Kirby Naiad 9.8 “Bootlegger” Boat Review

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Boat Review Date: April 2018
Author: Mike Brown


When Kirby Marine is asked to create a very special one off, the process starts with selecting a proven basic design. This removes a lot of expensive and unnecessary development work. When asked to create an all weather, long range, hard core fishing boat with a sideline as a tender, the chosen parent design was a 9.8 metre Naiad rigid inflatable built for the New Zealand Coast Guard.

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“Bootlegger” retains the 750hp  Scania diesel driving through a gearbox and the huge Hamilton 364 water jet (364 means the jet’s diameter in millimeters). This is bulky engineering, and many builders would encase it tightly to minimize intrusion into passenger spaces. Kirby thinks differently: cramped conditions make service and repair work difficult or impossible. There are boats that need their engines removed for the simplest work. Here the engine box is high and crowned with a gas strut clamshell top that completely exposes the mechanicals. The box, covered by a padded top, is just the right height for sitting on.

The Furuno electronic fit out is mouth watering, as it should be for a bill of over AUD $40,000. It includes twin 15 inch touch screens, 2kW dual frequency sounder presenting 3D images and linked to a satellite compass that removes the effect of sea waves on the picture. A heat compensator further refines the display. There are, of course, both radar and auto pilot on board.

With six power points for reels electrical demand can be high. Besides the twin starting batteries there are three deep cycle batteries on board, with additional charging provided by a pair of solar panels. These are roof mounted, but are nearly indestructible wherever they might be placed. The hard top is a busy place with the radar scanner and assorted aerials sharing the remaining space with a light bar – arranged so that no light hits the deck.

The buoyant tubes are foam filled D-section. This increases internal beam, allowing fishing access to all parts. The aluminium component of the sides has been raised to give security to standing anglers and to accommodate reels, pot winch and hauling arm, sinker cups and rod sockets. These can also be used to take the bait board, allowing it to be placed close to the action. Ten more rods can be housed in the hardtop rocket launchers.

The console is large enough to accommodate a toilet, but the owner declined to fit one leaving it available for bulk stowage. It has a full height windscreen and an immaculately laid out control panel. Driver and one pampered passenger have the use of the magical Ullman jockey seats. At the front is a double seat over a large esky, which the owner preferred over a dedicated kill tank.

Considering the presence of the vast engine box, there is a surprisingly large clear area of deck, sheathed in teak-look Seadek. This is the impervious stuff that wears long but is kind to bare feet.

The anchor is mounted in Kirby’s now almost standard location under the buoyant tube. Adjacent to its windlass is a spacious storage compartment. Compared to the traditional rigid inflatable “Bootlegger” is extravagantly endowed with places to put things: there are even side pockets.

Fitting the secondary role of tender “Bootlegger” has a substantial tow post forward, and also an item many insurers insist on: AIS or automatic identification system. This allows searchers for the victim of a parted tow line to locate the lost vessel. It is also a handy system for locating your own mother vessel in a darkened, unfamiliar anchorage.

The task “Bootlegger” was primarily specified for is offshore fishing. Like many who buy Naiads, her owner is time poor and cannot always choose days of pleasant weather for expeditions. There are going to be days of impossible weather, but very few to trouble this boat. The experience of its New Zealand parent is that the hull can handle almost anything; the limiting factor is the occupants’ endurance. The inherently soft riding characteristics coupled with those seats aid that endurance to the extent that there are going to be few days written off.


Length overall           9.8m

Beam                          3.2m

Fuel capacity            800L

Motor                          750hp Scania diesel+Hamilton water jet