Bluewater Hardtop 680

Calling a boat Bluewater is easy enough, but the label takes a bit of living up to. Lindsay Wright looks at the latest model from one company that puts its metal where its mouth is.

Bluewater Hardtop 680
Bluewater Hardtop 680
Untitled Document People who head offshore on a regular basis need a different type of boat; one that’s capable of bashing her way home when the weather cuts up and one that will handle the rough usage dealt out by the sea conditions out wide.

That’s the sort of boat that father and son team – Gary and Paul Colcord – set out to build when they established Bluewater Boats 15 years ago and several of their early boats are still out there doing it – even in the boat-busting business of commercial fishing.

The latest Bluewater boat to hit the tide is the natty 680 hardtop. "We needed a boat to meet the six metre market – but still be a serious offshore machine," says Paul. Paul, who served his apprenticeship with Bluefin Boats, is the designer in the family and stresses that each boat produced at Bluewater Boats’ Henderson premises is a custom build.

"We work with the owner from day one – find out what they want in a boat, and do our best to provide it. Each boat is tailor made for the owner." And the relationship tends to remain. "We’ve sold boats to commercial fisherman and a few years later they want to go from, say, crayfishing to gill netting. They bring the boat back – tell us what they want – and we alter the boat accordingly."

All Bluewater hulls are built to Maritime New Zealand commercial survey standards and an inspection of the structural work under the cockpit floor of the 680 reveals some pretty impressive aluminium work.

"We start out with a 50mm x 20mm marine grade aluminium channel keel bar," says Paul. Six full width bulkheads are added, followed by 10 fully welded 75 x 6mm stringers.

"We only use 508 marine grade alloy, adds Gary. "The bottom and transom are 5mm thick plate and the topsides and deck are 4mm thick. The deck is made of 4mm treadplate and the hardtop is 4mm plate with 6mm for some of the structural members. We’ve built over a hundred boats over the years, and we’re pleased to say you don’t see many of them on the second hand market – people tend to hang on to ‘em."

The 680 hardtop is an upmarket version of the hard out fishing models and the test boat is a spec vessel but the overall impression, with its rakish hardtop, graphics and tear drop cabin window, is attractive and functional. The five coats of off-white Imron 700 epoxy paint merge well with the decals. "The epoxy paint gives the best protection – and it’s easy to touch up if you ding it."

The hull starts with a 33 degree deadrise at the entry and 18 degrees back at the stern where the 2.5m beam offers a pronounced stabilising effect. A photo shoot under the Auckland Harbour Bridge gives an opportunity to see the boat working hard through some tight turns and the stickability looks good with minimal breakout or cavitation.

From a distance the 200hp four-stroke Yamaha powering the 680 looks perfectly in scale and an unobstrusive part of the whole package but, once on board, the big grey cowling bolted to a half bracket on the portofino stern exerts a definite presence. "Using a half bracket gives a lot more space on board," Paul says, "and we’ve run the platform aft a bit to protect trim tabs if an owner wanted them fitted."

The 269kg Yamaha draws its fuel from a 290 litre underfloor tank – a separate unit and mounted off the hull in an aluminium box section frame.

A fuel filter/ water trap and engine starting battery are accessible behind the waterproof hatch in the transom and a house battery takes care of electronic equipment and domestic demands.

The test boat’s a bit shy on domestic gear but Gary points out where a stove and sink unit would be fitted and insulated 12V fridge units can be fitted in the generous stowage space under one, or both, of the two passenger seats at the forward end of the cockpit.

The vee berth offers two metre long berths on either side or an insert can be fitted for an intimate arrangement with one other (small) person.

There is tasteful wooden trim all round the hardtop but the real class act is the varnished wooden door which slides smoothly across to isolate the foc’sle. "We’ve always used wood – it’s much quieter, doesn’t rattle – and it just adds a nice touch," says Gary.

A manual flush toilet is hidden under the aft side of the port berth with good access all round for use and cleaning.

The hardtop provides good visibility all round through the 6mm tinted and toughened glass windows and has a generous overhang aft to shelter those left out on deck. The test boat had a hand hold welded on either side of the hardtop supports, but one across the top would have been handy and there’s ample headroom to cater for one.

The Colcord team has put a lot of thought and experience into stowage on the 680. One aspect of an offshore boat is that you end up carrying more people for longer periods of time. The 680 has a dive-bottle-sized underfloor locker between the two forward seats, generous space in other lockers behind the watertight doors under the seats, ledges around the forepeak and cockpit and another big underfloor bin at the aft end of the cockpit.

The aft most underfloor stowage area stretches back to about half of the Portofino area and stops at a bulkhead there. Any water that makes its way below decks drains back to this aftermost area and is pumped out by a Rule 1100 bilge pump with a float switch/manual control.

A good-sized, live bait tank shares the transom area and Paul explains that on other boats built for owners who target kingies, the whole transom has been built as a bait tank.

That’s the prime reason for buying an offshore boat – to get out where the big fish are – and the 680 is designed by fishers with fishers in mind. There are three rod holders set into the wide gunwale on either side of the cockpit, all angled slightly differently to minimize tangles. A lift out transom door provides access to the Portofino and there’s plenty of room back there to gaff the big ones on board.

A well loaded rocket launcher is arrayed across the hardtop to hold some serious trolling gear and, even going hard astern into a 40cm slop, the water showed no inclination to come on board.

The gunwale rests at about mid thigh on my 1.86m frame and is generously padded with the same grey and black vinyl trim that softens the hardtop deckhead. Coastal Marine Upholsterers stitched the colour-coded trim, including the skipper and front passengers’ pedestal seats and the two aft ones. It looks pretty flash, and Gary says blood and guts just wipe straight off.

The 680 tips the weighbridge at about 2190kg on a trailer but is quick to heft her bulk out of the water and onto the plane when a fist full of throttle is applied to the big Yamaha. Gary says that the boat topped just under 42 knots (78km/h) at 5800rpm with a 19T Yamaha propeller fitted to the engine.

A more moderately pitched 19M prop gave the test boat a comfortable 35 knots (65km/h) cruising speed at about 4100rpm. According to the Yamaha engine management package fuel consumption was about 43 litres an hour at that speed.

A basic 680 hardtop powered by a 200hp Yamaha would cost about $93,000, says Gary, and the test boat, with Simrad colour sounder and GPS chart plotter, would be about $105,000.

"Every boat owner wants something different," says Gary. "They want to personalise their boat – and why not? And that’s the beauty of going to a custom builder."

Specifications Bluewater 680 (Price as reviewed - $105,000)

LOA: 6.80m
Beam: 2.50m
Construction: Marine grade aluminium
Weight on trailer: 2190kg
Engine: 200hp four-stroke Yamaha

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