Boating without limitations

The Ocean Craft rigid inflatable range from EuroCity Marine offers the ultimate versatility for the beach or lake house.

66 Magazine leaves the trailer at home and tries out a true four-wheel drive boat experience.

Photos Vinesh Kumaran

If there was ever an ultimate expression of Kiwi ingenuity, our expertise in amphibious watercraft could be it.

New Zealand leads the world in creating marine vehicles capable of motivating themselves on both land and water. It’s a technology we’ve successfully implemented all around the world.

One such location is Dubai, where both the ease of driving a boat into the water, along with the decidedly unsubtle ‘wow’ factor of doing so, has made amphibious boats very popular.

Cornering the UAE market is Ocean Craft marine. The brand knows its stuff to, having been born from the development of specialist Rigid Inflatable Hull boats for military and first responder applications such as naval patrol, police, and other special operations such as anti-piracy patrol.

Thankfully, the Ocean Craft line-up for New Zealand is far from utilitarian and even a rain-drenched day on the water in Auckland couldn’t dampen 66 Magazine’s enthusiasm for what this amazing brand offers a Kiwi audience.

The craft’s party piece is its extremely robust Orion Marine amphibious four-wheel drive system. Getting up close with the hardware you can truly appreciate the heft of the system. It is extremely solid and made to last, with all aluminium components hard anodised for superior corrosion resistance. Likewise, the system’s hydraulic pressure hoses are synthetic and equally designed for resilience against salt water.

Despite the chunky build quality, Ocean Craft’s use of high quality, high strength aluminium has enabled the system to weigh in at just a shade over 400kg. That makes it one of the lightest amphibious drives on the market.

Being four-wheel drive also gives the craft added versatility over other brands in the market. The drive system can tackle a maximum incline of 19% (equivalent to a 10% slope), and delivers extra purchase on softer surfaces.

Driving the wheels can be a choice of either Briggs and Stratton or Honda engines housed underneath the centre console. The Ocean Craft can navigate flat land at a top speed of 9km/h, drawing fuel from the main tank for the boat, and thereby mitigating the need to have additional fuel or tanks crowding internal space.

With four individually driven wheels, the Ocean Craft is capable of navigating most firm sandy beaches and the chucky tyres grip tenaciously. You can start driving along the ground while still in the water, so if you strike silt or mud, you can simply raise the wheels again. The additional ballast from the boat allows to you re-float and make another attempt. Once familiar with how it works, it’s a very capable and intuitive system.

Out on the water, the Ocean Craft rides surprisingly well for an amphibious craft. Key to this is the deep vee hull that provides for a smoother, more compliant push through choppy water. Despite having the weight of the amphibious drive above the water line, Ocean Craft vessels remain extremely manoeuvrable. The team at distributor EuroCity Marine trim the boats accordingly in order to minimise bow steer: tight turns are easily achievable when necessary.

To cater for a diverse mix of applications, Ocean Craft can be specified with a fibreglass hull (as pictured) or aluminium hulls and EuroCity Marine have some aluminium examples due for New Zealand around the middle of 2022.

EuroCity Marine can also help tailor bespoke configurations from the factory, for buyers needing something specific. The layout can also be customised with multiple seating configurations and accessory options. You can create your amphibious boat exactly how you like it, but for regular use in all weathers, we’d suggest the hard top and windshield option is money well spent.

When the sun’s out though, the Ocean Craft offers up enough space for up to 15 occupants on the water. This makes it an ideal option for a family day on the water, wakeboarding or water skiing – with the added versatility of being able to drive back ashore for lunch or some land-based recreation.

With advanced, single-person operation, parking next to your beach house doesn’t get much easier. And with accessibility to the shallowest waters and the ability to drive straight onto almost any beach, the Ocean Craft range really does bring an entirely new dynamic to boat ownership in New Zealand.

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