A sturdy sports fishing boat from one of Europe’s leading boatbuilders, the Parker 660 Pilothouse is a surprisingly versatile craft, writes Peter Poland.
Before the introduction of its range of sports fishing boats and fast cruisers in the early 2000s, Parker Poland had been one of the leading suppliers of RIBs since the early 1970s. To this day, the company still has one of the biggest and most successful RIB brands built in Europe.
Over the years, the Parker RIB range (both open and cabin versions) has evolved to include numerous models spanning from 5.1m right up to the 15.5m Parker 1600 Interceptor capable of carrying four crew and 26 passengers. That’s a big RIB!
Parker’s many RIB clients include leisure buyers as well as police, rescue and military users. And then there are the commercial operators specialising in the fast growing business of running ‘sea safaris’ around the world’s finest coastlines.
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Indeed, the most exciting high-speed RIB trial I have ever enjoyed was along the Jurassic Coast of Dorset in a Parker 900 (9m) Baltic RIB used for Sea Safaris operating out of Poole harbour.
Parker remains a prominent player in the RIB market. However, it also used its extensive experience to branch out in the early 2000s into the market for GRP sport, leisure and fast fishing boats.
The ‘sports fishing boat’ has gained great popularity over the last decades. Indeed in some harbours it has almost taken over from what we used to call ‘speed boats’ or ‘sports boats’.
In many ways this is easy to understand. A well-designed sports fishing boat hull will perform every bit as well as its flashier sisters because most share similar V-shaped hulls; although a few sports fishing boats have more pronounced keels and skegs in order to dry out level on beaches when the tide goes out.
The smaller sports fishing boats usually offer an all-weather wheelhouse, simple sleeping accommodation and a large, deep self-draining cockpit.
So they’re versatile craft that can take a team of people out fishing one day and a family crew on a coastal cruise the next. Many companies offer ranges of these boats, including other Polish builders such as Quicksilver and Arvor.
When Parker entered this market with its 660 Pilothouse a few years ago, it became an instant success. Indeed Philip Scott of Parker Poland recently told me around 1,600 Parker 660 Pilothouses have been built over the years and, with a few upgrades, it’s still in production now.
Since then the new Parker range has grown to 22 models; from the smallest Parker 630 right up to the current flagships, the Monaco 110 and Monaco Flybridge.
These exciting Tony Castro-designed 38-footers follow the growing trend of fitting a brace of powerful 4-stroke outboards to the transom, thereby increasing accommodation space and simplifying engine service and maintenance.
I was invited down to Littlehampton by distributor Mick Mills of Boat Shop to test one of the early Parker 660 Pilothouses to arrive on these shores.
First impressions were good. The Parker’s pilothouse and large cockpit announce its intentions. This boat is designed to do a job.
However it succeeds in looking different to run of the mill sports fishing types of its size. The hull has a pleasing hint of reverse sheer which increases space and cockpit security and looks good, especially when the boat is moving at speed.
The pilothouse looks substantially built, with good visibility through all round glazing and a traditional forward leaning curved screen that will shed water easily in rough conditions.
And I was pleased to see that this had a purposeful looking marine windscreen wiper from Vetus; as opposed to the flimsy looking wiper blades fitted to some smaller boats these days.
Stepping aboard, I was impressed by the boat’s stability and the size of its cockpit. Some modern sports fishing boats of this type have cut back on cockpit size in order to have a longer and larger cabin.
In Parker’s case, those who want more accommodation can always look at the Weekend 660 that shares the same hull; or the slightly larger and recent Parker 760 Quest model.
The Parker 660 Pilothouse has ample space for several people to relax (on optional side benches and portable ‘director chairs’) or to fish. And there’s a fold-down table for drinks or a picnic.
There are several lockers beneath the cockpit sole offering easy access to fuel tank, water tank, WC holding tank, battery and seacocks.
And there’s also a lot of stowage space. The two aft lockers will hold your bait and fish that are caught, while two other small lockers accommodate rods (to starboard) and a pump and shower hose (to port) so you can sluice down the fishy decks with water after a successful fishing trip.
Parker’s experience also shows in other areas. A second steering position forward (to starboard) in the cockpit is an unusual and very effective optional extra.
A substantial stainless steel grab rail ahead of the engine well stops anyone from falling backwards while a single step gives easy forward access to the side decks.
These are ‘walk-around’ and there’s plenty to hang onto once you are on deck and moving forward thanks to stainless steel grab rails on the cabin top and on the bulwarks that fall readily to hand. There are two lockers in the bow for anchor and warp.
The Parker 660 Pilothouse’s simple accommodation also works well. Access is via substantial (and lockable) sliding patio-type doors.
To starboard is a small galley area with sink, single burner cooker and stowage lockers; and opposite to port is a double settee (which hinges up to reveal an electric cooler box under) and another big locker.
Ahead of these are the inside helm position (starboard) and crew seat (port) which has an effective hinge down foot brace. Plenty of fresh air is available through sliding windows (both sides) and an overhead hatch.
The helmsman’s seat in the wheelhouse is worthy of special mention, because it is of high quality for a boat of this size. It is well upholstered and has a flip-up swab forward so you can stand to steer as comfortably as you can sit. In total, four people can sit in the protected warmth of the pilothouse. And there’s over 6ft headroom, so moving about is not a problem.
The berth and WC are located up in the bows. The WC is a proper marine flushing type and is accessed by hinging up a section of the bunk.
This is simple and effective, albeit potentially a bit public. Extra creature comfort on the demo boat was provided by a Webasto blown-air heating system (an optional extra including diesel fuel tank).
The Parker 660 Pilothouse’s performance is equally impressive and will also apply to the Parker Weekend 660 that shares the same hull; albeit with a larger cabin, shorter cockpit and weighing around 200kg more.
The 660 Pilothouse demo boat was fitted with a smooth running supercharged Mercury 135 4-stroke outboard.
Heading out of the harbour at 1,500rpm, the boat purred along at 5.9 knots. With revs increased to 2,500 it got onto the plane at 9.6 knots and reached an effortless and comfortable cruising speed of around 20 knots at 3,500rpm. This would be ideal for covering distance at speed and economically.
Top rpm of 5,600 brought up an impressive 32 knots. I was also surprised by the acceleration from standstill. The Parker could double up as a potent water-ski boat with this engine package.
If you prefer a less powerful (and thus cheaper) engine, Parker claimed that the 660 Pilothouse still hits 29 knots with a Suzuki 90 clamped on its stern; saving a lot of money in the process.
And now that marine diesel fuel costs a lot more than it used to, it’s noticeable that modern and economical 4-stroke outboards are becoming increasingly popular and appearing on ever-larger boats – including Parker’s new 38ft Monaco 110, which is powered by twin Mercury 4-stroke engines from 150hp to 400hp.
You’d have to do a lot of engine hours to recover the extra cost of inboard diesel engines and their maintenance.
As one would expect from a long established and successful supplier of RIBs, the sports fishing Parker 660’s hull lines produce precise handling and good sea-going characteristics. Steering is precise and light – and a lot of fun.
The conditions were relatively benign on the day of the test, but even when powering through its own wake at high speed the Parker 660’s hull gave a soft and dry ride.
The deep vee sections forward cut effortlessly through the water and the well-positioned spray rails kept the boat steady on high-speed turns. When I peered under another 660 sitting on the hard, I could see just how sweet the Parker’s lines are. This is not a flighty skimming dish; it’s a high-performance hull designed to go to sea.
I was also impressed by the Parker 660’s quality of build. GRP moulding work looked well executed and robust. Even the locker lids were neatly finished on their underside.
The structure of the glazed pilothouse sides also looked robust and well finished, and all the fittings and stainless steel work looked solid and strong.
The trim in the wheelhouse and cabin was also neat and modern. Even though this was one of the early 660’s off the line, I could find little to fault.
The well-established Parker range is already widely represented around the world. Its major markets are in Europe and Parker has around 40 dealers worldwide.
Current models include the Parker 630, Parker 690, Parker 660 (all in three different versions), Parker 750 and Parker 800 (both in two versions), and Parker 760 Quest, 770 Weekend, 790 Explorer, 850 Voyager, 920 Explorer Max, Monaco 110 and Monaco Flybridge.
Parkers also represent good value for money. The 660 Pilothouse costs from £47,150 with a Mercury 150 EFi 4-stroke. Prices for other bigger models range up to £279,318 for the flagship twin-engine Monaco Flybridge.
Parker 660 Pilothouse specification
LOA: 7.66m / 25ft 2in
Beam: 2.55m / 8ft 4in
Hull length: 6.45m / 21ft 2in
Draught (ex engine): 0.38m / 1ft 3in
Weight (ex engine): 1,500kg / 3,307lb
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This feature appeared in the November 2021 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.
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