Senator Typhoon 670

The Napier boatbuilder is best known for its shapely pontoon boats, and the all-new Typhoon is the first outward sign of the big moves afoot within the company.

Senator’s beginnings were fairly low-key – managing director Wayne McKinlay started out designing and building a boat for a mate who wanted something strong and foolproof for fishing. “Then the old man wanted one…and then someone else…then another one…and it just sort of took off,” he says.

That was 12 years and about 900 boats ago, and for most of those years, nearby Firmans Marine was the Senator marketing division. The new boats rolled straight from the builder to Firmans yard and from there to the many happy owners.

But a few months ago, Firmans started its own boatbuilding outfit – and that left the Senator team with a marketing role to fill. McKinlay says the company’s looking for property in Napier to establish its own sales yard. In the meantime, Hamilton’s Rollo’s Marine has picked up a lot of the slack and Senator’s newest kid off the blocks, the Typhoon, is parked in its yard.

 At first glance, the Typhoon appears to be a radical break from the company’s traditional pontoon boat range, but a closer look reveals quite a few familial similarities with both the pontoon Senators and the company’s deluxe Offshore series. Senators are easily the best-looking pontoon boats on the market, and the design aesthetics haven’t faltered with the Typhoon.


The boat has a 17 degree vee at the stern for non-slip cornering and better seakeeping abilities in the rough. There are no spray rails underwater, but a wide chine bar tapers gracefully from the stern all the way to the bow. The full length chine also adds considerable strength to the hull structure.

The Typhoon has 5mm thick bottom plating with 5mm on the sides and 3mm for the hardtop. Under the 5mm alloy tread plate cockpit floor, it has the same hefty structure as its pontooned stablemates.

Like Senator’s pontoon boats, the Typhoon carries its 2.65m beam well forward. This extra buoyancy, plus the lack of spray rails, gives the boat a soft and fuss-free re-entry, while the prominent hull chine fires the spray away well out to the sides for a dry ride.

A meaty bow rail is complemented by full-length handrails on the hardtop and the wide side decks accommodate even my size 12 sea boots with ease. Going forward under way felt safe and secure.

The 200hp four-stroke Yamaha takes its petrol from a 240 litre welded alloy underfloor tank that’s suspended from the deck beams supporting the cockpit floor. “It doesn’t touch the hull anywhere,” McKinlay says, “and that gives a big air gap underneath it and prevents any problems with electrolysis starting.”

A Racor filter/water trap stops any greebies from getting to the motor, and the fuel tank vent runs from the expansion chamber out overboard through one of the three welded hand rails on the transom. “Stops it mucking up the finish if you have Nyalic or paint finishes,” says Brett Gifford, sales manager for Rollo’s Marine.

Senator recommends using between 140 and 250 horsepower to drive the Typhoon and the test boat seems perfectly mated with the 200 four-stroke horses out back. Most of all, it feels solid and secure in the water. Even highly stressed in a series of tight turns it shows no sign of breaking out or cavitation.

All hull seams and structural members are fully welded, even in those hidden spots beneath the seats and under the bunks with good penetration and finish. Several Senator boats are used commercially and Wayne says very little extra work is needed to meet Maritime New Zealand survey requirements.

The test boat packs a quality fit-out that reflects the broad boating experience of the team at Rollo’s.  “There’s no quicker way to ruin a well-built boat than to fit crappy gear to it,” says Gifford.

Up front, a bowsprit keeps the anchor clear of the hull while the Simpson Lawrence automatic capstan takes care of hauling it all aboard. “In my opinion,” says Gifford, “Simpson Lawrence builds the quietest, smoothest capstans on the market and you never have any issues with ‘em…period. Fit ‘em and forget ‘em.”

A tinted Weaver hatch lets sunlight into the vee berth and opens for access on deck or fresh air. Senator’s local upholsterer, Charman’s Auto Trimmers, has done a great job with the muted and restful charcoal squabs and carpet trim. “Looks small,” says Gifford (indicating the cabin), “but I’m 1.86m tall and I stretch out in there no problem.”

A carpet trimmed ledge provides heaps of stowage for the small items and big lockers either side should hold the rest. A convenient hatch opens for access to the back of the instrument panel and, at the end of the day, the door can be slid shut and locked.

The charcoal grey carpet is everywhere inside the hardtop too, and is an improvement on the hard synthetic types that pill and look tacky after just a few seasons on the water. Clear 5mm reinforced glass windows allow clear visibility all round and the side windows slide open. A full-width carpeted ledge above the dash board gives extra stowage with a high lip so you don’t end up scrabbling around on the cockpit floor for its contents after every wave.


The healthy torque developed by the F200 had the boat up off the bench and out dancing in seconds. And even after an hour or so of being bludgeoned by the grumpy waves in the Raglan harbour, the moulded plastic seats still felt comfy and secure with plenty of support right where my 1.85m frame needed it.

Ergonomics are good in the hot seat too. The standard Yamaha cable control handle fell readily to hand and the wheel could be used without having to adopt the praying mantis posture that some boats force on their skippers.

The water gets a bit thin in some parts of Raglan Harbour, so the 10″ colour screen on the Lowrance LCX 112 chart plotter/sounder came in handy when we erred from the beaten channel. The trio of  Yamaha LAN (Local Area Network) engine management gauges gave a good idea of how we were doing in the performance department.

“This boat’s done 49 kilometres since new,” Gifford announces triumphantly after pressing a few buttons, “and has used 23.1 litres of fuel.”

The short, steep chop made it hard to get a handle on where the boat’s best cruising speed lay, but 30km/h at 3800rpm felt good; we could talk above the motor without yelling and about 25 litres an hour was disappearing into the Yamaha.Speed trials had us pulling 72km/h at 5900rpm, using 71.3 litres of fuel an hour.

The Typhoon may be the minnow in Senator’s monohull range, but aft of the cockpit it’s as broad as the proverbial fat lady’s behind. Two large central underfloor bins can be used wet for taking the catch home, or dry for getting the dive bottles and gear out to waypoint X. Outboard of them is all flotation in fully-welded chambers either side.

The internal beam is 2.1m so the side decks are wide enough to perch on comfortably and are the right height to comfortably lean on for fishing. The solid, half-round rub rails help, and will be worth their weight in paint jobs when coming alongside. A deep shelf around the cockpit is where you’d stow the fishing tackle, boat hook or paddle and a sexy, black anodised gutting board slides into holes on the transom cap rail.

There’s also three rod holders welded into either side of the cockpit sides and another two in the transom to keep the fishos happy while the stylish rocket launcher has barrels for eight rods on the hardtop roof.

A nice touch up there is the bent flat bar brackets welded to the hardop for mounting  radio and GPS antennae, thereby alleviating all the leakage and electrolysis problems that through bolting them can cause. Nifty little watertight plastic fittings keep the wiring neatly routed.

Two watertight So-Pac hatches keep the battery lockers dry and secure in the transom, and all wiring is tidily executed and/or well hidden.

I ask about a ski pole. “No problem,” Gifford replies. “There’s no such thing as a standard Senator. The guys at the factory are great to deal with – real easy-going – they’ll do pretty much whatever you want.”

The walk-through slide to the uncluttered portofino platform aft, has nylon liners in the retaining slots to stop it rattling like a mariachi band on speed while the boat is under way. And on the port side, a T-bar boarding ladder hinges into the water for clambering back aboard when you’ve had enough water skiing/diving/swimming.

After an hour or two on the water, we pulled alongside the fishing jetty and I jumped off. Gifford motored back out into the murky brown waters of the harbour for one last spin. I thought about going with him. The Typhoon’s like that…fun to play with and hard to give back afterwards.

Towing weight, for the boat and trailer, is 2000kg. It will take about $105,000 to tow a Typhoon (as tested) home, but Gifford says a variety of different versions will be on offer. “We’re open to ideas,” he says, “just ask. Inboard, outboard, you name it.”

(price as tested: $105,000) 

Interior carpet linings:   Imported Miami polypropylene carpet lining
Length               6.7m
Beam                2.47m
Deadrise          26o thru to 17o
Engine              Yamaha F200
Fuel                   240 litres
Weight on trailer  2000kgs

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