Smuggler Strata 820 Hardtop

Barry 2018-07-12

While the RIB market is saturated with centre consoles, the same cannot be said for cabin boats, or to be more precise hardtop cabin RIBs. There a scant few and from what I have seen, it's the Kiwis that do it best.

One such company is Smuggler Marine that has built a considerable reputation with their Strata range of RIBs. From as small as 4.5m to over 11m, Auckland based Smuggler Marine has always been at the forefront of innovation and their Strata range is a perfect example. Owners of Smuggler Marine, David and Pauline Pringle are both perfectionists and every boat that comes out of their factory, no matter what the size has their stamp of approval. Every detail has been well considered, with layouts meticulously planned combined with quality materials and a striking appearance.

While all that sums up the Strata 820 Hardtop, I have to add how immensely versatile it is, with the ability to be a boat for all reasons. Okay, so it is used a lot, but in my opinion, the Strata 820 Hardtop is a true all-rounder. It's a boat you can fish, dive, tow water toys, overnight and day cruise and all that in an efficient layout. But while you could say that about a lot of boats, the one thing that makes the Strata 820 a pitch above the rest is the hull.

Based on the ultra-deep 27 deg vee Smuggler hull, there is no better blue water performer in this size range. While the first Smuggler hull dates back to the mid-1970s, it has undergone some tweaks since then to make it even better than the original. Plus by wrapping tubes around it, it has gone from being a great hull to an awesome hull.

Any boat with a very deep vee and a 2.5m beam on the chine is likely to be a little tender at rest and even when underway, are susceptible to weight movement. Not so with the Strata 820 because of the Hypalon tubes that are glued above the hard chine. When the boat's at rest the last 1m or so of the tube sits on the water and now with a 2.9m beam with the tubes inflated, so comes extra stability. Moving 3-4 people from side to side makes very little difference to the heel of the boat.

Then, when underway the rear of each pontoon tiptoes across the surface and again adds extra stability, without adding any drag. Another advantage is because the tubes extend so far past the chine they form a natural barrier for water running up off the hull and bow areas. The result is an amazingly dry boat.

While there is no question about the boat's rough water capability, test day was mirror smooth and ideal for shooting our video. I have previously tested this hull in a centre console version with the same engines and also other similar models based on the same hull with single engine packages. Never found a bad one amongst them.

The twin rig set up is in my opinion, however, the best, but then I like a bit of speed and the sound of those twin 150hp Yamaha V6s add a new dimension to the 820 Strata. You feel you are in a big tough, no-nonsense boat that will go anywhere in any conditions and you will do it in relative comfort. Top speed is an impressive 60 mph (52 knots) in the calm water.

When it comes to seating, you have plenty of options. We had the most popular choice, back to back King/Queen to port and a single swivelling bucket seat for the skipper. The helm seat is mounted on a moulded box base that also houses the fridge. There is storage under the King/Queen, as well as under the cockpit sole.

Downstairs it's as I would have expected with twin berths plus an infill. Upper shelves and under the side squabs take care of a lot of the storage issues, with a plumbed in head under the forward squab. Solid cabin doors or a privacy curtain are optional.


What can I say? I loved it! There are not many boats that really spark my interest, but this is one of them. As a RIB it does it all and it does it well.

For a full review check out the July-Aug 2018 issue of Pacific PowerBoat, on sale now.                       

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