They don't come any tougher

There must be something in the water on the west coast of the lower North Island, where boatbuilders, mainly of the alloy variety, abound.

Take Wanganui, for example. While many would not immediately equate the place with the building of boats, the river city boasts two of the country's finest aluminium boatbuilders: the internationally renowned Q-West and the versatile AMF.

Possibly because their models originate in a city where you must negotiate a challenging bar before going boating, both companies have earned a reputation for boats that are built well and designed to handle the rough stuff.

AMF, for example, operates in a variety of fields, including custom builds, rescue RIBs, recreational, commercial, workboats and barges. They are regarded as producing boats that are extremely robust, well balanced and attractive.

Their latest offering, the AMF Pro Sport 660 Vee Berth Cabin, is a good example. Recently chosen by an experienced Auckland fishing enthusiast, it clearly, after considerable research, "ticked all the boxes" for him.

"I wanted a boat that was going to perform well in all water conditions, not just some of them," he said. "From my research the AMF performs well, is safe for myself and for fishing trips with the grandkids, is well-engineered and is practical from a fishing perspective."

That engineering starts with a 10mm x 75mm keel bar flanked by substantial box beams that run from the cabin bulkhead to the transom. The 6mm alloy plates that form the hull are attached to these box beams, as is the 5mm treadplate cockpit floor. That hull comes with a 10-year hull warranty.

Although the 660 is a pretty stylish and well-finished craft, it's main purpose is clearly chasing seafood. A key feature is therefore the targa top/rocket launcher. Capable of providing a home for up to six rods, it can fold out of the way for better garage storage or can be fitted with clears to provide hardtop-like protection in inclement weather.

Being clears, they do not provide the same sort of visibility you get with a permanent screen. However, they do help create a snug environment, especially in blustery conditions.

Like most fishing-focused boats, the 660's seating is minimalist. There are just the two pedestal seats (both upholstered and with swivelling, sliding bases). The only other seating (apart from on the coamings) is on a large bin seat fastened to the middle of the cockpit and used primarily to house the day's catch.

Like the rest of the boat, the 660 dash is tidy and well-finished, with plenty of space for electronics, gauges and the remote anchoring system. There are also carpeted side pockets next to the throttle control on the driver's side and on the passenger side and a large glove box in front of the passenger.

The cabin is fully lined with full-length bunks. There is stowage under these and in the long side shelves. There is also provision for both a chemical toilet and a lockable drop door should these be required.

The sizeable cockpit has large, deep, full-length, carpeted side shelves and all the utility systems (batteries, switches, washdown pump), are housed in tidy transom lockers.

In a quite innovative move, designer and AMF owner Brian Collings has chosen to incorporate the live bait tank in the outboard well.

"We've put a couple of water pick-ups underneath the outboard well and plumbed it all up," he says. "We've also added a drain plug underneath. Once the 660 is underway, it discharges any water and the whole set-up works well."

The 660 Pro Sport comes with a 220-litre fuel tank, more than adequate for the recommended outboards from 150hp to 225hp or a diesel sterndrive.

In this case, the engine of choice is a Yamaha 200hp four-stroke outboard. At a trolling speed of 6.5 knots it will use just 6 litres of petrol an hour and you can do 27 knots (at 4500rpm) and still be using less than 40 litres an hour. During a comprehensive PowerBoat magazine test the rig topped out at 42 knots while pulling 6000rpm. This was in blustery conditions, with a full load of fuel.

PowerBoat test team writer Freddy Foote thinks the Yamaha 200hp four-stroke outboard is the ideal match for the AMF Pro Sport 660 hull.

"It gives plenty of torque and grunt when you need it and returns healthy fuel numbers," he says. "Should you wish, a 175hp would perform well, as would maybe a 150hp at a stretch. Going the other way, you could opt for a 225hp, although I don't see why you would need to."

In the blustery, choppy test conditions the 660 seemed to perform better the harder it was pushed. Running with the chop at just under 30 knots, the ride and handling was impossible to fault.

The ride is not only predictable and forgiving, it is also dry. Despite the relatively nasty conditions in which the 660 was put through its paces the windscreen stayed dry throughout.

As described, this AMP Pro Sport 660 comes with a price tag of $126,868. That means it is by no means the least expensive aluminium boat of this size on the market - it actually has a cost more in line with what you would expect to pay for a similarly-sized GRP boat.

You can, however, get a basic package, complete with 200hp Yamaha two-stroke Saltwater Series outboard and a tandem-axle Voyager trailer, for a more modest $94,865.

In many ways, though, that would be missing the point. An AMF boat is not one that is sold on price.

Its attractions are its seakeeping, robustness and the fact that every single model is a superb piece of engineering.

It is certainly no coincidence that a large number of Coastguard units throughout the country head to sea in an AMF hull.

AMF Pro Sport 660

LOA: 6.8m

Beam: 2.45m

Deadrise: 18.5 degrees

Trailer weight: 2100kg

Construction: Aluminium

Engine: Yamaha 200hp four-stroke outboard

Fuel capacity: 220 litres

Price as described: $126,868

Packages from: $94,865

Want to know more?
Check out Freddy Foote's boat review on the AMF Pro Sport 660 Vee Berth Cabin in the November/December issue of Pacific Powerboat magazine.

- NZ Herald

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