Seaforce 530 Mate

By: Norman Holtzhausen

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The new Seaforce 530 Mate is something of a milestone in boat design

Seaforce 530 Mate
Pontoon innovation

Never constrained by tradition, Hamilton’s Seaforce Boats has always pushed the boundaries of design, collecting a string of awards along the way. The new Seaforce 530 Mate extends that legacy – it’s something of a milestone in boat construction.

The Seaforce 530 Mate is New Zealand’s first-ever production fibreglass boat with a pontoon hull. Pontoon boats have a loyal following. The stability gained from having a ‘collar’ of buoyancy all around the hull provides considerable peace of mind. At rest the collar settles on the water, yet the boats are also supremely stable in rough conditions.

Traditionally, rigid pontoons have been built from aluminium. Until now, the only alternative was adding an inflated ‘collar’ around a conventional fibreglass or alloy hull.

With the 530 Mate, however, Seaforce has proved that a rigid, foam-filled pontoon can be built into a production fibreglass hull. This has been achieved without adding significantly to the size or weight of the boat. More importantly, the boat has smooth lines – a stark contrast to the typical ‘blocky’ aesthetics of aluminium pontoons.

Because fibreglass is moulded, the 530’s designers have achieved a hull that would be difficult to replicate in welded aluminium. The pontoons on a typical alloy boat have a similar cross-section right around the hull; the Seaforce 530’s taper smoothly – they are flatter towards the stern and blend into the lines of the hull at the bow. Cabin and cockpit are wider than expected, and the overall spaciousness belies its 5.3m hull length (5.6m LOA). Up forward, the day cabin has two bunks suitable for naps or seating – not quite full length, but adequate for this class of boat. Dry storage areas are located under the squabs, while a lined side pocket runs along either side of the cabin (and indeed the whole length of the boat).

Helm and passenger stations have fully adjustable, pedestal-mounted moulded plastic seats. Forward-and-aft movement, plus the location of stainless steel footrests ensures a comfortable seating position is possible for just about every shape and size of occupant.

Dashboard layout is to Seaforce’s usual, excellent standard. Having spent years getting the dash layout right on its 600 Fisherman model, Seaforce has dropped the same layout into the 530 Mate. It offers a large, flat area available for a big-screen display. Although the review boat had limited electronics, a combo sounder and chartplotter unit would be ideal. I liked the dash’s double-skin construction – it means all wiring from the VHF, CD player or other items are hidden, keeping everything neat and trouble-free.

The Teleflex cable steering system is a relatively stiff, non-feedback mechanism. Since most boats of this type are used for fishing, a stiffer steering will suit most buyers. If the intended use is skiing or towing water toys however, a somewhat easier system could be fitted.

Behind the seats is a spacious cockpit, beautifully set up for fishing. The wide gunwales are comfortable to sit on, yet high enough to provide thigh support. Half a dozen rod holders are set into the gunwales and transom, and more can be fitted if required.

The pontoon construction is hardly noticeable from inside the boat. They are only in contact with the water when the boat’s at rest. At speed they act as a natural chine, turning spray away from the boat, although there is a hard chine just below the pontoon as well.

At rest we moved from one side of the boat to the other with very little lean. Even three heavies on one side would not make the boat feel unsafe.

Two seat ridges are moulded into either side of the transom. The have removable squabs – so the space can be used for seats or for standing room when fishing. An extra step moulded into the port side assists climbing onto the boarding platform. It’s a wide area with a non-slip textured surface and a fold-over stainless steel boarding ladder.

The centre portion of the transom extends forward to cover the battery, and also provides a robust spot for mounting a ski pole or bait board.

A 70-litre stainless steel fuel tank is fitted under the cockpit floor, and the remaining underfloor space is also foam filled (additional foam is tucked in under the gunwales for yet more buoyancy). Part of the CPC rating test involved swamping the boat, which apparently proved impossible – they had to pump the water into the cockpit. This is one boat where the classic ‘I forgot to put the bung in’ will not destroy your day on the water!

Shelter from the sun is provided by an excellent black Bimini canopy with clears, and this folds neatly against the upper edge of the windscreen when not in use.

On the water

Mike’s Marine in Silverdale is Seaforce’s Auckland agent, and has set up the demo boat with a naturally-aspirated, 90hp Mercury two-stroke. A four-stroke alternative is available, but Mike says the two-stroke has wider appeal because it keeps the entry cost down.

Our boat test day was calm. We launched from a ramp off the beach, and it’s obvious that single-handed launching is no problem. With a dry hull weight of just 500kg, the Seaforce 530 is easily managed and, provided the engine is tilted, can be launched in knee-deep water.

Like most pontoon boats, the 530’s pontoons provide a slight drag until the boat is planing properly. The pontoons provide extra stability on tight turns however, and the boat felt safe and comfortable at all times. While it does not heel over quite as much as a conventional hull, the motion feels natural.

It’s a soft, comfortable ride, even at wide open throttle – we touched 40mph in the conditions. Going through the swell at speed highlighted the air-cushioning effect of the pontoons and the 17 degrees deadrise. This has to be one of the quietest and smoothest hulls around. It absolutely refused to slam down, and all that foam around the hull is an effective sound damper.

Retrieving the boat onto the DMW multi-roller, single-axle trailer was again a simple job. With an all-up towing weight of just 950kg, there is no need for a braked trailer, and the package will be easily towed by most family sedans.

Seaforce’s award-winning designs include the 600 Fisherman and the 430 Winna. The new 530 Mate has continued the tradition by winning the award at this year’s Hutchwilco Boat Show for the most innovative product.

Mike’s Marine says Seaforce’s biggest problem with the new boat is keeping up with demand. If you want one before the summer, I’d suggest you get in quickly! Contact Mike on 09 426 8556.


(Price as tested $39,995)

LOA 5.6m (5.3m waterline)
Dry Weight 500kg
Beam 2.22m
Deadrise 17 degrees
Towing weight 950kg

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