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REVIEW: Bar Crusher 610HT – Fishing World

The benefits of a hard-top cabin are swiftly made clear to Jim Harnwell when he tests out the newest Bar Crusher on a cold and wet day on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.

Melbourne’s Bar Crusher Boats are well known as being innovative and solidly built plate alloy sportfishing boats. Interesting and effective hull designs, good build quality and clever marketing has seen the Bar Crusher brand evolve over the past 10 years from niche player to mainstream success.

That evolution looks set to continue with the release of the latest model, the 610HT. This boat, officially launched at this year’s Melbourne Boat Show, is set to enjoy wide angler appeal. It’s no secret that Bar Crushers are popular with serious fishos – they incorporate excellent sea-keeping abilities with tough but lightweight plate construction that’s simple to maintain and provides for easy towing. The 610HT maintains those essential Bar Crusher traditions yet also adds the comfort and practicality of an enclosed hardtop cabin.

Anyone familiar with the Bar Crusher marque will have a working knowledge of the nifty folding roofs that the brand has popularised over the past decade. The ability to “fold” the roof – and even the windscreen – right back inside the cockpit enabled many anglers to purchase a “big” boat that fitted inside a standard garage. The downside of the folding roof system is that weather protection tended to be compromised. Like many plate boats, Bar Crushers tend to throw a bit of spray around. This can come in over the windscreen and also as annoying drips and splashes that work in through the side clears down from the light alloy roof.

The massive new cabin on the 610HT – like that on its bigger siblings the 780HT, 680HT and, my personal favourite, the 670HT – provides almost 100 per cent protection from spray, wind, rain and sun. Don’t get me wrong – the addition of a full cabin doesn’t mean that Crusher has gone soft – this remains a hard-core fishing boat, not some sort of namby-pamby cruiser – but it does make a long day out on the bluewater much more comfortable, especially in the dodgy conditions that offshore game and sportfishing often takes place in. The enclosed cabin also further develops the boat’s appeal to the family fisho.

The 610HT is based on the popular 560 hull (Bar Crusher recently re-badged all its models based on their LOA, which is measured from the end of the bow sprit to the outer edge of the transom). The cabin is a cut down and slightly shortened version of that found on the 680 and 670. It provides excellent protection yet is roomy and airy. Importantly, it does not compromise deck space or overall fishability.

One of the major benefits of the cabin design is that it allows for a vastly improved dash area. The cuddy cab models are fairly tight for space, with marine electronics like sounders, GPS units and radios needing to be mounted on, above or below the console. The HT models have acres of available space on which to thru-mount your chosen marine electronics. The test 610HT sported an impressive Garmin GPSMap 7212, a top-of-the-line 12-inch touch screen model that I’d previously only seen on much larger vessels. This unit comes preloaded with NMEA 2000 software, meaning instruments and gauges for the 150 Suzuki four-stroke on the transom can be accessed and controlled via the 7212’s screen. Digital interfacing between engine and onboard electronics displays is becoming increasingly popular these days but I have to say that I like to have standalone gauges to complement the digital readouts. The 610 HT’s massive dash easily accommodates as many gauges as you could wish for, along with the TV sized Garmin.

Other innovations on the test boat included Bar Crusher’s new anchor step, a nifty arrangement that enables very easy and quick access to the anchor well. Stress Free anchor winches are available as an option throughout the Crusher range but many anglers prefer to set and retrieve their ground tackle manually. This new step arrangement makes this process much easier and safer.

The cabin and surrounding toughened glass windows add about 100-150kg to the boat’s weight. Being a large and quite high (2030mm) cabin initially made me wonder if the boat’s lateral stability would be affected. Compared to the much smaller and lighter folding roof on the cuddy cab models, would the 610HT’s cabin superstructure result in the boat being tender at rest? The test day was conducted on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay in overcast and cold conditions – bloody typical Melbourne weather! – with sloppy seas providing a good ground for the Crusher to strut its stuff. As we launched, I knew I’d certainly be able to assess any ride and stability issues thanks to the choppy, messy water.

Plenty of “boat tests” are conducted on nice, calm days. Great for taking pics, not so great for honestly assessing a hull’s rough water capabilities. For those unfamiliar with the Bar Crusher’s design philosophy, it’s important to note that part of the appeal of the boats as offshore sportfishers is due to their innovative ballast chamber, marketed as “QuickFlow”, which floods the hull with water when at rest. This allows the boats to sport a much deeper vee (19 to 20 degrees in fact) than most plate alloy boats, resulting in a great ride in chop and swell. Without the ballast chamber, the Crushers would still ride well but would be excessively tender at rest. This ballast chamber, which is a simple yet really clever hull design, sets Bar Crushers apart from most of the plate boat pack in regards to overall performance and stability. Even with the cabin doubtless having some sort of impact on the boat’s centre of gravity, the ballast chamber proved more than capable of settling the 610’s hull down in the water, providing a good, stable platform at rest.

Likewise the ride was the typical surefooted Bar Crusher experience. I noted almost no pounding and good positive tracking through the sloppy bay conditions. The test boat was fitted with optional trim tabs. I reckon these are pretty much mandatory on all Bar Crushers – and on most deep vee boats, in fact. The trim tabs easily allow you to adjust for weight distribution and sea/weather conditions. Like many plate boats with a deep vee, Bar Crushers tend to lean into the wind, and the smaller models especially are quite sensitive to weight distribution. The trim tabs fix all that. If you are thinking about buying a Bar Crusher, definitely opt for the tabs.

I did think engine and boat noise was slightly louder in the cabin boat as opposed to the cuddy cab versions. It seems that outside noise gets trapped inside the enclosed cab. It was nothing dramatic but the sound of the engine and also water slapping against the hull was louder than in a non-cabin boat.

Any noise disadvantage was, however, quickly alleviated by the sheer comfort and protection offered by the spacious cabin. As mentioned, it was a pretty cold day and I can say with complete truthfulness that copping a face full of spray would have been a pretty unpleasant experience. In the cab, however, you simply pushed the throttle down and watched all that cold spray and water hit the glass windscreen and just slide off and away. Bloody beautiful!

The cabin version allows for radio aerials and spot and/or floodlights to be roof mounted. The cab also supports a 10-pack rocket launcher. This is ideal for active game and sportfishing – being able to store multiple rods safely out of the way is fantastic – but the height of the cab would preclude all but the tallest angler from being able to easily access the rods. I’m 183cm tall and it was a stretch for me to reach up there. Luckily, the Crusher’s gunwales are exceptionally wide and the profusion of grab rails on the sides and top of the cab makes it easy to climb up to access your rods, aerials and lights.

In terms of comfort and convenience there is no doubt that the full cabin is the logical pick over Bar Crusher’s cuddy cab models. The cabin does come at a price premium, however, and the 3.2m height on the trailer precludes it from most standard garages and sheds (as comparison, the cuddy cab version folds down to 2.2m). The Bar Crusher boys report that many buyers love the Hard Top cabin version when checking out a new boat at the company’s Dandenong South showroom/factory, but that the extra cost and storage issues often result in the cuddy cab version with the folding roof being the eventual choice. But if you don’t mind paying a few grand more, and if you’ve got a good big shed, you’d be nuts not to opt for the full cabin. The benefits are just too good to ignore.

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