Trade-a-Boat Review – 4 August 2016
Since 1986, Mac Boats have been making almost indestructible and unsinkable polyethylene vessels. The completely new 470 Fisherman plugs a gap in the middle of their range.
Mac Boats have gained a strong following, and for good reason. Their proprietary roto-moulded polyethylene manufacturing process makes their boats strong, light, unsinkable and virtually indestructible. Added to this is the warmth of the plastic compared to an aluminium boat and the inherent sound and shock absorbing qualities of the material. This is further enhanced by a patented process that enables them to fill all the voids with foam, even in a one-piece moulding.
However, until now there has been a noticeable gap in their line-up. The well-established 420 hull, under several variants, is ideal for sheltered waters. The next size up was the 570, which, although a fantastic boat in itself, does represent a significant step up in terms of cost, manageability, towability and power requirements. The newly designed 470 Fisherman is based on their established pontoon style and fills that gap.
Aimed squarely at the fishing market, this new design has a cuddy cabin that contains a modest dry storage area for gear, plus provides some shelter from wind and spray. Although the review boat did not have a canopy fitted, this would most likely be a standard accessory for most people. Adding clip-on clears helps shield occupants from the elements.
The single-piece moulding of the 470 produces a smooth, seamless hull and cuddy cabin, with only the small dash, seats, deck and outboard mountings needing to be added. This ensures complete structural integrity of the hull and requires minimal finishing off. This allows Mac boats to be priced at a level that would be very hard for a hand-built boat to achieve.
The plastic can also be coloured to suit the purchaser’s preference, although the white of the review boat looked fantastic. The colour is impregnated right through the hull and does not stain or fade. The thick plastic moulding also makes it easy to install accessories, with screws holding well into the material and no issues of corrosion or leaking.
The Helm and Cockpit
The cuddy and windshield creates a wind break for the helm position as well as providing storage. Seating is in two pod-mounted vinyl-upholstered seats, with handy spaces inside each pod for throwing the paraphernalia that always clutters up a boat. The helm position is comfortable both for sitting and standing, with a handy grab rail running right around the edge of the windscreen.
The boat has an external beam of 2.0m and despite the pontoon hulls there is a useful internal beam of 1.47m. The deck is covered with non-slip Nautilex and a hatch cover opens to reveal a massive wet-storage area underneath that can hold four dive cylinders. Alternatively, an underfloor fuel tank can be fitted, although the review boat had tote tanks snugged under each of the two rear seats. A bilge pump hidden below decks takes care of water that gets into the cockpit.
As per the requirements of the new owner the review boat had no electronics fitted and only had analogue gauges for the Honda BFP60 outboard. Dashboard space is limited and a chartplotter would likely need to be mounted on a pedestal on top of the dash.
However, this new-generation Honda motor is fully NMEA-2000 complaint and all the usual functions of engine monitoring, chartplotter and fishfinder could be integrated into one multi-function display. A modest wide-format unit like the Lowrance Elite 7 HDI would fit neatly into the dash and provide the required funtionality.
An automatic anchor winch was installed, since access to the bow around the outside is not possible. Controls for this on the dash. A cleat is installed above the winch for manual tying off of ropes, and this is easily reached over the windshield.
The review day was, to put it mildly, not great weather with 20 knots of wind and nasty chop. Nevertheless, the planing strakes moulded into the hull gave a good ride at speed and the boat tracked straight despite the swell. In common with all Mac boats, the hull is quiet and soft-riding, thanks to the 22-degree deadrise and the ability of the plastic hull to absorb the pounding of the water underneath. Without an extra canopy and clears we did get the occasional spray coming over the sides when we were beam on to the wind, and also got rained on, but in normal to moderate conditions the occupants would remain dry.
The Power Thrust Honda BFP60 provides good acceleration and we easily onto the plane and up to just over 20 knots where conditions allowed it. The weather did not allow us to accurately calculate top speed but this looks to be in the mid to upper 20s. For a boat this size, just under 20 knots is a good cruising rate and at this speed the engine is in its economic zone of around 4500-5000RPM.
Honda revamped their mid-range outboards a few years ago, introducing the three-cylinder 998cc BF60. Easily distinguished by the new-look ‘wedge’ cowling, this completely new design four-stroke SOHC 12-valve engine claimed to be the lightest in its class, providing the best performance and quietest operation of any 60hp four-stroke motor.
The BFP60 (The ‘P’ stands for ‘Power Thrust’) has the same powerhead but with a higher gear ratio, enabling it to swing a bigger propeller to boost low-speed thrust. This provides greater acceleration as well as better control when manoeuvring at lower speeds. This motor has also found favour for towing skiers or water toys, since the extra low-speed thrust enables these to be pulled up onto the plane quickly.
At 116kg, the Honda weighs less than the Mercury “Command Thrust” 60hp (previously called the Bigfoot), although it has just been pipped in the weight category by the newly-launched Suzuki DF60AV “High Energy Rotation” model which comes in at 114kg. These three motors are the only contenders in the high-thrust category, although the Honda has the largest engine displacement of the three and the highest alternator output at 22A.
Holeshot on this motor is very good, as is to be expected of the higher gear ratio and bigger prop. This is of course at the expense of some off the top end but these motors are usually installed on modest boats where flat-out speed is not the main consideration. All new Hondas now incorporate their BLAST (Boosted Low Speed Torque) technology, which prevents that sluggish response off the line which afflicts some brands.
The motor is very quiet and despite the three-cylinder configuration it was vibration-free. When starting up it is necessary to look at the gauges to check it is running, even at full throttle the motor makes very little noise. Another Honda technology, the Lean Burn Control, also optimises fuel consumption in the cruising range.
Although the Mac 470 Fisherman only had a simple analogue rev counter, this is one of the first motors in its class to feature full NMEA-2000 compliance. This allows integration with multi-function displays, which means that all aspects of the engine and boat’s performance can be pulled together on one screen.
Another key feature in this motor is their easy-dock steering which allows 30 degrees of movement to either port or starboard, claimed to be the most of any mid-sized outboard. This provides extreme manoeuvrability around docks or when bringing it in to the trailer. In our tests we found the steering to be light, very responsive and the throttle controls similarly light and positive to operate.
But it is not all about performance. When designing the new engine, the Honda engineers also thought about looks and maintenance. The new sleek Wedge style is smart, with the black trim offsetting the standard Honda silver finish. Under the cowling there is easy access to an automotive-type oil filter and color-coded dipstick and oil filler caps.
Naturally the Honda complies with the highest level of environmental rating, being CARB 2006 and EPA2008 ultra low emissions compliant and having and OEDA 3 Star ultra-low emissions rating. To round it off nicely, it comes with a five-year factory warranty that is transferable should you sell the motor.
- The plastic is warm to the touch
- The foam-filled hull absorbs shocks and sound
The narrow dash does not support flush-mounting of a chartplotter if other instruments are fitted.