Haines Hunter Prowler 400
Here’s a compact fibreglass boat that will take on rough water with confidence and deliver you very affordable fishing.
The dollar cost is the number one reason stopping a lot of fishos from buying a new trailer boat. We hear this comment a lot from readers, plus visitors to boat shows. You could say many folks out there are baulking at paying $30-$40K for a new boat because it’s a big outlay for something they use only occasionally, and might use to catch a few fish. At the same time new boats have never been better in terms of better motor technology, electronics and trailer construction. However, if the average working person is feeling more cautious about splashing out cash, it doesn’t help. I believe the problem lies a lot with the boat manufacturing industry in recent years focusing heavily on bigger, more expensive boats. It's as if the car makers just went after ‘luxury premium brands’ and neglected the smaller, but affordable cars. This has been a special problem in the fibreglass sector and has resulted in few small, affordable fibreglass boats. Well, I’m glad to say some fibreglass manufacturers are starting to see the light. Take the brand new Haines Hunter 400 Prowler. This neat console boat is quite literally a scaled-down version of the big, deep Vee Haines Hunter boats we all admire. She is a genuine deep Vee bottom of 21-degree deadrise that can handle choppy, rough harbour waters really well. This is not a boat for bluewater fishing but something you can comfortably and confidently fish estuaries and coastal waterways like Sydney Harbour or Port Phillip. Haines Hunter dusted off its great little Sea Wasp hull for the basis of this new model. However, the 400 Prowler is a bigger, more stable craft and has the added benefit of a centre console steering station. You can’t state the benefits of the centre console quickly. Testing her in Sydney recently, we found the central driving position makes her a really fun boat to drive and a real joy to travel at speed in choppy water. I reckon this new Haines Hunter sports boat will appeal especially to young blokes brought up on PWCs (Personal Watercraft) because it’s fast and so manoeuvrable. And they don’t have to wear a wetsuit! Pricing of the 400 Prowler is also going to put a smile on your face. The basic rig kicks off with a two-stroke electric start 40hp Vortex motor and trailer for just $14,500. A more deluxe version like the one you see here has advanced 40hp Evinrude ETEC motor and Lowrance HDS-5 colour combo sounder/GPS. OK, this little Prowler might be a tad smaller than what you had in mind for your next boat. However, think about it for a minute. Especially if you’re fishing on your own this boat is easy to handle, easy to tow, launch/retrieve and not too heavy on the wallet. And here’s another good reason. With more of us living in high-rise apartments or planning to as we downsize, compact boats like the 400 Prowler make a lot of sense. It forms a package that is going to suit parking in such high density environments. Haines Hunter is also doing the basic tiller-steer version of this boat that will be called a Sea Wasp. Based on the same improved hull form it will also have the same seven-year hull warranty. A few months back I had the pleasure of catching up with Sydney’s Huett Marine for a test run of their first 400 Prowler demonstrator. With its two-tone black/white colour scheme it’s a great looking boat and draws a lot of admiring glances at the ramp.
The 400 Prowler features an aggressive but variable deep-Vee hull design that has sophisticated lifting strakes and chine flats just like the big Haines Hunters. As the name suggests the length is four metres overall and this is matched to a quite generous 1.7m beam and a hull depth of 1.2m (keel to gunwale). As noted already the 400 Prowler is every bit as sophisticated as its big brother Haines Hunter and includes a couple of sharp-edge lifting strakes plus nicely styled and flared bows for better water shedding in rough water. Another feature you will notice is the big reverse chine flat plus the raised cambered deck molding that marries beautifully with the hull and the console. There is also a rounded runner plank and slight keelson to help protect the bottom from damage. The transom is square-cut to maximise hull length and make it easy to fish right to the transom. The boat is rated to carry single outboards 30-40hp with a maximum transom weight of 90kg, which means it can take a four-stroke. The interior provides a simple flow-coat finish in light grey and a flat floor running from the bows through to a stepped seat, or casting deck at the stern. The latter is carpeted so it makes a pretty good casting deck. So fly and lure fishos are well catered for. The small, slim console makes it easy to move about the boat and most importantly, doesn’t stop you from casting out 360-degrees from the centreline. There is no seating provided and there could be an argument to add something like a bum-bolster seat behind the helm. That said, the 400 Prowler is actually quite easy to drive standing up and there’s lots of room to fish and move about. The key benefits of this design is the 21-degree at transom Vee that slices through choppy water very effectively. It makes for a very smooth ride. Construction-wise, our test boat seemed to be quite rigid and strong. It appears to have a solid fibreglass layup with added strength coming from marine ply stringers and a raised shelf running around the inside of the cockpit. The marine ply is fully encapsulated and this adds considerable strength in a small boat. In regards to towing, the 400 Prowler weighs just 260kg ex-factory. That translates to a tow weight about 600-650kg, meaning she can tow safely behind most small/medium sized cars. The category of vehicle that really suits the Prowler is the new generation of compact 4WDs like the Nissan Dualis and Mitsubishi ASX. These cars are big enough for a family, yet also give you the benefit of constant four-wheel drive. They’re not serious off-roaders, however, can get you over a hard-packed sand ramp or over a grassy lake bank. So, this opens up lots of places to go fishing!
Fortunately, we had a proper ramp for our test session. So, after finishing our coffee heart-starters we dropped off the tie-downs and backed the little 400 Prowler into the water. Launching is literally a piece of cake and it’s obvious the Prowler is ideal for launching and handling on your own without outside help. After slipping the boat in the water and firing up the clean-tech 40hp Evinrude, we motored slowly out through the moorings and had a nice little explore around the sand flats before hitting the go-fast button. Even with two aboard the 400 Prowler just leaped onto the plane and got up to 20-30 knots in no time at all. The performance is very impressive and gets you places quickly because the 400 Prowler also isn’t bothered by most boat wash or wind chop. At one point we had the 400 Prowler jumping the boat wash of our bigger camera boat and absolutely loving it. She leaps off waves and lands cleanly, showing off her obvious race-bred heritage. Admittedly, you need to keep your foot balance when driving at speed, but as long as you have the dead-man throttle attached to your wrist you’re pretty safe. The lack of a passenger seat can also be a challenge for someone riding as passenger. However, really all you need to do is get something like the inflatable seat cushion I saw in a Whitworth Nautical World catalogue recently for just $14.95. Keeping the package simple is what the 400 Prowler is all about so you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Underway, we threw the 400 Prowler through a series of fast turns, and some quick sprints over semi-bumpy water. The boat handled all this beautifully and proved to be quite dry with most of the spray thrown out back astern. The helm station work well for stand-up driving and gives you moulded dash and curved Perspex windscreen. The dash has room to fit a Lowrance HDS-5 colour sounder/GPS chartplotter. This unit not only gives you an idea where the fish are, but also direct engine information via the electronic processor. The console also gives you a waterproof switch panel, a recessed throttle box (starboard side) and a stowage locker for the portable 25-litre fuel tank. At-rest you notice the 400 Prowler is a bit sensitive to your body weight as you move around. The boat does tip a bit as you shift your weight to the sides, however, it’s still basically stable and safe for stand-up fishing most of the time on inshore waters.
Power:The 400 Prowler is rated for single motors 30-40hp making it quite affordable to power and operate. Our Evinrude 40hp was a pretty impressive package delivering plenty of power and a smooth, quiet performance. This is the same 863cc inline two-cylinder block that Evinrude uses over its 50/60hp models so it delivers exceptional torque. It is ideal for when you carry a maximum payload aboard. We ran a 15-inch Rouge stainless steel propeller that gave us the following results on the GPS: 3500rpm 17 knots 4500rpm 25 knots 5500rpm 30 knots This is pretty quick performance for a boat this size, but I believe with a 20-inch Raker, Craig was able to squeeze upwards of 35 knots out of the same motor. Either way, this is plenty of speed for a boat of four metres and you certainly wouldn’t want anything faster. The boat has also been tested with 30hp size motors but I firmly believe the best package is the 40hp size motors, whether you go for a two-stroke or a four-stroke. Note that the size of the 400 Prowler precludes Haines Hunter being able to fit an in-floor fuel tank. Instead, the boat is supplied with a portable plastic tank mounted in the console. This works well in practice with a special extra long fuel line. I didn’t do fuel flow tests but most of the time you would only be using 10-litres an hour, or less. On a longer trip you might need a back-up tank, but most of the time one tank is going to be more than sufficient. There are a couple of extras I would add to this rig via the dealer. First off, is an electric bilge, with access hatch in the rear deck ($200 fitted). The other is LED navigation lights ($200 fitted) because you never know when you might be late getting home.
Reflecting its crossover nature the 400 Prowler has a proper deck hardware package, including a proper anchor bow roller, bow bollard as well as an under-deck anchor locker. The interior features raised gunwales and a raised stowage pocket around the inside of the boat. The console is a fully moulded unit and incorporates the helm mechanical steering and electric throttle connection. Back aft is the raised seat that is carpeted on the top edge and forms a rather nice casting deck for inshore fishing. It’s a pretty simple package but the whole point of this boat is that you can always add things to turn it into what you want. For instance, it’s not hard to add an esky box that could double as a helm seat, or even a built-in raised casting deck for’ard of the console. You can also very easily add rod holders down the side deck because you have easy access under the gunwales. So there is some assumption on behalf of the builder that owners will do their own modifications to their boat. Perhaps this will happen over time and will be based on experience with the boat. Looking around the waterfront in Sydney there are quite a few of the old Sea Wasps that have been modified and refurbished by their owners. Some have consoles and are amazingly well-equipped for solo-fishing, which is what I assume their owners do with these little sport fishers. I would like to see a few more grab rails added to the boat or perhaps a dry stowage bag to stow your personal gear and mobile phone/VHF radio. However, there’s no doubt the 400 Prowler has the makings of a pretty good fishing platform in its standard form. Oh yes, adding some sort of bait-preparation table would be a good idea and live-bait tank also.
In a world where everyone is feeling a bit gloomy about the economy, the 400 Prowler is a breath of fresh air. It brings fishing down to an affordable level and fits in well with the modern, urban lifestyle. I can easily see quite a few of these 400 Prowlers popping up on our coastal waterways this coming summer. She is a great all-round fishing rig and can take upwards of three people if needed. The boat also comes with a handy range of factory options that make her even more appealing. These include two rod holders, clip-in floor carpet, electric bilge kit, navigation lights, side grab rails and even a travel cover. Another factory option you might like to also add, especially if you were doing open water boating, is underfloor foam flotation. Conversely, if you are focusing purely on sheltered water fishing you might like to put the money into a bow-mount and electric motor. Either way, the 400 Prowler is a very versatile rig you can easily adapt to your fishing needs and finances.