Boat test – SENTOR RH 620


by Dave Moran

There’s got to be a better way, a smarter way of enjoying the lifestyle and adventures that owning your own boat provides without spending big bucks, plus keeping the love of your life in the lifestyle that she deserves. And if you have a few ankle bitters snapping at the bit for a day out on the water, you can be ‘Daddy Marvellous’ too all for less than $3000 a year.

Let’s face it, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to realise that having $40,000 plus, sitting forlornly on your back lawn so that on the odd day when you have time, you can take your baby for a spin.

The average boat owner uses their boat about 17 days per year. If you want to be depressed even further, all you need do is grab a calculator and work out the interest $40,000 could earn you or the interest you would pay if you ‘borrowed it’, plus add on the inevitable boat/motor maintenance, insurance, road registration, etc, etc, you’ll soon be kissing goodbye to over $3500 annually… The cheque book is looking decidedly seasick already!

Two successfully established businessmen, Paul Collins and Neil Bradley both realised this and that the average person is always pushed to take full advantage of their leisure time. In November 2000 the Ezytime franchise concept was born. Franchises are now servicing Invercargill, Queenstown, Wellington, Taupo, Rotorua, Tauranga, Manukau City, Westhaven and West Auckland. Franchises are soon to open in Christchurch, Picton, Hawkes Bay and the Far North. The benefits of boating the Ezytime way are many but essentially you share a boat with up to a maximum of 12 others. Depending on your annual investment, you have a minimum access to use the boat 28 days (four weeks) a year, for as little as $2,700 annually. No maintenance worries, storage worries, security worries, etc. With Ezytime you even enjoy the pleasure of a new model boat every three years… I like that. If you’re in business, it’s a great way to reward staff or entertain clients. To learn about all the benefits of being an Ezytime crew member, contact the nearest Ezytime franchise holder near you – Phone 0800 4 EZYTIME (399 8463).

Ashley Wilson, an ex RNZAF helicopter crewman and instructor, has recently established a new franchise covering North and West Auckland. Ashley invited me out to experience a model of boat he is soon to add to his fleet for his Ezytime members. The Senator RH 620 hard top is a serious boat. Manufactured in Napier by Senator Boats and sold nationwide through Firmans Marine Centre Napier, Rollos Marine Hamilton and Mr Boats South Island.

The day was overcast with a steady southwest wind stirring up a sloppy sea in the upper reaches of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour out from Westpark Marina. Launching the boat off the single axle, A-frame cradle DMW Premier Trailer took about the strength of two fingers to have the RH 620 gently float off the trailer. As we motored out of the marina, I had a chance to look at the boat’s layout.

Wayne McKinley set up Senator Boats about seven years ago. Wayne had been involved in building pontoon boats for about 10 years before starting Senator boats. Senator boats also build mono hull boats. The most celebrated is the Senator Offshore 970. About six years ago, after considering the safety and stability features of pontoon hull designs, they decided to develop a monohull that incorporated the features of a pontoon hull. Over the ensuing years Firmans Marine received comments and suggestion from Senator boat owners. This feedback further refined the design to meet the high standards demanded by owners and a very competitive market.

The marriage of the pontoon upper hulls to the mono hull has created a wide chine that is angled down slightly. As can be seen from the accompanying picture, this wide chine fires the water down and away from the hull, virtually eliminating any sea spray entering the boat. Stability is a fantastic feature to have in any boat. There is nothing worse than having to hang on every time someone moves around. When the weight within the boat brings the waterline up around the pontoon sides, this hull virtually sticks to the water. With two divers sitting together on the wide topsides, she hardly lifted her skirt.

As with most pontoon boats, they have the inherent safety quality of having airtight sealed compartments, making them virtually unsinkable. The RH 620 has four sealed compartments, the port and starboard pontoons and the large forward bow section and the underfloor area. An integral part of the pontoon system is the wide topsides/chines, which provide a huge amount of extra buoyancy at a very high level above the water. A big plus if the proverbial really hits the fan!

I’m sure every boatie would prefer the comfort and protection that a hard top offers compared to an open boat. For its length the RH 620 has a very spacious hard top area that could easily shelter four to five people standing in the cockpit area. The swivel seating is purposely mounted high to enable the crew excellent visibility through the four tinted safety glass windscreen panels. No worries if your legs are a little short, a wide raised foot rest provides further comfort and more importantly a solid platform to brace yourself when smashing through a rough sea. Another excellent advantage of a hardtop is that it protects your hard earned electronic toys. There is heaps of dashboard space to mount sounders, GPS, VHF etc.

To deaden water slap noise, eliminate condensation on cold aluminium surfaces and to add that little extra feeling of warmth, Charman Motor Trimmers & Upholsters of Napier have glued a polypropelene Lido carpet to the aluminium surfaces within the hard top and cabin area … very cosy! They also did the upholstery for the cabin squabs and seating surfaces.

Out in the confused waters of the Waitemata Harbour, we put the hammer down to see how she would play. The cable steerage was a little tight but, I am sure with a little use and attention, it would improve. If you have the bucks, treat yourself to hydraulic steering. With four on board the 130 HP outboard had us effortlessly cruising at 30 mph at 4000 rpm. The power was there to back off or accelerate in and out of the troughs giving us a very comfortable ride. On turning at speed I could feel no appreciable sideways slip and she held her head straight and true when going down a swell or running parallel with the swell. You were in control.

I feel she could easily handle a load of four divers and their gear plus an extra scuba tank each. The ability to store a truckload of gear into the two wide storage trays that are built into the pontoon hulls gives you the ability to keep the deck fairly clutter free. Three scuba tanks can easily lay end on end in the lower tray which is ideal, plus their weight gives the boat a lower centre of gravity, a tangible benefit when toughing it out in a big seaway.

Ashley knows what he wants in a boat, he knows what his Ezytime members would like to go boating in. Paramount is safety and a boat that is very seaworthy, gives you a smooth ride even when the going gets rough and room to enjoy the boating experience. It’s EZY to see why he chose the newly released pontoon hardtop, the Senator RH 620. It will guarantee him some very satisfied Ezytime members.

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