As summer approaches many Kiwi households will be in the throes of the annual "to get a boat or not to get a boat" conversation.
On the plus side are all the fun activities one can enjoy with a boat, the places one can visit, the fish one can catch. On the other side is the cost of buying the boat and, perhaps, concerns about safety, especially if one has young children.
One of those trying hard to tip the scales towards the "let's buy" side of the argument is South Auckland rotational boat manufacturer Galloway International. It produces the Mac Boats range and also builds those brightly coloured McDonald's playgrounds.
Back in March, Weekend Marine featured the company's Mac 360 Highside. Rotationally moulded from polyethylene resin, the 360 was incredibly strong and robust; featured (as its name suggests) high, safe sides and, perhaps best of all, was available, complete with motor and trailer, for just $12,000.
Although relatively small and therefore somewhat limited in what it could do, the 360 was nonetheless a very safe, "proper" boat with a very attractive price tag.
In the six months or so since, the 360 has, according to Mac Boats' sales manager, Mike Wilson, proved something of a revelation.
"Not only have sales been much better than we expected, we have also had owners of previous 360 models coming back and asking us to retro-fit the high sides to their existing boats," he says.
As a result of that popularity, the company realised it was on to a winner, so it has now released a new, larger model: the Mac 420 Highside.
Measuring 4.2 metres LOA, with an internal beam of 1.7 metres, it is substantially bigger than the 360.
Just as importantly, it also has about the same freeboard (640mm), thereby giving the same feeling of safety, especially for those with young children on board.
The new 420 seats five, features a centrally mounted bin seat and comes with a 30hp Tohatsu outboard and a Mac Road King trailer for just $16,250.
And as a bonus, while the 360 had something of the work boat look about it (mainly due to its camouflage livery), the 420, in traditional white, looks much more like a traditional fibreglass runabout.
But as Wilson is quick to point out, a rotationally moulded Mac is nothing like a boat made from fibreglass.
"Because the polyethylene resin is rotationally moulded in an ingenious, patented process, the result is a hull and deck that is essentially a very strong one-piece structure," he says.
And, keen to stress that this is not just salesman's hype, he points to a recent Auckland University study showing that Mac Boats' polyethylene had an impact strength five times that of fibreglass.
"What's more, polyethylene does not corrode, fade, chip or crack," he says. "The foam-filled polyethylene construction also feels warm and smooth to the touch, even on cold spring days when the temperature is struggling to reach double figures.
"Another important benefit of this construction method is that there is plenty of positive buoyancy and level flotation if swamped. In fact, Mac Boats can claim approval from MSA, CE and US Coastguard."
As one would expect with a boat costing just over $16,000, there is not a lot to the Mac 420 Highside. But what there is works extremely well.
The interior is basically open cockpit with a couple of notable exceptions. The most obvious is the Mac Boats' bin seat. With a Nautilex-covered padded seat, it is large enough to accommodate two adults. Inside, the bin is divided into two separate compartments, both of which are self-draining and one of which is fully vented in case one wants to place a tote tank here.
The seat is attached by four screws so is relatively easy to remove (for example if one wishes to take it home filled with the day's catch). And if a customer does not like its positioning, it can be moved (although one should consider how this might affect the balance of the boat).
The other notable structure is the anchor locker, which is a raised section of the floor in the bow. Like the rest of the cockpit, it is covered with marine grade carpet and is far enough above the floor to act as a fifth seat (the remaining two are in the aft quarters of the transom).
There is also a stainless steel fairlead, set nicely flush with the sides. This is a double, meaning one can deploy both an anchor and a grapnel should one wish.
There is also stowage for smaller and mid-sided items within the 420's high sides. These are large enough to accommodate lifejackets, flares, jackets and pullovers, drinks, lunch and so on and are easily accessed through a number of openings high up in the sides.
Other standard features include well-positioned hand rails on the coamings and several rod holders.
With the 30hp two-stroke Tohatsu on the transom, the 420 is not going to be a rocket ship. However, it does get up on to the plane easily enough and has a top speed of 23 knots. It also delivers a pretty economical ride. On a trip out from Half Moon Bay, the 30hp-powered 420 cruised out around Motuihe Island and the Crusoe Rocks, and down to Eastern Beach and back, while using a paltry 12 litres of fuel.
Nevertheless, despite the 30hp's adequate performance, relatively low cost and very good fuel economy, the 420 would, in most cases, be better suited to a 40hp outboard.
Upgrading to the Tohatsu 40hp will add about $2000 to the bottom line but will give a far better performance. It will deliver a top speed of around 32 knots and, more importantly, will have the low-down grunt to pull up water skiers, wakeboarders and those on water toys.
Those with a little left in the budget might also be tempted to exchange the basic tiller steering set up for a centre console arrangement.
For an extra $5000, Mac Boats will add a centre console, complete with windscreen and a dash for electronics, and switch the bin seat through 90 degrees so it offers protected, forward-facing seating for two.
In that configuration, one would have a brand new, very usable, very safe, well powered, economical and easy-to-tow runabout for a little over $23,000. And that has to be very good value for money for any undecided families.