Hydrofield is an Aussie boating brand with an enviable offshore reputation. After a run in the most recent incarnation, JOHN WILLIS starts to believe the hype about these unique boats.
THE jaguar has always been a mystifying creature to me. Whether it’s the animal or the car, it’s always portrayed as a symbol of speed, style and class combined with exquisite symmetry and beautiful lines.
While the lines of the Hydrofield Jaguar are somewhat sharper than a sleek, crafty master of the jungle, it supplies all of the confidence of a master predator. Jaguar luxury vehicles have always enhanced that little “out of the ordinary” appearance to combine with exceptional traveling comfort. This boat reflects these highly prized attributes.
Some will love the looks, others may not. However, the all-new Hydrofields are a rebirth of the original highly successful packages that were a total innovation to the boating industry when originally released in the late 1980s.
Some 20 years on I don’t recall hearing a bad word said about Hydrofields. They are very well constructed and designed and the larger models have been used extensively by search and rescue providers as well as a vast list of other commercial authorities. Hence, it’s great to see the product revitalised by the company’s new owners and its motivated dealer network.
Unique hull design
The test boat was supplied by industry stalwarts, Rod and Dave Avard of Victoria’s Cranbourne Boating Centre, itself having undergone a revitalisation in the form of new and bigger premises, service facilities and chandlery.
Up until now I’ve had little experience in Hydrofields, however, I have fished next to them for years, so I was very keen to get a ride in the new boat.
The test boat had just arrived at the dealership and hence the fit out felt a little sparse. However, many accessories are personal taste anyhow and it was the boat that I wanted to put through its paces.
How do you describe the hull? That is some task, but here goes. The manufacturers call it a tri-hull – I guess it’s a combination of a mono and twin hull using a very sharp entry to cut through chop and swell while at the same time lifting the bow to a point where sufficient air under the tunnels provides an air cushioned ride. It has a similar feel to a cat, but is perhaps a little more forgiving in a head sea, and feels like a quad bike in turns.
It does take some getting used to, but when you get the feel it is sensational. The sharp forefoot entry runs to a point midway down the hull and then flattens out after a step. The tunnels run either side of the keel to an entry point level with the boat’s shoulders. The outer edges of the tunnel form what can only be described as wings that are again very sharp in entry, but only extend mid way down the hull and finish at a step.
In effect the design incorporates very deep entry for soft riding, cushioned air tunnels to soften and lift, a flattened rear keel and wings for stability, and two big sets of reverse chines. It’s a really effective and unique combination. I haven’t seen comparative fuel consumption figures but I would forecast exceptionally efficient running due to the hull design.
The flat back style transom is also stepped right across the rear to provide a full-length platform and mounting point for a stainless steel fold-down ladder. The boys at Cranbourne Boating Centre had fitted a wrap-around stainless grab rail/rod holder combination and good-sized fibreglass cutting board. Stainless rails of this nature are a must on the boat. Due to the nature of the hull design, the floor to gunwale height is fairly low; making the rod racks a must to improve freeboard. These are removable if the boat is used for other non-fishing purposes – its big wide deck area and stability at rest makes it an ideal dive boat.
The inside transom layout provides easy access to the twin battery system, oil bottle (two-stroke) and fuel filter and filler, but is aesthetically a little raw. A simple transom skirt, moulded accessory or optional rear lounge will complete the package. That said it’s a good fishing workspace with plenty of room and good access to the rear.
The coamings provide full-length side pockets, four stainless steel rod holders and stainless rear bollards. As you move forward around the boat it’s pleasing to see stainless grab rails are where they should be, including on the dashboard and windscreen.
Quality Reelax seats are mounted to fibreglass storage boxes. Whilst the helm was comfortable I would personally opt for a driver’s seat slide and tilt steering wheel. The helm is basic but very serviceable. I did have some trouble reading the gauges whilst seated and typically on a runabout you tend to look over the windscreen, not through it. Whilst the boat is basically a runabout it is slightly raised and does provide a small, deep cuddy. It’s not big enough for sleeping but great for storage.
A Humminbird sounder/GPS/plotter was dashboard mounted and there was more room for larger displays. The unit is supplied with a six-gang switch panel as standard and the boat’s Evinrude E-TEC comes with I-Command Gauges and flush mount controls. There’s a waterproof glove box to port and the test boat was supplied with Sea-Star hydraulic steering.
The windscreen is part of the spray deflector in that the Perspex sections are cut into the fibreglass surround; it restricts vision slightly but is very strong, serviceable and attractive.
Access to the ground tackle is very good. There is a large access hatch from the cabin, split bow bollard with chain lock, SARCA anchor and bow fitting which is mounted to the moulded bowsprit. The rope and chain locker is inside the cabin and drains to the outside.
There’s a small walk-around section with non-skid finish around the cabin sides. The bow area is nicely finished off with a single section stainless bow rail and the dealer has fitted two fender baskets.
The Hydrofield has a huge deck area – you could hold a cricket match on it. It’s practically finished in a good non-skid surface and whilst I am a carpet lover in boats, I don’t think this package needs it.
Underfloor reveals a large fully lined kill tank and 120 litre underfloor fuel tank to stern. Overall, it’s a very well built boat.
Has wings, can fly
Whilst Evinrude E-TECs are perhaps still a relative newcomer to the market, the Hydrofield’s 150hp V6 was like an old friend. I’ve tested E-TEC 150s on a number of packages and have been impressed each time.
I must say that the engine package is one of the most powerful engines in its class and its peaky performance leaves nothing to be desired. It runs well at low speed, has an enormous power band between 3400 and 4000rpm – just where you want it – and it saw the package peak at an exhilarating 36.2 knots (67km/h) at 5200rpm (wide open throttle). These Evinrudes are quiet and virtually smoke free and the 150 provided the Hydrofield with plenty of punch when needed.
We really put the boat through its paces and it just seemed to cry out for more! The ride is extremely soft and you can often hear the air cushioned ride “whooshing” over the chop. There was some cabin bow noise but some gear and bunk cushions would eliminate that. This is a boat in which you can travel large distances in comfort, safe in the knowledge that the return trip will be just as satisfying.
It has the feel of a safe, strong and quality boating package. I would love to take it on an extended offshore sojourn, but it would be equally at home as a safe and stable family boat for bays, lakes and rivers.
The well-rounded package comes with a custom galvanised tandem trailer that’s easy to drive the boat on and off. Weighing less than 2 tonnes the package can be towed by most popular family vehicles; a huge factor when considering the purchase of a boat that’s eminently suitable for offshore use.
Innovative quality never goes out of fashion, and when combined with robust building techniques and experienced dealer back up you know you’re on a winner with Hydrofield’s 5.6 Jaguar.
HYDROFIELD JAGUAR 5.6
Length: 5.8m (overall including bowsprit and platforms)
Weight: hull 750kg approx; BMT 1400kg dry approx.
Fuel: 120 litres
Power: Min. 30hp Max. 150hp
Contacts: Cranbourne Boating Centre (03) 5996 2206;
website at: www.hydrofieldtrihulls.com