NEWS & REVIEWS
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE
Ian Macrae | May 2008 | Boating Magazine
A Kangaroo Island trip shows what this boat has to offer
The pressure of rapidly approaching deadlines normally mean that having more than a couple of hours to complete a boat test is a luxury. But after completing hundreds of tests over the years, I reckon I have this boat test business well and truly nailed.
The process is fairly straight forward and once behind the helm, it doesn't take all that long to get a good feel for a boat and I can confidently say that I rarely get it wrong. But it's not the ideal situation, so when I get the chance I like to take a boat out and use her as the builder intended.
One such opportunity came my way recently when Jim and Leica Theodore, grabbed a group of new Theodore boat owners, threw in four journos and took the whole crew on an extended trip to South Australia's Kangaroo Island for a new days of R & R (and serious testing, of course).
The task was simple - put two new Theodore 720 models through their paces, while fishing and cruising this idyllic part of the world. The first cab of the rank was the latest 720 Coastal HT Enclosed (you'll have to wait until the next edition to find out about the superb new 'Open' model).
But I will say from the start that after spending three days (on and off) at the helm, in conditions that varied from absolutely brilliant to bloody awful, I was truly impressed by this 8m (LOA) hard top's performance, handling and overall functionality.
PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
With a powerful 300hp D4 Volvo Penta diesel humming in the engine box, the latest 720 uses the low down torque from a supercharger to rocket this almost 2500kg vessel out of the hole, before the turbocharger kicks in for 25-knot cruise speed 2300rpm. At these rpm, this baby uses only a miserly 20lt per hour, that's what I call economical boating from a true bluewater battlewagon.
Push the Volvo electronic controls all the way home and the 720 tops out at 41 knots and drinks 49lt per hour. But this is still quite acceptable when you consider other craft (capable with keeping up with her) in similar conditions.
And besides, who drives at 40 knots offshore anyway?
From a noise perspective the superchargers gets a bit loud, but once the turbo takes over, noise levels become more than acceptable in the enclosed cockpit.
For most of the time we spent at KI the seas were kind to us and like most boats these days, the 720 performed well in calm conditions and proved to be an extremely stable fishing platform. But it was the trip back across the Strait from Penneshaw to Wirrina Cove on the mainland, with 35 knots of southeasterly blowing in from the Southern Ocean and slamming into the bow at 45 degrees, that was the real eye opener. The 720 handled the short, extremely choppy conditions with consummate ease. I tickled the port trim tab (to compensate for the pressure of the wind across the bow), got her running level, trimmed the leg out to 'one' on the trim gauge to lift the bow slightly and took off across the Strait at 24 knots. Almost unbelievably, during the 30-mile run, I found only two holes in the ocean the RTA hadn't filled. The hull ran level and true without banging and crashing all over the sea and to top it all off the ride was surprisingly dry. That says a lot about this vessel's sea-keeping abilities.
So what makes this hull ride so well? The solid fibreglass-stringers and glassed-in bulkhead system under the floor definitely help. These, aided by the fully bolted and glassed deck and hull joint, make the 720's hull extremely rigid. Then there's the heavily flared bow working in conjunction with aggressive chines to throw water down and away from the hull. And her fine entry and deep forefoot, coupled with a 20-degree deadrise and moulded cut outs at the transom (to break the water's suction to the hull) to ensure the hulls cuts cleanly through the water in all conditions. Steering is a one finger affair thanks to the HyDriver and the Volvo power-steering system.
This hull also carries the 660kg engine and leg effortlessly and maintains an almost level planing attitude that needs only minimal leg trim for optimum ride. Having the 300lt fuel tank and 200lt fish box positioned amidships in front of the engine also aids level running.
A set of innovative Volvo QL trim tabs handle the boat's lateral stability in strong crosswinds, and compensate for load placement, but these were rarely needed during the trip. At rest the hull remained stable even when a notable 110kg journo moved around while fishing.
Originally designed to serve the commercial sector, it's comforting to know that the 720 Coastal is still built to 2C Survey with 40 knot performance.
The large cockpit (fishos will love) is self-draining and the wide swim platform features a boarding ladder. The transom and gunwales are almost waist-high (depending on your height) so all onboard feel secure. Jim hasn't included a transom door on this vessel for safety reasons when the boat operates well offshore. A freshwater transom shower and raw-water deck wash are also included.
The helm is well set out with all the required Volvo gauges in easy view, but the piece de resistance is the excellent Raymarine coloursounder/chartplotter/radar that Jim's fitted. The boat also has a Raymarine Autopilot. A VHF radio is positioned near the driver's right hand, but the speaker is a bit low, which makes hearing it while underway difficult. Another speaker at ear level will solve this. The forward and aft bilge pump, horn and 12V accessory switches etc., are sighted on a panel to the left of the helm, but they need some sort of cover to stop them from being accidentally switched by a wayward elbow.
The driving position is comfortable both seated or standing, but Jim still hasn't decided on the final seats to be fitted as yet. Grab rails are all sited in all the right places and both the driver and the navigator get footrests. A rocket-launch styled rod rack is sited at the rear of the enclosed cabin's roof. Being only 5ft 8in, I had to stand on the rear facing quarter seat atop of the storage boxes behind the driver and navigator's seats to get rods in and out, but it wasn't a real problem.
Other fishing friendly inclusions are stainless steel gunwale and transom rod holders, a removable bait-prep table, under gunwale rod racks and good access to the transom down each side of the engine box. Plus, once you've caught the fish you can cook them on the portable barbeque that mounts on the gunwale.
For a cuddy, the 720's cabin is quite roomy (two burly fishos can sleep in here, as long as they talk about football when they wake up!) but the locking cabin door is a bit 'squeezy' when getting in or out.
Anyone who has pulled an anchor up from 150ft of water by hand will love the locally made Stress Free (winch up and down, not free drop) anchor system and 'super hold' Sarca anchor with matching locking bowsprit. Once you have used this effort and tangle free system you will never go back to a free drop anchor and winch.
I could rave on for pages about the performance, handling and functionality this boat offers fishos and cruisers alike, (yes it does have a toilet in the cuddy cabin). But why not check it out for yourself at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show or give Jim a call and arrange a test drive for yourself, the Theodore 720 Coastal Enclosed Hardtop will undoubtedly blow you way.