Combining one of the country's best-performing hulls with NZ-designed Sealegs technology is proving a winner.
Although Henderson-based Smuggler Marine is not one of New Zealand's largest or best known GRP manufacturers, it is certainly one of the most versatile. The company builds GRP hardtop, cabin cruiser, bowrider and centre console trailer boats ranging from 5.2 to 7.2 metres; RIBs from 4.9 to 14 metres; and a range of tenders from 4.5 to 8.3 metres.
It also builds very good boats. In the past eight years, Smuggler Marine has won seven Boat of the Show Awards at the annual Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show.
In the middle of last year, the west Auckland company scored another coup, becoming the first independent boatbuilder to be allowed to include the famous Kiwi Sealegs amphibious technology in its models.
Previously all boats featuring this technology had been built by Sealegs and marketed under its name.
The result is the Smuggler Strata 770; an incredibly interesting blend of old and new technology.
Let's start with the old. The Strata 770's hull is the virtually unchanged Reefrunner design, first released in 1977.
Featuring a super-deep 27-degree vee, it is, despite being 34 years old, generally considered the best riding production hull of its size on themarket.
In 2009, Smuggler managing director David Pringle tweaked this hull design just a little, extending the transom (adding another 400mm of running surface) and adding built-in trim tabs and a Portofino stern.
Since then, the hull has been used for the Smuggler Stealth 750 (one of those award-winners), the Strata 750 RIB and now the Strata 770.
But to incorporate the Sealegs technology, Pringle had to take his standard 750 design and several other modifications.
In the bow, provision had to be made for the front leg assembly and, while he was at it, he also used the opportunity to install a through-hull anchoring system.
The hull was also lengthened by 200mm at the transom, enabling the Sealegs' rear wheels to sit, at least partially hidden, behind the D tubes when retracted.
The Strata 770 is, therefore, 8.3 metres overall and Pringle has put all of that internal space to good use. There is a large centre console as well as a split-level fascia large enough to handle plenty of electronics.
There is also a double helm seat built over the small Honda engine (responsible for driving the 770 on land) which has a reversible backrest, ideal when fishing.
Aft, there are twin rear seats either side of the outboard with stowage and a live bait tank below. There is a large seating area/sunpad in the bow and another double forward-facing seat in front of the console (with yet more stowage below). In short, for an open RIB, the 770 has plenty of safe, dry stowage and easily enough seating for a reasonably-sized party.
Like all vessels using the Sealegs technology, it has two completely separate power systems on board - one to drive the boat on the water; the other to get it out of the water and over the land.
In this case, the "main" engine is a Yamaha 300hp V6 four-stroke outboard, spinning a 19in three-bladed stainless steel propeller.
In contrast to that 1970s-era hull below, the F300B has some of the very latest and most innovative outboard technology on the market.
With a big bore displacement of 4.2 litres, the F300B features Yamaha's unique thermally-applied plasma fusion process, meaning the engine's six cylinders do not require conventional steel cylinder sleeves yet are 60 per cent harder.
Sleeveless cylinders also produce larger cylinder bores, increased displacement and more power and torque, all without having to increase the overall size of the engine.
Other advantages include better cooling properties and dramatically lighter weight (weighing just 259kg, the 300D is the lightest 300hp outboard on the market).
On the Strata 770, all that means an exceptionally easy ride up on to the plane (despite that 27-degree vee); even with a slow increase in throttle, the F300B has the 1650kg (dry weight) 770 on top at just 2000rpm.
While the Strata 770 can sit on a trailer, the great advantage of the Sealegs technology is that it doesn't have to. Instead, thanks to its three retractable hydraulic aluminum legs (and their 25-inch knobby tyres), the 770 can find its own way to and from the water.
The front and rear legs can be lowered and raised independently (making it possible to drop just the bow or stern for easier loading and unloading of passengers) and can be locked together to provide full-on three-wheel drive.
The legs are raised and lowered by the push of a button at the console, a handy drive stick determines forward or reverse and how much power comes from that 32hp Honda under the driver's seat; the boat is steered simply by turning the wheel.
On-land performance is nowhere near as impressive as that on the water. Top speed is 6 km/h and the maximum run time is just 30 minutes. But as most of these amphibious craft are required only to go up and down the beach and perhaps on a short journey between the beach and the house, that should be plenty.
Want to know more?
Check out the comprehensive boat test on the Smuggler Strata 770 in the September/October issue of Pacific Powerboat magazine or at www.pacificpowerboat.com.
Smuggler Strata 770
LOA: 8.3m (wheels up) 7.7m (wheels down)
Deadrise: 27 degrees
Trailerable weight: 1650kg (dry)
Engine range: 150-300hp
Fuel capacity: 320 litres
Engine: Yamaha F300B V6 4-stroke
Price (from): $220,000.