For a 23-footer, this Dauntless has excellent helm ergonomics. And a moderate 16-degree deadrise combined with a sharp entry makes for good shallow-water capability without sacrificing the ability to negotiate a substantial chop.
It took just over three seconds to plane, and I must comment on the incredible throttle response of this boat with the 225 hp Mercury Verado. You get instant reaction to any throttle setting with particularly impressive mid-range.
Heading out Ponce de Leon's infamous inlet on the central Florida coast, we met 4- to 5-foot, wind-against-tide seas with hardly any space at all between them. Prudence dictated that I slow down so as not to throw my passengers out of the boat. At about 15 mph, we didn't pound, had perfect control and honestly took nary a drop of spray aboard - a most impressive ride. Turning beam-to these hefty rollers as I drifted looking for bait pods proved that I could still stand comfortably without needing to hold on, thanks to a gentle and totally predictable roll motion.
In the calmer water outside the jetties, the 230 Dauntless ran up to a top speed of 49.2 mph at 6,150 rpm and burning 23 gph. The 225 Verado rates at 6,400 rpm. Though you might change the 14 1/2- by 17-inch prop and get a mile or two more top-end, you'd be sacrificing that awesome mid-range response - not a fair trade in my book. Cruising at 5,000 rpm supplied a solid 35 mph at 16.7 gph. The 230 lists max power as a 250 hp Verado. Engineering tests show that package provides a 51.9 mph top speed burning 27 gph and 37 mph at 5,000 rpm while using 17 gph. Enough benefit to warrant the added cost? That's your call.
I liked the response to radical maneuvers: Speed bleed and just enough stern-slide to keep everyone aboard safe and happy. By the way, tabs are optional but should be standard.
Static draft is only 12 inches. However, on plane the 230 Dauntless will run shallower, and the transom design easily accommodates a jack plate as well as a Power-Pole. Whaler provides a plug in the anchor locker for a bow-mounted trolling motor. An optional pedestal seat for the bow or stern stows in a special rack in the console when not in use.
The 230 boasts a huge foredeck without cushions for casting and with cushions (standard) for relaxing.
Our test boat sported a second, optional livewell with two more rod holders in the leaning post. Standard equipment places a slide-out cooler there.
Vertical rod holders on the console front allow the foredeck angler to swap out weapons without leaving the casting platform. I found the healthy toerail around this deck did a masterful job of keeping a fly line contained. Because of the way Whaler builds its boats, it's hard to put rod holders in the gunwales. In lieu of that, Whaler mounts two standard holders in the aft deck along the transom. Our boat also sported two optional ones there (part of the fishing package).
Each livewell has its own dedicated pump. The raw-water washdown also has a separate pump with higher pressure to make washing decks easier, and all are premium-quality Shurflos with mag drive.
Standard equipment list includes a full-height bow rail, but anglers will certainly want the low-profile rail instead.