By: David Lockwood, Photography by: David Lockwood

If price is not an issue, the Boston Whaler 130 Sport should be at the top of your shopping list, says David Lockwood

The tinnie may be an Australian icon, keeping company with meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars, but it's far from an infallible boat. Despite their good points — things like low maintenance, affordability, light weight and portability — tinnies can be something of a rough diamond in the ride department, especially compared with a fibreglass boat with a complex moulded bottom. Which brings us to a tinnie buster from the American yard Boston Whaler.
Despite a modest 4.03-metre overall length, the brilliant Boston Whaler 130 Sport has a ride that will leave much bigger tinnies floundering in its wake. If money were no object then this simple open dory would muscle any tinnie from the top of your shortlist. Besides being popular as a tender to superyachts, the 130 Sport would make a wonderful fishing skiff if you added some rod holders, rod storage, a live well, and electronics. And at 480kg on road it's portable; a snap to tow behind a small hatch.

Considering its length, the Whaler's wet track form is really quite amazing. You get a smooth, dry ride and incredible stability. These attributes, which are important to anglers, stem from the cathedral hull combined with a generous 1.80m beam. The fact the boat is foam-filled not only means it is unsinkable - a boast from Boston Whaler for all its models – but it also cuts down on running noise.
Besides cutting a Whaler in half on the water to demonstrate their apparent unsinkability, Boston Whaler has driven a bulldozer over its hulls and done little more than leave a scratch of two. Don't try this at home with a tinnie! The expanding polyurethane liquid foam, which is injected between the hull skins, sets to provide terrific structural integrity. All of which puts this boat in a different league.
But the rub is that the Boston Whaler 130 Sport on trailer with a 40hp electric-start four-stroke Mercury outboard costs $24,990. That's about $10,000 more than an equivalent-length tinnie with more features. But it's a bit like comparing a thoroughbred to a quarter horse. The Boston Whaler is well bred and refined.
Lying on my back at the boat ramp, I can see the cathedral hull has massive outer reverse chines that provide resistance and righting moment when at rest. When you plant the throttle the reverse chines provide lift. There is one strake per side to help keep the spray away and a sharp entry designed to cleave the waves.
The foam filled hull has no engine well, however, there are three brass screw-in bungs on deck. Whaler says even when filled with water the hull will float level and upright with the outboard's powerhead above the water. Drive off and the water presumably drains out the bungs holes. Or you can bail it out.
In fact, a bailer would be a useful addition to this boat since a small amount of water slops over the standard long-shaft 20-inch transom from time to time, especially when pulling the power off or performing silly-bugger manoeuvres for the camera. Then again, there's an element of sportiness about the handling that inspires irregular driving.

Besides being a tough nut to crack, the Boston Whaler has really solid stainless-steel deck gear that points to its serious saltwater build standards. And for swinging from a davit or derrick on a mothership it has three extra-heavy duty through-bolted pad or lift eyes.
Other solid stainless-steel fittings include two handy side rails, upon which you could mount rod holders, a split navigation light on the bow, and sturdy framework for the (optional) canopy stored in a zip-up sock above the rear cockpit.
As a tender, the soft-rubber gunwales will be kind on motherships – an additional tender rub-rail system is a listed option – and you can easily tie fenders to the side rails. The non-skid on the decks helps with your footing, while the raised platform in the bow is a great place from which to pitch lures or cast a fly. From the rear lifting eyes you could easily tow a skier or a kid on a board.
Unlike a lot of small open dories, the 130 Sport has a dedicated anchor locker with a double-moulded hatch lid. The battery for the electric-start outboard is located in a battery box strapped down under the helm seat. Seating is another of this boat's strength. The helm thwart can seat three people and the outboard ends of that seat have moulded backrests. There is room for another two people to sit forward of the helm. While squeezy, the boat is rated for five adults or a 450kg payload. Swamped capacity is 725kg, while draft is a skinny 17cm.
Besides smart graphics, the helm console featured a basic plastic steering wheel, tacho for the Mercury outboard, and switch for the anchor and navigation lights. There was a handy drinkholder and plenty of floor space for carrying a portable icebox, picnic set, tube or fishing gear. The remote fuel tank was strapped on deck.

Internal freeboard is a reassuring 38cm, plus the handrails. As such, even in tight turns, you don't feel like you are going to be flung out of the boat. Which is just as well as this boat likes to be flung around. While the 13-inch alloy prop cavitated at times, it shot the 130 Sport to a quick planing speed. Lightly laden the motor hit the rev-limit at 6000rpm, suggesting the prop was chosen to shift a decent load.
I didn't have a GPS with me, having just swapped carry bags. An approaching storm with lightning added to the drama. But I did sense a 25-30 knot top end and a comfortable low 20-knot cruise. The boat also responded to the push-button engine trim, skipping across the chop or pushing its way through it as you trimmed the leg in deeper.
If it weren't for the not-insubstantial price premium, this Whaler like this could sound the death knell of tinnies. But despite being in this game for more than two decades and seeing many fibreglass assaults on tinnies I'm yet to find a boat that can compete on all grounds including price. If smooth ride, longevity, safety and comfort in a little boat matter most then the Boston Whaler 130 Sport heads the list. And options of a bow cushion and bow rail make the little skiff even more comfortable.

Structural integrity
Sporty handling
Ample seating

Extra cost compared to average tinnie
Prop cavitated at times


Specifications: Boston Whaler 130 Sport

Price as tested: $24,990 w/ 40hp Mercury four-stroke outboard, trailer, safety gear, regos and options
Options fitted: Sun top or bimini.
Priced from: As above.

Material: GRP or fibreglass with foam filling
Type: Moderate-vee "unsinkable" planing hull
Length Overall: 4.03m
Beam: 1.80m
Deadrise: n/a
Weight: Around 272kg (dry)
Towing weight: About 480kg

Berths: n/a
Fuel Capacity: 25lt remote tank
Water Capacity: n/a

Make/Model: Mercury four-stroke 40hp ELPT EFI
Type: Three-cylinder petrol four-stroke outboard motor.
Rated HP: 40 at 500rpm max.
Displacement: 0.747lt
Weight: About 98kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Long-shaft outboard 2:1
Props: 13in alloy

Andrew Short Marine,
1 Box Road,
Taren Point, NSW, 2229.
Phone: (02) 9524 2699

Originally published in TrailerBoat #201


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