REVIEW: BOAT TEST BOSTON WHALER 255 CONQUEST
As the economy slips back into gear, a raft of American imports are hitting our shores. JOHN FORD gets acquainted with the newly-arrived Boston Whaler 255 Conquest
Imagine yourself on Deal or No Deal and Andrew asks how you'd spend the $200K. The missus is in the audience and she wants to go to Venice to see the canals. "It's so romantic," she says dreamily. Well, if he gets to ask <I>me</I>, forget Venice, I want a Boston Whaler (sorry wife).
Richard Fisher didn't invent boats but in 1956 he and legendary designer C. Raymond Hunt got together and made their first unsinkable 4m Whaler. The pair had taken the then innovative fibreglass material and filled it with polyurethane foam to make an incredibly strong and durable boat. Company advertising for the revolutionary design at the time showed Fisher cutting the hull in half with a crosscut saw, then towing both sections to shore.
Since those days the term "Unsinkable Legend" became synonymous with the Boston Whaler name. The brand retains a loyal following among recreational boaters and emergency services round the world and the original 13ft designs have grown into a range of boats from 3.4m to more than 11m.
UP AND AT IT
The 255 Conquest is one of a range of cabinboats built for serious offshore work that includes plenty of space and comfort below for cruising. It'll appeal to dedicated fishermen wishing to get to the shelf and back with speed and safety, as well as to families who want to overnight in distant anchorages.
To test this model we crossed Botany Bay out to sea on a mild winter's day with around 10kts of breeze. Accompanied by Andy Whale from Andrew Short Marine on the Boston Whaler, we cleared Cape Sollander when suddenly - maybe it was an omen - we encountered a pod of whales on their northerly migration along the NSW coast - true story.
As the photos hereabouts suggest, the 255 Conquest is a fair lump of a boat that gives you a feeling of space and substance as you step aboard. The high, wide decks and the raised deck as well as the imposing windscreen and hardtop add to a grand presence on the water, particularly when you realise it's rated for 14 people.
Settle into the driver's seat and the view forward is panoramic, from the raised deck through the four-piece Taylor Made glass windscreen. On the dash is a Raymarine Widescreen combination plotter-sounder and an array of Mercury SmartCraft gauges. A VHF radio and remote stereo round it out.
The Mercury digital throttle and shift is connected to twin Verado 150hp supercharged four-strokes. Hydraulic steering is hooked-up via a stainless steel tilt-adjustable wheel and recessed panels house 11 switches operating various systems. The driver's side gets two of those important cupholders and the passenger gets another.
The fully adjustable driver and passenger seats are fitted on moulded glass storage lockers, each with twin tackle drawers. The driver has a recessed footwell, the passenger getting a folding version as well as two well-placed grabrails. The optional clears are fitted to a sail track, making removal easy and giving a good weather seal. With the substantial hardtop and clears in place the cabin area can be fully enclosed for extreme weather.
Access forward is via a step-up to the raised sidedecks and made safe courtesy of good handholds and siderails. There's a huge anchorwell and substantial bowsprit, the electric anchor winch controlled from the helm. A padded seat with room for two is forward on the cabin roof.
Cabin entry is through a portside folding door in the helm bulkhead, and below the accommodation is big enough for six to sit on the vee-berth around a removable table. With table stowed and an infill in place there's plenty of room for a couple to sleep.
Nearby is a sink and Porta Potti hooked up to a holding tank with macerator. The cabin is light and airy with screened portlights each side and opening hatches overhead. All mouldings and upholstery have a good finish and well-placed padding, rod racks are recessed on the cabin sides and there's additional rod storage underneath in the vee-berth moulding.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Setting off across Botany Bay, we opened up the twin Mercury rig in flat water for a top speed of 40.5kts with motors trimmed out. They felt like they would be happy to stay there all day but the swell and chop slowed us back to 27kts.
The Boston Whaler 255 Conquest was fitted with trim tabs but the individual trim settings on the motors took care of any need to steady the boat. The digital Mercury controls were light and easy to use. Over waves the boat landed without any fuss.
There was a bit of resistance from the hull on landing, but it was solid and stable with no rattles or creaks, and the boat felt stiff and safe. Fast turns, even in the chop and swell were taken at speed in predictable style. There was no cavitation or slipping either and the hull bites in without undue lean angles.
At rest (while waiting for those whales, of course) the boat was stable and even at slow troll speeds you could wander around at will. The driving position was great for taller skippers, but it might be a little difficult to see from a standing position for shorter drivers. There was no problem sitting on the raised bolster seat, though.
Heading back into the bay, we settled into a happy cruise speed around 4000rpm at 19.3kts, the motors using 88lt/h. We hit the throttles at this rev rate and the boat lurched forward as the superchargers hit their stride. At 5000rpm we saw nearly 32.4kts and even then there was still plenty of acceleration.
BOSTON WHALER 255 CONQUEST
AT THE WHEEL
The two Mercury Verado outboards were quiet enough to allow normal conversations right through the rev range, and even at full speed all wind was deflected, although at some rev rates there was a little resonance from the hull as the motors settled in.
Twin 150hp Mercury Verado outboards
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN
1200 5.4kts 11lt/h (troll)
2200 7.4kts 25lt/h (planning)
3000 10.3kts 28lt/h (slow cruise)
3500 14.6kts 34lt/h
4000 19.3kts 47lt/h
5000 31.2kts 88lt/h (fast cruise)
6000 38.9kts 111lt/h
6300 40.9kts 118lt/h
* <I>Official sea-trial data supplied by the author. Fuel burn is combined for both engines.</I>
PRICE AS TESTED
Twin 150hp Mercury Verados, anchor windlass, fishing package, hardtop, clears, stereo, Raymarine electronics, Mackay aluminium trailer, and more
<B>$159,000</B> w/ single 250hp Mercury Verado
TYPE: Deep-vee monohull
WEIGHT: 2222kg (hull)
PEOPLE (DAY): 14
REC. MAX HP: 450
REC. MIN HP: 225
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Mercury Verado
TYPE: Supercharged four-cylinder electronic outboard
DISPLACEMENT: 1732cc (each)
WEIGHT: 231kg (each)
PROP: Mercury Enertia 17in-pitch
Andrew Short Marine,
1 Box Road,
Taren Point, NSW, 2229
Phone: (02) 9524 2699
Edgewater, Florida, USA
Overall, the 255 Conquest continues the Boston Whaler legend. While we now see a bigger range of this style of American boats coming to Australia, the company still produces craft that set a benchmark for others to meet.
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 424, published Feb-March 2012. Photos by Kevin Smith
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