - A non-return steering system has its benefits and drawbacks. The system is standard on Reflex and Haines Signature boats built in New Zealand and works with a clutch on the steering shaft. When the wheel is stationary, the clutch is engaged and the wheel is essentially locked in place. Apply any pressure to the helm and the clutch disengages and frees the wheel to be turned. From a watersport point of view the benefit is you are able to make consistent turns: put the wheel in one spot and you can guarantee it will stay there until you’re ready to straighten out your line. The downside comes when getting a feel for the boat’s trim. The helm isn’t light so it’s hard to gauge correct trim through feel on the wheel, although this should loosen up to some extent after about 60 hours of running according to Reflex.

The 535 hangs on nicely in the corners despite having a flat section running the length of the keel. When Boating tested her though, the hollow swim platforms were occasionally causing the outside aft edge to catch in a hard turn, but again, that problem has been resolved since the platforms have been filled says Perry.

Even caught in the middle of a choppy Lake Wanaka, the 535 held her own. There was never any thought the boat couldn’t handle the niggly short, sharp chop pestering the forward quarter, but because she is a smaller boat, she does have to be driven to the conditions, as most bow riders in this size bracket do. A snub in the bow, along the keel line, has been designed to help keep water off the windscreen and the standard Signature Variable Deadrise Hull helps smooth out the ride.

Creature comforts Inside the boat there’s seating for six. It’s easy to sink into the comfortable curve of the transom seat, but securing the port or starboard side is crucial. The middle of the bench seat pushes out and doesn’t afford you the ability to lounge back like the two spots on either side. The seats are removable if a day’s fishing is on the cards and extra room is needed, but if kept in place there’s still enough stowage for life jackets and ski ropes in the seat bases. The bow is accessed through a fold-out windscreen, although to keep the boat’s bow looking sharp, the amount of space in it is reduced. Two adults could tuck their legs up and fit in there, but it’s really a space best reserved for kids. More stowage is found under the squabs. The driver and person riding shotgun have their own pedestals seats, both with plenty of room. From the skipper’s chair it’s easy to glance at the good-looking Suzuki gauges but there isn’t much extra dashboard room to add a chart plotter or depth sounder. On the passenger’s side is a moulded dash housing a Fusion MS IP600 stereo.

The throttle falls nicely to hand whether sitting or standing, and in both positions the view through the windscreen is unobstructed. Although the windscreen has a low profile, it still blocks enough wind to create an environment conducive to conversation. The test boat’s underfloor fuel tank isn’t a standard set-up for the 535 and dominated all usable space in the cockpit sole. Most versions will be offered with a smaller 65-litre tank that takes up just half of the underfloor space, offering more stowage. If stowage was a real issue, tote tanks are an option which means waterskis could then be stored underfloor and out of sight.

The chopped-down 580 also benefits by only needing a single axle trailer. It comes standard on a multi-roller, non-braked unit so launching off a beach should be just as achievable with the light boat as working from a boat ramp.

Our verdict As a bow rider designed for greener boaties wanting to enjoy some on-water fun with a younger family, the 535 fits the bill. She’ll happily tow a skier, she’s small enough to get away with a 140hp engine, you won’t require a massive car for towing and she’s easily launched and retrieved. Her tested price of $62,995 means she’s not the cheapest option on the market but she is a good-looking one.

Pros Good looks, easy to power, light to tow

Cons Small bow, limited stowage for larger items

Specifications loa 5.35 beam 2.2m deadrise 21 degrees draft 400mm displacement 800kg construction GRP power 90 - 140hp price from $51,995 enquiries

Reflex Marine and Haines Signature 03 384 9482 www.reflex.co.nz