Haines Signature 650 Boat Test

The Haines Group’s Signature Variable Deadrise Hull, known as SVDH, may be small by bluewater standards, but it definitely packs a punch, and Warren Steptoe regards it as one of the best small-boat hull designs in the world today.

Haines Signature 650F Boat Test

Boat Test Haines Signature 650: THE SIGNATURE OF SUCCESS
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe

This boat test ran in ISSUE 110 of BlueWater magazine – JULY 2015

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

The Haines Group’s Signature Variable Deadrise Hull, known by its acronym SVDH, is without doubt one of the best small-boat hull designs in the world today. It’s certainly one of the most sophisticated.

Designed by the late John Haines Snr, often referred to as‘Hainesy’ by his friends, SVDH utilises a complex bottom shape that blends a fine deadrise angle at the bows, flaring back to a still fairly steep angle at the transom. The variable deadrise. Strakes and a flat section along the keel manage the transition from low speeds until the hull is cleanly planing very well indeed, with the chines shaped to maintain the at-rest stability so important while fishing.

Hainesy put a lifetime of racing, fishing from, designing and of course building small boats into the SVDH development. Today it’s used in the Signature range of boats from the Haines Group in hulls ranging from 4.5 metres up to over seven. They also distribute Suzuki outboard motors and build Traveller caravans among other aspects of the marine and recreational industries.

In the new Signature 650F, SVDH finds a particularly sweet spot. While it’s small by bluewater standards, it shouldn’t be underestimated. Thanks to its SVDH hull, the Signature 650F offers an outstanding ride at sea for a boat of its size, with the remarkably safe and sure-footed handling I’ve experienced with every SVDH boat I’ve put through its paces, regardless of size.

Of course, getting out to the fishing grounds and back again is only one of the roles fishing boats have to fulfil – the other equally important one reveals itself when the fishing starts.

Fish-Friendly

As it turns out, SVDH hulls are also particularly good for trolling lures, unsurprising given Hainesy’s obsession with fishing. SVDH’s wake waves are ideally shaped to surf skirted lures in a staggered pattern. The whitewater produced by the hull and outboard is also maintained close to the surface where it won’t discourage an approaching fish below.

All the preceding characteristics are sometimes contradictory to a hull’s stability when at rest, but unlike the classic deep-vee hulls the SVDH’s ride is often compared with, it has no tendency to ‘flop’ from chine to chine the way they so infamously do.

Under way, the 650F reviewed certainly lacked nothing in terms of speed. With a 250hp Suzuki 4-stroke outboard on its transom the performance and fuel-efficiency figures speak for themselves, yet the motor goes about its business so unobtrusively you hardly notice it. These are all good reasons for the popularity of modern 4-stroke outboards, among which Suzuki is a leading brand.

Top speed for the 650F with a Suzuki DF250 on the back comes in at 71.5km/h. Fuel-efficient cruising is to be found between 3750 and 4750rpm and about 45 and 60km/h, where the DF250 burns between roughly 28 and 40 litres per hour.

There is another reason why this motor integrates so well with the Signature 650F, although it’s hidden well out of sight. The hull and deck moulds comprising an SVDH hull are bonded with a proprietary process called Nexus, developed by the Haines Group for their exclusive use, and then filled with structural foam.

The end result is a unitised hull with formidable structural integrity. One of the genuine bonuses of this is that the hull is notably quiet inside while travelling. At the same time, the hull construction also minimises transmission of noise from inside the boat to the surrounding water. This is especially important because water transmits sound much better than air does, and that’s something bluewater anglers too often overlook. When drifting for wary species like yellowfin tuna, this sound insulation could really help.

Built For Fishing

There’s no denying the 650F’s hull is something special among boats its size, but for our particular style of fishing a boat’s interior is equally as important.

The ‘F’ in the 650F’s model designation means the boat has been primarily designed for fishing by the Haines Group, with family usage at other times also suitable.

These two uses are far from contradictory, as the popular offshore fishing/family boat genre ably demonstrates. In Australia we really are spoilt for choice among boats of the genre, and the 650F is a sublime rendition of the theme.

It’s not perfect though. I’m always banging on about the importance of being able to brace your legs against the cockpit sides while fishing, and this boat lacks the essential support across the aft end of the cockpit. Your toes encounter the vertical panels long before your upper leg. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. An upholstered bolster across the top of the aft bulkhead and around the cockpit corners is an easy and inexpensive fix. If this were my boat, I’d continue the upholstery along each side of the cockpit.

Hardtop Comfort

On the other hand, something I can’t praise highly enough is the 650F’s hardtop. It creates a total comfort zone around the helm area, sheltered from the rain and spray in every direction except directly aft, and well ventilated in hot weather by opening the big sliding glass windows.

In the helm area there are a pair of beautifully designed and very deep bucket seats that wrap around each side to keep occupants comfortable and in place during rough weather. Thanks to a big opening between their cushion and squab, they don’t create the sweatbox that deep bucket seats can often become. When you need to stand up, to cushion the ride or improve vision, the front section of the cushion flips up to brace your backside against.

Another advantage is that the frames the seats are mounted on are easily height-adjustable via a simple pin system to get both the seat and the bracing bolster at the right height. This is the first time I’ve seen this type of feature and I can’t praise it highly enough.

However, supplementary seating isn’t as well presented in this particular boat and is restricted to cushions on the lid of a pair of iceboxes fitted under the bucket seats. These can serve either as iceboxes or as dry stowage space and are easily accessible because the seat cushions flip up, so the whole lid doesn’t have to be opened to get inside.

Further gear stowage is located beneath the bunks in the cuddy cab and in a roomy locker situated belowdecks between the helm and passenger seats. Out in the cockpit there’s a long, skinny fish locker belowdecks on each side. These are well shaped for the pelagic fish you might elect to take home for the table.

The deck in the boat reviewed drains through strainers into a compartment where it can be pumped out, with the option for a fully self-draining deck available.

Custom Options

Because this particular boat belongs to Greg Haines it has been fitted-out with some very upmarket options, which could add an extra $50,000 on top of the base boat/motor/ trailer price of $79,178. This investment includes laying Sea Deck in the cockpit. I’ve encountered this product several times now and it never fails to impress with a soft, non-slip surface underfoot, which wears well and looks fantastic.

Among the options available for the 650F are three different transom arrangements. If you look closely you’ll find that the transom area is a modular moulding that can easily be changed for one option or another while the hull is being built.

One option, as fitted to this boat, is a transom door portside with a pair of boarding platforms outside on the transom proper, and a livewell to starboard. The workbench seen in this boat slots into central mountings. A folding rear lounge is also available, although was not fitted to our test boat.

Alternately, the second option incorporates a pair of livewells, one either side, with or without the workbench. These workbenches are considered a must among offshore reef anglers, although they do tend to get in the way when gamefishing.

A third alternative offered for the 650F has no livebait tanks, a folding outboard flap and a transom door.

An Arsenal Of Rods

I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but rod stowage in the boat reviewed is almost over the top. The beautifully crafted stainless-steel Targa arch over the hardtop roof stows no less than 11 rods in two rows. A set of Reelax outriggers is mounted lower down beside the hardtop, with super-bright LED deck lights each side of the rod rack.

There are also three rodholders in the sidedecks either side of the cockpit, with a further three across the workbench perched atop the aft bulkhead.

That’s 20 rods stowed so far and we haven’t even counted the other set of racks inside each sidepocket. These I imagine would also be used for gaffs, tag poles and boat hooks, as well as the more fragile outfits that you prefer to keep out of harm’s way. There are 20-metre boats that have less rod stowage than the 650F!

Inside the cuddy cabin there’s ample space for a couple to sleep in some comfort, with a portable toilet underneath the infill cushion.

Waterborne crime being the problem it is these days, the securely lockable sliding cabin door is obviously a good idea. This is as applicable to the fishing side of this boat’s personality as for a family boating role.

Garmin Sonar

One feature of Greg’s boat you can’t help but notice is a monster 15-inch display screen that takes up the entire dash space. This is a Garmin GPS Map 8015MFD that’s clearly what you might call one hell of a sonar/GPS unit for a small boat. It’s got more apps than a mobile phone, including in this case a GHP20 auto pilot, as well as a GCV 10 scanner module for both downward and side scanning.

While the 8015 MFD is able to display an amazing array of information, to keep the screen clear for fish finding and navigation duties Greg’s boat is fitted with three Garmin GMI 20 display units for engine information, alongside a Fusion sound system and a Garmin VHF radio, all mounted in an overhead console incorporated into the hardtop.

A 370-litre fuel tank completes one of the best boats this size I’ve ever reviewed for BlueWater magazine. This particular boat is probably a bit overoptioned, but that doesn’t change the fact that even at its basic fitout, the Signature 650F is a great pocket rocket, trailerable, bluewater sportfisher.

With a towing weight around 2.2 to 2.5 tonnes depending on fuel load, it can also be towed by the 4WDs many readers will probably already own, although that’s just one of its many attractions.

Highlights

  • Signature’s brilliant SVDH hull.
  • Super-comfy helm and passenger seats.
  • Comfortable and sheltered helm area.

Capacities

  • Maximum Rated Power: 250hp
  • Maximum Engine Weight: 270kg
  • People: 7
  • Fuel: 370 litres

General

  • Material: GRP composites utilising proprietary ‘Nexus’ construction.
  • Hull type: proprietary ‘SVDH’ variable deadrise mono-hull.
  • Length: 6.5 metres
  • Beam: 2.5 metres
  • Deadrise: 33° (bow), 21° (transom)
  • Weight: 1250kg (hull only)
  • BMT towing weight: 2.2-2.5 tonnes (approx)

Engines

  • Make/model: Suzuki DF250AP
  • Type: DOHC EFI V6
  • Rated power: 250hp/184kw
  • Displacement: 3.6 litres
  • No. Cylinders: 6
  • Weight: 270kg
  • Gearbox ratio: 2.29:1

SPECIFICATIONS: Haines Signature 650F
Options fitted: Reelax outriggers, Garmin GPS Map 8015MFD, Garmin GHP20 auto pilot, Garmin GCV 10 scanner module, 3 x Garmin GMI 20 display units, custom rocket launcher, portable toilet, central bunk infill, Sea Deck deck material, Garmin VHF 200i, Fusion MS-IP700i stereo, transom workbench, custom seat frames with Signature split-system iceboxes, dual HD windscreen wipers, power anchor winch, pump-out for in-deck fishboxes, LED cockpit floodlights.  

Haines Signature 650F Boat Test

Boat Test Haines Signature 650F: THE SIGNATURE OF SUCCESS
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe
Supplied by: The Haines Group

This boat test ran in ISSUE 110 of BlueWater magazine – July 2015

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here