REVIEW: SMARTWAVE 3500 / 4200 / 4800 POLY BOATS

By: NORMAN HOLTZHAUSEN, Photography by: NORMAN HOLTZHAUSEN


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Smartwave makes great little poly boats (boats made from polyethylene plastic). We got to test three variants of this innovative plastic design.

We spent a lot of time trying to organise a boat review of the Smartwave 4200 centre console. After several false starts, we finally got around to testing this new poly boat. On the day we also grabbed two of its sibling boats: the bigger Smartwave 4800 and the smaller Smartwave 3500. It turned out to be a very interesting exercise in comparing three very similarly configured boats, but of different sizes.

 

SMARTWAVE POLY BOATS

SMARTWAVE POLY BOATS

Smartwave makes poly boats, plastic boats moulded out of linear medium density polyethylene (LMDPE). This makes all Smartwave boats UV-stabilised, exceptionally strong and durable.

LMDPE itself floats, and the double-skinned hull is foam-filled – so, even if the boat were to be cut in half, both parts would continue to float. All models of Smartwave have undergone CE certifications, so these are phenomenally safe boats.

 

SMARTWAVE 4200

SMARTWAVE 4200 CENTRE CONSOLE

Our Smartwave 4200 centre-console came in a serious-looking but sensible battleship grey, but is available in eight different colours ranging from white through to bright primary colours. The boat was configured as a centre console fishing boat, with a large chilly bin camouflaged as a bench seat providing seating for two amidships. A tiller-steered configuration is also possible for this hull. The hull is 4.2m in length, with a maximum beam of 1.93m.

Passenger seats are moulded into the stern corners, with another double-width seat in the bow. All the seats hide further storage lockers and are topped with padded squabs. Grabrails are mounted along the gunwales and, on the review boat, a couple of Railblaza rod holders had been mounted to these.

In the bow area, a moulded anchor well holds the anchor and rode when not in use, with a roller to safely feed it over the bow. A cleat at the rear of the well provides a place to secure the rode. The flat floor inside the boat hides all the steering controls and cables, and is lined with marine carpet to ensure a secure footing even when wet.

The wide console unit sits exactly amidships, providing great stability even when lightly laden. The review boat had the engine gauges installed in the middle of the dash, but moving these to either side would create enough dash space for a reasonable chartplotter or fishfinder to be fitted.  A windscreen is topped off with a stainless grabrail all around its edges, with two further handles on either side of the console to provide security when throwing the boat around.

Hanging off the back was an electric-start Tohatsu 40hp two-stroke outboard motor, a modest yet reliable little unit that well suits the ethos of no-nonsense economy and practicality. This motor is right in the middle of the recommended range of 30 to 50hp, but felt just right with two occupants.  A small boarding step moulded into the hull either side of the motor has a non-slip moulded surface, with a stainless steel boarding ladder on the port side. Rod-holders are fitted into each corner of the gunwale.

Heading out from the ramp and putting the hammer down saw the boat leap onto the plane quickly and easily achieved speeds of well over 20kts. Fuel is provided in a tote tank and there is enough space to store a second tank to extend the range.

The hull is a gullwing design that provides stability and performance. At rest it behaves like a tri-hull, with the waterline width almost the full beam. This gives enough stability for the boat to be rated for five people, despite its modest size. Yet at speed, the hull lifts enough to smooth out the ride without losing stability. The hull acts to contain the spray generated by the bow, turning it down to create a relatively dry ride.

The foam-filled plastic hull absorbs most of the water noise and the boat feels smooth, safe and remarkably quiet. Throwing it around sharply was comfortable, although you need to hang on tight in a sharp turn as the gullwing does not lean steeply into the turn like a conventional vee-hull.

This is a great, safe family boat at a modest price and well worth a look.

 

SMARTWAVE 4800

SMARTWAVE 4800 BOAT

The biggest boat in the Smartwave lineup, the Smartwave 4800 has a softer, more rounded hull that has less of the gullwing shape and is more like a conventional vee hull.

We again had the centre console layout to have a play with, although this model also comes in a cuddy cabin "offshore runabout" version. This boat was moulded in a pleasant white colour with a slight marble fleck, and this time came with the 50hp Tohatsu motor.

Measuring 4.80m in length, and with a beam of 1.96m, it is the most spacious of the three and can accommodate six passengers with ease. This is the only model that has a built in fuel tank, an 80lt underfloor unit. Due to the lack of tote tanks there is more space under the transom for storage. There is additional underfloor stowage for keeping gear out of the way, while pockets moulded into the sides provide a shelf with integrated rod storage options.

Rodholders are moulded into the boat, and stainless grab handles are again fitted to the gunwales. Up front however, there is no separate anchor well, and the anchor would need to be stored in the under-seat pocket when not in use.

A conventional stainless bowsprit holds the anchor and rode when required, with a cleat fitted out of the way inside the gunwale for tying off.

The same centre console unit as used in the other two boats is fitted, but with more space to move around the sides of this one. The helm seating is again on a padded chilly bin, big enough for two to sit on comfortably, with further seating in the stern and bow areas.

The centre console is mounted well forward on this boat, reducing the foredeck area but opening up the rear cockpit space. This makes for more usable space in the boat and also improves the ride when there is a single occupant, but it does mean the console position is more liable to cop spray in a rough sea.

The 50hp Tohatsu is again in the middle of the recommended range, which for this model is between 40 and 60hp. Unless heavily laden it is likely, once again, to be completely adequate. The boat tracked flat and held a line easily when at speed. We did not measure top speed, but we easily reached speeds well over 20kts.

The greater weight of this boat means that the boat punches through the chop better than the smaller models which tend to lift over it, and hence there’s a smoother ride over a short disturbed sea. However, due to the more conventional hull design, the boat is not quite as good at turning away the spray as the gullwing shaped 4200 and could be a slightly wetter ride in poorer conditions.

Being a more "conventional" shape, the 4800 is likely to have broad appeal, and the availability of the cuddy cabin also means there are more options for a family boat. The 4800 is still a very modest towing proposition so, for those with a slightly larger budget, may be a good option.

 

SMARTWAVE 3500

SMARTWAVE 3500 BOAT

Making best use of the opportunity to explore the range, we also took a smaller Smartwave sibling out on the water. The Smartwave 3500 E-Fish model was fitted with a Tohatsu 30hp two stroke outboard motor, again with electric start, but this time with manual trim and tilt. The E-Fish is also a centre-console layout configuration, with a maximum beam of only 1.7m and overall length of 3.50m. A tiller-steered configuration is also available for this model.

This boat shares many of the design features of the bigger models, including the foam-filled unsinkability and a gullwing hull. The hull also has extra seats in the gunwales and bow, but these are noticeably smaller, with the centre console being the same unit as the bigger boats. The tote tank takes up most of the space in the transom, with fewer options for adding a second tank. The cabin floor is uncarpeted and the control cables run through trunking on the starboard side.

The slightly flatter bottom and smaller size of the 3500 means it is not quite as adept at the rough stuff as the bigger models. While still a great ride, it did not hug the turns quite as tightly and exhibited some side slip. The narrower beam and lower gunwale height also means it is a wetter hull, with some spray coming on board on the fairly windy review day. This is not a boat you would likely venture out into big seas with, although it would certainly be perfectly safe to do so.

Nevertheless, the 3500 is a great little sheltered-waters boat, and is warmer, quieter and more stable than the equivalent size and cost in aluminium. With a package on a galvanised trailer starting at just $11,221 this is a fantastic boat for the bach or beach.

It would also make a lot of sense as a coach’s boat for rowing or other water sport teams, where the ruggedness but forgiving nature of the plastic means it would not damage other vessels it may come into contact with.

Its incredible hull weight of just 100kg means that any car with a tow hitch could be used to tow it.

 

THE VERDICT

SMARTWAVE-PLASTIC-BOATS

All the Smartwave boats have their strong points, with very few vices. They are extremely well priced, arguably the safest boats you will ever buy and virtually indestructible.

The new design 4200 with its gullwing hull is the most radical design and has managed to pull that off well, delivering a dry and smooth-running boat. We rated the ride quality of the 4200 as being better than the 4800 although there is, of course, less space. The 3500 is definitely best-suited to sheltered waters rather than open sea, although on a good day could certainly be taken out wider.

All three have the same ultra-safe reliability due to the construction material, and choosing one to suit your budget and preferred style of boating should be an easy decision..

 

HIGHS

• Toughness of the hull.

• Great sound-absorbtion of the hull.

 

LOWS

• Open boats get wet in a chop.

 

SMARTWAVE 3500 / 4200 / 4800 SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL

3500

4200

4800

MATERIAL

Linear medium density polyethylene with foam-filled voids

LENGTH

3.5m

4.2m

4.8m

BEAM

1.7m

1.93m

1.96m

WEIGHT

100kg

220kg

325kg

ENGINE HP

30

40

50

FUEL

Tote tanks

Tote tanks

80lt underfloor

PRICE AS TESTED

$11, 221

$16,599

$23,045

 

MORE INFORMATION Silverdale Marine

Phone 09 426 5087

Web smartwaveboats.co.nz

 

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

 

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