Smartwave 3500 Poly Boat Review
In the many years I've spent cultiva-ting my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I've managed to amass no less than nine boats between 2.4 and 4m in my backyard. Three of these floated up the creek on which I live and were claimed by me after advising the local police of their arrival - one boat even had drug preparation gear aboard! Five of the boats in my collection are tinnies and the others are 'glass. One is owned by an ex and another is co-owned between us, so I have to be careful about breaking the news to her when taking a girl out on this boat.
Based in New Zealand, Smartwave Boats says the 3500 is the real success story of the range - and with good reason. The roto-moulded polyethylene construction is double walled with foam injected between the hull and cockpit liner, with skin thicknesses of 8 to 9mm compared to around 1.6mm for the average tinnie of this length. The hull is also much beamier than tinnies of this length and has broad reverse chines for faster planing. At 13° the deadrise is deeper than comparable tinnies but it works because of the broad beam.
The result is a hull that can handle two adults (total 200kg) sitting on one side, and a hefty bloke like me can walk around the boat playing a fish without it rocking around or capsizing. The only real downside is the hefty hull weight - about 60 per cent greater than a comparable tinnie. So if you're into car-topping, forget it.
For its compact length the 3500 has a very clever cockpit layout. There's an anchorwell forward with rope tie-off cleat and a removable cushioned seat aft of this that reveals another storage bin. The removable centre thwart has a hinged lid and a large compartment underneath for storing PFDs. Ahead of the transom is a cushioned seat either side of the outboard mounting-plate with a centre recess for holding a standard 25lt plastic fuel tank. The seats have captive straps to prevent them being lost overboard and reveal more storage space that drains into the cockpit floor.
Low siderails and a row-lock block either side come as standard. Timber oars are supplied, with the blades neatly slotted into a recess at the transom and a Terry clip holding the handles in place. Oars sliding around a tinnie are a real nuisance so this is a very neat solution. There's a plastic rodholder in each transom quarter - very handy as they keep rods out of the way but are easily reached.
The aluminium outboard mounting-plate can handle up to a 30hp shortshaft outboard, though frankly I reckon anything more than 20hp would be a waste of power. Indeed, plastic hulls have fairly high skin friction, so there's little point in fitting maximum power.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
When I first tried a 3500 a couple of years ago the conditions saw a nor'easter on Lake Macquarie blowing to 15kts with waves to 40cm. Amazingly, for a 3.5m hull the 3500 didn't pound or throw spray aboard and could be driven into the waves at wide open throttle (WOT) with complete confidence. Across the waves or downwind it tracked beautifully and handled like no other tinnie in this size range. On this occasion, even though the conditions the second time around were at worst a low chop, I knew the 3500 could handle the rough stuff should it blow up unexpectedly.
Spinning the standard 8.8in pitch alloy prop, the Mercury Super 15 fitted to the demo 3500 (both times) proved an ideal power match. The 3500 has limited buoyancy aft, and any additional weight to my 115kg bulk on the transom could create fore and aft hull trim problems when using the 3500 one-up.
The Super 15 weighs 41kg and fitting a 30 would blow this out to more than 50kg, which in my opinion is too much for the shortshaft transom. I don't recommend fitting a four-stroke 15, which would weigh between 48 and 52kg.
As it was, planing one-up required me to move the fuel tank forward of the centre thwart and apply WOT to get out of the hole. Make sure there are no boats ahead of you when doing this as the hull points skywards, completely blocking forward vision. However, once planing, the throttle can be backed off to around one-third opening with a clean plane maintained. When you drop off the plane do it slowly, because rapid closing of the throttle results in sternwash coming over the transom and straight onto the helm seat. You'd think I'd learn from this mistake the first time, but I guess the grey cells are getting few and far between.
Using the 3500 with two adults aboard creates none of these problems, with better fore and aft weight distribution allowing the hull to simply lift out of the hole. Closing the throttle rapidly results in the hull just settling back in the water - and a dry bum at the helm.
Pushing a total of 370kg - including my long-suffering photographer Barry Ashenhurst and I - the Super 15 could maintain reasonable planing speeds at two-thirds throttle opening, resulting in good fuel efficiency. In average usage the 15 will consume around 3lt/h, so it's economical to run.
Innovative is the word that immediately springs to mind when testing the 3500. It shows what can be created with a bit of design forethought and attention to detail, and frankly I'd like to see how one of these works on a long-term evaluation. Also, the OCD in me is saying that really I should have at least 10 boats and five trailers in my yard. Who am I to argue?
As tested on a single-axle keel roller and bilge skid trailer, the towing weight with safety gear and a full fuel tank is around 400kg.
ON THE PLANE...
* Brilliant stability for standing casts
* Very good ride for a small hull
* Strong knockabout construction
* Good value for money
DRAGGING THE CHAIN...
* Frequent wet bum at helm
* Hefty hull weight for its size
* Bow lift out of the hole with no passengers aboard
SPECIFICATIONS: SMARTWAVE 3500
Price as tested: $6990
Options fitted: None
Type: Open monohull
Weight (hull): 120kg
Max HP: 30
Rec HP: 15
Make/model: Mercury Super 15
Type: Premix two-stroke
Propeller: 8.8in alloy
18 Newnham St
Rangiora, New Zealand
Toronto, NSW, 2264
Tel (02) 4959 1444
Story: Andrew Norton Photos: Bazz
Originally published in TrailerBoat #284, July 2012.