Boating New Zealand Magazine
Subtle changes have made a proven all-round family boat even better.
Dedicated watersport enthusiasts will appreciate that tense moment when you slip off the side of a boat into chilly spring waters. An icy jolt invades your wetsuit as you bob about waiting for the driver to position the boat for take-off and the crew draws great pleasure in your near-hypothermic state.
At this point you weigh up the pros and cons of bladder control and wonder whether you would have been better off using your boat for other warmer, all-round pursuits like fishing or cruising. But once you’re up and running, early spring couldn’t be a better time to play in a boat’s wake when all the other watersport fundamentals are in order: relatively flat water and few other vessels in sight.
This was certainly the case when Boating went wakeboarding in early September. A boost in water temperature was about the only improvement needed.
Tristram Marine was in a similar situation when it came to their new award-winning 581 Prima M2. The Hamilton trailerboat manufacturer lost the moulds for the original 581 Prima when fire ripped through their laminating factory, but when it came to replacing the six-metre boat, only minor
modifications were required.
“It’s a proven performer and we’ve had extremely good feedback so we didn’t feel the need to make major changes,” says Tristram Marine’s General Manager, Kingsley Fink. “The fundamentals were all there.”
As a result, the M2 features the same soft-riding hull with its full-length moulded keel capped by a brass keel strip, four planing strakes and moderate chines as every one of the more than 200 581s launched since 1999.
A look at the foredeck though and one difference is apparent. A new anchor locker replaces the original concave version, enhancing the M2’s stealthy looks.
The new arrangement also means there’s more space in the anchor-well so the pick, warp, chain and a windlass can live happily under one roof, making for a much simpler, tidier foredeck arrangement.
Inside, the boat has a new dash layout with room for a 12-inch flush-mounted GPS/chartplotter and curved marine vinyl upholstered eyebrow over the engine gauges, giving a touch more style to the interior.
From the passenger’s point of view the port side king and queen seats have been made larger and more comfortable, with the upsize also increasing under-seat stowage.
A new seat behind the helm doubles the underseat storage available on that side.
Tristram Marine’s construction methods are tried and true and have been continued in the M2, with a wet laminate GRP hull structure and timber girders.
Air-filled buoyancy chambers run down each side of the boat. These used to feature under the cabin as well but the M2 instead uses foam-filled chambers forward for increased buoyancy.
The 145-litre underfloor fuel tank has been moved to the front of the cockpit, helping to balance the boat, which will now predominantly be sold with a heavier four-stroke outboard on the back. That change also means there’s more underfloor stowage in the cockpit – enough for three dive tanks.
A four-stroke 150hp Yamaha spinning a 19-inch stainless steel three-bladed prop powered the test boat. With four adults aboard and a full tank of gas, getting out of the hole was no drama and the M2 planed
happily at around 13 knots.
Tristram boats are known for their predictable ride and this one is no exception. The full-length keel keeps the boat glued to the water in the tightest of corners. With the Yamaha suitably trimmed, cavitation wasn’t an issue and the motor gave us a maximum speed of 44.3 knots (82kmh) at 5900rpm.
From the helm, the throttle and wheel fall nicely to hand, whether you’re sitting or standing. In the seated position, visibility through the curved windscreen is unobstructed, while wind, hull and engine noise in the cockpit is minimal.
The keel will no doubt come into play in a sea, helping the boat to track straight. Her fine bow entry promises to deal with head seas, and moderately wide chines should mean little slapping or banging on re-entry should the 581 leave the water when it’s rough.
Given this is a boat for all-round family fun, it was only appropriate that someone braved hypothermia and tested her towing ability. Our wakeboarder, his lips turning blue, wasn’t that enthusiastic at this point
but the M2 pulled him out of the water without a hitch.
At 18 knots (34kmh), the 581 produced a nice-sized wake with enough crest to launch someone skyward if they wished. The wake’s width wasn’t too wide, making in-air transitions from one side to the other reasonably achievable.
By the same token, the wake’s size isn’t anything that would trouble a water-skier looking to carve through it.
When it comes to plucking waterskis and wakeboards out of the water, the 581 M2 is stable on her chines and won’t lean over too far. Anyone clambering out of the water can do so via the boarding ladder, swimstep and walk-through transom.
Gunwales aren’t so high to make retrieving things from the water difficult, but high enough to comfortably rest your thighs against while fishing. Coamings on the M2 are capped with recessed teak.
Storing fishing rods and water toys is simple. Built-in cockpit side pockets have always had space for fishing rods, but they now extend further forward on the starboard side to accommodate a pair of waterskis. Anything else can be stashed under the seats in the spacious cockpit or placed inside the cabin.
A slightly-raised foredeck creates a bit more headroom in the carpet-lined cabin. Accessing the foredeck is easy through a large newly designed cabin hatch, a departure from the curved design on the old 581. Cleats on the bow make attaching a bow line hassle-free.
When it comes to pulling the boat out of the water, the standard single axle, non-braked trailer does the job, but, upgrading to a double-axle braked trailer will make towing a boat of this size a lot easier.
Although the M2 is little different to her predecessor, Tristram Marine market that as a good thing. The proof is the soft riding, predictable hull and admirable build quality, and if that’s a recipe that’s working, why change it?
The changes made are subtle but give the all-round family boat a freshly updated look. If you’re after something to please a fishing-orientated dad, cruising-minded mum and watersport-loving kids, then this is going to tick all the boxes.