Erick Hyland, mussel farmer and builder of muscle boats, is one of the fathers of Edencraft. The brood of boats he produced in the 1980s and ’90s is impressive, but his latest offspring, the Whitepointer 263, is next-level.
In the late 1980s, Erick Hyland owned a flotilla of boat moulds synonymous with Australian boating history. They included such classics as the 445, V17, V19, 565 and Formula 233. The Captain stopped by Erick’s mussel farm in Eden, NSW to discover how he came into possession of these time-honoured classics. Sitting down at his favourite café, the place decked out in with trinkets liberated from retired fishing trawlers, his eyes sparkle like a man with a tale on the tip of his tongue. Flicking his long, sun-kissed long locks from his forehead, he sips enthusiastically from a latté glass and begins his story.
“Before the Edencraft days, we operated as a marine service centre in Eden, next door to Ron Doyle’s GMH dealership. We stocked Haines Hunters, Cougar Cats and Shark Cats, and Suzuki, Mariner, Mercury and Yamaha engines. In ’88 we learned the Haines Hunter factory was closing down and the moulds were for sale.
“We did the deal with Yaltacraft [which had just bought Haines Hunter outright] and I went to the factory in Wacol to pick up the moulds. I spent a month learning the building process from the laminators and gun operators. They were still pumping out two to three boats a day, hundreds of people buzzing around the factory.
“A Formula mould was sitting out the front of the factory, but the Yaltacraft rep said it was sold and just waiting to be collected. I told them the deal was off unless that Formula mould was included. You should’ve seen the shitfight when the truck turned up. They wanted it as much as us. After some argy-bargy, we got it ‑ and most of the other popular moulds as well!”
The moulds were shipped to a new factory in Eden, and Erick and Ron began production under the Edencraft banner. They considered names such as Hyland-Doyle Craft and Eden StarCraft, but thankfully the local moniker stuck.
“Back then, the 233 was the flagship model, despite Haines Hunter trying to discontinue that model in favour of the 243,” says Erick. “Word has it that John Haines saw the 243 as the company’s pin-up model. You could buy a 233 Formula hull for about $18,000 [hull-only] and we fitted them with 200HP engines. I took a model fitted with twin 225s to New Zealand for AB diving – the locals had never seen so much horsepower on a trailerboat. These days, you wouldn’t look twice at twin 225s”. In its heyday, the top sellers for Edencraft were the 233 and V17, typically sold to abalone divers who wanted a tough, commercial-grade boat with a dive door.”
After almost 10 years building boats under the Edencraft name, the business was sold and most of the moulds sent to Bairnsdale. The 488C mould stayed in Eden; the 445 was sold to Formula (Erick reckons it was shipped to China and never seen again); and the 243 sold to the Eden Aboriginal Land Council as part of an employment program. Erick went back to full-time abalone diving, but the demand for tough, commercial-grade boats never waned.
In 2005, Erick reacquired the 243L mould and laid up a boat that would later be branded a Whitepointer ‑ not to be confused with the aluminium brand from NZ.
“Word got around,” says Erick, “and before long I had a steady stream of abalone divers knocking on my door wanting a boat that was ‘on the limits’, with huge fuel tanks and kill tanks, maximum deck space, wave-breakers and high-powered engines”.
Not in favour of pods, Erick stretched the hull to create the 8m Whitepointer 263. Charter operator Simon Rinaldi helped with development of the 263, including the addition of a sexy hardtop, which adorns his charter boat.
Erick is pretty chuffed with the result. “The difference on the water between the 243 and 263 is unbelievable, with the 263 having superior handling and stability,” he boasts.
Erick wanted the maximum horsepower rating available so ‑ with the help of a naval architect ‑ had the boat rated to 700HP. The donks are mounted to a solid fibreglass transom with 34 layers of glass. The hull lay-up is supported by a glass box stringer system and fully foam-filled.
Erick puffs his chest out. “With a 700HP rating, a flooding keel holding 280 litres of water and eight plus two 2C survey, the Formula 233 doesn’t come close to the Whitepointer 263!”
The 243 mould is not the only gem Erick held on to. He also owns the 488C mould and now builds a limited run of centre-consoles called the 5m Super Hornet, which he claims blows the 445F hull out of the water.
The Captain plans on putting this theory to the test, pitting his own 445 project boat against the Whitepointer 488 in a glass-blasting session off Eden. This could be a pretty tasty shootout.
For more information go to www.whitepointermarine.com.au