Everyman 550 Hard Top

By: Norman Holtzhausen, Photography by: Norman Holtzhausen

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Adding a hardtop to the proven Everyman 550 hull has added a dimension greater than the sum of its parts, writes Matthew Jones.

Everyman 550 Hard Top
Everyman 550 Hard Top

Continuing the tradition of building different configurations on top of its proven hulls, Everyman has added a hard-top to its 550 range of alloy boats. Launched at the Hutchwilco New Zealand boat show in May, the hard-top demonstrator was sold on the second day; Everyman’s Nigel Langdale says he could have sold three more.

With the demonstrator in the hands of the purchasers and Langdale busy building more, getting our hands on a boat to review wasn’t easy. Fortunately, the owners’ of that first hard top sold, Donutt and Julz (as they’re known by many in Whitianga) were only too happy to have us join them for a day on the water.

The boat

The boat is based on the same 5.6m (overall length) hull as Everyman’s earlier centre console and cuddy cabin models. With a beam of 2.05 meters and a deadrise of 15 degrees, the hull provides good stability while being easily powered by a modest powerplant in the 70-115hp range. The hull bottom is fabricated from solid 5mm plate, with 4mm sides creating a rigid and solid base on which to work.

What makes this model different from its siblings is, of course, the hard-top and cabin. Although a hull of this size doesn’t have space for full-length bunks, the hard-top does provide good protection from wind and rain. The cabin is fitted with upholstered squabs and is fully carpeted, making it a comfortable proposition for a midday nap or temporary shelter from the elements.

Under the bunks are two dry storage areas. An acrylic overhead hatch provides easy access to the anchor well. Side windows take care of ambient light and the combination of a step-down into the cabin and a relatively high cabin roof gives modest headroom. Setting and retrieving the anchor through the cabin hatch is comfortable and safe, although you might prefer to go forward to the bow via the deck, which is possible on the 550.

With well over six feet of headroom under the hard-top, the Everyman doesn’t discriminate against the tall and the headroom serves to add a sense of volume and space. The carpeted dash has a lip to prevent items sliding off and additional storage for small personal items has been created through a smart twin-level helm fascia.

The owners’ of this boat have not yet fitted any electronics other than a VHF radio, but there is ample space for a medium-sized chartplotter or fish-finder display.

Seating is provided by twin moulded plastic seats fitted to pedestals and covered with vinyl squabs. A footrest and numerous grab rails are close at hand and provide secure seating when things start to cut up rough.

Visibility through the three-pane windscreen is good.

The Everyman’s wide, flat, cockpit gunwale extends beyond the cabin, providing access to the bow which is an uncommon feature on boats of this size. While it would have been nice to see some non-skid applied to the deck area, there are sturdy grab-rails welded to the hardtop. A nice touch is the welded gusset on the gunwale, which prevents water running down the deck and flooding back into the cockpit.

The cockpit sole is covered with a single piece of marine carpet with a cutaway for quick access to the underfloor wet locker. The checkerplate sole beneath helps keep the carpet in place and provides a surface that is solid, yet kind to the feet. A 1000gph bilge pump takes care of any wash that finds its way aboard.

The engine start battery and fuel filter is tucked into a compartment built into the transom and fitted with a clip-on cover.

The Everyman is no-frills platform and this is evident in the cockpit design, which is set up predominantly for fishing, with plastic rod-holders set into the gunwales, an optional alloy bait board set on a transom post and two further rod holders. Rod storage is further bolstered with six gang rocket launchers welded to the rear of the hardtop.

This boat is perfectly set up for two, but will easily accommodate four or more anglers.

The wide boarding platform is accessed via a transom walk-through on the port side, fitted with a welded alloy boarding ladders that folds neatly up onto the boarding platform. Dual grab rail allows swimmers to use either hand, or both, to pull themselves back on board. The boarding platform is wide enough too, to accommodate a diver and his gear.

Sitting out the back is a Yamaha 90hp two-stroke outboard which proved to have more than enough power for the boat. The owners’ elected not to go up to a four-stroke, though it is an option.

Based in Whitianga, the owners are spoilt for cruising and fishing grounds comfortably within range for the modest 70-litre underfloor fuel tank.

The test

As soon as we had the boats in the water, we headed out of the Whitianga estuary and into conditions ideal for a boat test, with a short chop and a10-knot easterly breeze kicking up a gentle swell. With a bright blue sky overhead it felt almost summery, although cold with just 13 degrees at midday.

The additional weight of the hardtop paid dividends as we punched into the chop, and the handling was noticeably different than the Everyman 550 centre console that we used as our photo boat. The hardtop’s protection from wind and spray was also a welcome feature over the centre console.

Upon reaching Mercury Bay, we put the hardtop through its paces and found a willing hull that was soft-riding despite its relatively shallow deadrise. The lack of planning strakes no doubt contributed to ride quality and the hull’s fine entry tended to part the chop rather than bounce across the top of it.

At speed, the wide chines just skim the water and effectively channel spray away from the hull. In tight, looping turns, the boat handled well and felt comfortable. Backing up wasn’t a problem either, with only a little water finding its way onto the boarding platform. The transom step-through is sufficiently high to reduce the risk of taking water into the cockpit, although serious game fishers would no doubt fit the optional drop-in cockpit door before heading offshore.

Smaller boats tend to suffer from stability issues at rest and this is another area where the Everyman rated well. The shallow deadrise and generous beam ensures it remains comfortable and the large cockpit offers good fishability. Two large sealed underfloor buoyancy chambers offer peace-of-mind should the boat ever be swamped.

The little Yamaha seemed perfectly suited to the 550 and offered plenty of punch even with three crew aboard and tank full of gas. Rated for 115hp, the 90 is an ideal compromise between performance and range.

The two-stroke Yamaha is a well-proven and reliable motor. While it is somewhat older technology, it’s still a popular model and offers owners’ easy maintenance. An alternative four-stroke outboard is an option, but buyers would need to carefully analyse the cost benefits of increased fuel consumption over the additional purchase price of the engine and its additional weight.

The owner’s criteria

Back in calmer waters, I asked Donutt why he chose the Everyman over other models at the Hutchwilco boat show. He said the head-height of the hardtop was the best in its class, which was critical because of his and Julie’s height. He also wanted a big cockpit, since fishing is the main reason for buying the boat. Again, the Everyman scored well on this point too compared to other brands viewed.

Another important consideration was stability and how well the boat would perform with two fishing off the same side. The Everyman’s shallow deadrise creates stability and lends confidence when moving around.

Last, they wanted something that was easy to handle. Julie says she is confident enough to take the boat out by herself and that it is easy to tow and launch and retrieve. The single-axle un-braked Voyager trailer with wobble rollers makes the job easy, even in the strong tidal currents that affect the all-weather ramp in Whitianga.

Overall, Everyman has another winner in its 550 hard-top. One of the smallest hard-tops on the market, it’s an ideal package for those on a tight budget who want the freedom and confidence to venture out even when the weather is not ideal. Space, headroom and the reliability and ruggedness of an all-alloy hull are key qualities across the 550 range.

For more details or to arrange a test, contact Russel Spiers at Everyman Boats: phone 027 492 7079 or visit everymanboats.co.nz.

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