Vintage boat review: Haines Hunter 650SF Encore

Graham Lloyd
Deckee Pro  Posted April 19 2018

1998, June; Jumpinpin, Gold Coast: A big sister to Haines Hunter’s 585SF Seeker BIAA Boat of the Year, this facility-rich 680SF Encore had a pair of very efficient 115 hp FICHT outboards for grand performance - including on just one!

Twin engines have been always been a serious safety consideration for those looking to range far offshore for their fishing expeditions. If one engine failed, you always had the other to get home. The disadvantages though were higher fuel consumption and the fact that many twin engine boats had abysmal performance on only one.

These days however, the advent of higher technology in outboards has considerably reduced those disadvantages. That was shown with clarity during our run aboard this rather superb Sports Fishing (hence the SF in the model name) boat from Haines Hunter. With OMC owning both the boat and engine companies (at the time of review), the package was well integrated and nicely rigged.

Power came from a pair of the new V4 115 Evinrudes with OMC’s unique FICHT direct fuel injection system. These two-stroke powerplants offer an excellent power-to-weight ratio that I’m sure was a factor in the performance, including the way the 680SF ran on one. The FICHT technology also offers excellent fuel economy with the factory claiming tests prove a saving of around 35% against older outboards, and some 80% reduction in emissions. The full benefits of these latest outboards have been well documented elsewhere, so we won’t go through them again here.

From a practical viewpoint of everyday use, the advantages include instant starting, smooth idling cold or hot, the ability to idle and troll for as long as you want with no oiling of plugs or other side effects, instant acceleration at any time, greater cruising range, lower cost of operation, and no smoking. It was the latter as much as anything else that used to annoy me when running an outboard.

The Evinrude 115s have a displacement of just over 1.7 litres (105.4 cubic inches) and produce 85.8 kilowatts (115 hp) at 5,500 rpm. Running four-bladed Renegade Offshore stainless props with 17 inch (43 cm) pitch, the Evinrudes smoothly spun to 5,900 rpm on the 680SF for a top GPS-confirmed speed of 36.8 knots (68 kph). As that’s 400 rpm above the rated maximum revs of the engines, I’d say a slightly bigger-pitch prop would see even better performance. Even so, that’s an excellent result from two 115s on a big, fully-equipped hull measuring nearly 24 feet (7.3 metres) overall.

With one Evinrude intentionally stopped and trimmed up, the other had no problem in bringing the 680SF on plane. It then easily revved to 5,000 rpm and had us ripping along at 25.5 knots (47 kph) which is a remarkable speed from one half of a twin-rig of this type. The 115 did this with such aplomb that I had to keep looking aft to remind myself that one engine was up and off. Those slightly-underpitched (for maximum speed) four-bladed Renegade props would have helped this aspect of the Haines Hunter’s performance and, for serious offshore use, would be an intelligent choice.

The hull design helped performance too. A typical Haines Hunter 21 degrees deadrise on a rounded keel gave a controlled and soft ride, with good lateral stability when running and when at rest. We stopped broadside-on to a fair swell rolling in through the Jumpinpin Bar, and the 680SF held as steady as you could wish. Taking the seas on any quarter from ahead or astern proved no trouble, and this would be a wonderful boat to cruise in most any offshore conditions.

The dash layout is unusual and works exceptionally well. Right in front of the skipper was a Lowrance Global Nav 310 and matching X85 Fishfinder for the key information needed to navigate and watch for quarry. There was space for more electronics, and a neatly moulded panel for two additional circular gauges top left. A Ritchie compass was mounted on top while the main gauge panel ran vertically just to port of the wheel where both the skipper and first mate could watch everything. The key dials of speedo, tachos, fuel and trim gauges were uppermost where they were more easily monitored, then below that were water pressure and volts gauges plus hour meters.

The throttle/shift binnacle was to port too, again allowing either the skipper or first mate to operate those controls, while two switch panels were to either side of the wheel. The stereo cassette and 27 Mhz radios were located just inside the cabin -- I’d mildly prefer the 27 Mhz unit (and a VHF radio) to be at the helm.

The hydraulic steering was a bit heavy, and I suspect some tuning of the installation may have given an easier task at the wheel. Nonetheless, the helm gave quick and precise response. With both props spinning in the same direction, there was some torque effect that tended to run the boat with a slight list. However, trimming the engines a little asymmetrically overcame that and had the 680SF cruising with good balance. Optional trim tabs would achieve the same result, and possibly a trifle more efficiently. The Evinrudes quickly lifted the hull on plane, and optimum speeds for comfort and range appeared to be from 4,000 to 5,000 rpm when the Haines Hunter was recording 26 to 32.5 knots (48 to 60 kph).

The layout onboard is great, not only for fishing which is clearly the intended focus, but for cruising and family use as well. There’s what amounts to a full width boarding platform immediately forward of the engines, with a transom door to port. The cockpit is roomy with a fold-down aft three-quarter lounge and lots of stowage. Big underfloor kill tanks will hold the catch for you, and there’s bait prep facilities aft and on the side decks.

A couple of steps lead down to a quite roomy cabin with a vee berth, good sitting headroom, storage areas and a concealed toilet (a holding tank for the latter is optional). Courtesy lights are fitted throughout the boat. The fit and finish everywhere is top class, and the whole rig felt nice and tough when running through some chop and swells.

The 680SF has been around for a while, and the company has continually refined its design so that the current generation of the model is very well sorted in every aspect of space utilisation, onboard facilities and performance. It’s a big boat when the bow sprit and boarding platform/engine pod are included, for the 6.8 metres implied by the 680 designation is significantly shorter than the actual overall 7.3 metres.

The walk-around cabin style is perhaps the best for offshore fishing. You get more protection and more cabin space than with a centre console, yet you still have good (fast, safe) access all around the boat, and a secure forward position from which to fish or handle anchoring duties. It’s a good looking boat, in a chunky, tough manner, with above-average freeboard and well-above-average rough-water abilities.

The boat is rated up to 300 hp and can take single outboards or sterndrives as well as the twins.

SPECIFICATIONS

Overall length: 7.30 metres

Beam: 2.50 metres

Weight (approx): 1,300 kgs

Deadrise: 21 degrees

Fuel: 270 litres standard, 350 litres optional

Power (as tested): Twin Evinrude 115 FICHT

Price (as tested, at time of review): $79,500 ready-to-run on trailer

Was this helpful?Thank Graham Lloyd

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