Bonito Boats have been around the New Zealand boating scene for many years.
Since 1997, Bonito has been owned by Peter Johnson, who had been the manager for two years prior to this. The company is based in Kumeu, just north of Auckland.
After a growth phase, business has been steady in recent times at about 70 hulls per year, including exports to Australia and the Pacific Islands, although Peter Johnson says that the high Kiwi dollar is making foreign sales more difficult.
The test boat, a 635 Kingfisher, has taken advantage of the modern compact diesel inboards produced as a joint venture between Mercruiser and Cummins, and is fitted with a 1.7-litre MS 120 horsepower unit with an Alpha One leg.
The 635 Kingfisher is a fibreglass hull with a deep V – 21° of deadrise at the transom. Three large planing strakes run along the bottom on each side of the keel line. The hull-only weight is approximately 810kg, and you can add another 296kg for the engine and leg.
The bi-axial glass lay-up ranges in thickness from about six millimetres on the sides to 10mm at the keel. Hull strengthening is added by a ladder-frame support of marine-treated timber that is encapsulated into the glass hull. It is 25mm thick and consists of four longitudinal bearers, five central bulkheads, and six side frames. A substantial glass-over-ply deck is set over the hull and the topsides liner over the top of that. This is a very strongly built hull.
Two air chambers – one along each side – supply buoyancy to the hull. Bonito offers an optional foam fill for the hull. While this makes little difference to the buoyancy if swamped, it does make a difference if either of the chambers is holed.
All Bonito hulls are CPC compliant. The 635 Kingfisher has undergone swamp tests carrying weight equivalent to the heaviest engine size it is rated for, plus seven adults, and has proven to have reserve buoyancy. These hulls can be built to survey.
Power and performance
As mentioned, the engine fitted is a Cummins-Mercruiser turbo diesel with 1.7-litre (103-cubic inch) displacement. This in-line four-cylinder engine is rated to turn out 115hp at the prop. Full-throttle revs are listed as 4400rpm, and the test rig, spinning an 18-inch-pitch four-bladed prop, manages 64kph (34.7 knots) at 4300rpm. The engine noise was quite tolerable, and we could converse in normal tones while running at speed.
Fuel is carried in a 180-litre underfloor tank. The fuel port is recessed nicely into the outside of the cabin, just above the rub strip. This has the advantage of not allowing any overflow to run into the hull when refuelling.
On test day, Auckland Marine’s Gary Hatton, fellow Fishing News staffer Peter Francis and I headed out of Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula. It was a beautiful, calm autumn day over much of the rest of the country, but the Coromandel ranges seem to create their own weather systems. A 15-20 knot wind-against-tide in the relatively high current area between Tairua and the Alderman Islands (some of the locals call it ‘the washing machine’) added to some left-over sea swells from the day before, combining to produce a crappy, confused sea of around 1.5m – as nasty as you would want to travel in.
I won’t say that I enjoyed the hard beat out to the Aldermans (about 14 knots was all we could manage without getting a serious hiding – I must be getting old), but the big, deep-V hull handled the unpleasant sea conditions safely. The hull was stable (I never had to use the trim tabs all day), predictable and responsive, with plenty of power, and the broad shoulders lifted well over the big swells. It felt a little launch-like. We took only a little spray (extra mouldings in the sides help here), just the odd high-pressure squirt that shot up the bow and under the clears where they were domed to the ‘screen.
Over the day, the sea didn’t drop, but did become a little more consistent in its direction, so travelling across and then with the sea back to Tairua provided a much better ride.
It is possible to climb around the side of the cabin to get to the bow (anti-skid finish helps here), but it is easier to work through the forward hatch, which has a pair of stays fitted.
The anchoring layout includes a chromed fairlead with locking pin out on a bowsprit, a permanently-mounted Sarca anchor, and a Quick electric capstan on the foredeck, with helm controls. A protective metal plate has been added to the foredeck to prevent any chain-flogging from damaging the finish.
The anchor winch has a freespool facility to aid pin-point anchoring when necessary, and the chain locker can be accessed through a hatch in the forward bulkhead.
The cabin is lined to the berths and features large side-stowage shelves, the faces of which are padded to form comfortable backrests. The berths are snug and would sleep two adults – or three at a pinch with a squab infill fitted. Hatches access dry under-berth stowage space, and an optional marine toilet can be fitted under the centre berth if required.
The wiring behind the console can be accessed by removing a bolt-on plate. A cabin light is fitted and a marine carpet mat in the step-down conceals bung drainage to the bilge. The cabin entry is wide and easy to get into, and a domed zip-open privacy screen had been fitted.
The small dash tray behind the ‘screen was marine-carpet lined, helping cut internal glare on the raked and tinted polycarbonate ‘screen. Forward vision is a little inhibited by the curved instrument console and the hand rail at the top of the ‘screen when seated. Best visibility is over the top of the ‘screen, travelling standing up, particularly in low-light conditions or after dark, when tinted ‘screens can reduce visibility markedly. For protection from the elements, a set of clears can be domed between the fibreglass targa-top and the top of the ‘screen. The targa also provides a mount for various aerials, a cockpit spotlight, helm lights, and the VHF and sound-system in a roof console.
Hydraulic Hydrive Admiral steering is pleasant to use. The helm seat is a sliding, swivelling upholstered-bucket type with a gas shock that allows adjustment to suit most drivers. The passenger side boasts a comfortable king and queen seat on a fibreglass base with internal stowage. Foot-rests are fitted.
Besides the usual engine instrumentation and switching, the helm position had the controls for the capstan and trim-tabs, while the electronics were taken care of by a multi-task Lowrance LCX25 flush-mounted in the dash. Two small, protected side pockets at the helm, and one on the passenger side, are complemented by larger (around three-metre) pockets that run the full length of the cockpit. Gunwale and side pocket faces are padded.
The cockpit deck is finished in easy-to-clean, non-skid Nautilex panels. An under-floor stowage well drains to the bilge under the engine, as does the deck. There are no coamings on the engine well, which acts as a sump to the cockpit. Water is removed from here by a 1000gph bilge pump.
The engine box is remarkably compact, and with part of the engine installation inside the transom wall, took up little cockpit space. It would be nice to see more than one hose clamp on the skin-fitting for the engine water intake, however.
The batteries were set at floor-level in a plastic battery box inside the transom. While this offers some protection from swamping, it is not ideal and it would be nice to get them up a bit higher in the transom wall.
The covering boards are trimmed in teak – a nice touch, as are the recessed chromed stern cleats. Around the outside, a substantial rub rail protects the hull. A shallow storage locker under a hatch on the transom top stores the wash-down hose. A modest transom step-through on the helm side (good for picking up divers, but on the wrong side for fisherman giving chase to gamefish) gives access to a full-width boarding platform with non-skid finish, grab rails and a pull-out, fold-down boarding ladder underneath.
The level of finish and quality of components used is excellent, and in general this is a good, comfortable layout.
The 635 has plenty of fishing room for four anglers. Considering it has a 21° hull, it provides a stable platform to work from. Getting the weight – particularly the engine – down low has a lot to do with this.
Attention to detail is good, with the stern cleats recessed and the gimbal pins in the four through-gunwale stainless rodholders correctly aligned. There is stowage for six rods in the side-pocket racks. Outrigger base-plates are mounted on the sides of the rear targa supports, and by using the six-position rocket launcher (an easy reach from the deck), a set of four or five game lures could be trolled. The sides are high and give comfortable top-of-the-thigh support.
A large bait station had been mounted on the rear face of the transom, adding a further two rodholders. Its position over the stern keeps it out of the way and makes it easy to fish around, but it is a bit of a reach over the engine box to use it. Fine for cutting bait, but not for a big filleting session; however this is not much of an issue, as most people bring their fish home whole.
Stowage of the catch can be in the underdeck hold – the two-piece hatch makes it easy to slip a few snapper into the hold without having to get everyone to move out of the way. A good boat to fish from, with bluewater potential.
For divers, grab rails are fitted on the transom to help with access to the boarding platform. A ladder was fitted under the platform, and there is room for dive-tank stowage under the deck.
Despite the sloppy sea conditions Auckland Marine’s Gary Hatton put us over some deepwater pins he knew wide of Tairua. Conditions were marginal, and after each of us had jigged up (and released) a nice 15kg kingfish, it took little urging to move into the relative shelter of the Aldermans to throw some soft plastics around. This too was quickly successful, and after some good sport and with a feed of snapper in the hold, we headed back for Tairua.
The supplied trailer is a Voyager cradle A-frame model with tandem axles, galvanised rims and zinc-treated leaf-spring suspension. It is hot-dip galvanised with a dual-ratio manual winch, hydraulic brakes, dual coupling, wind-down jockey wheel, and submersible lights. The boat is carried on seven pairs of wobble rollers per side, and a keel entry roller helps loading. Tow weight, empty, is approximately 1850kg.
The basics are here for a good-looking but functional fishing and diving craft. Construction and level of finish are good. Well worth checking out for fans of fibreglass.
Hull only weight 810kg
Rec. hp 115-200hp
Power 120hp, 1.7 litre Mercruiser diesel
Key-turn package $74,990
As tested $89,990
Engine Price (incl. Alpha one Drive): $27,058.00 (with power steering)
Trailer Voyager tandem axle
Tow weight 1850kg
This article is reproduced with permission of
New Zealand Fishing News
2007 - by Sam Mossman
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited