by Shane Mensforth

Poly boats have been around for quite a while now, but for some reason haven’t created the sort of impact they deserve. I have owned a couple over the years, and have been generally impressed by what they have to offer. The New Zealand-built SmartWave range seems to be making some inroads here, but this market sector has been ‘owned’ by aluminium for many years and it’s a tough slog to change long-standing perceptions.
SmartWave makes just five hulls, ranging between 2.40m and 4.80m, in three deck configurations – open dinghy, centre console and cuddy cab. All are constructed from roto-moulded linear medium density polyethylene, which is one of the toughest, most durable plastics currently used in marine fabrication.
All models feature a dual skin design, with high density foam injected to provide maximum flotation. This means they are virtually unsinkable, even when totally swamped. A quick glance at the SmartWave website reveals some very impressive images of boats cut in half transversely and still floating with two people on board. The site also contains shots of this boat being dropped onto bitumen from a height of 10m before being cut up!

The SmartWave SW4200 is available as a centre console or tiller-steer dinghy with both offering various advantages to different user groups. The test boat, provided by Sports Marine in Adelaide, was a centre console, which is undoubtedly the most angler-friendly version. It’s presented in typical CC layout, with a neat mid-mounted control console, bench seat at the helm with storage locker, dual aft storage compartments and a short casting deck up front. The floor is flat throughout and I found it quite easy to move from bow to stern.
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SW4200 7There is seating for up to five people, with two on the helm bench, one up in the bow and a couple more aft. However, there’s no doubt the SW4200 would work best with two or three on board, particularly on a fishing expedition. Courtesy of high-density foam injection, it’s extremely buoyant, which enhances its capability to handle plenty of weight – certainly much more than a tinny of similar size.
I like the console design, which although basic, puts everything where the operator needs it to be and doesn’t intrude greatly on useable space. It’s a dual-tier console that will carry a mid-sized GPS/sonar unit on the upper level and smart gauges directly beneath on a dedicated panel. The test boat was fitted with a Garmin Echomap 55DV combo unit and a marine radio.
The steering wheel is positioned nicely for seated or standing operation, and there are sturdy aluminium grab handles on either side of the console for security on a bumpy day.
As already mentioned, there’s a good measure of dry storage beneath the operator’s bench seat and also in the dual lockers aft. Unfortunately, there is no extra storage up in the bow beneath the casting platform, which seems a little unusual. I really like the fact that all conduits for cables are concealed within the hull mouldings, keeping the boat clean, tidy and uncluttered.
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SW4200 6Cockpit carpet comes with the standard package, as does a heap of well-positioned grab rails and sturdy mooring cleats. The SmartWave accessories list for this model is far from extensive, but does include a few handy items like a boarding ladder, bimini top and even a ski pole. You don’t normally associate water skiing with small plastic boats, but apparently the ski pole option is quite popular.

The SW4200 is rated to a maximum of 50hp, but there’s no doubt you could drop back to a 40 horse outboard and still expect pleasing performance. The test boat was fitted with a new Honda BF50, which seemed to suit the hull nicely. This engine weighs around 97kg, which the 4200 handles comfortably because of its exceptional buoyancy.
Not only does the Honda run smoothly and quietly, it’s one of the most economical mid-sized engines on the market. You could expect to fish all day on the smell of that proverbial oily rag, which is certainly a welcome trend in today’s volatile fuel market.
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Stability is what really sets SmartWave boats apart from most of their close opposition. A combination of the high-density foam already mentioned and an extremely generous beam of 1.93m makes it one of the most stable boats in its class. On stepping aboard from the loading pontoon at North Haven Marina, I was truly amazed at exactly how stable this little boat is. Harking back once again to the images on Smartwave’s website, there’s a shot of three adults leaning over the starboard gunwale while the degree of list is being accurately measured at just 13 degrees. That’s quite phenomenal when you think about it.
It was warm, sunny and quite calm as we exited the marina and headed out onto Gulf St Vincent. However, with quite a few flybridge cruisers buzzing around outside, we were able to do some ‘wake chasing’ to test the SmartWave’s ride and general handling in sloppy water.
Unlike most similar-sized aluminium boats, the SW4200 doesn’t bang or crash excessively when driven hard into a decent wave. I assume that the polyethylene absorbs shock more efficiently than alloy, and it’s definitely much quieter while running at speed. We played around for quite some time in the larger wakes we could find, and on each crossing the SmartWave landed softly and predictably. I’m pretty confident the same would apply in a real chop.
At around 220kg the hull is no lightweight and enjoys maximum power as fitted. It gets up in a hurry when asked to, and there’s no doubt it could handle a single skier if so desired. We cruised effortlessly at around 22 knots (40km/h) with a fuel burn of just 0.7 litres per nautical mile. With throttle fully open we were doing just over 30 knots (55km/h). This is, of course, plenty in a small boat designed primarily for inshore/estuary/river work.
Due to the prominent outer chines, which extend all the way through from transom to forefoot, spray is deflected nicely. Despite driving pretty hard into and along several substantial boat wakes, we kept perfectly dry for the entire test run. This was indeed a pleasant surprise, but if you look at the hull design while the boat is on its trailer, it’s easy to see why it’s so efficient.
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The SmartWave comes on a Dunbier Sports 4.3 trailer with 13-inch wheels. There are no rollers – simply Teflon skids, which minimise maintenance and keep the rig as simple as possible. I’m not sure if the trailer was designed for drive-on retrieves, but I found no trouble at all in powering back on once our test run was over.
Naturally, a rig of this size and weight would be a snack to tow over all road surfaces, while a mid-sized SUV or four wheel drive would enhance versatility by opening up beach or bank launching.

As I’ve already mentioned, clawing its way into an aluminium-dominated small boat market will never be easy for SmartWave. However, given the advantages this boat offers in terms of toughness and stability, I expect more Aussies to embrace the poly concept as time goes by.
As a boat intended essentially for estuary fishing, and with a very competitive price tag, the SW4200 definitely deserves serious consideration. You’ll have trouble breaking it, operating costs are about as low as they get, and the rig will get you out and back safely and comfortably if you do get caught in some weather.

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Terrific static stability
Durability that’s hard to match
High buoyancy for security

No storage beneath the bow casting platform

Price (as tested, with inshore safety kit) $21,950.
Construction: Linear Medium Density Polyethylene
Length: 4.30m
Beam: 1.93m
Dry weight: 220kg
Maximum power: 50hp
Engine fitted: Honda BF50 four-stroke
Deadrise: 16.5 degrees
Hull thickness: 10mm
Load capacity: 5 adults