Theodore Coastal 720 Boat Test

Need high-performance with comfort and style? Rick Huckstepp tests the 8m Theodore Coastal 720 diesel and is thoroughly impressed with its rough-water ability. If you’ve got bumpy water to cross, or if you simply want to stay dry and comfortable, this is a top-shelf contender that you need to consider.

Theodore Coastal 720 Boat Test

Boat Test Theodore Coastal 720: COASTAL CRUISER TAMES THE ROUGH
Author and photography: Rick Huckstepp

This boat test ran in ISSUE 76 of BlueWater magazine – DEC-JAN 2010

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

Offshore anglers look for a number of attributes in a boat, and the longer the list the deeper our pockets need to be. I’m not talking about accessories here, but the nuts and bolts of the build, design and quality of the finished product.

Most of the higher-volume, production-line boats, whether glass or alloy, are aimed squarely at the mass recreational market. Then there are the boats built for a more demanding market, whether destined to operate in the commercial industry or recreationally under the hands of dedicated skippers who know what they want and demand a lot from it.And then there are those who have the money and desire to own the best – and why buy a Holden Commodore when you can have a Ferrari!

Which brings me to Jim Theodore, who runs Port River Marine in South Australia.Inside Jim’s yard, the monolithic size of deep-sea oceanic trawlers on cradles, or swinging from a 70-tonne ship lift, dwarfs the buildings and other vessels. This operation is the small-ship hospital of South Australia, with a constant stream of surveyed vessels – commercial, private and government – using repair services the quality of which is renowned Australia-wide. It’s also the maternity wing for one of Jim’s pet projects, the Theodore 720.

When only the best will do

The effort with design and quality control that Jim has put into these boats is outstanding. In many ways, the Theodore Coastal is an exception to the standard rule. Since the first shell popped out of the mould, Jim (who has a commercial shipwright background) has been fastidious in maintaining only the highest standards.

Generally, a locally manufactured boat will dominate in its home waters first. This was certainly the case with the Theodore 720. There are now many operating in the two South Australian gulfs and also along its challenging coastal waters. And, slowly but surely, the boats are now permeating the equally tough waters off Victoria and the West Australian coastline.

The Theodore 720 was born and bred for rough waters, particularly those nasty stretches where strong wind hits an opposing tide in shallow water. The sleek lines of the 720 enable itto operate on some of Australia’s roughest waters. At the helm you can feel it lean into hard, high-speed turns. This is the result of its sharp deadrise off the keel at the forefoot.

Differently designed boats, with hulls that remain beamy well forward, may offer high stability at rest, but with the downside of a rough ride, since its wave-piercing qualities have been sacrificed. Spray can also be a problem when riding over chop, or when wind comes over one of the forequarters, drenching the boat.

But not so with the 720, which has proven itself to be very soft-riding over big chop. The harder you push it, the better it performs. And it’s dry to boot!

Stability is not an issue here either. With 660kg of Volvo Penta diesel engine and Duoprop leg low down in the bilge, the boat sits like a brick when stopped in the water.

The enginebox over the Volvo provides stability when standing and fishing in the cockpit. The transom bulkhead doesn’t have toe-kicks, but the scupper system allows you to recess your toes for the same result.

Advanced storage

Cockpit sidepockets on many small gameboats are overcrowded, with jumbles of gaffs and ropes, while tackle containers are often relegated to floating between unused seat tops or laying about in the cabin. However, the sidepockets on the Theodore 720 are the result of much more careful thought.

Both sidepockets on the 720 have a cabinet to store standard, plastic tackleboxes. Behind a door on the starboard side cupboard you’ll find tubes that run forward, inside the cockpit liner. These are for storing your flying gaff handle and some fixed-head gaffs. There’s enough room for bulky items in the balance of the pockets.

On any boat with an elevated enginebox, it’s difficult to design a functional bait rigging table to fit in the centre of the transom. The Theodore 720’s removable bait rigging table is set at the right height to use while kneeling on the padded cushions or while standing and leaning across from the walkway. And since the lid on the livebait tank won’t fully open when the table is transom-mounted, there’s also the option of mounting holes in one of the gunwales, so you could use it on one side.

Ample strength

Should you wish to bring home a catch that is larger than life, the Theodore 720’s sturdy transom platform will do the job. It’s slotted, allowing for easy drainage of fish slime and the like, but has been designed narrower than the aft beam, which should prevent damage when coming to a wharf or pontoon.

The craft’s hull has a bottom thickness of around 20mm of solid resin and mat – according to the plug I saw that was drilled for hull fittings to be installed.

Under the enginebox you’ll find the majority of the 260hp engine tucked under the overhanging transom bulkhead. And should it have to be removed for repairs, that part of the topside is removable for a vertical lift.

Day-to-day maintenance with plumbing on pumps and filters is easily accessed down the front of the engine, which is adorned with a full plastic cover over the pulley belt system. This cover is not mandatory for the proper running of the engine and makes quick inspection of the belt system a little tedious. I suggest you get rid of the cover and open up the front of the engine for easy inspection.

Super-comfortable seats

No expense has been spared on the seats in the Theodore 720. They’re gas-strut operated and fully adjustable for height and ride comfort, as well as fore and aft movement.

The seats are mounted on modules that provide stiffening to the walls of the superstructure. The moulded-in, rounded lines of these modules make it easy to move around the helm station without stubbing your toes on the corners.

A lot of thought has gone into maximising cockpit space, so the wheelhouse is well forward. This results in a lockable cabin that will sleep two adults, but not with much room to spare. There’s also a portable toilet under the fore section of the vee-berth.

Anchoring is made easy with a drum anchor winch. If you need to conduct maintenance on it, access is via the front bulkhead, behind a flush-mounted hatch in the cabin. The chain runs up through the foredeck and out of a curved stainless steel hawser pipe. This should prevent a lot of water coming into the winch compartment, but it does drain externally should that occur.

Built for heavy weather

For added strength in big-sea conditions, the window panes all around the wheelhouse are fitted with hardened glass. The side windows open at one end for ventilation.

You’ll mount most of your electronics on the dash, but should you want more, there is additional space behind and next to the raised brow at the helm, where you could set more units on gimbal mounts. The rest of the instrumentation is easily within reach.

There’s electronic power steering to the Duoprop leg and this has to be used to be appreciated. It is as light as a feather while undertaking any manoeuvre.

Overhead, the hardtop hosts a radome and the usual array of antennae. It has an overhang all the way around but, importantly, the brow on the front is reasonably short. This would help if the boat goes through a wall of green water, as the pressure on a large overhang can be enough to ‘scalp’ a superstructure.

The design all adds to the seaworthiness of the 720 if (or when) you get caught in nasty conditions. The short awning off its aft end has zip access to the rocket launcher mounted there. And there are plenty of rodholders and cleats around the gunwales as well.

Great handling

This boat is amazingly manoeuvrable in all manner of conditions. Even with 10 knots of wind on the quarters, very little spray finds its way on to the windscreens.

When reversing on fish, you will find the boat likes plenty of throttle to dig the Duoprops right in. Once the fish bite, hard turns to port and starboard when going astern are very definite. The hull responds quickly to the turn of the wheel. You won’t have problems backing down on erratic fish. The swim platform blocks a lot of the water, but a little spray finds its way up through the slots – as you’d expect.

When driving fast through big chop, I noticed that the rear end of the starboard bowrail had a lot of vibration, more so than portside. It was not audible, but was visible out of the corner of my eye and was slightly annoying. Perhaps it needs to be installed under stress, to take any limpness out of its otherwise robust design.

In conclusion

Well, if you’re into work boats and want something that can push the seagoing boundaries, you’d be well advised to consider the Theodore 720. And if you need long legs, it has the speed and the economical fuel consumption that will alleviate a lot of pain every time you go to sea.

A quick check on the performance figures reveals that with a 10-knot speed at 1500rpm, diesel consumption is just 12 litres per hour. If cruising at 27 knots and 2500rpm, fuel consumption is just 22 litres per hour. At Wide Open Throttle of 3500rpm and 40 knots, fuel consumption is nudging 53 litres per hour, which is still respectable, to say the least!

The price tag for the Theodore 720 is at the high end of the trailerboat scale but, as mentioned earlier, this ain’t a basic Holden Commodore!


  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-handling, rough-water boat of this size.
  • It’s economical.
  • The standard of finish is exemplary.
  • Gaff storage is excellent.


  • People (day): 8
  • People (berthed): 2
  • Fuel: 300 litres
  • Water: 100 litres


  • Material: Fibreglass hull and topsides
  • Length overall: 8.04m
  • Beam: 2.5m
  • Draft: 0.87 max.
  • Deadrise: 20 degrees at transom
  • Weight: 1985kg dry


  • Make/model: Volvo Penta D4 260DPH
  • Type: four-cylinder, turbo-charged diesel
  • Rated hp: 260 @ 3500rpm
  • Displacement: 3.7 litres
  • Weight: 660kg (including gearbox)
  • Gearbox ratio: 1.78:1
  • Props: Duoprop No.8s

SPECIFICATIONS: Theodore Coastal 720
Options fitted: Hardtop, trim tabs, fishbox, two 50-litre freshwater bladders, lockable sliding door, aeratedlivebait tank, rodholders, cockpit and sidepocket carpet linings, enginebox cushions, padded coamings, rear awning, CD/radio set-up, Raymarine electronics package, VHF radio, portable toilet, baitboard with two mounts, emergency anchor kit, outriggers, gaff locker, tacklebox, searchlight and more. 

Theodore Coastal 720 Boat Test

Boat Test Theodore Coastal 720 : COASTAL CRUISER TAMES THE ROUGH
Author and photography: Rick Huckstepp
Supplied by: Theodore Marine

This boat test ran in ISSUE 76 of BlueWater magazine – DEC-JAN 2010 

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

Scroll to Top