Profile 9m HW

By: Matthew Jones, Photography by: Matthew Jones


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Profile Boats’ flagship 900HW is certainly eye-catching, but the real treasure is in what lies beneath the dazzling golden paint job. Matthew Jones travelled to Napier and discovered that, in this instance, all that glitters is gold.

Profile 9m HW
Profile 9m HW

Precious gold can take many forms: hard fought Olympic medals, high-priced ingots and priceless sunken doubloons to name but a few. But sometimes gold also comes in the shape of a nine-metre aluminium pontoon boat - gold coloured no less, but that’s not the point. The real gold is in the attention to detail and clever innovations that make this dazzling fisherman’s dream boat a true treasure.

Firmans Marine has been an integral part of Napier’s boating landscape since Brian Firman’s grandparents switched from selling caravans to boats over 40 years ago. A true family business, Brian Firman and his older brother Gary bought the business from their parents in 1988. Their brother David and sister Sandra also put in the hard yards until, one by one, they moved on to other things, leaving Brian as sole owner since the turn of the century.

Profile Boats had been around for five years before Firmans Marine acquired the business some four years ago. Since taking over, the team have produced in excess of 120 boats, ranging from 4.65 metres through to flagship 900HW at nine meters (which is the biggest Profile Boat to date). There are plans for a 10.5m on the drawing board.

The Midas touch

If the striking gold paint job looks familiar, that's because this boat was on display at the 2012 Hutchwilco Boat Show. Profile Boats took out both the Aluminium Fishing Boat Under 6m and the prestigious Boat of the Show - Overall Winner award with its 585 Centre Console. Both boats sport the same Fusion Gold paint job and clever functional innovations that only an experienced team of passionate boaties can deliver. Firman just missed out on scoring the Aluminium Fishing Boat Open prize as well, with the 900HW losing out to a larger boat by only a couple of points.

Drawing on all his 27 years experience in the marine industry (and countless hours on the water), Firman saw opportunities for improving the existing Profile Boats range: "We've made a few changes to the angle of the hull at the back, so they trim better with the spray coming off further aft. Pontoon boats are traditionally fairly pushy, so we've had a good play with the hull and double-braced the ribs and all the profiles under the floor. We've also improved the sliding window design so the frame is on the inside. When viewed from outside the side window looks exactly like the front, just nice and smooth."

As far as customisation goes it's pretty much whatever the customer wants - within reason of course. Firman and his team have the experience to guide customers in making the right choices: "The customer was quite specific about the electronics on this boat, but left the rest up to us. Originally they wanted bigger screens, but this was going to make the dash far too wide. We mocked it up using cardboard cut-outs and had to point out that the dash was going to end up halfway across the cabin, so they've gone smaller. We'll guide them through if someone's suggesting stuff that in reality is not practical."

I got a sneak peek at the wiring job behind the dash before the covers went back on for the test. The quality of workmanship behind the scenes was impressive.

It seems boat show judges and boating writers aren't the only ones impressed with Profile Boats' handiwork either. Our test boat and its near-identical twin take the number of vessels sent to Australia to five, with a further two residing in New Caledonia.

"We got an inquiry from a customer in Perth, who had seen our boats on the Internet. They ordered two virtually identical rigs, one to be based in Perth and the other heading north of Cairns. One has been set up for game fishing and features a single walk-through transom, game poles and a live bait tank, while the other has been set up for diving with a twin walk-thru transom instead," says Firman.

Comfort-rich

When it came to the fit-out the design brief was clear: "The customer required a good heavy weather, offshore capable boat to handle the West Coast of Australia. They wanted to be able to shut the door to escape the elements while also being able to cook, sleep and shower," says Firman.

Having the amenities outside the cabin offers privacy and means divers can come straight up the boarding ladder and into a nice hot shower, leaving their wet gear in the cockpit. The toilet's been angled to provide good legroom while seated and rod racks have been optioned so you can wash your rods while showering – saving time and water.

Stepping into the cabin reveals generous headroom, with an overhead grab-rail positioned off-centre to ensure safe passage into and out of the cockpit. The galley is equipped with a decent size sink and gas hob. Cold ones or the Sunday roast are in easy reach below and the colour coordinated dazzling glass splash-back adds a nice touch.

With the day's catch prepped and eaten, the dining table drops down to create additional accommodation, with beds for three or four at a pinch, depending how closely related you are. The bunks cleverly extend into the bulkhead for additional legroom. With 250 litres of water, great cooking facilities and abundant storage, the Profile 9m is clearly set up for family life.

Fisherman's treasure chest

Firman is passionate about game fishing and diving. You may have seen him landing a tournament winning 406kg Black Marlin in 2001, while fishing outside The Hole in the Rock in the Bay of Islands: that catch aired across the fishing shows of the day. He started fishing the Nationals in 1988 and hasn't missed one since; he holds New Zealand light tackle records for Yellowfin Tuna and Mako Shark. It is this on-the-water experience that shines through in the Profile's innovations.

Firman details a couple of the innovative changes they've made: "There's no other pontoon boat on the market that gives you toe-holds under the pontoons. We've raised the floor a little, yet retained all the buoyancy and structural integrity (including upper gunnel buoyancy for survey standards) and taken the floor right in underneath the pontoon. A solid footing makes a huge difference when you're fighting a big game fish."

A standout feature on the boat is the stylish and functional bait station.

"We've also been playing around with maximising transom usage because there's a huge amount of wasted space on many boats," says Firman. "We've got a solid bait station with the bait board at 900mm - kitchen bench height - a tackle drawer beneath and the batteries, switches and fuses within easy reach below. A barbecue can be added as well."

The walk-through transom features Profile Boats' wave-deflecting transom door, which was put to the test backing through sloppy conditions. I can confirm it works well. With the door out, we took on a fair amount of water reversing into the slop and this was quickly dispatched by the bilge pump. With the door in, little water found its way onboard.

I initially had my doubts about two of three batteries placed just above floor height, but with the locker door closed, water is forced into the deep bilge well where it can be quickly dispatched. The sophisticated electrical system features three calcium batteries (one house and two start), C-tek chargers and twin-circuit voltage sensitive relays (VSRs), so the three batteries can be linked if extra juice is required.

Opposite is a plumbed live-bait tank with superb accessibility and an 80PSI wash-down pump to make light work of cleanup. The number and placement of the 22 heavy-duty rod holders was impressive; you'd never be left wanting. Standing in the cockpit invoked adrenaline-fuelled visions of landing the 'big one' and I couldn't help but be impressed with the huge 7.5sq/m cockpit space.

Excellent thigh-height gunnels, combined with backside-friendly non-skid, make for a comfortable place to sit when fishing.

Gold rush

While driving from Gisborne to Napier the day before the test I had my doubts that we'd get the boat into the water, such was the appalling weather. Firman was equally anxious. However, the next morning the weather broke and with a break in the clouds we launched into boisterous conditions that would be a worthy test of boat and crew.

Having twin screws on a boat this size made close-quarters handling easy even with the swell surge, swirling wind and an extremely tight seawall that made launching a hazardous affair. Once in open waters the condition grew increasingly unpleasant but the Profile was smooth and comfortable enough to nudge 39 knots at wide-open-throttle.

For a big boat, the Profile was exceptionally manoeuvrable amongst the waves, taking tight turns comfortably within its stride and without any prop cavitation from the twin engines. The stability of the pontoons and security of the hardtop came into their own and made light work of the conditions.

The overall ergonomics of this boat are commendable. Mercury's Smart Craft Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS) was a pleasure to use and the combined trim switch made trimming both engines at once was a no-brainer. Having dedicated chart and depth sounder displays on twin Raymarine E90W units and freshwater wash pumps on the wipers were luxuries to boot. The dash layout was exceptionally functional too, and very easy on the eyes.

With two outboards you've got the luxury of redundancy, but in the event of one failing, how well could a single 200hp Verado push the big Profile? The short answer was very well – turning in an impressive 23 knots at 5000rpm.

With both engines in full swing, we recorded 39 knots in sloppy conditions and a fast cruise of 19 knots at 3500rpm, at a reasonably miserly 36 litres per hour for both engines. Profile Boats also offers stern-drive and single outboard (350hp Yamaha V8) options as well.

Being able to tow a boat of this size home is certainly a bonus, but it comes with a catch. At just under five tonnes fully laden and over the legal 2.5m width, the Profile is a formidable towing prospect even for Firman's Ford F150 ute. Over-width flags are mandatory. However, getting the boat back onto the trailer is as simple as driving it straight on and locking her in.

The last word

A high level of customisation and outstanding workmanship combined with excellent stability, comfort, fishability and golden touches make this a truly special boat and one that I'm sure her new owners will be very happy with. Handling and performance defy its physical size and it's packed full of little treasures designed to make a real difference to your boating experience.

For more information on the Profile 900HW, contact Brian at Firman's Marine Centre: phone 06 835-9718, email sales@firmansmarine.co.nz or visit www.firmansmarine.co.nz.

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