REVIEW: MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781

By: MATTHEW JONES, Photography by: MATTHEW JONES


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The McLay Cruiser Hardtop 781 takes on a messy swell rolling into the exposed waters of Whakatane.

If you’re going to go into battle and fishing it’s reassuring to know you’ve got the armour and firepower to back you up. The McLay Cruiser Hardtop 781 is certainly armed and dangerous – to fish anyway. This fishing boat is tough and dependable, yet it also has a softer side in the form of n board comfort.

As equipped, it’s certainly a weapon of a fishing machine with an ocean-eating ride and impressive balance to match.

 

MCLAY BOATS

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781

As I handed Mike Stables from Oceansports Marine an early morning coffee he broke the news that a 2m north-east swell meant we weren’t going fishing for bluenose and hapuku as originally planned. While that was certainly not an ideal way to start the day, Stables was confident that conditions would have to be pretty gnarly to trouble the McLay Cruiser Hardtop 781 we were hauling.

Upon our arrival at the ramp Maree Allen was ready and waiting with her own custom built McLay Cruiser Hardtop 781 all rigged up to troll a few lures.

A side-by-side comparison confirmed that both boats shared the same armour-plated hull but represented different ends of McLay’s custom build and tick box spectrum – Maree’s Yamaha F250DETX outboard motor powered 2 Bizzy Fish’n had all you need to land a 104.6kg striped marlin in 20 minutes, while the Yamaha 432 STi diesel-powered Keeping it Reel featured everything you can have.

After an easy launch I climbed on board 2 Bizzy Fish’n for the ride out. The coffee must have worked because Stables spotted a gap and literally bolted. Once we’d safely and comfortably conquered the bar ourselves we paused to give Keeping it Reel a chance to have a play for the camera before plotting a course to Whale Island to seek out some calm water to jump ship. Keeping it Reel’s additional horses and greater balance (with the engine weight further forward) meant she had a slight edge in the rough stuff, but nevertheless both boats comfortably sat on 20kts while taking a solid 1.5 to 2m of swell on the nose. A few bigger sets saw some air time but the landings were dry and gentle rather than resulting in a slam-dunk experience.

 

LAYOUT

LAYOUT FOR MCLAY CRUISER 781

Once tucked into the calm waters behind Whale Island I jumped onboard Keeping it Reel so Maree could go trolling for marlin. Thanks to the large lockable hardtop, expansive views and comfortable soft-rider pedestal seats it didn’t take long to relax onboard the fully pimped out version of McLay’s offshore powerhouse.

The extra large double berth forward looked equally comfortable and would easily allow a couple of mates to doss down for the night without any uncomfortable moments. A further smallish pipe berth above increases overnight capacity to three with an electric toilet tucked below.

Open gloveboxes provide space to stash the pocket dwelling items. Larger necessities can be stashed within big slide- out drawers (under both the helm and passengers seat) and the jumbo underfloor bin.

With the bi-fold door open there’s a good flow between the cabin and cockpit while double drop-down rear windows allow abundant ventilation and easy communication. There’s even a cockpit camera so the skipper doesn’t have to turn his head to see what’s going on out back.

 

FISHABILITY

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781 FISHING BOAT

Hanging out on board such a well-equipped weapon stirred my inner desires to load up on liveys and head further offshore. Of course, if you’re going to be hooked up to a rampaging marlin then you might as well do it in comfort and the glamorous leather game chair will certainly help your back. The plus-size baitboard even has non-skid along the front edge to allow you to dig your heels in and fight back.

A diesel’s soothing reverberations have been known to drum up interest from below and, while the engine box occupies a good chunk of cockpit real estate, the raised duckboard and caged transom means you could fish three off the stern. The layout also allows a hard-fighting fish to be chased right around the self-draining cockpit with footholds and thigh-height gunwales on each side. Large integrated dive ladders will be a hit with divers while twin doors allow the transom to be closed off if conditions require.

Twin rear facing lure seats have comfortable curved backrests to maximise the enjoyment of the view. The port-side seat has the added bonus of the fridge below so you don’t have to leave your seat to crack a cold one. With the game chair removed the engine box also becomes a large cushy seat.

Behind the engine box, twin tuna tubes have stand-up rodholders in between so rods and the attached tuna sacrifice can be at the ready for effortless switch-baiting. Toeholds beneath offer additional security while working at the baitboard. Smaller live baits can also be kept close at hand within the livebait aquarium in the port-side walkthrough.

With both a flush-mounted Garmin 8012 plotter/sounder with a 1kW through-hull transducer and a Furuno FCV587 with a separate through-hull 1kW transducer, you get twice the view of any targets swimming below.

 

ENGINE

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781 ENGINE

Our test subject had the second-to-last of Yamaha’s "marinised" 432 STi sterndrive diesels fitted but, as Toyota are no longer producing the reliable power plants for their Landcruisers, McLay and Oceansports Marine are looking to fit the impressive compact Mercury Diesel TDi to future boats.

With the 432 STi fitted performance is impressive but there’s a few seconds lag before the full force of the turbo is felt. The new 4.2lt Mercury diesel however has an extra 20hp of grunt and a variable turbine geometry turbo so that lag should be almost non-existent.

While I’ll reserve judgement until we get to test it, if previous tests of this engine in similar-sized hulls are anything to go by, it should take an impressive offshore rig to a new level.

Of course service access is important and, as tested, the engine cover simply unclips and folds forward with the game chair in place to offer plenty of room to swing a spanner. The batteries, fuel filter and battery switches are also housed well up off the deck, protected by the engine cover as well – bravo!

 

THE VERDICT

MCLAY-HARDTOP-781-BOAT

Being just under the road-legal 2.5m beam this offshore weapon remains within the parameters of unrestricted towing, while striking a sweet spot in terms of the mystical length-to-beam equation to endow a comfortable offshore ride with excellent stability at rest.

Once back at the ramp, Stables drove the boat on while all I had to do was hook the catch on and press the remote button on the Trailmaxx electric winch to snub her up tight.

 

HIGHS

• Fishing weapon

• Tough and dependable build quality

• Large front berths

• Stable, with a good ride

• Versatile and accommodating

• Glamorous game chair

 

LOWS

• Bait station looks tricky to fillet on

• Yamaha Diesel no longer available, but Mercury option sounds good

• Fish won’t like you (but your mates should)

 

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781 SEA TRIALS

McLay Cruiser Hardtop 781 with 315hp Yamaha ST1 diesel, Yamaha hydra-drive with 23P duo-props

RPM

 SPEED (KTS)

500

 3.1

1000

 5.7

1500

 7.2

2000

 10.7

2500

 20.2

3000

 26.2

3500

 32.0

3800

 34.0

*Sea-trial data supplied by the author

 

MCLAY CRUISER HARDTOP 781 SPECIFICATIONS

PRICE AS TESTED

$190,000

 

OPTIONS FITTED

Yamaha 432 STi Diesel sterndrive (315hp), game chair, Oceanblue outriggers, livebait tank, underwater lights, VHF, CD/DVD stereo, Garmin 8012 12in plotter/sounder with 1kW transducer, Garmin autopilot, electric toilet, Maxwell RC8 capstan, cockpit camera, Furuno FCV587 sounder with 1kW transducer, fridge, leather soft-rider pedestals, trim tabs, interior LED lighting, cockpit LED lighting and Fusion stereo with subwoofer and surround sound.

 

PRICED FROM

$64,778 – hull package only

 

GENERAL

TYPE Monohull

MATERIAL Aluminium

LENGTH 7.80m

BEAM 2.48m

WEIGHT 1450 kg (hull weight)

DEADRISE 18-degree variable

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE (DAY) 8

PEOPLE (NIGHT) 3

FUEL 300lt underfloor

REC. HP 175 to 300

MAX REC. HP 300 (outboard), 350 (sterndrive)

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL 315hp Yamaha 432 STi

TYPE Diesel sterndrive

WEIGHT 460kg (567kg including drive)

DISPLACEMENT 4160cc

PROPELLER 23WR duo-props

 

MANUFACTURED BY

McLAY BOATS

299A Union Street, Milton, Otago

WEB mclayboats.co.nz

 

SUPPLIED BY

OCEAN SPORTS MARINE

32 McAlister St, Whakatane.

PHONE 07 308 4241

EMAIL sales@oceansportsmarine.co.nz

WEB oceansportsmarine.co.nz

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #242, July 2014. Why not subscribe today?

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