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Haines Hunter SF635 Review - Boating NZ

Haines Hunter SF635 Review - Boating NZ | Haines Hunter HQ

Words by John Eichelsheim

Designed by Haines Hunter, the latest addition to the stable is completely new rather than a development of an existing model. The SF/SP635 incorporates the latest GRP construction and materials: except for some teak capping on the gunwales, no timber is used.

In keeping with modern build practices, composite floors are bonded to the hull for quietness, rigidity and strength. Haines Hunter already uses this construction method for its 725, 660, 545 and 485 models.


First impressions count and the new SF635 makes a good one. It’s immediately recognisable as a Haines Hunter, but still manages to look significantly different to any other model in the range. Compared to the 600, it’s beamier, offering more interior space, with a much larger helm console to accept large screen electronic displays. The deep vee hull’s deadrise is 21° at the transom, compared to 23° for the 650, which had a similar beam, so it provides better stability at rest.

Presented on a dual-axle, braked DMW galvanised steel trailer, the soft top SF635 is a smart looker. The colour scheme is nicely understated: black gelcoat on the sides with gunmetal grey stripes and decals which almost exactly match the Yamaha outboard’s paint finish, right down to the metal-flake highlights.

A notable styling feature is the 635’s reverse sheer: the deck falls away subtly towards the bow, accentuated by a distinctive raised ‘bustle’ that extends from the transom and tapers down into the side decks somewhere forward of the cockpit.

In profile, the 635’s lines set it apart from anything else in the Haines Hunter range, but somehow it still manages a strongly familial look and, with so many familiar styling cues and details, you’d never mistake it for anything else.

The designer and builder have done an excellent job of retaining those features that make Haines Hunter boats so popular with Kiwi boaters. Along with the new and different, there’s much about the 635 any Haines Hunter owner will find reassuringly familiar.

It’s a modern design that’s easier to manufacture, but Haines hasn’t compromised on quality, using only the best fittings and finishes and retaining the most popular features of other Haines Hunter models.

The usual high-quality finish is evident in the boat’s interior, which looks very smart indeed with its luxurious upholstery and grey Ultralon flooring. Super-comfy king and queen seats on the passenger side are a familiar Haines Hunter staple, as are the removable transom bin-seats and hinged backrests across the transom which protect batteries, relays and switches from the elements.

There’s no shortage of cup holders and the vessel is well served with USB outlets to keep phones and other devices charged; moulded cubbies on either side are designed specifically to store phones, a nice detail.

The king-queen seats offer generous storage underneath and great support for both forward- and aft-facing passengers. The deeply-padded seats feature useful side pockets, top-quality, water-resistant foam cushioning and white-stitched black vinyl upholstery.

Opposite, the swivelling helm seat is mounted on a GRP pedestal designed to accommodate a split-lid Icey Tek chilly bin. The bin slides partway under the pedestal and the bin’s cushioned rear portion serves as another seat.

Compared to the 600, the 635 benefits from more internal volume, which translates into a roomier cockpit and more spacious forward cabin. The cockpit layout works well, whether family boating or fishing with a bunch of mates.

A saltwater wash-down and Haines Hunter’s well designed moulded GRP bait station with replaceable cutting board are welcome fishing accessories, as is the well-angled rocket launcher welded to the folding bimini top.

Two through-coaming stainless steel rod holders per side and four rod holders across the transom (two of which support the bait station) complete the standard fishing appointments. The side shelves are raised off the cockpit sole to ensure adequate toe room and the cockpit’s high gunwales should instil confidence while fishing.

There’s also provision for a drop-in transom ski pole. Access to the boarding ladder is via a transom walkthrough to port, another familiar Haines Hunter feature, while the swim steps either side can accommodate a live bait tank and/or plumbed sink as options.

The forward cabin is easily accessed through an extra wide bulkhead opening. Side windows and the overhead hatch let in even more light, so it’s a bright space during the day; LED lighting is used at night, also in the cockpit and underwater across the transom.

The cabin’s vee berths with infill are long enough to sleep on, there’s storage under the bow squab and provision for an under-bed toilet (and privacy curtain). Wide side pockets offer useful storage and inside access to the anchor locker is through the forward bulkhead via a pair of hatches with new magnetic closures.

In keeping with Haines Hunter’s tradition of quality boatbuilding, the 635 is equipped with fittings that will stand years of use. Examples include the heavy-duty stainless steel bow rails and rock-solid, folding bimini frame. Marine-grade canvas and wrap-around clears afford all weather comfort.

Deck fittings are top quality too. Haines uses stylish stainless steel pull-out cleats, including amidships for a spring line (something many trailer boat manufacturers omit) in addition to transom and bow cleats on either side.

The ground tackle is fit for purpose too, with a decent Delta anchor permanently fixed on the bow, a stainless steel fairlead and a new anchor well design with the capstan recessed into the deck and better fall into the rope locker. A moulded hatch fits flush to the deck and protects everything from spray.

This model is rated for outboards between 150hp and 200hp. The review vessel, the first 635 to leave the Ellerslie factory, was fitted with a DEC series Yamaha 175hp fourstroke with Seastar hydraulic steering and Yamaha’s low profile, concealed remote throttle control.

It also comes with the latest Yamaha CL5 touchscreen digital display, flush-mounted in the acrylic fascia. In addition, the helm console accommodates a flushmounted 12-inch Simrad NSS evoIIIS display, a Fusion Bluetooth and WiFi stereo head unit, Zipwake interceptor trim tab controls, a Uniden VHF and assorted switches.

This boat is fitted with a powerful 1kW multi-function, dual-frequency Totalscan transducer, mounted through the hull on the centreline at the transom offering forward scan, down scan and structure scan sonar functions.

The helm position is very good: comfortable sitting or standing with good all-round vision aside from the slight distortion you get looking through plastic clears when standing up. The instruments are protected from glare by the deep eyebrow over the helm console fascia and the MFD can be seen easily enough from the cockpit while fishing.

The helmsman’s moulded footrest is another familiar Haines feature while the wooden steering wheel is a touch of class. Zipwake trim tabs can be used in fully automatic mode if desired, which takes any guesswork out of correctly trimming the boat for roll and yaw. Zipwake individually adjusts the tabs to compensate for boat speed, loading inside the boat, crosswinds and sea conditions to give optimum hull performance.

Engine trimming is still required of course, but the 635 feels very well-balanced. It seemed to like the motor trimmed out, but the hull handles nicely throughout the trim range. With the bow dropping away slightly, it’s a bit harder to judge trim angle by eye so we relied on the trim gauge and observing where the spray peeled off the hull.

Little or no trim adjustment was needed when turning the boat sharply at speed, there was no evidence of ventilation or cavitation and we commented on the boat’s nice flat wake. The engine rigging felt very well sorted.

The 635’s forgiving handling is very reassuring. It’s a pleasure to drive: stable, responsive and with excellent directional stability – put the boat into a sharp turn, take your hands on the wheel and the 635 will hold the turn without tightening or opening the arc. The ride feels soft and spray is well controlled.

Compared to traditional Haines Hunter designs the new hull features some changes to the strakes. The new configuration works well and the 635 promises to be dry and soft riding.

It’s also quiet in terms of hull noise – noticeably quieter underway than Boating’s Haines Hunter 660 which doesn’t have composite floors.

The 175hp provides enough outright performance to be entertaining – we saw a smidge over 42 knots during our play with the boat, but Haines Hunter reports maxing out at 44 knots during trials – so a 200hp outboard would give the 635 some serious go. The underfloor fuel tank carries 195 litres.

Haines Hunter’s latest has big shoes to fill – the long-running SF600 set a New Zealand trailer boat benchmark – but there’s no denying progress and the new Haines Hunter 635 is a better boat in every respect: styling, interior space, helm station, ride quality, quietness and overall versatility.

The 635 is a welcome addition to the Haines Hunter trailer boat range, an observation reinforced by the number of enquiries Haines Hunter HQ has fielded regarding the new model. With a hardtop version due very soon, the 635 is ready to set a new benchmark for Haines Hunter boats.

Watch the full review here