In 2008 Napier-based manufacturer Profile Boats was bought by Napier marine retailer Firmans Marine.
North and south of Napier, boat ramps are thin on the ground, and beach launching is the norm at most places, especially the coast running south from Cape Kidnappers all the way to Cook Strait.
Pontoon boats between four and six metres in length are a popular configuration in this area, as they are stable, have a huge amount of positive buoyancy, yet are light enough to get over the sand easily and can be manhandled in the surf.
Profile’s 585 Cuddy fits this mould perfectly, and in early January I visited the small beach settlement of Waimarama, just south of Hawkes Bay, to trial one of these boats.
First Light is owned by Tony Lane and is typical of the type of rig favoured on this coast, being set up for fishing, diving and potting for crays. Accompanied by Brian Firman, head of Firman’s Marine, we put the 585C through its paces.
Profile Boats has a five-metre-wide brake press that will bend up to 6mm aluminium, allowing long panels and pontoons to be formed without joins. The test boat is an example of the options this allows, and sports a 5mm bottom (6mm is another option) with 3mm pontoons.
The hull is supported by the pontoon structure itself, four bearers and the keel assembly. The bottom plates are butted up at the keel line and fully seam-welded with an (optional) wear strip added over the seam. Above this internally is a flat plate welded across the hull, forming a strong triangular section at the keel. Lateral support is provided by five bulkheads and the transom assembly.
An interesting feature of the design was a ‘turn-back’ on the top of the transom, a part of the beach-launch genesis of the design that helps keep the water out of the cockpit if you catch a breaker in the stern. A fender rail around the outside of the pontoon further guards the hull.
The welding was nice and tidy, with that smooth, lapped look that typifies good work. Welds are left unground for full strength and the hull has a three-year structural warranty. One of the advantages of pontoon designs is a high level of reserve buoyancy; this hull is rated for six adults.
The Profile 585 is rated for 90-150hp outboards; the test boat is powered by one of Mercury’s more recent releases, the new 150hp four-stroke, this one spinning an 18-inch-pitch Enertia prop. According to Mercury, this prop was specifically designed for pontoon hulls.
The compact 150 Merc four-stroke was quiet and smooth when underway, and Mercury claims it is currently the lightest 150hp four-stroke on the market – a further advantage when manhandling the boat in the surf.
This engine has a 3.0-litre displacement (it is an in-line four-cylinder, eight-valve with single overhead cam) and features a lot of low-down grunt, holding the hull on the plane at low speeds. This, added to the power and quick response of the engine, makes it ideal for working the hull in or out through a surf break.
Top-end speed was 38 knots (70.4kph) at 5400rpm. Maximum ‘book’ revs are quoted at 5000-5800, so the prop is right in the zone. A comfortable cruise speed on the day was 20 knots (37kph), achieved at 3400rpm.
Fuel is carried in a 100-litre under-floor tank. The fuel port is on the outside of the transom, avoiding the chance of internal spillage when filling, and a fuel filter is fitted under the transom, along with a protective guard rail for the fuel line.
The Profile 585C proved to be a soft rider, cutting through the half-metre chop nicely with no pounding or hull drumming. A turndown on the top of the ‘screen cuts the wind-rush, making travel comfortable while standing.
By midday the breeze picked up to 12-15 knots, and with this wind on the bow quarter, we did take a little spray over the top of the ‘screen, although this was noticeably reduced by trimming the bow up a bit. The optional set of clears between the bimini top and the ‘screen would be an easy fix for this.
The stability is excellent, allowing a safe launch and return off the sand in modest surf conditions, and for Brian and I to manhandle the boat easily in the surf while Tony got the tractor and trailer rig from above the high-tide mark.
A flat walk-around strip with non-skid panelling tapers towards the bow, so the easiest access to the bow area is through a decent-sized hatch in the foredeck, reached by ducking under the cuddy. A useful tread-plate platform is built into the bow, giving the bowman a little more height and reach when standing there.
First Light was fitted with a Lewmar horizontal windlass, which feeds the warp and chain through the foredeck into a locker in the bow. This can be accessed through a hatchway in the forward bulkhead. The windlass is controlled from the helm and features a free-fall facility.
The anchor is permanently mounted on a bowsprit and the warp constrained by substantial split bowrails (an option to a solid rail) that drop down on each side of the bowsprit. A crucifix bollard welded to the foredeck completes the bow furniture.
This Profile is set up as a day boat, so no space is wasted on berths that would get little use and chew up work and stowage space (although a berth option is offered if required). Sealed tread-plate decks, covered with tube mat for comfort and good footing, run from the forward bulkhead back to the transom. Any water drains back to a sump under the transom, where it is removed by an 1100gph bilge pump. A pair of rails slightly forward of the dash do double duty as footrests while also constraining any equipment stowed there. Side shelves offer further stowage space, as does a hatched waterproof locker built into the passenger’s side of the hull.
The dash features tinted polycarbonate ‘screens, a decent dash tray with backlip, and a grab-rail on the passenger’s side. The sounder-GPS, a Lowrance HDS8, is mounted here. The console accommodates: Mercury’s SmartCraft VesselView engine instrumentation; a Uniden UM380 VHF radio; Fusion sound system; and BEP six-way switching panel. Steering was good – a Sea Star hydraulic system – while the throttle/shift was an adequate Mercury cable unit.
An optional fold-down rocket launcher (for easier stowage) supports a bimini top that provided welcome shade from the Hawkes Bay summer sun. Seating consists of upholstered swivelling bucket seats on aluminium box pedestals with two levels of internal stowage. Fold-down rear-facing bench seats on the backs of the pedestals offer additional seating, and other seating options are available.
Between the seats is an under-deck hold, and additional stowage is provided by side trays running from the helm to the transom – approximately three metres long – which look wide enough to take dive tanks. The passenger-side tray also features a wash-down hose and a rod/pole rack.
Wide, flat gunwale tops with Deck Tread panels make a comfortable spot to perch when fishing, and the flat handrail that was so useful when manhandling the boat in the surf accentuates the width of the gunwale top.
The transom wall incorporates a raised locker, accessed via two hatches, that protects the house and start batteries. These are further guarded inside strapped-down battery boxes – another useful feature for boats that are beach-launched. Also mounted inside the transom locker is the pump for the wash-down hose, isolation switching and the thermal overload for the winch.
Over the stern, with its wave deflector top, are two tread-plate boarding platforms fitted with grab rails, mooring cleats and a fold-down ‘T’ boarding ladder on the passenger side.
The boat dragging on the sand when launching and loading has prompted the development of an interesting device to protect the transducers. They are mounted on a sliding plate with a ‘T’ shaped top that protrudes through the boarding platform, making it a simple matter to raise and lower transducers.
As mentioned, potting for crayfish is popular on this part of the coast, and First Light is well set up for this activity with a gusseted, swivelling davit arm that can be swung out of the way against the seven-position rocket launcher when not in use, or removed entirely. An Anchormax winch hauls in the pot lines, and protective padding can be fitted over the gunwale to prevent damage from pots.
A davit arm can put a lot of leverage on one side of a boat if a jammed pot coincides with the lift of a big swell. There are instances of smaller monohulls capsizing in this situation, so a pontoon configuration, with its large measure of stability, makes a lot of sense.
The catch is stored in an aftermarket ice box, as is usual, and a removable bait-station is mounted on a frame welded to the transom, also providing four more rod positions and a tow point for skiers and water toys. Two more through-gunwale rod holders are mounted along each side.
After pulling the pots for a modest catch of crays, we had a quick bottom fish, again with limited success. We fished four anglers okay with some tangles; two would be ideal.
Surf launching and retrieving has its own set of demands and provides a steady demand for old tractors past their agricultural best. In this case, owner Tony Lane had a lovingly restored David Brown 990 set up for its new life with a hydraulic winch that could quickly pull the boat onto the trailer. Guide bars on the winch and a further guide on the top of the original trailer winch box help control the operation, as do guide poles on the back of the trailer and five pairs of wobble rollers.
The trailer itself is a DMW Premier single-axle model with zinc-protected, leaf-spring suspension and Bearing Buddies to extend the life of the wheel bearings. Other features of the trailer include a spare wheel, dual-ratio manual winch, submersible LED lights – and a quick-release pin on the safety chain to ensure a speedy departure from the trailer when launching (a good idea when windows of opportunity in launching and retrieving are short).
Approximate towing weight for the rig is 1200-1400kg, depending on the options chosen.
The combination of a modest-sized pontoon boat with protected batteries, keel wear strip, easy-to-lift transducers and handrails for surf handling, with the tractor and its hydraulic winch and guides, added to the trailer with guide poles, Bearing Buddies and a quick-release pin, make the Profile 585C First Light a great example of a rig ideally designed for its specific environment – launching off a surf beach.
The pontoon configuration allows the safe use of the davit and winch for lifting pots and also makes for useful fish and dive boat with a nice open layout, stability and a soft ride. A great all-rounder for the open coast.
Configuration pontoon cuddy cabin
LOA 5.87m (excludes bow sprit)
External beam 2.14m
Internal beam 1.65m
Bottoms 5mm (6mm an option)
Rec. HP 90-150hp
Test engine Mercury 150hp
Prop Enertia 18-inch pitch
Trailer DMW Premier,
Tow weight 1200-1400kg approx
Key-turn rigs from $45,500
Price as tested $78,500
Test boat courtesy of Tony Lane.
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