An ideal boat for four divers out on a one-day dive excursion and an absolutely superb boat for two divers on an extended long-weekend trip
Dive New Zealand Magazine
Arriving at Orams Marine Village Boat Park in Auckland’s Westhaven Marina, I met up with Kingsley Fink, one of the sons of Lance and Bronwyn Fink, the owners of Hamilton-based Tristram Marine. We had arranged to go out on Tristram’s top-of-the-line fibreglass 881 Offshore.
The 881 was in the water alongside a finger pier, ready to load up with dive gear for our dive out in the Hauraki Gulf. Gear storage was a breeze with more than ample room for dive bags and dive tanks, conveniently secured in an ingenious and removable side-rack arrangement developed by Tristram.
Although weather-wise it wasn’t shaping up to be the best day for diving, with a strong NE wind and threatening rain forecast, the sea conditions were certainly going to allow me to see how this Tristram Offshore 881 handled a seaway. Cruising out of Auckland harbour with a fair chop on the water soon made me realise that dive site options were going to be limited. However, we felt that the SW side of the Noises, which I hadn’t dived in years, might be a possibility – and I was also curious to see if the scallop beds I remembered were still prolific.
As we motored down the harbour, Kingsley and I had the opportunity to chat about the 881, his role in the company and about Tristram Marine in general. I soon discovered that Kingsley is a keen scuba diver and we instantly formed a bond, which opened the door for a candid discussion about what makes a great dive boat.
As we rounded North Head and set a course for the Noises, it soon became apparent that a dive out there was unlikely and with a freshening wind against tide we hit very confused and rough sea conditions as we opened up the 881 heading into Rangitoto Channel.
Maybe the diving wasn’t going to be great, but I realised that this was going to be an ideal opportunity to see how the Tristram Offshore 881 would perform in a rough sea.
Kingsley was more than willing to open up the latest Mercruiser Volkswagen 3.0 V6 diesel inboard; which quietly revved up as he hit the throttle.
A confused sea with waves running around half to one metre at times is a great sea to find out how any boat performs. The 881 didn’t disappoint and I was immediately aware that Kingsley was fully confident in the boat’s design, solid construction and ability to handle what we were about to throw at her.
Whichever way we pointed her – head on to the waves, beam on, quartering off the port bow or running with the waves off the stern quarter – the long keel hull handled the sea beautifully. This was turning into a fun adventure!
The Fink family have been involved in boat building for generations and over the years they have built up a formidable reputation for manufacturing high quality, innovatively designed fibreglass boats from the 581 Prima M2 up to the 881 Offshore we were on.
Wherever you look while on board, quality of finish and attention to detail is in evidence. When I look at a boat, I am probably much pickier than the average punter, but try as I might to find fault with this craft, it was hard to find anything of note to complain about.
Although the weather gods had decreed this was not going to be an ideal dive day, we did find a nice sheltered cove on the lee side of Rakino Island – proving that in just about any weather conditions, dive adventure can be found in the Hauraki Gulf! Locating what looked to be a good spot with the help of the 12″ Garmin GPS/depth sounder, I began to suit up.
I couldn’t help being impressed with the size of the cockpit, which is ample for up to four divers who could, in a pinch, all suit up at the same time. However, a two-plus-two suiting up schedule would be more logical and practical.
Getting ready for a dive on the 881 was more like being on a small launch rather than a large trailer boat! The inboard engine cover provided a great area for sitting while gearing up prior to exiting the boat.
Kingsley explained that they’d set up the boat for optional dive entry methods: (1) A back roll off either side or (2) A stride entry off the stern swim platform. I tried both water entries, and although both worked fine and the guys at Tristram have ingeniously thought about the layout to make a side backroll entry relatively easy, by means of a conveniently-located foot step and grab handle I found a stride entry off the stern
The large swim platform, extending across the entire stern, is easily accessed from the cockpit and provides an ideal entry platform, facilitated by the very clever and ruggedly constructed waist-high inverted U-shaped stainless steel rail at the extreme stern of the swim platform. This rail also doubles as the support for the removable and very ample bait board/rod holder assembly. This can be easily removed or repositioned whether diving or fishing. This rail provided a secure support when standing on the swim platform, either fully kitted up, while getting ready for a dive or removing your gear after the dive.
Tristram Marine continually customise different packages to suit all applications and requests. This ‘can do’, customer-focused attitude is definitely a hallmark of the Tristram experience.
As we headed back to Auckland with a moderate following sea, Kingsley handed me the helm so that I could get a first-hand feel how the 881 performed. In a word – superbly!
With the full-length keel, well-researched hull design, along with the relatively heavy displacement of this craft, the ride is comfortable and gives you a strong sense of security.
Idling into Westhaven Marina, I pondered my ‘gut feeling’ impressions of this Tristram 881 Offshore. In a nutshell: a luxurious boat more akin to a small launch than a trailer boat.
An ideal boat for four divers out on a one-day dive excursion and an absolutely superb boat for two divers on an extended long-weekend trip, with spacious V-berth bed, cooking, freezer and sink set up. Now that I know that Kingsley is a keen diver, I’m hoping for an invite to do weekend excursion in the future; perhaps for a dive adventure out to Great Barrier?