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May 25, 2012

Boston Whaler 285 Conquest

Whaler’s unsinkable legend and reputation for versatility, comfort, and durability live large in the 285 Conquest

When I ran the 285 Conquest, my aim was to weigh this new express model’s merits against Whaler’s marketing. Whaler says boaters have high expectations for their investment that are met only when the offering is durable, versatile and comfortable. Moreover, all that must be packaged with the prestige of this storied brand. To test that perspective, I put the 285 through its paces off Florida’s central east coast.

Performance
The boat I ran in February carried twin Mercury Verado 250 power plants, an upgrade from the standard 225s (pictured). Electronic throttle and shift and power steering are some of the beauties of the Verado platform. The short throw of the dual throttles gives satisfying acceleration in return. The sync option is sweet, transferring both engines to the left throttle lever, easing control in choppy seas.

I throttled up to 35 mph and then swung the power helm hard to port, feeding in throttle to sharpen the turn. The keel’s sharp deadrise dug in perfectly, bringing the vessel around 180 degrees inside the narrow channel. The 285 proved just as mannerly turning to starboard.

At 35 mph, I found our most efficient fuel burn, using 1.5 miles per gallon with a range of 273 miles. Top speed measured a little less than 49 mph.

Whaler’s Unibond hull system is heavy by most standards, but that’s always been part of the attraction — it provides the backbone to crush heavy seas without transferring the impact to my bones.

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Fishing
The 285’s profile is all hard-core fish. The hardtop can accept an aftermarket cobia tower with controls, and the test boat came with factory-installed outriggers. It also came with a standard, 26-gallon livewell and four standard gunwale rod holders, plus three shotgun holders on the transom.

Dual fish boxes in the sole to port and starboard come fitted with pumps and drains. They also provide tons of cold-drink storage if you’re not of a mind to keep your catch.
The 285’s wide beam and proud chines give it a confident stance while trolling or bottomfishing at anchor — something casual fishermen will appreciate. To port, Whaler added a three-drawer storage center that’s ideal for tackle. A freshwater sink with a cutting surface to starboard can double as a bait station.

The helm can be equipped from the factory with a Raymarine E- or C-series chart plotter, sonar, autopilot and radar. My favorite Whaler trick is the molded, radar-mounting wedge on the hardtop, making a perfectly aligned installation unavoidably easy.

Design and Construction

Whaler’s Unibond Construction system — a process that bonds hull and deck together with closed-cell structural foam — became famous early in the brand’s history after Whaler sawed a Montauk in half and then cruised around with the pieces. Today’s refined system is equally reliable and integral to the prestige.

Beyond that, Whaler has employed durable hardware. The aft seat-back lounge slides on a patented system, morphing from a full-length lounge to an aft-facing mezzanine seat over the cockpit. A rubber-treaded footrest slides out of the storage compartment.

In Whaler’s view, fishability without comfort and fun is a “fail.” That’s why the company designs convertible seating wherever it can fit. Take the transom: A deeply cushioned and sturdy-as-a-rock lounge flips out of the transom. The test boat had an optional lounge under the port gunwale. Enjoy them while trolling lines, and then with a flick of the forearm, stow them, making the cockpit ready for battle.

Belowdecks, a full galley features a microwave, refrigerator and optional single-burner stove. The stainless-steel sink and appliances are housed in a laminated cabinet with a Corian top.

An aft berth complements the forward V-berth. Both sleep two. The forward berth takes only seconds to convert from seating to sleeping mode, thanks to the unique use of the lounge seat backs as part of the sleeping berth.

The test boat came with a gas genset, making air conditioning possible in port or at sea. Piping cool air to the helm deck makes a humid day pleasant.

Even though any day on the water is better than a day in the office, a comfortable day boating is best of all. The Conquest is well put together to provide just what the Whaler marketing gurus told me to expect.


SPECS

LOA......27 ft. 10 in.
BEAM......9 ft. 6 in.
DRAFT......1 ft. 8 in. (engines up)
DEADRISE......20 deg.
WEIGHT......7,300 lb. (w/o power)
FUEL......200 gal.
MAX POWER......500 hp
MSRP......$187,451 base
(w/ Mercury Verado 250s)

Boston Whaler / Edgewater, Florida / 877-294-5645 / www.bostonwhaler.com