Ramco 680 Patrol

Aluminium production builder Ramco Boats has diversified into pontoon craft with a difference. Geoff Green spent a telling west-coast day aboard the 680 Patrol, the company's first pontoon offering.

Ramco 680 Patrol
Ramco 680 Patrol

Ramco Boats managing director Bill Mackrell received requests for three hulls before he launched the 4.4m Seeker he designed and built as a private project in 1984. The Seeker became the founding model of the company that has steadily refined and expanded its range to become one of the country's biggest production aluminium boat builders.

Seventeen years on the company's focus has moved up the scale and its core business is now 5.6m to 7.6m production trailerboats. It has also manufactured larger boats and will release an 8.5m production model at the 2001 New Zealand Boatshow.

Until recently there was one market segment that Ramco had not pursued, but the release of a pre-production model at last year's Hamilton Boatshow signalled its intentions to compete against pontoon pioneer Stabi-Craft and the raft of manufacturers who have since developed their own version of the super stable tinnie.

But the 680 Patrol does not look like a pontoon boat in the accepted sense and even at second or third glance it continues to impersonate a full-bodied trailerboat. Bill says he purposely tried to achieve a monohull look and avoid the clip-on pontoon style favoured by many other manufacturers.

"The Patrol may not look like a pontoon boat but it does incorporate the advantages of that design style," he says.

After spending a day gamefishing in a sloppy west coast sea, taking photographs of another boat (climbing on the Patrol's hardtop to do so), transferring from one boat to another and stopping dead in the water to retrieve albacore and skipjack tuna, I agree. The 680 Patrol sits very well in the water and is stiff and stable.

The Patrol incorporates slightly more beam than Bill would normally design into a 6.8m boat and it's the additional width, the turn down of the double chine and the pontoons which extend past the transom that generate the hull's good form stability. The wide double chine tapers from maximum width at the stern to almost nothing at the bow. Bill says the double chine is a "new concept for us" and I think you will see some aspects of it appear in the standard Ramco range in future.

The double chine is used to develop volume within the pontoons (which are sealed sections within the monohull hull form) and Bill says it enables the wetted surface to be reduced when the boat is travelling at speed. "In calm water the water peels off the first chine and the second one remains clear of the water. This narrows the operational beam, reduces wetted surface and optimises fuel economy."

While increased stability is one strength of a pontoon design, reserve buoyancy is the other. I don't think the 680 Patrol generates the really high-end figures achieved by some of the clip-on style pontoon boats (in either department) but it does provide a really good mix of form and function.

Bill says very little would happen if you left the bung out and, if you took a big wave over the back, not much worse, apart from having a mobile swimming pool until the water drained out the duckbills in the transom. In normal lets-go-fishing-trim, the cockpit floor is about 135mm above the water and no water overflowed from the sumps onto the floor during our seven hours at sea.

The 680 has a 25 degree deadrise at the transom and, because the chines progressively taper, there are no flat areas to pull the boat up hard. There were many times it smoothed the lumps in the ocean far better than I anticipated and I came to appreciate its good ride. At one stage, while returning from Gannet Island (about 10 miles off Raglan), the 200hp Optimax was given a workout and the 680 Patrol ran at 33 knots in quite sloppy conditions.

The boat runs flat and as a result it is a little wet. Bill says the design could be made drier by adding strakes to the hull. But, he says, why add strakes that will detract from the soft ride when there is a perfectly good hardtop to keep everyone warm and dry? "If we were to produce a cuddy cabin version minus the hardtop I would fit strakes to it." he says.

The hardtop did provide excellent shelter as well as maximum visibility. There was ample space under the hardtop (and in the cuddy and cockpit) and this is probably due to Bill's stature. He's a big boy at 1.9m (6ft 3in) and he likes practical no nonsense boats that work for him. The hardtop is fitted with King and Queen seating modules made from rotationally moulded plastic. They offer plenty of storage with good access (the queen seat can be removed). The 20l pale I use as a fishing kit disappeared when I went aboard and I had to hunt around before locating it in the port seat module. It was one of many big items stored in there.

Two relatively large underfloor storage lockers are situated between the seats. The front locker empties into the aft locker and this drains to the transom via a tube under the fuel tank. The fuel tank carries 200l, which is plenty to keep the 200hp Optimax humming on a trip out wide.

Parents and fisherman will really love the deep cockpit. The padded coamings came to the top of my thighs and were an ideal height to lean against. The tops are wide and provided easy access when boarding or a comfortable place to sit while fishing or socialising. The coamings were peppered with rod holders and the Patrol is fitted with big cockpit side pockets big enough to hold my 6kg and 8kg rods plus plenty of other gear (the locker and rod holders do not compromise the sealed side chambers below them).

Bill says the Patrol has a gross towing weight is 2.4 tonnes on the trailer. His Nissan Patrol easily kept us in the traffic flows on the tight and hilly Raglan road and the hydrastar electric over hydraulic trailer brakes kept everything straight and true when we pulled up quickly.

Launching and retrieving the boat was no problem, apart from not being able to undo the safety chain shackle easily or remove the winch hook while the boat was hard against the bow chock. It's a minor problem - you can work around it - and otherwise the tandem multi-roller trailer worked really well. Bill just drove the boat on an off the trailer and we were off the ramp in no time at all.

The 680 Patrol is constructed with 5mm bottom plates, 4mm sides, 4mm hardtop and a 4mm tread plate floor. The bottom plates can be upgraded to 6mm but Bill says the eight fore and aft girders give good panel support and he does not expect many people to take up this option. I thought the boat was well put together and nicely finished.

In summary, the 680 Patrol is an interesting blend of concepts. It's stable and rides well and, as a result, is very easy on the body in a sloppy sea. There is ample space in all departments and the overall package delivers a useable, practical boat that will give fishermen, adventurers and a family peace of mind. It's a nice blend of form and function.


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