Seahouse Liberty 6800 HT

By: Lawrence Schäffler


Before handing over $100K+, prospective boat-buyers understandably like to trial a few different models. But sometimes a boat looks so good the decision is almost instinctive. Seahouse’s Liberty 6800 HT triggers that instinct.

Seahouse Liberty 6800 HT
Seahouse Liberty 6800 HT
Untitled Document Dunedin-based Seahouse Boats has a reputation for producing tough but attractive alloy boats, and the Liberty 6800 is a fine example. Owner John Rutter first penned the design five years ago, and since then about 20 have been built. It’s widely-regarded as a sea-kindly, go-anywhere boat, happy in the higher latitudes.

It’s also a very sharp looker. Our review boat – provided by Christchurch’s Butler Marine (the South Island distributor for Seahouse Boats) – sports a rich burgundy hull with satin-gold topsides. The paint job (courtesy of Nyalic) makes for a striking vessel and enhances the cabin structure’s flowing curves and smooth surfaces – no tell-tale weld spots. All in all, pretty impressive stuff for alloy.

Labelling Seahouse a "niche" boatbuilder wouldn’t be accurate, but the company’s hand-crafted style of production does offer an unusual measure of flexibility to accommodate owner preferences. All 6800s are subtly different.

The review boat’s most obvious departure from the standard design is the 200mm extension to the enclosed hard top’s roof – offering a bit more protection from the elements. Very practical, of course, and to my eye the extension also presents a nicer "balance" to the boat’s lines and overall form.

Construction

A solid build underscores the aesthetics. The hull’s fabricated around six, 5mm beams (three per side) running the full length of the hull, with cross braces at 500mm centres. Two of the beams on each side are fashioned from a single sheet of alloy (formed into a long, U-shaped beam), a feature that lends extra stiffness and rigidity to the structure.

Topped off with the cockpit floor, the hull is sealed and pressure tested. A separately constructed, 190-litre alloy fuel tank is inserted midships into one of the hull compartments. Hull plate is 5mm – topsides 4mm.

Hard edges and square structures are often an immediate giveaway on alloy boats – there’s no subtlety about the build material. Seahouse boats don’t conform to this pattern. The 6800 uses plenty of curves and scallops to soften the lines, and the integration of grab-rails into the structure – especially on the hardtop – is particularly effective. It all "flows" in a very satisfying way.

Functionality

It’s a word that comes to mind regularly as you pore over this boat. A good example is the enclosed hard top/cabin area – well thought-out with a particularly clever arrangement of squabs. Some squabs have dual purposes, others fold away against the hull. But when night falls they’re quickly configured into a really sizeable double berth – wide and long enough for two Crusaders forwards.

Interior decor picks up on the outside colour scheme: a rich mix of burgundy vinyl and off-white carpeting, with a more pragmatic black-and-white striped carpeting on the cabin floor. The off-white carpeting is applied throughout the cabin (lockers under the squabs, cabin sides and ceiling), and when the aft door is shut, it becomes a well-insulated, cosy area. The off-white carpeting also has a further benefit: it helps to reflect light from the cabin’s large deck hatch.

Full-length shelves on either side of the hull offer additional storage, and two discreet halogen lamps allow you to catch up on your reading at night. Headroom (seated) in the cabin is good. This boat didn’t have a toilet, but Butler Marine says many Liberty 6800 owners elect to fit one forward, between the V-berth. In short, the boat’s an excellent candidate for overnighting.

Helmstation

The dominant impression is great visibility, and it’s largely a function of the boat’s curved windscreen. It effectively moves the cabin’s side struts further aft, providing a near-panaromic view from the helm.

Instruments for the Suzuki DF 175hp engine are well-positioned, and flank a Navman 8084 chartplotter/depth sounder. They’re complemented by standard switches for the Bennett trim tabs, Quick windlass, lights and bilge pump.

Plenty of standing headroom at the helm, and I particularly liked the helmsman’s/passenger’s seat arrangement – another example of clever, functional design. Each is a fixed pedestal with a backrest, but the seats lift off to reveal a relatively shallow storage compartment. The "false" bottom divides the pedestal into two storage areas – much more efficient use of space, and much easier for packing and retrieving items.

If things do get a bit stuffy in there – particularly with the door closed – sliding side windows help to regulate the ventilation.

Cockpit

It’s large, spacious and uncluttered, and as already noted, the hard top extension offers good protection from sun and elements. The rubber matting on the floor is removable, though that shouldn’t be necessary for washing fish residue from the cockpit.

While there are four rod holders built into the gunwale, the cockpit doesn’t have an overtly fishing-orientated set-up. Butler Marine’s John Butler says he prefers to present the Seahouse boats as "generically" as possible rather than out-and-out fishing platforms (hence the absence of the almost obligatory rocket launchers on the hard top roof). "Owners like the option of being able to configure the boat to their preferences rather than mine." Seahouse does make a rocket launcher for the boat – though I’d suggest it would almost detract from the hard top’s aesthetics.

Still, there are deep side pockets for rods and other fishing gear. Fishing diehards might be disappointed with the cockpit seating – it’s limited to two pedestal seats (forward, against the hard top bulkhead). A logical supplement would be two sizable fish bins with seats. They might also complain about the lack of a walkthrough in the transom, though it’s easy enough to step over it, and I’d suggest there’s more value in the three water-tight lockers built into the transom. Each of the outer lockers contains a battery.

The Quick windlass takes care of anchor duties, so there’s no reason to leave the warmth and security of the cabin. But if you do want to venture forward, you’ll find non-skid panels all along the gunwales with plenty of grab rails that fall naturally to hand. Similarly, divers will appreciate the boarding platform equipped with grab rails to help negotiate the fold-down boarding ladder.

Performance

Recommended maximum horsepower for the Liberty 6800 is 200hp. Our model was fitted with Suzuki DF 175hp – a four-stroke with plenty of torque across a wide rev spectrum. While some might prefer the extra grunt of a 200hp, I can’t see the point – the 175 offers great performance and, no doubt, better fuel economy.

A chilly, blustery south-easterly had churned Lyttleton’s outer harbour into a sloppy maelstrom with a chop of around 500mm – perfect conditions (if not the most comfortable) for putting the Liberty through its paces.

In a nutshell – the boat performed flawlessly. She has a particularly fine entry and a variable deadrise that culminates in 19 degrees at the transom. It cleaves cleanly through the waves and even our hoonish, airborne leaps touched down with relative comfort. The boat’s carpeted interior helps to mute hull noise.

The hull is free of strakes and only carries two pronounced spray chines. Given the conditions, I’d expected lots of spray across the windshield, but we received very little – and then only in beam seas. Those chines also provided good bite in the high-speed, helm-hard-over turns we affected across the calmer sections of the harbour.

Behind a peninsula, in flatter water, the GPS recorded a top speed of 72km/h – with the Suzuki running (WOT) at 6200rpm. At a more sedate (and very comfortable) 5000 rpm, speed fell to 55km/h. The 175hp was fitted with a standard 21" stainless steel prop, and standing start-to-plane was achieved in 2-3 seconds.

The Suzuki engine’s fuel monitoring function had not yet been calibrated, but indicated 24 litres/hour at cruise speed (4,000 rpm). Suzuki says the 175’s typical fuel consumption (at 4000rpm) on similar sized boats is 23.03 litres per hour. It’s an exceptionally smooth and quiet engine, barely perceptible at idle, and far from intrusive at cruise speed. With the Liberty’s cabin door closed, its song is hard to hear.

The Seahouse 6800 is supplied with a Toko tandem-axle trailer (one axle is braked). With an on-trailer weight of 2060kg, the boat’s best towed with a reasonably-powered vehicle.

As any boatie will attest, there’s something uniquely liberating about firing up the outboard on a crisp morning at sunrise, and heading out to a secret fishing spot with a few mates. If you’re gonna sneak away from she-who-must-be-obeyed before dawn, your escape vessel needs to be silent and fast – and bullet-proof for when you return...

The Seahouse Liberty 6800 is just the ticket.

Seahouse Boats are distributed through Christchurch’s Butler Marine, tel (03) 389 0077,in the South Island, and Taupo’s Fleet Marine, tel (07) 378 8514 in the North Island.

Specifications Seahouse Liberty 6800 Hardtop (Price as tested - $118,600)

LOA: 7.1m
Beam: 2.5m
Deadrise Aft: 19o
Fuel Capacity: 190 litres
Hull thickness: 5mm chine sides, top 4mm
Engine: Suzuki DF 175hp four-stroke
Trailer: Toko tandem axle (one braked), Duratorque suspension


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