Looking back: Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop

By: Norman Holtzhausen, 2007

Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop
Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop
Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop
Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop
Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop
Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop Osprey 700 Walkaround Hardtop

When the Rodney District Council harbourmaster began looking for a replacement craft, he knew it had to be a multi-role boat. The Osprey proved just the ticket.

A harbourmaster’s responsibilities range from the maintenance of navigation aids to coastal patrol work, and even transporting council staff around the district’s coastal areas. Another alloy pontoon boat was the minimum starting point. Aluminium is the only material tough enough to withstand the knocks and bumps of a working boat in daily use, round pilings wharves and beacons and a pontoon design was required for safety and stability. The search ended with the Osprey 700HT walk around.

A unique feature of the Osprey is the protected walk-around deck and guard rail around the entire perimeter of the boat. High gunwales means the crew can safely and quickly move to the front of the boat in any sea conditions without having to crawl through forward hatches. This boat also has a large self-draining work area at the bow.

Many of the beacons and marks serviced by the harbourmaster are fixed to rocks, which mean a bow-on approach and the forward working area ensures these can be accessed without having to alight the boat.

The pontoon on all Ospreys features an extended ledge all around the boat which not only provides additional protection from bumps and knocks, but also enables one to clamber aboard the boat from any side. Bumps and knocks are shrugged off by the almost indestructible 5mm aluminium hull. The harbourmaster vessel has a number of features not typically required recreationally. While a tough cabin roof, strong enough to stand on, is standard on Osprey boats, a removable extension has been fitted to the starboard side of the cabin that enables the safe servicing of lights and beacons mounted high on offshore buoys and cardinal marks.

Initially a four-stroke engine was specified for the boat, but the dealer recommended the Evinrude ETEC 200hp two-stroke. Fuel economy and reliability were prime reasons for going with the ETEC, and the engine is more economical overall than the smaller four-stroke engine used previously. The ETEC also required less servicing than a four-stroke. The Evinrude quickly accelerates the boat to 37 knots. A change to the prop lowered the top speed from more than 39 knots, offering a good compromise as it provided more flexibility at the more common lower rev range. A 180-litre under-floor fuel tank guarantees and extensive cruising range.

Osprey _700_3

Usefully, the Evinrude has computerised engine analysis – engine data is downloaded to a laptop computer at the workshop. Injector settings, engine usage and rev ranges, engine temperatures and any fault messages are displayed in a detailed report, and appropriate action can be taken.

David and his team spend long hours on the water, and the boat’s 2.5m beam makes for a spacious, comfortable cabin, despite the volume sacrificed to the walk around deck. Twin, full-length bunks forward provide additional seating, and the entire interior of the boat is carpeted, providing soundproofing and warmth.

The sliding rear door provides total protection from the elements, and engine noise is reduced to a whisper when this is shut. Large sliding side windows enable easy communication with crew or other boats.

The helm position is comfortable (padded swivel seats for helmsman and passenger), and the dash is dominated by a 10" Furuno display that serves as a combined GPS, chart plotter, sounder and radar.

A quality electronics package was vital since the precise positioning of the boat in all weather is needed for servicing navigational aids. A VHF radio and compass, as well as the Evinrude’s instrumentation, take up the rest of the dash. Dual windscreen wipers ensure a clear view even in rough conditions.

The 23-degree deadrise makes for a soft-riding boat, while the pontoons ensure it’s stable both at rest and at speed – the boat never heels beyond a comfortable angle. Although not primarily an emergency vessel, this boat can also be called on to provide rescue services.

The harbour master’s operational area covers both sides of the North Island, so this boat is regularly towed between the west and east coasts. A fully-braked, tandem-axle Dunbier trailer was supplied, fitted with multiple rollers. The boat often needs to be launched and retrieved to the trailer single-handedly, and it all handles easily.

Although this boat had been fitted out specifically for the harbourmaster, it also makes for a fantastic day fishing charter boat. The walkaround design means the entire boat length is usable, while the cabin provides shelter from inclement weather.

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