Unique 540 Semi-rigid

Tested by Kevin Smith (September/October 2006)

AFTER viewing Superduck’s Unique 575 Cat on the beach, it was time to have a look at the Unique 540. This is the monohull version of the 575, and is just slightly shorter. If you’ve read the review on the 575 (see page 79), you’ll know that I started off wondering what the point was of having solid, fibreglass pontoons on a semi-rigid (aka rubber duck).

AJ Smith of Superduck assured me that this monohull design was as good as the 575 in its own way. Yet again, I was in for quite a surprise.

Testing the Unique 540 alongside the Unique 575 was great in that it enabled us to compare how the different boats performed under the same conditions, which went from nice, flat conditions due to the south-wester blowing offshore at the ski-boat base, to fairly rough conditions offshore.

As with the 575, my eyes seemed to play tricks when it came to judging the size of the craft — it looks smaller than it really is. Like her bigger sister, the 540 is really a unique boat and boasts fine finishes.

The Unique 540 comes standard with a sturdy, galvanised, breakneck trailer for easy loading. The boat comes off the trailer with ease and the breakneck system makes pulling away with the 4×4 effortless.

Being a monohull, turning and pushing the 540 into the surf is also a fairly easy task. Two crew are capable of doing it, and three or more people would make it effortless. The 540 is powered by two 50hp Evinrude E-Tec trim-and-tilt motors, which also makes a beach launch a lot easier as the crew can get into the boat once the hull starts to float, using the motors on a higher trim to edge the craft out through the shore break and trimming them down once in deeper water.

The trimming is made easier with the trim buttons on the port side of the handle, enabling you to trim both motors at the same time with your right thumb.

With the power of the 50hp Evinrudes, the 540 jumps quickly onto the plane at only half-throttle. The unique shape of the hull is also part of the reason it planes so quickly. A deep-vee on the bow curves back outwards towards the gunnel, creating an air pocket and fast lift on the hull.

With so much lift you would expect the excess air to create cavitation. However, from stationary in a full lock position — either to port or starboard — and accelerating fast, spinning the 540 in circles, there was not a hint of cavitation. Even when on the plane, forcing the 540 into tight turns in the rougher conditions, there was still no cavitation.

In fact, just like the 575, you will be able to get away with a much slower, more relaxed launch through the surf, confident that you don’t have to worry about cavitation and that you have a very responsive boat under you.

In the relatively calm conditions off the Durban Ski-Boat Club base, the 540 gave a stable, soft, dry and comfortable ride. As we ventured further offshore into the rougher conditions, I made a point of warning Greg from Superduck — my companion and crash-test dummy for the tests — that he was probably going to be drenched by the time we had finished testing the 540 offshore. However, with some small adjustments on the trims every now and then, I was able to maintain the comfortable ride and keep Greg dry.

As an aside, if you have trims on your motors, get used to changing these settings to suit the conditions. Incorrect trim settings can turn what is actually a good boat into a bad one. Play around a bit, even by setting the trims on each motor differently.

Driving directly into the wind and swell, the 540 still maintained a speed of 10 to 12 knots and kept her comfortable ride too. In the following sea she showed no sign of broaching, and with the 50hp Evinrude E-Tecs behind her, she powered out of the troughs with great ease. These two-stroke motors provided ample power, were extremely economical, and had little or no smoke or fume emissions.

The hydraulic steering system also makes controlling the 540 much easier and more comfortable.

Returning to the beach later, the 540 slid onto the sand with ease and was well balanced once stationary on the sand.

Fishability on the Unique 540 is good and comfortable all round. As the console is well centred on the boat, it makes it easier to fight a fish because the angler is able to walk all the way around the deck. When moving from one side of the deck to the other, the Unique 540 still retains her stability, which is a great plus when fighting a fish.

Like the Unique 575, all the hatch space is hidden in the fibreglass pontoons, creating an open, uncluttered deck. The pontoons hold seven moulded, multi-purpose hatches, providing stowage for tackle, spearguns, fish or whatever you like, and also create extra buoyancy. The stern sections of the pontoons have an easy step-up section for quick access when climbing into the boat. They also have a non-slip coating on all the relevant areas.

Another advantage of these pontoons is that you’ll never have a puncture — unless you manage to smash the fibreglass, that is. Even if you did manage to put a hole in the pontoons, they would not lose their shape like the standard inflated type would.

All cables have been fitted neatly and with precision, being tucked away under the deck, which also creates extra space and a much neater look.

The console has a new, modern, sleek look, is fitted with all the bells and whistles, has built-in padded seating for the skipper behind the wheel, and seating for the crew in front. It also hold four to six jerry cans of fuel. The bow section contains extra small hatches that also serve as seats, as well as an anchor hatch and the stainless-steel bow rail. In front of the transom there’s a dual-purpose, adjustable seat that can be used for storing safety gear or any other equipment.

In my view, the Unique 540 is a fantastic all-rounder family boat that would suit the fair weather deep sea angler and would be a great boat for skiing, fishing and having fun at the dam. She’s an easy, lightweight boat to tow, is ideal for Moçambique trips, and has a fine finish which gives her a flashy and “unique” look, just like the 575.

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