AMF 580 V-Berth

Every AMF 580 V-Berth displays the builder's mission statement - Guaranteed Tough - across the transom. But Geoff Green was impressed with more than its strong construction when he headed into a wild, west-coast sea.

AMF 580 V-Berth
AMF 580 V-Berth

The AMF 580 V-Berth is one of three-models - 580, 610 and 660 - and 13 versions built by River City Marine in Wanganui.

EYE FOR DETAIL River City Marine does not build many boats each year so don't expect a mass-produced product or price. It's not that they sell at a premium above the market rate, more that the AMF specification starts at the top-end and Brian Collings (director) refuses to compromise it. He has an eye for detail and is driven by a demanding high-quality ethic.

Wanganui local, John O'Leary, who owns the 580 under review, is very active in the local dive club. He uses his 580 to fish and dive both coasts and often crosses the Wanganui bar or beach launches the boat to reach his marine playground.

He had planned a day's diving and fishing on a reef off Waverly. But as we headed down-river towards the bar it became clear the weather was not going to co-operate. It's comfortable to work the Wanganui coast about 30-days a year, John said, but unfortunately this was not going to be one of them.

A good measure of apprehension swept aside my normally strong work ethic as we approached the bar. I remember thinking: "Do I need to do this?" In a moment of chilling clarity I knew my life jacket would only make the coroner's job easier if I ended up in the water. The powerful outpourings of New Zealand's second largest river, the turmoil on the shallow bar and an onshore swell all combined to paint a daunting picture and I questioned the locals about the wisdom of going any further.

But John assured me it was safe to proceed. Boat review or not, there was no way I was going to take the helm from an experienced local, so I took up station behind the passenger's seat.

John worked the 580 through the rounded pressure waves in the pre-bar area and soon committed us to the rough stuff where there were too many, two-metre-plus breaking waves for my liking. The first of the steep waves bore down on us and with about 14 knots of boat speed we climbed the face, burst through the back and headed downward.

I braced myself for a large chiropractic bill but there was no need. The 580 pulled-up progressively as it buried the bow and fired large amounts of white water out long and low. John gave a quick repositioning squirt on the throttle and we were moving forward again ready to meet the next watery assault. Reassurance returned and I realised that as long as the skipper and engine functioned well we would be fine.

Five minutes later we were clear of the bar and shaking off the relatively minor amounts of chilling water that a breaking wave and a forward-of-the-beam wind had tossed aboard. Apart from that one wave, we would have got out and back dry.

John made the call for a quick return to the trailer because he knew the sea and bar were not going to get any calmer. "We need to go back soon," he said as he vacated the helm to stand next to me. "See, she sits like a duck in a swamp," he said by way of a laconic explanation for moving to my side and making it three on one side as we sat dead in the water, beam on to the sea.

AT THE HELM I took the helm and became progressively more at ease with the boat and the way it handled the rough ocean over the next 20 minutes. The 115 V4 Johnson gave great response and I found I could comfortably work my way into the head sea at around 15 knots and down hill at 20-plus.

I helmed us back to where I could see the foaming backs of the waves sweeping across the narrow bar entrance. The bar was no calmer and a quiet crew took in the challenging scene.

Although, from a distance, the waves marched in a reasonably uniform line, during the crossing we found a random sub-group that formed and fell away without warning. The overall pattern had also shortened so, at times, there was only just room for the 580 to sit in the trough. Not only did John have to use large amounts of throttle to hold position, but we also couldn't run along the faces to dodge the worst breaks.

Despite the shitty water and potential for disaster, the ride raised an adrenalin-fed smile. The boat displayed no vices and gave such a reassuring performance I knew we were home Scott-free.

Safely back on the Wanganui River I played with the boat in flat water and it continued to endear itself to me. Even after such a short time behind the wheel, I'd say it's a sweet, well-balanced unit with no vices and a great ride.

AMF 580 V-Berth
Length (overall): 5.8m
Hull length: 5.33m
Beam: 2.25m
Deadrise: 18.5°
Rec/max hp: 115-150hp
Fuel: 120lt
Towing Weight: 1340kg

Keep up to date with news from Trade-A-boat or like us on Facebook!