There’s more to a Haines Hunter boat than meets the eye. Boating NZ took a comprehensive tour of the Haines Hunter plant to see how the boats are made.
A few years ago, long-time Haines Hunter tagline “The secret is in the ride” was changed to “The ride just gets better”, which perfectly reflects the direction the company is taking with its iconic Haines Hunter range of Kiwi-designed-and-built fibreglass trailer boats.
Haines Hunter boats are hand-built at the company’s Ellerslie, Auckland plant. This facility rose like a phoenix on an adjacent site after a fire destroyed the old factory in 2010.
Haines Hunter had to start again from scratch, which was tough, they recall, but also the perfect opportunity to introduce modern technology, develop new models, and improve the company’s offerings.
Haines Hunter has invested heavily in improving its product range so that today’s models benefit from a policy of continuous innovation and a strong commitment to quality first, reflected at every stage of the manufacturing journey.
Like many boatbuilders, Haines Hunter reckons the sea doesn’t change, so it sticks with its well-proven hull designs. But that doesn’t mean nothing about the boats has changed or that nothing is new. On the contrary, the Haines Hunter range has undergone continuous development and improvement, from new construction methods and materials, to updated styling, upholstery, and components. Its design team uses computer aided design tools (CAD) alongside more traditional design techniques, including lofting and full-size mock-ups; some components are CNC cut, while other aspects of a boat’s build require skilled hand-crafting. All Haines Hunter boats are moulded in hand-laid E-glass using high-quality gelcoats, chop-strand and woven rovings, with top-quality, low emissions (LSE) resins.
Haines Hunter strives for excellence at every phase of manufacturing, from using the best gelcoats and resins, to meticulously hand-rolling laminates to squeeze out excess resin. Consistency from hull to hull is the aim.
Depending on the model, foam cores are used in the decks and hardtops. On some models, and for some components, pre-cut kits from Gurit are resin-infused using vacuum bags. Currently, most vacuum bagging uses plastic bags, but the factory is experimenting with new re-useable silicon bags, along with special fabrics interwoven with flow mediums for even better resin infusion.
“Closed moulding is the future,” says Kendall, and while it’s presently only used on some models, he says the technique will gradually be implemented across the whole Haines Hunter range. So too with other innovations Haines has introduced, like its glass-foam-glass composite floors. More than a simple moulded liner dropped into the hull, these floors are tied into the hull’s stringer system and deck. Stronger and lighter than traditional plywood floors or fibreglass cockpit liners, the composite floors also add hull rigidity and space. In addition, high-density structural foam is used instead of wood for bulkheads and frames – the 635 model uses Thermalite for its stringers and boasts a high-tech vacuum-infused carbon composite hardtop.
The upshot, says Haines, is that Haines Hunter boats are stronger and lighter, with thinner but stronger hull laminates that are consistent for each boat and across the whole range. They reckon their hulls are among the strongest on the market.
One man, one boat
To ensure a consistent focus on high quality, after the pre-assembly and bonding phases, every boat becomes the responsibility of a single team member who stays with that boat throughout the assembly process, explains Haines Hunter.
By having one person ‘own’ each boat, the company engenders a sense of pride in workmanship and encourages individual accountability. “But it’s still a team effort, with staff working together for a common goal – to produce the best boats we can,” our guide said. The company’s philosophy is to control as much of the manufacturing process as possible to ensure they can deliver boats from the factory that are top quality, fully-equipped and ready to go.
To that end, Haines Hunter undertakes most aspects of building a boat in-house. The upholstery team has its own floor above the factory and there’s a dedicated woodworking shop where a skilled carpenter crafts all the wooden components and trim for each boat, such as the teak doors in an SP725’s hardtop, which take a considerable amount of careful work.
Jobs for Kiwis
The stainless-steel fabrication – railings, canopies, rocket launchers, rod holders etc. – is outsourced to a New Zealand company with a decades-long association with Haines Hunter. Where possible, other components such as fairleads and bow rollers are also manufactured in New Zealand rather than sourced offshore. The New Zealand-made marine freezers fitted to Haines Hunter’s premium models can chill down to -20°C, performance that’s hardly matched in the sector.
“We’re all about jobs for New Zealanders,” says Haines Hunter, which is a great supporter of the Marine Industry Association’s apprentice training scheme through its MAST Academy (Marine and Specialised Technologies) – “The best training programme in New Zealand!”
Haines Hunter has employed a stream of boatbuilding apprentices, many of them straight from school, and with the company’s policy of team members learning every aspect of the boat manufacturing process, staff retention is excellent.
Ready to go
Haines Hunter maintains it’s the attention-to-detail that sets its boats apart and it credits its team for taking that philosophy onboard. “Producing a Haines Hunter requires teamwork, and we’re extremely proud of our team,” they told Boating NZ. The company employs around 30 full-time staff – in the factory, its retail arm Haines Hunter HQ, and in administration.
Before leaving the plant, every Haines Hunter boat goes through a rigorous quality control inspection so that every one ships out with a high level of kit at a realistic price – ready to go boating.
Haines Hunter boats – proudly made in New Zealand.