Review: Senator Typhoon 950

By: Norman Holtzhausen, Photography by: Norman Holtzhausen

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The Senator 950 is so well constructed and equipped that it has potential use as a commercial charter boat, even though it was primarily designed and built as a recreational fishing boat.

Senator Boats is perhaps best known for its stylish pontoon boats and in the past 20 or so years more than 1000 hulls have rolled out of its factory in Napier. However just over five years ago Senator introduced the Typhoon series of plate boats built to the same exacting standards as its pontoon and offshore models. Senator has continued to expand the Typhoon series and this new 950 is the latest addition to the family, bringing the total to 11 different models. Senator also custom-builds even bigger vessels, with 12.5 and 13.5m monohull plate boats successfully delivered in past years.

This boat was designed and built by Senator’s owner and managing director Wayne McKinley as his own ultimate fishing machine. Configured as a walkaround, it has a lot in common with a centre console having a central cabin area and a flat deck, giving unimpeded access around the entire length of the hull. Of course in a boat with a 2.88m beam there is enough space to fit a man-size cabin providing full seating and shelter for six blokes. Overnighting is not on the agenda so there are no bunks but also no shortage of space.


Senator fishing boat

Senator Typhoon 950 fishing boat

Size is the dominant feature of this boat. Seen from a distance the proportions look normal and well-balanced and it is only when you get a bit closer that the true size of the 950 becomes apparent.

In keeping with that, the vessel has been built with a seriously solid 8mm alloy plate hull bottom, 5mm sides and 4mm treadplate deck completing the hull. Underfloor buoyancy runs the whole length of the boat, with a central fuel tank and a relatively low engine hatch just in front of the transom.

In the bow area an anchor well holds the automatic winch and rode, while a double bench seat faces the stern. On the front wall of the walkaround cabin a further double bench seat hides a massive hatch which lifts to reveal a flush toilet with electric macerator. This compartment is huge and provides complete privacy seated on the throne.

The deck is completely flat – there is no stepping up or down anywhere, and a softbait angler or anyone fighting a big fish can safely walk all the way around without having to worry about their footing. The walkway down either side of the cabin is also wide enough to safely negotiate holding a fishing rod with both hands. A large wet-storage locker under the front deck can take care of bulky dive gear or a big kingfish.

Senator Typhoon 950 cabin interior

The main cabin has two helm seats and also two double-width crew seats running longitudinally in the rear part of the cabin. This somewhat unusual layout provides seating capacity for at least six people under the shelter of the hardtop. Space under each of the seats provides a range of different storage options, while the interior of the cabin is carpeted.

The helm is extremely well-equipped and features twin Raymarine e12 HybridTouch screens. This enables one unit to function primarily as the chartplotter and the other as a fishfinder. McKinley has also installed a Raymarine radar unit on the cabin roof and this overlays radar data onto the chart or in its own dedicated radar display. A digital gauge for the Volvo Penta D6 and a trim/tilt control for the stern leg completes the central dash, with controls for the Maxwell anchor winch, bilge pump and a Raymarine VHF radio to the left.



Transom fishing platform -on Senator Typhoon 950

The main ‘fighting area’ of this boat is really two areas: the cockpit and the stern platform. The cockpit is dominated by the engine compartment which is low enough to safely stand on when fishing or using the baitboard. There is a single parcel shelf running under the gunwales either side, while the upper surface of the gunwale right around the boat is coated with Rhino Deck, a rubberised non-slip coating.

A commercial-size baitboard drops into two of the rodholders in the transom, leaving five rodholders still usable. The baitboard is well-designed and accessible from all sides, with a plastic cutting surface standing clear of the aluminium supports and a drip tray that drains out the stern. Large step-throughs on either side of the engine provide easy access from the cockpit to the stern platform.

That stern platform is likely to become the fishing area of choice. It is wide enough for at least four anglers to brace themselves against the stern rail while fishing and broad enough for someone to walk between those anglers and the transom. The massive two-section boarding ladder forms an integral part of the rail, thanks to a clever catch arrangement that locks it securely into the gap.
The platform is high enough off the water to keep feet dry in most conditions, and extends well past the stern leg so the tangling of lines on the prop is not an issue. Senator has also cleverly built in a hinged hatch that lifts to reveal the stern leg, ensuring a mishap like a snagged rope can be easily cleared without having to jump overboard.

A common feature of boats in Hawkes Bay is a cray pot hauler and a small davit is fitted on the starboard side. An electric winch slides into a bracket under the gunwale, but packs out of the way when not needed. The whole deck of the boat is 4mm treadplate, welded through onto the stringers below and this is ideal to handle the knocks of serious fishing while providing secure footing even when wet.


Handling and ride

Senator Typhoon 950

Power is provided by a reliable and economical Volvo Penta D6-370 diesel motor, propelling the boat through a Duoprop stern leg. When we started the six-cylinder diesel the noise was a pleasant growl and noticeable was an almost complete lack of the usual rattles that big diesels cause. This attests to the attention to detail that is a feature of all Senator boats – even at full roar this boat had very little hull noise. The hull is extremely rigid, no doubt in part due to the 8mm plate on the bottom, but also thanks to the welded deck structure, and this translates to a quiet ride.

It was a terrible fishing day when we ventured out of Napier harbour into Hawkes Bay, with a strong southerly just passing through. This did of course make it a good test day, especially for a big boat like the 950 since we had swells of up to three metres rolling into the harbour entrance. These are the sorts of conditions where you appreciate a seriously big boat, and the heavy hull simply loved the conditions. The broad beam and substantial chines kept the centre of the boat dry, while the weight and lack of planing strakes meant that it simply carved up the smaller waves.

Of course those big swells meant we were able to get some airtime for the photos, but the weight of a big boat means that it absorbs much of the crash and bang that would be painful in a smaller vessel.

Senator Typhoon 950 on the water

The stern fishing platform is comfortably above water level, so in most conditions would keep feet dry. However in the huge swells we did get some water over the back, and even a small amount into the cockpit. The cabin provides good shelter for up to six occupants seated (and a couple more standing), even in bad weather. However the walkaround configuration does not provide much spray-break down the sides, and hence the rear of the cockpit got a fair bit of spray in those conditions.

Meanwhile, the bow area remained almost completely dry and on a fine, sunny day those would be the seats of choice underway.

The big Volvo diesel had no problem propelling three tonnes of boat and the speedo showed well over 30kts. Senator claims a top speed of 38kts and while the conditions were not good for a definitive speed and consumption test, the D6-370 diesel certainly has enough power to produce that sort of speed. The Duoprop stern leg with its counter-rotating props also provides plenty of acceleration and eliminates any prop walk issues at low revs. An economical cruise speed of between 20 and 30kts should provide a range of up to 500nm from the 480lt under-floor fuel tank.


The Trade-a-Boat verdict

Bow seat on Senator Typhoon 950

Although this boat was purpose-built as McKinley’s recreational fisher, it would also be perfect as a charter or commercial fishing boat. The ability to fish from just about anywhere, a stern platform that eliminates the hazard of snagging the prop, and massive capacity for people, gear and fuel means it has a broader appeal than merely recreational use.

The Senator 950 is a hefty towing proposition but a road-legal trailer is available as an option. If you want a serious fishing vessel capable of handling adverse conditions, then the Typhoon 950 may be the one for you.



• Massive amounts of space

• Excellent fishing area on the stern platform



• Cockpit gets wet in rough conditions


Senator Typhoon 950 specs

Senator Typhoon 950 price: $220,000

Price as tested



MATERIAL Aluminium: 8mm bottom, 5mm sides, and 4mm deck and cabin

TYPE Monohull


BEAM 2.88m

WEIGHT 3500kg on trailer




FUEL 420lt



MAKE/MODEL Volvo Penta D6-370 marine engine

TYPE Turbo-diesel marine engine


PROPELLER Volvo Penta Duoprop DPH



Senator Boats

21 Hamilton Place,

Onekawa, 4110, Napier

Phone 0800 736 286



See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #257, October 2015. Why not subscribe today?

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