For the better part of 30 years reviewing boats has played a big part of my monthly routine working for Sea Angler, and the various other publications to whom I have contributed.
Then along came Covid and together with the obvious restrictions in travel, imports came to an abrupt halt and very few companies had the confidence to invest in the development and production of new boats. Then, finally, I received an email asking whether or not I’d be interested in reviewing a new boat? I was, and I did, and here are my thoughts…
The H20 Hamble Dory can best be described as being a modern take of a timeless classic.
The original ‘dories’ were the small wooden clinker built boats commercial fisherman and whalers used in conjunction with a larger mothership. More recently following the wider application of fibreglass moulding in the 1960s, these small, functional and inherently stable shallow drafted craft soon started to appear elsewhere, notably amongst anglers.
Hand built in Hampshire the H20 Hamble Dory was introduced to the UK boating market this year by Parker Adams Boat Sales who, having trialled the very first Hamble Dory, immediately realised its potential, and it was was they who arranged my sea trial from their base at Hamble Point Marina.
The H20 Hamble Dory has an overall length of 4m, with a 1.7m beam and a fully laden weight of 692kg. Consequently she is easy to tow and launch.
Her Category C CE rating allows up to four people, increasing to five under Category D, but my opinion is that here we have the perfect boat for one, or at most two anglers, fishing inshore sheltered water. With the hull drawing just 0.45m, she is ideal for shallow water use.
Sitting at her berth in the marina, my first impressions were that she certainly is a pretty little boat. When I stepped aboard it didn’t take long to confirm that the build quality, attention to detail and overall finish was nothing less than excellent. I like the basic, open, clutter free layout, and I’d suggest that from an angling perspective she would be an ideal boat to fish estuaries, larger harbours and coastal waters.
She certainly is the perfect boat for the lure fisherman targeting species such as bass in skinny water. If you are looking for a boat to fly fish from I strongly suggest you cast an eye over the H20 Hamble Dory; she would be perfect.
Many previous dory designs have been built with a foam filled hull, which of course provides a massive amount of inherent buoyancy. However foam filled hulls do have their downside, specifically water ingress. Regardless of build quality with time it is inevitable that water will get into the hull, from where it will quickly be absorbed by the foam. Aside from the gradual degradation of the very fabric and structure of the boat, a water logged hull becomes very heavy which quickly affects performance. Repairs are both costly and time consuming.
The H20 Hamble Dory has no foam within its hull, rather buoyancy is provided by the construction of airtight chambers. This design means if you swamp the boat it will not lose buoyancy, with the self draining cockpit very quickly removing any water shipped. The airtight chambers also offer peace of mind as if one of the hulls was to be damaged, water will only fill that chamber.
CUSTOMISE YOUR OWN
The manufacturers offer multiple options to customise your H20 Hamble Dory to your exact specifications. These range from upholstery colours, to a choice of colours of flooring and the configuration of cockpit seating.
The layout of the boat I trialled was in my opinion pretty much perfect for the various angling scenarios for which I envisage this boat being used. The centre console is located amidships, and there is sufficient space to pass easily to either side.
A full beam transom seat opens to provide access to a compartment containing a battery and fire extinguisher, with remaining stowage space for additional kit. Further stowage space is found within the helmsman seat and forward of the console. An attractive synthetic teak deck enhances the boat’s traditional feel.
A flat, raised foredeck provides an excellent casting platform. From here an angler can benefit from and fully appreciate the huge amount of lateral stability inherent in the dory design. The actual steering console is simple in design, yet entirely functional.
It has sufficient space for the practical insulation of the electronics most anglers would likely want to install. A tinted screen provides an aesthetic and practical finishing touch. The boat was fitted with all necessary deck hardware, including high quality stainless steel rod rests.
In order to take the various images I require to support these reviews I have to move all around the hull to shoot from various angles, just as most anglers would do during a day afloat. Within minutes of leaving the marina pontoon I was able to confirm the stability of the hull; she really is an incredibly stable fishing platform.
Within the confines of The Hamble Estuary we were restricted by a 6 knot speed limit, but once we were clear of the buoyed channel leading out into The Solent we were able to open the throttle and experience the top end performance of the boat.
The H20 Hamble Dory is rated for use with outboard engines up to a maximum of 30hp. The test boat was fitted with a 30hp Mercury which will deliver the recommended maximum speed of 24 knots.
At the application of the throttle the hull rises quickly and cleanly onto the plane, responding crisply to adjustments of the helm and speed. Given suitable conditions you could quickly and safely cover a lot of ground to fish various marks.
As you can see from my images we had chosen a beautiful flat, calm and sunny day, but of course The Solent is a very busy waterway with plenty of commercial shipping to provide sizeable wakes to simulate waves and swell, all of which the boat addressed without fault.
The topography of the area where we were running was exactly the sort of ground that most anglers would use this boat for.
This was the first production model of the H20 Hamble Dory. I was told that work was still in progress to establish the optimum engine shaft length and propeller configuration. On the day we did experience some cavitation, but it is anticipated this will be prevented by the installation of an engine with an extra long shaft.
There’s not much I’d change aboard this boat other than the addition of a full length gunwale rail which would serve to further enhance onboard safety both while underway and fishing. I feel this would be particularly appropriate as the internal gunwale is stepped.
Likewise, if you are planning on spending a lot of time standing and casting at the bow it would be worth considering fitting a pulpit rail.