Buccaneer 635 Exess

Buccaneer Pleasure Craft has released the 17th model in its Buccaneer range. Geoff Green says the family cuddy-cabin 635 Exess has design innovations not previously seen in a trailer boat.

Buccaneer 635 Exess
Buccaneer 635 Exess

The 635 Exess uses Buccaneer's 635 Billfisher hull - a proven design that has seen plenty of offshore duty - but it's an all-new boat in every other respect. It carries a stylish, purpose-designed deck, cuddy cabin and interior and its central feature - a curved sliding cabin door - brings a fresh feature to the fibreglass trailer boat market.

It's a multi-purpose family boat that provides plenty of seating and it will be attractive to anyone who wants a capable cuddy cabin boat with toilet facilities, double bunk, big cockpit, ski pole, long range and the sea keeping to use it. It provides a large volume cockpit that offers a sense of security due to the boat's relatively wide beam and high coamings.

Family Boats' managing director Peter Carlson (who supplied the review boat) says from a dealer's point of view, the key aspects of the 635 are its size and stability.

"It's a size Buccaneer has not had in a family boat before. There was a gap between the highly popular 605 and the larger 720. The 635 Exess provides an option to select something in between."

Buccaneer Pleasure Craft managing director Gerry Gerrand confirms that the 635 Exess was designed to fill a gap between their 605 and 720 models. "We have been building Buccaneer 605s at the rate of one a week for over 11 years and there are over 500 in the market [four models have been produced under the 605 designation].

"I wanted to provide those owners an option to make an affordable move upwards, as well as give other buyers an expanded choice."

Peter says the lockable cabin and relatively open entry into the cuddy cabin are features that differentiate the 635. "Many buyers want a family boat with a locking cabin but are shy of narrow entrances and hinged doors that divide the cabin from the cockpit.

"In the Exess, the cabin door slides into a recess under the helm and people seated on the port bunk can be part of the cockpit social scene when it's open," he says.

As luck would have it, on the day I took the boat out on the water, the wind was blowing a steady 20 knots (the weather forecast was warning of gusts to 30 knots). Our circuit from Half Moon Bay launching ramp, around Motuihe and back to the ramp via the Motuihe Channel, provided more handling information than any long distance calm water expedition would have. There were very few boats out on the Hauraki Gulf that day.

The wind made the water choppy everywhere and a flood tide running against the strong sou'westerly whipped up steep standing waves adorned with breaking tops in Motuihe Channel. There were some big holes behind the steep faces and it's fair to say this particular area of the harbour presented a challenging piece of water.

With a following sea on the run out from Half Moon Bay towards Waiheke (the sea was flecked with white caps everywhere), we ran at 3500rpm which gave a comfortable and sedate 19 knots as the boat crested the waves and eased down into the troughs.

With a little more up-trim, but still running neutral trim in the overall sense, and with 4000rpm on the tacho, we moved along comfortably at 23 knots once the water calmed off a touch in the lee of Motuihe.

I accelerated the boat to top speed in the calm behind Motuihe and the 150hp Ficht Evinrude (the smallest recommended power for the boat) reached 5400rpm and the speedo registered 36.5 knots with two adults and very little gear in the boat.

The Evinrude was fitted with a 17in propeller to optimise throttle response and load carrying rather than top speed (which it did). Peter had tested a 19in propeller and the bigger pitch propeller had taken the 635 to 38 knots (with four people in it) but he said the 17in propeller produced a more tractable rig.

I entered Motuihe Channel at 22 knots but this was too fast for the conditions and I soon settled back to a more comfortable 15 to 17 knots with the bow pinned down using negative engine trim and lots of tab.

The 635 carved through the steep waves and seriously choppy water in good form and it was quite comfortable considering the conditions. If my non-seafaring wife and young nieces and nephews had been aboard, I think they would have been relatively relaxed with our transit through the channel.

The 635 tracked well and the hydraulic steering made helming finger light. It was a pleasure to drive despite the lumpy conditions that gave the boat a work out.

When I was standing at the helm, the combined slipstream generated by 22-knot head winds and 26 knots of boat speed made it hard to hear much else. It was much quieter sitting in the calm behind the windscreen and I could hear the relaxed off-load sounds of the Evinrude and trim it by ear.

The hull itself ran quietly, thanks to the closed cell polyurethane foam that fills the under floor cavities, and there was no great impact noise to startle unsuspecting or nervous seafarers.

I found the driver's position to be very comfortable (sitting or standing) and visibility through the toughened glass windscreen was great.

The single driver's seat keeps the cockpit floor open and provides the flexibility to have a person stand behind the driver. It also allows for the rear seat to be moved forward to open up the transom when fishing, or for the floor area to be used to carry water toys and bulk items such as chilly bins when heading out for a day's fun.

The adjustable driver's seat (a slider provides fore and aft movement) is mounted on a moulded base that has the slim lines of a pedestal - although it actually has significant amounts of storage within. The interior is accessed through an integrated door that gives good access and preserves the clean lines of the base.

The helm module looked very smart and was ergonomic to use and easy to view. It carried a Hummingbird 425SX sounder in the centre above the wheel, a Clarion stereo with protective cover in the lower left, a Uniden VHF in the lower right, Bennett trim tab controls, the remote control for the anchor windlass and a BEP switch panel. The curved burr elm instrument facia finished the top of the helm area nicely and the instruments (and Ritchie compass above them) were very close to my natural line of sight when driving.

The back-to-back passenger seat moulds against the cockpit side and the storage within extends out to the hull side and up to the forward bulkhead. The design makes for a comfortable seat with side upholstery and large amounts of easily accessed storage within.

The rear seat extends about two thirds of the way across the front of the transom and it is set up on a large storage bin fitted with spring retaining clips. This system offers storage, the flexibility to open up the transom when fishing and easy access to the batteries, fuel filters and oil reservoir fitted in the transom cavity. The oil reservoir is plumbed with an external filler on the transom for filling ease.

The transom is moulded with a small cutaway in the port coaming to aid access to the platform and an extending boarding ladder is fitted as standard. A moulded sink fitted in the starboard transom coaming is serviced with an extending saltwater spray nozzle as standard.

The water supply can be upgraded to freshwater with the installation of a small water tank behind the 240l under floor fuel tank. The sink is a great place to rinse dishes, put a bit of messy bait or clean up after fishing and it's not immediately obvious as a moulded lid retains the soft curves and flowing transom lines.

The curved sliding door that closes off the cuddy from the cockpit is made of fibreglass to give privacy when making a personal pit stop (the cuddy is equipped with a chemical toilet that can be upgraded to an electric marine toilet). The cuddy cabin windows have a stylised shape that adds to the boat's modern look and plenty of natural light diffuses into the cabin through the side windows and foredeck hatch when the sliding door is shut.

The interior of the cuddy doesn't lose anything to the forward curving dash and the front cabin bulkhead is also curved, but in the opposite plane to impart some style and point of difference to the interior. There is plenty of sitting headroom and the deep foot well provides a comfortable sitting position.

The cuddy bunks are 2m long and an optional in-fill converts them into a very comfortable double bunk. The chemical toilet fitted in the centre of the bunk immediately in front of the foot well is covered by a lift-up, hinging cover that carries the bunk squab.

The sliding cabin door didn't move at all in the rough conditions (even so, a catch to retain it open is now standard equipment) and it has a smooth action. To my mind this design feature would be a great addition to any trailerboat because it provides privacy and security when closed, a relatively large opening when open and completely alleviates the issue of cabin doors protruding and intruding into the cockpit space.

It will not be long before other manufactures follow Buccaneer's sliding door lead (the Genesis range of launches has used a curved sliding door for many years but this is the first time I have seen it integrated into a trailerboat in such stylish and practical fashion).

According to Peter, the 635 Exess weighs 1850kg on the trailer with no fuel or gear but otherwise ready to use. It is mounted on a tandem DMW Premier series multi-roller trailer fitted with hydraulic override brakes on the leading axle.

He says: "It's a capable family boat that is priced well and comes with a lot of extras as standard."

LOA: 6.77m
Hull length: 6.33m
Beam: 2.42
Deadrise at transom: 21°
Bunk length: 2m
Fuel capacity: 240 litres
Recommended power: 150-225hp
Towing weight: 1850kg dry
Boat supplied by: Family Boats, Ti Rakau Drive, Pakuranga, Auckland. Ph (09) 274 0511. ww.familyboats.co.nz

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