by Steve Lague

Northbank is a family-run South Australian boat building business that was established in 1996. The hulls have been designed by naval architects to handle the short, sharp choppy conditions that are often experienced off the SA coast.
They offer seven models, starting with the 500 Caddy Cab and building up to the 750 Hard Top. The 600 and 650 models have been designed specifically for bluewater conditions. The hulls have a 21 degree deadrise to help them slice through the chop previously mentioned. To help improve stability at rest they also have wide reverse chines and use a seven-bearer system, many other manufacturers use five, that they say not only increases the strength of the hull but adds weight in the right place, down low, to further improve stability.
The 650 HT is the newest boat in its range and BoatAdvice had the opportunity to take it for a test drive before it makes its WA debut at the Mandurah Boat Show starting on October 9.
NorthBank 650 HT 20
NorthBank 650 HT 16WHAT YOU GET
The 650HT is a true blue water boat that has been designed for the keen fisherman but can also be used a day boat and even for overnight or weekend stays.
The bow of the boat has bow spit that houses an plough anchor attached to a Sav anchor winch, something I think makes a big difference to boating enjoyment, especially if you have the family on board. The chain and rope feed into a covered anchor well. There is a split stainless steel bow rail there to ensure there is plenty to hang onto if you do need to go to the front of the boat. The only access to the bow is through a hatch in the cabin.
The major feature of this boat, as the name suggests, is the hard top that ensures all passengers remain completely dry, no matter how rough the conditions, or strong the wind gets.
The hard top has toughened glass windows front and side and to give them extra strength the front windows are in three separate panels. There are windscreen wipers on the passenger and driver windscreen. The side windows do slide open to provide some much-needed ventilation on those hot summer days. There is also a small hatch in the roof to help release the hot air that gets trapped in the helm area.
On the test boat there was six stainless steel rod holders fitted across the back of the hard top along with a couple of halogen spot lights. There is a large grab rail down either side.
NorthBank 650 HT 14
Northbank 650HT 30The helm is a very clean area with a simple, uncluttered layout and a large shelf between the dash and windscreen though you would need to be careful about what you put up there in rougher conditions. On the passenger side there is a lockable glovebox for storing valuables and two big storage shelves built into the sides. There is also a stainless steel grab rail and footrest. The skipper also gets a stainless steel footrest. The steering wheel is also stainless and has a spinner which makes turning quickly a breeze. The dashboard is a large space and on the test boat housed a Lowrance HDS 9 touchscreen multi display unit that comes standard (there is plenty of room to upgrade to a bigger screen), Suzuki digital engine management system, trim tab controls (they are also standard on this boat) plus the electrical switches.
The marine radio and audio system are both roof mounted, providing easy access and saving space. There is also a large storage shelf in-built into the side next to the helm chair. Speaking of the seating, the driver and passenger seat are both gas-lift pedestal seats that swivel 360degrees.
There is plenty of space between the helm and drivers seat, making for an easy passage into the cabin. This area also has an in-floor storage compartment. My only complaint here is there is no cabin door. Inside, the cabin is spacious with lots of storage, twin shelves on either side and under the bunks, and it is finished in top quality materials. The bunks, which come standard with an infill, are plenty long enough for me to lie down comfortably (I am 180cm).
The cockpit is a good size and again there are plenty of storage areas under the gunnels and in the transom. The gunnels are quite high, they came up to my thighs, making the cockpit a very safe area for younger children and providing good support when you fishing. There is also a recessed stainless steel rail in the top of the gunnels which provides a bit of added security. The cockpit and cabin floors are covered with a premium grey carpet that not only lifts the appearance of the boat but is soft under foot.
There is a seat, suitable for two or three, across the transom, with a transom door next to it. The door is pushed nearer the centre of the boat – made necessary by the design of the engine well – which means you step into the engine well and then across to a swim platform with a ladder. This is a bit of an awkward process, despite the in-built “stepping platforms” with a non-slip cover.
While there was no bait board on the test boat it does come standard in the package. I was told they fit it after the boat is sold so it can be placed where the new owner wants it.
NorthBank 650 HT 12
NorthBank 650 HT 2POWER
The 650HT is designed to handle a maximum of 250hp and then test boat was fitted with a Suzuki 250hp four-stroke engine. With this set-up the boat cruises comfortably anywhere between 20 and 25 knots (37-47km/h). At 20 knots the motor is spinning at 3150rpm and using 21.4-litre of fuel per hour. Revs lift to 3400 and fuel consumption to 25.0L/hour when you add the extra 5.0knots. Trolling at 8 knots (15km/h) it is turning at 2100rpm and using 11.6L/hour. The top speed we got on the test day was 44.4 knots (82km/h) at 6000rpm and 79.5L/hour.

ON THE WATER
When we tested the 650HT it was a perfect spring day, the sun was shining in a clear blue sky and the easterly wind had dropped to nothing leaving the ocean like a shimmering sheet of water. It was a perfect boating day and a terrible day to test the blue water credentials of any boat. What it did do was let us fully test the performance credentials of the combination, hence the top speed figure of nearly 45knots.
We did do a series of hard turns in the calm conditions and the hull sat beautifully, no matter how fast or hard we turned, with no sign of cavitation.
As I said earlier the boat comes standard with trim tabs and while we did not need to play with them at all in these conditions they are very useful for getting the boat to sit flat or for extra trim in rougher conditions.
The other thing I learned was that while the sectional windscreen does provide extra strength to the hard top it also makes for a very disrupted view for the skipper, especially when sitting down to drive. I felt that when standing up I could sway a little to take away the many blindspots the hardtop creates, especially slightly to the sides. That said, the seats are placed, and have enough adjustment, so you can drive sitting or standing equally comfortably and with easy reach to the controls.
NorthBank 650 HT 1
NorthBank 650 HT 5ON THE TRAILER
The 650HT has a trailerable weight, when fully loaded of about 2700kg, so it needs to be on a trailer with electronic brakes. This means you need to have a brake controller fitted to your car to operate the brakes. It also means that you are you are going to need a vehicle with a 3000kg tow rate, which means you will be looking at a big four-wheel-drive or dual cab ute.
The standard trailer is a dual-axle Dunbier Supa Rolla series with electric brakes with a GTM of 2999kg. These trailers are set up so you can drive or winch the boat on with equal ease, though if you prefer to winch it I would be burying the trailer in the water a bit so you are not trying to pull it up hill too much. The trailer has a self-centering system that means once you get the nose of the boat up onto the trailer the rollers will push the back end around ensuring it sits on the trailer nice and square.

OVERVIEW
While we did not get to test how this boat performs in rough conditions with its steep deadrise and wide reverse chines there is no reason to believe it would not handle those conditions well. And even if it did cop some water over the top the hardtop would ensure everyone remained dry. The finish on this boat is good without being class-leading and I like the small touches like the engraved cleats on the front and back. The  cockpit is a good size for fishing or just entertaining and the cabin is big enough for two adults to get a comfortable nights sleep.
The test boat was provided by Midway Marine, Rockingham, WA.

POSITIVES
NorthBank 650 HT 13
Dry ride
Strong performance

NEGATIVES
No cabin door
Exit/entry through transom door a little awkward

NUMBERS THAT MATTER
Price: $110,000 (as tested)
Length Overall: 6.5m
Beam: 2.44m
Maximum HP: 250
Motor Fitted: Suzuki 250hp four-stroke
Deadrise: 21deg
Maximum capacity: 8
Trailerable weight: 2700kg (approx.)