by Shane Mensforth

There’s no doubt that a well designed runabout with plenty of usable room is among the most versatile boats available. That’s precisely how I would describe Haines Signature’s 525RF. It’s aimed at the fishing family, offering a decent-size cockpit, plenty of comfort when and where it’s needed, and terrific all-round performance – all in all an easily towed and easily stored package. Signature offers three RF (Runabout Fishing) models in its range, all of which are configured in exactly the same way.
Like most Signatures these days, the 525RF is built on what the company calls its Variable Deadrise Hull, which kicks off at 33 degrees at the forefoot and tapers back to 21 degrees at the transom. It’s a concept that seems to work well in each series.
The Signature 525RF is a compact unit that works nicely with moderate power. It’s built with typical Signature precision and attention to detail, and the boat I tested certainly looked the part in gleaming white with contrasting black striping. Pacific Marine had fitted it out with a Honda BF100 four-stroke, which would prove to be the ideal match.

WHAT YOU GET
The 525RF is a handy size – big enough to take outside in reasonable weather when the kings or tuna are running, yet nimble enough to sneak around the lakes and estuaries when targeting bream or trout. It’s very much a cross-over style of craft, which seem to be quite popular around the country these days.
Signature 525RF 7
Signature 525RF 8The 525RF carries maximum beam of 2.13m, the hull weighs around 750kg and it’s rated to carry a top load of 650kg. Recommended horsepower range is 70-115 (maximum engine weight 200kg) and the standard fuel capacity is 100 litres. Being a low profile unit, carport storage height is a very manageable 2.20m.
As seems to be the case with most popular runabouts these days, the Signature features a split dash and walk-through windscreen. This is handy for moving forward to pull the anchor if an electric winch isn’t fitted, and also for following a big, stubborn fish if you’re lucky enough to hook one. The helm console is neatly laid out and I found it extremely comfortable in the driver’s seat as we powered out into St Vincent’s Gulf during a lengthy test run.
There’s plenty of dry storage in the Signature 525RF, with lockers up forward, a deep storage bin in the port side of the dash, and a sizeable compartment beneath the cockpit floor. The cockpit is spacious enough to fish mum, dad and a couple of kids or maybe three adults in comfort. I like the transom set up, which uses a fold-down flap to enable engine tilting instead of an obtrusive outboard well. Maximising usable space is always a significant design criterion in compact trailer boats, and Signature has done this nicely.
A deep bait well is located in the starboard transom corner, while on the opposite side there’s a handy boarding gate. Fit an optional dive ladder directly beneath this gate and you have the most convenient way to climb into or out of the water.
Signature offers plenty of options when it comes to both hull and interior colour combinations. You can choose from 15 gelcoat base colours with contrasting decals and striping, six trim colours and 14 upholstery colour options. PreFixx upholstery protection is standard, making all surfaces resilient and immune to the effects of strong solvents and cleaners.
Signature 525RF 15
Signature 525RF 12POWER
As mentioned, the Signature 525RF is rated to carry outboards between 70-115hp, which seems pretty reasonable. With a hull as obviously efficient as this one, you don’t need a massive engine to get it up and planing quickly, and I was very pleased with the decision to fit a new Honda BF100 four-stroke. This was to be my first experience with this engine and, as has invariably been the case with all Honda experiences to date, it proved to be a beauty.
The BF100 weighs a respectable 166kg, which is a tad lighter than Yamaha, considerably lighter than Suzuki, and comfortably under the maximum recommended transom weight of 200kg.

ON THE WATER
After seemingly incessant late winter storms, it was nice to be able to head out onto St Vincent’s Gulf, west of Adelaide, and enjoy a rare window of blue skies and flat seas for our Signature test run. So nice was the weather, in fact, that we threw in a couple of rods and some crab nets for use after the test and photo session had been completed. It’s a tough gig for sure, but I guess someone has to do it.
As expected, the Honda kicked into life with the first turn of the key and was immediately idling so smoothly and quietly, it was hard to tell whether it was running or not. You’ve really got to love these new generation four-strokes.
Signature 525RF 16
Signature 525RF 17 In these conditions outside North Haven Marina I was able to travel quickly in any direction – with quickly being the operative word. Top speed with two on board was (by the Garmin GPS) a spritely 38 knots (70km/h), and I was able to throttle back to 28 knots (52km/h) and 3900rpm to enjoy a comfortable, economical ride. Hole-shot performance was quite impressive too, which I attribute to a combination of hull and engine efficiency. I could see no reason at all to go for a bigger motor than the Honda BF100, even with skiing or tubing on the agenda.
This is indeed a responsive boat to drive, and a lot of fun on a day as nice as this one. We headed out on a long run toward the Outer Harbor channel’s Fairway beacon, around 10km offshore. With the entire Gulf mirror calm, it was naturally impossible to make comment on how the Signature 525RF rides in the rough. However, I anticipate that it would handle in pretty much the same way as its larger brethren, the 575RF and 600RF, both of which I’ve driven very comfortably through lumpy water.
Stability at rest in the Signature 525RF is pretty good for a craft with a relatively sharp deadrise aft. It’s no lightweight, of course, which always assists with stability, despite the positive buoyancy effects of a foam-filled hull. We dropped crab nets over the side and moved the weight around consistently without any noticeable listing, which is always good news for serious offshore anglers.
Signature 525RF 1
Signature 525RF 2ON THE TRAILER
With a package towing weight of around 1250kg, the Signature 525RF sits easily within the capabilities of the average family sedan. The boat I tested was presented on a single axle Dunbier trailer, which appeared more than adequate for the job. I powered the boat off and back onto the trailer with ease (it’s always a snack with no cross wind to worry about), which anyone can do with a little practice.
With the tide well down, exposing a slippery boat ramp, it was handy to have a four-wheel drive tow vehicle for the task. However, a conventional vehicle would handle this package comfortably on a dry, slime-free surface.

OVERVIEW
As a cross-over package, the Signature 525RF/Honda BF100 combo is right up there with the best in its class. Versatility is its real strong suit, which is naturally significant in todays market. It’s a boat that will take you wide to fish the blue water when conditions are right, onto the river for a days family fishing, or out onto the lake for a skiing or tubing session if so desired.
Test boat supplied by Pacific Marine, Adelaide.

POSITIVES
Signature 525RF 4
Absolute versatility
Terrific build and finish quality
Good measure of cockpit space
Ability to run well with moderate power

NEGATIVES
100 litres of fuel may be a bit light for offshore work

NUMBERS THAT MATTER
Price: (as tested) $49,990
Construction: GRP
Length overall: 5.25m
Beam: 2.13m
Deadrise: Variable 21-33 degrees
Dry weight: 750kg
Towing weight: 1250kg
Recommended Power: 70-115hp
Engine fitted: 100hp Honda four-stroke
Maximum load: 650kg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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