Imagine a sea-going trailer boat with the super economy of power plus the ability to live on a mooring as easily as the trailer. James Hill test reports on the Arvor 20, photos by Baitbox.
Just when you thought fibreglass boats were getting to look pretty much alike, along comes the Arvor 20 from Collins Marine of Sydney. This Aussie built boat is very different from your normal six metre trailerboat and, wait for it - has a diesel motor. Perhaps it comes as no surprise the design hails from Europe where they're much more attuned to using diesels in lieu of outboards. Here in Oz we've seen a few small diesel cruisers over the years, but none have really successfully blended performance and trailing like the Arvor 20.
What is even more surprising about this boat is that it a shaft-drive design. This usually presents difficulties for trailing, but in this case a clever bottom design keeps the draft lower so the boat can still be launched at a boat ramp from its trailer. Once launched the Arvor opens up all sorts of possibilities. The mini-cruiser nature of the boat makes it both very stable in the water and very suitable for mooring over long periods. There is no sterndrive leg to be chewed up by saltwater corrosion.
Provided you took the precaution of anti-fouling the bottom you'd be able to leave this 6.2m boat on a mooring, or marina for as long as you like. Alternatively you can tow it home, or keep it close to the water in a dry-store facility. One imagines the Arvor 20 will be just the ticket for the fishing enthusiast who wants a sturdy, offshore capable boat that he can moor or trail. It's really an exciting concept and one we haven't really explored enough in Australia.
The Arvor 20 has a distinctly 'big boat' look about it especially when it is underway. The hull is bigger and wider than your typical 6.2m trailerboat, and offers a huge cockpit for its length. There are many aspects of this French design that Aussie fishos will like. For instance, the fully-enclosed wheelhouse is going to be great for cold, less pleasant days on the water. The cockpit is also self-draining and has a recessed walkaround for safe access to the bow.
Having the diesel motor mounted amidships means the rear cockpit area is left total free for fishing. This will seem like heaven to those who've had a line tangle with an outboard or sterndrive leg. Having the prop under the transom also gives some other added benefits. There's a smooth stern wave, which is just perfect for setting a lure pattern directly behind the boat. That's just not possible in the jumbled wash of an outboard or sterndrive boat.
Admittedly speed is not a strong feature the Arvor 20, but still 20 -22 knots isn't anything to sneeze at when you're plugging away offshore in a decent sized seaway. Basically you can't travel very fast offshore and what the Arvor achieves is really practical speeds. What this boat is really about is getting there at a comfortable cruise speed of 16- 18 knots with the engine not working too hard and the crew relaxed. The other attraction of course is the super economy and reliability of diesel motors. Even four-stroke petrol motors are battling to beat diesel on fuel economy and longevity.
Commercial boat users have long favored diesel and that's why you will see a lot of them in trawlers and workboats. If you want long term reliability and running costs diesel is the way to go. Diesel might be the most expensive form of power to buy; yet they last a long time and in this regard they are very good value. In this case you have one of the best small diesels currently available. This is the Nanni 85hp, imported here by Collins Marine and based upon a highly reliable five-cylinder Kubota block. The engine is fully designed for marine use by Nanni of Europe and features turbo-charging and inter cooling. A fresh water cooling system ensures the Nanni runs cooler and smoother than old diesels. The fresh water-cooling also ensures there's less risk of internal saltwater corrosion.
The Arvor 20 is capable of carrying an even bigger motor, however Collins has sensibly settled on the 85hp diesel size as it is just right for Aussie conditions. As an importer of marine diesels Collins has a pretty good idea of local market trends and they believe this boat is going to fill a niche unseen by other boat companies. Previous attempts to sell diesels in boats this size have frankly not been that successful, but the Arvor seems to have the right mix of features to make boat-buyers really interested. And apart from everything else it's a very attractively styled boat.
Collins has appointed one of our best fiberglass boat builders to produce the boat, and leading Sydney dealer, Hunts Marine are doing the retail work. Other dealers will be eventually appointed in other states as demand picks up, but inquires for now go to Hunts Marine. Hunts Marine will display the Arvor at the Sydney Boat Show and are also offering on-water demonstrations in the Sydney area. Earlier this year we got the chance to get alongside the Arvor 20 for a test run at Botany Bay. The Aussie boat features a few improvements including more fiberglass down the keel and a better top end speed. The latter is achieved by using a four=blade propeller.
The Arvor 20 features a quite powerful hull with plenty of beam and freeboard. The bottom features a varying deadrise with deep forward sections tapering to a more moderate Vee back aft. The hull has a distinct chine 'lip' to enhance lift onto the plane, and improve at-rest stability. The bottom also features several lifting strakes, however the big difference is the keel. The keel is cut-away at the back to provide room for the shaft-drive propeller and in turn protects these vital parts of the boat. There is a stainless steel 'shoe' extending out from the back edge of the keel so they won't be damaged during grounding.
The hull shape is not too dissimilar to large motor cruisers, however with the major difference being a hollow above the propeller. This hollow has two major benefits beginning with a higher set propeller for trailing. The tunnel also helps to direct more solid flow to the prop blades which improves its performance. The keel gets gradually deeper as you move aft and ends up being at least 20cm deep at the back end. The benefit of the keel is that it helps to keep the boat on track whether you're moving slow, or fast. This is of particularly useful when you're trying to handle the boat in a tight docking situation.
No undoubtedly quite a bit of workboat influence in this design, particularly in terms of the very solid construction, high coamings and sturdy cabin. The design is very practical and has a thick gunwale fender as well as a metal protection strip along the bow and keel edge. The high freeboard is a good feature for offshore work as is the self-draining cockpit with scuppers to stern and sides. The topsides also feature several spray lips and large coaming to help keep the spray at bay.
The modern styling of the Arvor's hull and wheelhouse certainly confirms the French know how to design beautiful powerboats as well as yachts. The rounded transom and nicely styled cabin are real works of art. For trailing purposes the Arvor falls well within the maxi category, however not beyond the range of popular 4WDs like the LandCruiser and Nissan Patrol. The boat's extra weigh comes from its robust construction and diesel motor, however all up it's not bad at 2100kg. A Break-away brake system will be required along with a dual axles and good saltwater protection. Our test trailer had all these features as standard, but I would still want an electric winch for a boat of this size.
The design of this boat will naturally require you to sink the trailer more than normal during the launch/retrieve process, however provided the trailer is properly design this is no hassle at all. I'd say your biggest challenge with trailing the Arvor 20 is finding a suitable space at home to 'moor' the boat. She is a big boat so make sure you've got the room, before taking her home. If there is problems in this regard look at dry-store facility where you'll be able to get good access, and the boat is secure.
We had a good mix of conditions for our test, including calm harbor waters out to a big rolling swell coming through the Botany Heads. The first point of interest on stepping aboard was the terrific stability of the craft. Maybe it's because of that hefty diesel 'ballast', but this boat sure sits rock-solid in the water. This steadiness also helps to give the impression you're on a much bigger boat than its size would suggest.
Kicking the diesel into life was a pleasant surprise. Diesels used to be fairly noisy beasts, but not this baby who ticks over very quietly and well behaved. In fact, motor noise isn't very noticeable at all till you're at wide open throttle. The benefit of the four-blade prop is most obvious from the moment you put the throttle into gear. There is an instant delivery of power without any messy wash, or noise from behind the boat. In fact, the Arvor 20 seems to just glide away at 1000rpm leaving a smooth wake that's a nice change after outboard boats.
Picking the revs up bit more we got that remarkably smooth stern wave which is ideal for setting a lure pattern. Moving down the bay a bit further we had slipped effortlessly onto the plane by the 2000rpm mark. We were doing a quite respectable 13 knots at this stage and the boat felt quite comfortable and running well. The way this boat performs is quite different from your typical trailerboat. It likes the lower speeds, yet still can sprint up to full plane when required. What the Arvor 20 is all about is getting you there in reasonable time, but not with discomfort.
We all know that high speeds can't be maintained for long periods offshore so a boat like this starts to make a lot of sense. We found we could open the motor out to a maximum of 2800 rpm, doing 22 knots, or about two knots less than your typical small tinnie going flat out. However in big swells we found a more comfortable speed was really down around 15-18 knot where the hull wasn't coming off the back of waves too fast and slamming down. Running with the waves it was possible to lift speed up a bit, however since we couldn't out-run the waves we needed to adjust speed up and down to maintaining steerage and comfort.
Overall I was impressed with the Arvor 20's rough water handling. The boat sits well in the water and doesn't lose power during the hardest of turns. It's really pretty forgiving boat to drive and most folk will find it very easy to handle. I believe the bottom hollow at the stern helps the boat to sit better in a following sea and less inclined to broach. This is an important consideration given you don't have the speed to out-run the wave, or trim button to adjust hull trim.
The helm station is fully protected from the weather so the few times we did cop a wave over the front we stayed nice and dry. You also get very good vision from behind that large, wrap-around windscreen that has no pillars. There's also an overhead skylight hatch, which can be left open for ventilation when the door is shut. A larger hatch is an option that I'd go for given it's good for ventilation and safety. The helm station provides you with a traditional teak wheel and basic instrumentation. The arrangement here works quite well, however I'd prefer to see a modern style steering wheel with a wider diameter so it's easier to grab a hold. The helmsman has a padded seat which folds back against the cabin bulkhead, however at this stage there's no passenger seat provided in the cabin. Collins Marine says they're looking at adding a fold-away seat for the passenger side.
The practical nature of this boat is seen in the foredeck area with its solid fiberglass bowsprit and deep walkaround deck. You get a stainless steel bow roller up here along with a big anchor bollard and self-draining anchor locker. A solid, split bow rail not only gives good security when moving forward, but also easy people access from over the bows. The rail extends right aft so you've always got good grab-holds when moving about the boat. They have also provided grab rails on the cabin roof and bulkhead quarters to improve safety on deck.
The stylish cabin features more than adequate headroom when standing behind the helm. There is a comfortable steering position with the throttle box fully recessed and the seat folding back when required. There is full length Vee berths within the cabin with bunk cushions and under-bunk stowage included. There's space for an optional WC between the bunks, however no room for a galley unit. However, you could easy take along a portable camper stove, and esky to cater for meals on board.
There's room on the helm dash to add electronics like a color sounder, radio and GPS cockpit. Being a dry area the electrics will naturally live longer because they're protected. Out in the cockpit there's quite a bit of room since the engine box is molded as part of the floor. There are no side pockets for fishing gear, but you do get lockers under the two stern quarter seats. There's also a large hatch to give you very good access to the Nanni diesel and its running gear. The hatch has rubber seals and a drain-lip.
Back aft there is a bench seat, which slides away under the rear deck when not required. You also get an emergency tiller ready to fit to the top of the expose rudder head. This means you can till-steer from the stern if you wanted to be close to your troll lines. Teak cutting boards at the stern double as foot treads when you step aboard from the stern landing board, and you also get a fold down swim/boarding ladder. From a seating point of view you've got room for to three or four people in the cockpit, and even more with the optional side fold-away bench seats you see in the photos.
The deck layout and stability of this boat makes it a top rig for fishing, even if it's a bit short on fishing accessories. While it doesn't have rod holders the Arvor 20 provides you rod stowage racks under the side decks as well as a fully plumbed live-bait tank in the cockpit floor. You also get the teak cutting boards back aft and recessed line rollers either side, which would be great for hauling crab traps and nets. If you don't want the rollers they simply fit fixed grab rails instead. Obviously you could trick this boat up to a pretty impressive fishing rig with accessories like raised cutting board, sounder, GPS and kill box. However I'd be also adding some extra rail height in the cockpit as it's a touch low for good body support.
The Arvor 20 offers a fresh alternative to what we've seen in trailerboats to date. It's a boat that could be used in the dual role of in-water cruiser and trailerboat and in this regard have terrific appeal to retirees and family boaties. These people will really enjoy the benefits of a comfortable, relaxed ride without exactly having to take all day to get to the destination. The diesel motor will give incredibly inexpensive running cost of something in the order of $3.50 an hour. Fuel consumption on average is less than five liters an hour.
Certainly if you're after a boat that's offshore capable, yet minimum cost and hassle to run the Arvor 20 could be the answer. Put a canvas cover over the cockpit and it will well double as the family cruiser you remember as a kid. But better! Prices ex-Sydney start at $59,990 for a standard boat without trailer, and rise to about $67,500 as tested with safety gear, radio, sounder, landing board, compass and trailer.
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