Tested by Kevin Smith (January/February 2007)
Length – 5.4m
Beam – 2.2m
Draft – 30cm
Fuel capacity – 4 jerry cans
Hull weight – 250kg
Min hp – 1x75hp or 2x30hp
Max hp – 1x115hp or 2x60hp
Buoyancy – tubes with five compartments
RUBBER-DUCKS, semi-rigids, rubber-dinghy’s, RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) —whatever name you want to call them, although they may all look the same or similar, they are not! Each and every one has different characteristics in all areas, from the ride to layout and cosmetics, and they are all suited to different applications.
Once again, the Superduck team have produced another boat for review — this time the Superduck 540 semi-rigid. These boats are becoming more and more popular by the day, obviously due to the fact that they are easy to handle, extremely versatile and reasonably priced.
Wayne Smith and Greg McEwan from Superduck arrived at the Durban Ski-Boat Club with the 540 in tow aboard a sturdy, but lightweight, easy to handle, galvanised breakneck trailer. After a quick checking over, the pin was pulled on the trailer and the 540 slid off with ease — ready for launching and the test. Conditions for the test were perfect for this type and size of craft — a light south-wester with a moderate swell from the east caused by the beasterly easterly the day before.
The 540 is a lightweight rig with a shallow draft, making her simple to turn on the beach and push into the shorebreak. I had to respect my elders, so allowed Wayne to get on first, and even then she was still easy to handle once in the water. The beauty of a shallow draft and trim-and-tilt is that you’re able to get on board in shallower water, making it easier to get through generally difficult shore-break areas.
Fitted with two 60hp Evinrude E-Tecs, the 540 had no problem rocketing onto the plane. Throughout the test I don’t think I got past the half throttle mark from the excessive power of the 60s. With Wayne seated in front of the console and a few minor tweaks on the trims, I had the 540 riding perfectly in the calmer waters off Vetch’s Pier.
When testing a craft that is built for surf launching, I first like to establish the speed at which the boat gets onto the plane. In this case it was extremely fast due to the power of the 60hp Evinrudes. The next most important factor is checking the turning circle — that is, how fast you can get back to your starting point. If a boat can’t turn fast and in a tight circle, then she’s no good for surf launching. The 540 is sharp on the turn, both to port and starboard, and has no cavitation with the correct trim settings. Considering these characteristics, the 540 would be easy to launch through moderate surf.
To simulate the action of punching small waves and foamies, I used the wake from the photography boat, by approaching it at speed, tapping off, and then punching the wake. This enables one to check the lift on the bow and how she handles on the landing. When going through this exercise with the 540, the bow stayed proud, throwing the water and spray down, and was stable and soft when coming back down into the water. I’m confident that in small to medium surf, the 540 will handle well — as long as the skipper has half an idea about surf launching!
Although the conditions were flat, I noticed the spray off the hull was deflected straight back down into the water, keeping the ride dry at all times. Running with the swell the 540 maintains stability in and out of the trough without broaching. However, remember that wrong trim settings can make a boat broach or plough.
Running into and parallel to the swell and chop at a fair speed, the Superduck 540 again maintained good stability and comfort, and produced a relatively dry ride considering her size.
Again, to create a good ride, adjust the trims to suit the conditions at the time. An estimated speed of between 10-15 knots kept the ride comfortable.
One advantage of semi-rigids when stationary and cruising is the all-round stability created by the pontoons. With the pontoons being mounted to the gunnel, it creates a balancing effect and, in turn, prevents the boat from rolling much in the swell.
Even in the chop and swells we experienced, the 540 rolled very little when stationary and at a consistent troll speed. This characteristic is also something that helps when surf launching — for the experienced and inexperienced alike.
The first question that comes to mind when people think of fishing off an inflatable is, “What happens when you puncture the pontoons?” Well, on most inflatables, the pontoons consist of five separate compartments, so if you puncture one, the rest will still keep you afloat. Regardless of this, though, punctures can be a hassle, and there are ways and means of preventing them when fishing. Just ask your dealer for the add-on protectors.
The 540 has a reasonable amount of space for basic offshore fishing. The deck area is open and free of clutter and, if need be, the console area can be walked around when fighting a fish. The pontoons also serve as a reasonably high gunnel, which allows you to balance against them while fishing. Although there are no built-in fish hatches, the rear seat could serve as a medium-sized fish hatch, if necessary. Otherwise, you could fit your own customised fish-box to suit your style.
Tackle can either be stowed in the console, front box or rear seat. Rod holders could be mounted to the console vertically, or rods can be stowed in the holders built into the custom T-tops.
For the general fair-weather, weekend offshore angler or estuary- and dam fisherman, these boats are great. They are easy to handle, all-round, and sit well on the ocean in fairly rough conditions.
As tested, the Superduck 540 was fitted with two trim-and-tilt 60hp Evinrude E -Tec motors and a stainless-steel multi-purpose roll bar. All of the engine cables have been fitted neatly and run beneath the deck to minimise clutter in the stern area. The 540 has a rear adjustable seat which can be used for your choice of stowage.
The console is a rear- and front sit-down model, with customised stainless T-top, windscreen with guard, rev and trim gauges, smooth control boxes and a cable steering system. If the bank allows it, rather fit hydraulic steering controls as it makes the world of difference in all areas. The console seats are hinged and the stowage area beneath serves as the fuel hatch, or can be split for fuel and tackle. The bow section has a small hatch which can be used for anchors and also serves as a seat with padding on top.
Polished stainless-steel fittings, bright white hull and deck, colour-coded pontoons and seats, and shiny black Evinrudes, all fitted out neatly and in proportion, gives a good overall finish to the 540.
The 540 fits into the general all-purpose category of water craft suiting the whole family, whatever waters and watersport activities you prefer. Indeed, she’s a great all-rounder, and if you are just getting into deep sea fishing, these boats can be a good place to start at an affordable price.