This stylish new cuddy brings you the superior ride quality of a John Haines fibreglass boat at a surprisingly low price.
The accepted market wisdom that tinnies are always cheaper than fibreglass boats has taken a beating of late. Not only have many aluminium brands up-spec'd their boats to the point where they're not particularly cheap, but some fibreglass brands are matching them on price.
This is very much the case with the Traveler range from the master of fibreglass, John Haines. This is the Haines family's 'affordable' brand and comes out of the same Queensland factory as Signature. Not surprisingly Traveler shares a lot of similarities to Signature, but the big difference is a lower price. Indeed, the Traveler really does get down into tinnie price territory and as such is quite affordable.
Certainly for boaties, who might have admired Haines Signature boats, but have a tinnie budget the Traveler is a good deal. And an even better one since some new models TC165 include the same advanced variable Deadrise hull form as the Signature.
This means the Traveler TC165 has just as nice a ride as the Signature.
This same hull also delivers excellent fuel consumption because of its easy planning ability and low horsepower. Given the present concerns about fuel costs it means Traveler is signing the right tune for many buyers.
There's no doubt this particular Traveler model is set to make strong impression on the market this summer. It might lack some of the detail features of a Signature, especially an in-floor fuel tank, but otherwise you're getting the real thing - a John Haines design.
And the price is tempting. Fitted with one of the thrifty Suzuki four strokes the Traveler TC165 cost only $31,970 as tested.
This is on par with alloy boats of the same size/specifications and as good a reason as any to seek out your nearest Traveler dealer.
I know price alone won't turn about some of you die-hard tinnie fans, but I hope you'll reconsider after you realise it is every bit as practical a fishing platform as a tinnie.
Indeed the Traveler shapes up pretty nicely for the average weekend fisho warrior. It's got the ride and sea keeping your needs to battle coastal joggle and room to take a few mates along as well.
Of course, the family will love the cuddy design and won't stand in your way of consummating the deal. In fact, cruising will be a major motivation behind its purchase.
Design: John Haines specifically created the variable bottom some years ago to overcome the problem deep Vee hulls had with high water drag and hence high fuel usage. By varying the amount of Vee through the hull cross section he ended up with a gull-wing like shape that provides more lift and hence much less drag at speed. At the same time the deep Vee hull (22.5 degrees at transom) shape still delivers a very soft ride in the smooth, or the rough.
And the TC165 doesn't look half bad above the water. It's an eye catching modern design with aerodynamic cab blending almost seamlessly into the deck and curved windscreen. Combined with a fastback transom and 'notched' gunwale line it's the very picture of where boating is going today.
The modern approach extends to clean deck lines devoid of bow rails because in fact you can reach the bows using a walk-through hatch arrangement.
At an overall length of 5.09m and beam of 2.21m the Traveler TC165 is sure big enough to accommodate the typical young family of four or five. Or three blokes going fishing because there's a clever moveable seat box fitting either between the rear, or front seats.
The latter seating arrangement is a bonus for everyone since it keeps people out of the spray when punching through choppy waters. It also keeps crew weight better centralised at speed, which is better for fuel consumption.
Meanwhile, access aboard is made easy by the stepped fastback transom however you will have to pay extra for a folding swim/boarding ladder. Once aboard your passengers are also going to enjoy the rear seats so much better because of the clean Suzuki four-stroke 70hp motor that comes standard with the boat.
The black Suzie looks very right at home on the modern transom and means a cleaner, quieter ride for everyone aboard.
Overall finish is impressive even if the Traveler does lack some of the added touches we've come to expect in craft like the Signature. Construction is every bit as good as other fibreglass boats in this category and comes with an impressive five plus two warranty. Basically you get a five-year warranty on the hull itself and two years on the fittings that come with the boat.
And if you tinnie fans are still not convinced, think about this. The TC165 is just as light a package to tow as your tinnie. Through some clever use of advantaged fibreglass construction methods the Haines Group has been able to keep hull weight below 500kg. This translates to a total trail weight of about 1050kg, or well within the capacity of many midsized cars like the Toyota Camry or new Mitsubishi 380. Obviously it's going to be easy to launch and not too difficult to park at home.
Performance: We had one of those 'beautiful one day, magnificent the next' sort of Gold Coast days when we took the Traveler for a spin. With a crew of three and heavy camera boxes aboard we had a good chance to simulate a realistic fishing trip.
Conditions weren't overly rough but up around the Gold Coast waterway we found quite a bit of swell around the Seaway entrance to test the mettle of the Traveler.
In short, performance was impressive and confirmed this variable Vee fibreglass boat is definitely superior to tinnies in ride. It's also a nicer ride than many other 'glass boats so all in all an impressive package if you like comfort.
Overall the TC165 is easy to steer with its mechanical steering and good vision through the curved Perspex windscreen. The moulded dash provides plenty of room to add electronics like sounders, etc., and comes with an attractive sports wheel and high mounted gauges that are easy to view.
The helm station also comes with a steering compass and switches for the navigation, anchor light and bilge pump. And we found the boat performed surprisingly well despite its quite modest 70hp motor as the following speed numbers attest:
3500 rpm 12 knots
4500 rpm 20 knots
5500 rpm 26 knots
Top end speed is a few knots more as the motor revs out to 5800rpm, but the important point is the TC165 is most comfortable and economical around a cruising speed of 20-22 knots.
At-rest stability was also better than expected and suggests this will be a very able rig for estuary or closecoastal fishing. On that score too the walk-through provides yet more fishing space and options.
Power: With Haines Group these days being the Suzuki distributor it's no surprise Traveler and Signature boats come standard with Suzuki motors on the transom. And given the high reputation Suzuki four-stroke enjoys at present, I don't think you'll find too many complaints about that!
Certainly the market has swung strongly towards four-stroke of late and the fact this boat comes standard with a four-stroke, yet at such a low price is a winning combination.
I have to admit the 70hp is not a huge amount of power, but perhaps what the Haines Group are trying to do is simplify the buying choice and gently force buyers into a more fuelthrifty rig. However, you can buy the 90hp Suzuki if you wish.
The Haines boys are certainly working hard to keep the price down in other respects as well and that's why you don't get an in-floor fuel tank, but two portable plastic tanks instead. These work fine in practice, and the only drawback is total fuel tankage (50-litres) is somewhat short of what you'd have with an in-floor tank.
Deck Layout: There's no shortage of goodies in the deck department of this the new Traveler. Up front you get a bow roller, Tee bollard and side opening fore hatch incorporating the anchor well with walk-through windscreen. This means you can easily reach the anchor point without going on deck.
The TC165 also comes with navigation lights on the cabin top, passenger grab handle, side pockets and plenty of stowage space under the bunks and cockpit floor.
The cabin isn't large, but still gives you seating for two adults with its cushioned seats and backrests. If nothing else you'll use this space to dump the fishing gear, or the young kids on rainy days.
Moving back into the cockpit you find comfortable padded pedestal seats atop moulded seat boxes and deep moulded cockpit sides with recessed side pockets.
Rear quarter seats also provide extra seating, though fixed seats mean only the cushions can be removed. Not that fishos are complaining because the TC165 comes with rod stowage under the side decks, plus four stainless steel rod holders in the side deck.
The roomy cockpit readily adapts to fishing and comes with some nice touches like the rear live bait tank and polyurethane cutting board. You'll have to pay extra for a live bait pump, but as you can see the boat is ready to go fishing.
Summary: The Traveler brand is definitely coming of age with this latest addition. The combination of variable hull design and Suzuki four-stroke motor are going to be a winner with buyers whether they're coming from the fishing, or family boating angle.
At around five metres it's the right size for a lot of buyers, particularly newcomers entering boat ownership for the first time. Particularly if they're uncertain of their direction it will be a good starting point.
By its very nature the TC165 is a good all rounder and suits a wide range of boating situations from inland to coastal waters. As the teacher's report card said – 'should go far."