Blue Diamond 680 HT Boat Review

The vessel is designed by Austin Kell, a Kiwi mechanical design engineer whose first job was to create the Maxwell Freedom electric capstan, a forerunner to the RC range popular today on trailerboats and smaller launches. He spent time in the oil and gas industry as well as working on superyachts. His interests have never been far from the sea.

It would be unfair to call Whiti Te Ra a prototype, as this is the real deal. Austin wanted to create a catamaran design that eliminated some of the negatives associated with twin-hull vessels, especially the pounding into a head sea. The pounding issue was mitigated with increased tunnel clearance, ensuring a smooth ride in all sea states.

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He also wanted to create a hull that could be configured in whatever way a customer chose – walk-around or hard top cabin. He ticked both these boxes.

On the test morning, the remnants of a big easterly blow was still pushing one-metre plus swells past Tapeka Point in the Bay of Islands, with a little wind against tide chop added for good measure. At test time, a damaged hip saw me stepping gingerly and I was not looking forward to time at sea. I need not have worried. The hull was very predictable and the ride well within my pain threshold! And there was no pounding, just a little hint of spray pushed back onto the screen as we took the swells head on.

Whiti Te Ra’s layout is simple but effective. The result is a huge working space to which optional extras are added.

There is no fixed bait board. It, along with a table, gas BBQ and the livebait tank, is removeable, tucked in one of the hulls when not in use.

“It just adds to our options – you can pick and mix at the time, so nothing gets in the way when it need not,” Austin says. “It might start the day as a fishing boat but is easily re-configured for cruising and relaxing.”

Everything on the boat is about practicality and the good use of space.

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The rear facing dickey seats fold down when not in use thanks to another bit of Austin’s mechanical wizardry – an automatic latch that holds the seat in either the upright or closed position that needs minimal effort to deploy.

Under the passenger’s seat is a standard sized 80 litre fridge and on the opposite side is space for a 70-litre Dometic ice bin, leaving the cockpit space uncluttered. The forward passenger and helming seats are Hi-Tech Plastics Elite bolstered models that offer plenty of support regardless of whether you are seated or standing.

There is a huge space at the helm station for instrumentation, the area swallowing up the 12” Raymarine screen, GME VHF, Maxwell capstan control, switches and engine management gauges.

Visibility is great. A singlepiece curved glass screen offers an unrestricted view forward. The small side windows are fixed.

Up forward there is space for a chemical toilet with seating either side. An infill squab creates a traverse double berth. All upholstery was done in Opua by Peter Boyd and his crew at South Pacific Marine Canvas.

The boat utilises SeaDek marine decking liberally, adding to the vessel’s comfort and good grip underfoot. The cabin top, used to transport kayaks and water toys – and as a diving platform for the kids – has had SeaDek laid either side of the centrally mounted solar panels.

Whiti Te Ra is a mean fishing/diving machine for several reasons. It has nice high coamings, cockpit space to burn, storage for Africa, an excellent swim platform and ladder between the two motors and more rod holders – both around the boat and in the rocket launcher – than you could possibly shake a stick at.

Storage in the hulls, as already mentioned, is cavernous. There’s space for extra fish bins, numerous sets of dive gear including bottles, fishing tackle, spare ground tackle, ice bins, barbecues – the list goes on – and it is all relatively easily accessed through the two deck hatches.

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Things like tag poles, flying gaff handles, boat hooks and the like easily fit in the port and starboard cockpit-long shelves. And there are plenty of little things worth mentioning. All the cleats are pop-up, and the handrails are well-placed to provide just the right point of contact for the passengers. The rails at the rear sides of the hardtop double as ladders for those wanting to venture onto the roof.

The vessel, despite its bulk, does not take a great deal of horsepower, and thus fuel, to drive. Whiti Te Ra is powered by twin Yamaha 115HP four stroke outboards, fed by 165 litre-a-side tanks. Coming back from our fishing grounds with the swell behind us, the boat was travelling at a comfortable 22 knots, burning just under 30 litres all up. The engines provided plenty of torque as we neither sped up or slowed down with the swell, maintaining a steady lope through the conditions.

The custom-built trailer is another testament to Austin’s design and engineering skills. It features a set of rollers set up bunk style to go under either hull and a raised section in the middle, which acts as a guide when the boat is launched and retrieved. Austin drove it onto the trailer, the boat latch he designed himself catching it firmly at the snubbing block. While wife Peta was on hand to drive the boat out, the trailer incorporates a ladder at the front so you can get on and off the boat without getting your feet wet, making launching/retrieving a one-person operation. The boat was built under contract by a Whangarei fabricator, with the vessel fitout and trailer build carried out by

Austin with assistance from his mates at NZ Yacht Services. Austin is also co-owner of Blue Diamond Marine Pty Ltd based in Chinderah, NSW where they have designed and built a 10.5m walkaround version built to AMSA 2C survey, and are currently working on a 12.95m version. Their boat building facility is on the banks of the Tweed River and has the workshop space to build vessels up to 20m in length.

As mentioned earlier, the vessel is a great fishing platform – stable and spacious. I introduced the Kells to the art of not-so-subtle soft-baiting, utilising their Baitrunner 6500 sets, a one-ounce jighead, Bruised Banana tails and some dubious 30lb trace! While it may have been a little agricultural, it did prove effective with Peta catching her first fish off the boat, and a PB to boot!

And as to the meaning of Whiti Te Ra? It means ‘the sun shines’ in Maori – quite appropriate when you see how the sun reflects off her wrapped azure blue sides!

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