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October 06, 2003

Boston Whaler 320 Outrage Center Console

The 320 Whaler marks a new course for the company. Steeper deadrise and sharper entry make for a smoother head-sea ride than Whaler has ever offered. It's a true pleasure to fish this boat.

Boston Whalers reflect the evolution of male society. Twentyyears ago, a Whaler represented the epitome of verymasculine-looking rugged boats, with exceptional strength butlittle aesthetic refinement. Today, Whalers sacrifice nodurability, strength or ruggedness, but have discovered theirsensitive side: doing things to appeal to women and families,looking more sophisticated and refined, and traveling through lifemuch more smoothly - just like today's men.

Performance
As we left the dock in Islamorada, Florida, other boat owners satunder the shade of the chickee hut, having judged conditions to betoo rough for them. Maybe those folks were right. South winds blewat 15 knots with gusts to 20, while seas inside the reef ran 2 to 3feet high. The Whaler 320 ran through these conditions at 25 mphperfectly comfortably. Offshore, seas picked up to 4- to 5-footers,forcing us to slow down a hair.

Right off the bat, Ifound our Mercury SmartCraft gauges disappointing. I love theinformation they present, but the small readout is virtuallyimpossible to discern, especially when mounted waist-high as on somany center consoles. Were it my boat, I'd go with the larger LCDSmartCraft display (an option) rather than the small dedicatedgauges with LCD windows at the bottom.

In the calm waters of Florida Bay, we hit a two-way-average topspeed of 47.8 mph, turning 5,650 rpm. The twin Mercury 250XSOptiMax engines with 14 1/2 by 17 props didn't qualify as barnburners in the time-to-plane arena, at just over nine seconds. Andwithout using any tabs, the 320 exhibits dramatic bow rise atstartup. You can cut out about 75 percent of that by putting thetabs down before taking off. Afterward, the 320 runs at a very flat2-degree inclination without tabs. Cruise all day at 4,000 rpm(30.6 mph) and get 1.26 mpg. Even holding back 10 percent of your300-gallon fuel capacity as a cushion, you still have a range of341 statute miles. Outstanding!

The Whaler 320 runs smoothly and keeps you very dry. You willnever stuff a 320's bow. It just lifts up and over the back of thenext wave - the spray blasting out to the sides - no matter thespeed at which you approach it. In addition, the 320 protects youfrom yourself if you try a hardover turn. It bleeds speed quickly,leans into the turn and reverses direction in under three boatlengths - an ideal response.

Fishing
Center-console builders have recently been addressing the lack ofrod storage space aboard such vessels. Boston Whaler more thanresolves the dilemma by providing rod storage in lockable underdeckcompartments, across the backs of the transom and T-top, on thecorners of the livewell, the aft end of the forward seats, in andunder both gunwales and vertically in the console. You can carrymore than 30 rod/reel combos at one time on the 320. Whaler putsanother truly great standard feature under the gunwales: dedicated,secure places to stow your downrigger balls while underway. Iparticularly like the undergunwale rod holders. Whaler designs themso you never have to unhook the bungee cord. Rather, just push therod into the holder and the cord holds it in place automatically -a great improvement.

Drift fishing in a beam sea proved a very gentle experience. Astainless-steel bar to lock your toes under for security whilefighting or gaffing a fish and gunwale pads at a height between theknees and midthigh make fishing a pleasure. Once you catch fish,you'll find the 320's fish boxes big enough to handle all but thelargest tuna. Other fishing features include a large livewell/prepmodule and permanent tackle drawers and tool storage.

Design and Construction
In my opinion, the only design flaw anywhere on this boat is in theanchor system. From an aesthetics point of view, having a greatpiece of stainless steel sticking out of the stem of your boat justbelow the rub rail just doesn't cut it for me. Now back to thepraiseworthy items. Whaler insulates every compartment aboard thisboat, and, of course, I'm grateful for the water-deployable ladderon the swim platform replete with superb handholds.

Designs and looks may evolve, but Whaler will never change itsUniBond construction. That's what makes a Boston Whaler unsinkable.In a nutshell, Whaler laminates the hull and deck, clamps the twomolds together and then injects foam into every space between thetwo pieces. This foam bonds molecularly with the wet laminate,effectively making the boat one solid piece.

Whaler continues to make minor refinements to its profile. TheEuro-slant and rounded corners on the stern and sweeping rub-railsheer combine with more radius curves to give a much softer overallimpression. You won't find more comfortable helm seatsanywhere.

Another facet that Whaler executes superbly - helm ergonomics -could hardly be improved upon on the 320. Great handholds fordriver and passenger, adjustable seats, great wind blockage andunencumbered visibility make the 320 as fun to drive as tofish.

Certainly other 32-footers have entered the market beforeWhaler, but you'll find none more elegant or stable. And that'swhat family fishing is all about.

Notable Standard Equipment
Recessed bow rail
Lockable electronics compartment
Downrigger weight holders
Fiberglass T-top
Bait prep station
Transducer mounting flats

Specifications
LOA 32 ft. 2 in.
BEAM 10 ft. 2 in.
DEADRISE 23 deg. DRAFT 1 ft. 10 in.
WEIGHT 8,500 lb. (w/o power)
FUEL 300 gal. (310 optional)
MAX POWER T300-hp OB
MSRP $174,716 (as tested)

Mercury 250 XS CXXL OptiMax
TYPE 60-degree V6
DISPL. 185 cid
MAX RPM 5,800
HP/LB RATIO 0.47
FUEL SYSTEM Two-stage direct injection
GEAR RATIO 1.75:1
WEIGHT 534 lb.
ALT. OUTPUT 60 amps
MSRP $17,204

These new engines ran remarkably quietly, especially comparedwith the EFI versions. Still strong, these 250s use a fraction ofthe fuel and oil of conventional outboards.

Boston Whaler
800-WHALER9
www.whaler.com