2014, December; Sydney Harbour: The design and philosophy of Arvor boats is rather unique, and it’s probably because of that they have done so well in Australia. The style is reminiscent of European North Sea professional fishing boats – which is indeed where they originated – and the practicality shows through with fully enclosed wheelhouses and large open cockpits.
The hull designs are exceptionally seaworthy and other aspects of their antecedents are apparent in features such as safe side-decks, big self-draining scuppers and the ability to quickly fit emergency steering tillers. The latter may never be needed with today’s reliable engineering and systems, but if nothing else it’s reassuring to see that the builders still consider such ‘what if’ factors and allow for them.
The external styling is hardly streamlined, but it has real appeal in its sturdy and businesslike appearance. Anyone who understands what ‘seaworthy’ truly means will find it has a charm all its own. A quick tour onboard will also show the benefits within the spacious wheelhouse of excellent visibility and efficient ergonomics.
Peter Collins of Sydney’s long-standing Collins Marine saw the potential for the Arvor approach quite some time ago. He has since sold more than 500 of them here including around 200 of the Arvor 20 that he built locally. Arvor itself has expanded considerably over that time and now has manufacturing plants in a number of European locations all using latest technology facilities and materials.
This time around we were fortunate to have two newly released models for a side-by-side comparison which highlighted both similarities and variations to give prospective owners a very interesting choice. Both boats are primarily serious fishing platforms, but both are also excellent day or weekend cruisers and make fine family boats. Both could also be either moored or trailered, although each is probably more suited to one method of being kept, and one is faster. Both are in the same mid $80K price range (all pricing at time of writing), so budget considerations don’t affect the choice.
The 690D is a 6.88-metre diesel-powered shaft-driven boat that cruises around 15 to 19 knots and tops out around 22 knots. It’s more likely to be moored or kept in a marina and offers all the simplicity of operation of an inboard diesel. Pricing starts from around $84,500.
The 675 Sportsfish is a 6.55-metre outboard-powered design and cruises in the 20 to 25 knots bracket with a top speed of 33 knots. It would be easier to trailer and offers that extra speed for those who favour fishing spots further away; its pricing starts from around $84,150.
A trailer for either boat is about $11-12,000, and there are various extra cost options for electronics and accessories, and both boats can be fitted with dual helm set-ups (wheelhouse and cockpit). Sun awnings and cockpit covers can be added. There are other versions - smaller and larger - of the boats, so if the style appeals but you need less or more in terms of space or cost, there’ll be an Arvor to suit you.
Mainly because of the amidships engine location, the shaft-driven 690D has a larger cockpit and smaller wheelhouse than the 675 Sportsfish. In practice though, the variation in wheelhouse space is likely to be more of a consideration as both cockpits have plenty of room for moving around and for any form of angling activity. The latter is clearly the dominant design approach with rod holders, live bait tanks, integral tackle drawers and stacks of storage lockers prevalent in both Arvors. The layout is spot on for fishing too with wide side decks, right-height gun’l support and foot-work space below.
Continuing the fishing theme, both boats have quick and safe access to the foredecks with recessed walkways alongside the cabins. These are well below the gun’ls and protected by effective guard rails. It’s only when it is pointed out that you see that the cabins are actually slightly offset to port, so that the starboard walkway is wider and that little bit easier to negotiate. That’s another very thoughtful touch from Arvor that again emphasises the real-world experience in their design and build processes.
The anchoring and mooring arrangements are good on both boats with excellent deck hardware, anchor lockers with appropriate capacities for chain and line, and safe and easy facilities for handling mooring duties. The 690D has a power windlass as standard, whilst that’s optional on the Sportsfish.
Moving aft to the transoms, the two boats are obviously different with the 675 having a Mercury Four-Stroke EFI 150 outboard in an engine well and a boarding platform to starboard. The 690 has a much larger full-beam boarding platform with a bracket for an optional auxiliary outboard. Both boats have drop-down swim ladders and entry ports into their cockpits.
The latter have non-slip fibreglass soles with hatches that lift on gas-assist struts above very generous under-floor stowage. The 690D has a raised section that also lifts for excellent access to the Mercury diesel and its systems such as fuel and raw water filters and so on. The 690 has a single lounge seat that folds out from under the starboard gun’l, while the 675 has twin lounges – one across the port side of the aft deck and the other in the rear port corner of the cockpit.
The 675 also includes as standard a demountable table for the cockpit that slots into a floor bracket positioned to suit the two lounges. It would be easy to find a fold-up table for the 690D to set out drinks and snacks, or for some extra work space. Both the Arvors have cutting/bait boards.
Whilst personal preference between inboard/diesel and outboard/petrol power will probably play a big part in anyone deciding between the two boats, the other major differences are in the wheelhouses/cabins and in how the two boats drive and perform.
Both wheelhouses are spacious and have top class helm positions. Being fully enclosed, they offer total protection so skippers can con their craft comfortably in any conditions. An often overlooked joy of boating is cruising along when it’s raining (not too heavily though!) – but that works only when you’re snug and dry with good visibility and effective screen wipers. The Arvors are brilliant in this regard, and are also as good as you can get in this size of boat when offshore in rough conditions.
Both helm stations are to starboard with large panels to accommodate engine gauges and navigation electronics; the panels are moulded in a non-glare black and sweep across to port with recesses for storage and a drink holder for the skipper. The tall, near vertical curved windscreens are key factors in the good visibility aided by large side windows with slide-open panels for ventilation. Overhead hatches that also slide help further with light and air. Headroom is very liberal and that plus all the light that flows into the wheelhouses makes you feel you’re aboard a larger boat than the actual size represents.
Both the 690 and the 675 have cushioned areas in the lower forward sections of the cabins with fill-in panels that extend aft with other cushions to make up into double berths. A clever aspect of the fill-in panels are sections that hinge into place in front of the helm seat to provide a higher foot rest ‘false floor’ when seated to drive; but fold them away and you have a better set-up with more headroom for standing to drive. The seats are adjustable fore-aft and have flip-up bolsters for either a higher seated line-of-sight or for good ‘bottom bracing’ when standing at the wheel.
The 690D has twin seats side-by-side to starboard whilst the 675’s two seats are on either side of the cabin. The 675 also has an additional double lounge behind the helm seat and opposite that is a mini-galley with a fridge/freezer plus a storage locker with a small sink and cold water supply. The 690D is not so well equipped in this area, although there is a similar sink (but no water supply) and a little workbench area. Both boats come with single-burner butane camping stoves that can be quickly set up and are entirely suitable for likely simple cooking requirements.
An option for the 675 is a flushing toilet with overboard discharge (for waters where that’s okay), or alternatively a portable toilet could be set up in either boat. The 675 had curtains fitted around the cabin windows for a degree of privacy, and it wouldn’t be hard to do the same for the 690D.
Both the Arvors had full depth stainless-framed glass bulkheads across the back of the wheelhouse with sliding doors to seal off the cabin space. From each cockpit, a step down into the cabin made it an easy transition and, with the door open, it was no problem to converse between the two areas of the boats.
Although the two Arvors are quite different in their speed and handing, I found that both were easy and enjoyable to drive. There’s a degree of extra exhilaration with the 675’s additional power and performance, but the 690D has a sure-footed feel that’s also appealing.
Both boats had steering that was light and to which the hulls responded quickly. Neither boat banked all that much as tighter turns were negotiated, although the 690D has a near full length keel to protect the rudder and prop so that gave a slightly more secure feeling and would help with directional stability in a seaway.
On the other hand, the 675 Sportsfish had a deeper vee hull which gave a slightly softer ride and still handled well in turns. We ran both boats across the Heads of Sydney Harbour in a typical wind-blown chop on top of some mild incoming swells and both were a delight to handle. It’s true I enjoyed the extra punch and faster acceleration of the outboard-powered 675, and that could well allow finer placement in rougher waters or when crossing a bar, but it’s only when driving the two boats one after the other that you’d really notice the difference.
The 690D still had plenty of grunt – a lot more torque of course from the diesel – and it would be a rare skipper who would find it wanting in any respect. Running before the swells in both boats was no hassle at all, and heading into the sets and plunging through some larger waves sent spray sweeping away to each side; any that reached the screens was swiftly dealt with by the wipers.
The 675 was a bit more manoeuvrable going astern with the prop-angle steering being a benefit, and that might make a difference in some higher-action fish fighting situations, but again that would be a rare situational advantage. In short, the long heritage of Arvor in generally far worse Northern seas than recreational anglers in Australia would encounter shines through in the way the boats perform.
This particular 690D dash panel was better equipped than the Sportsfish – although that’s just a matter of preferences and options as both could be set up the same. In this case, in addition to typical engine gauges and switch panels, the diesel boat had been fitted with a seven inch Simrad colour display combination GPS chartplotter and sonar fishfinder which certainly added to skipper information and enjoyment. Radar and an autopilot can optionally be added.
As well, a control topped by a large red button was for a trolling valve. Because the 115 Mercury diesel runs the boat at around four knots at idle revs, the trolling valve can be progressively opened below 1,200 rpm and that reduces oil pressure in the transmission. The result is a certain amount of slip to slow the boat to more desirable trolling speeds even down to half a knot or so.
In addition to the dash panel, the forward overhead internal mouldings of the wheelhouses comprise three angled panels that are ideal for mounting additional electronics including marine radios or stereo systems. It was good to see Arvor had provided easy access into behind the panels through removable sections on the undersides of the mouldings – marine engineers would be most happy to see that, and to find ready accessibility behind the main dash panels to all the wring and steering hydraulics.
Arvor has done a great job of ‘getting back to basics’ in these boats; they have everything you could want for fishing, especially offshore, and for cruising around and relaxing, but there’s nothing superfluous to add to maintenance costs. It’s all easy-care and easy-clean; the overall design and packaging is extremely practical. Yet both these boats stand out with their ‘pro fishing’ seaworthy styling and you’ll receive nothing but looks of admiration and approval as you cruise and fish your own.