Boston Whaler's 170 Dauntless is ideal for casting a line or lunching with family, writes David Lockwood.
Estimates from various sources claim there are between 4 million and 5 million recreational fishers in Australia. Of course, many of them are mere danglers with high hopes of landing a whopper during the holidays. But at the sharp end of the sport, fishing is serious business and purpose-built boats, such as this Boston Whaler 170 Dauntless, are considered hot property.
In fact, the Australian importer of Boston Whaler boats says one local saltwater fly-fishing buff bought a 170 Dauntless and then proceeded to remove all the rails and other deck fittings to make a superior snag-free casting platform. As we tested it, however, the boat was something of a dual-purpose rig, upon which you can cast lines in the morning then pick up the family for a spin at lunch when the fish are laying low.
The new 170 Dauntless harks back to Whaler's beginnings in the 1950s. Its wide, skiff-like hull has a running surface that's evolved from that first twin-sponson Whaler. Of course, the signature foam-filled Unibond construction remains, leading to what the American boat builders claim is an unsinkable boat.
These traits were certainly evident as we gad about the Gold Coast's skinny Broadwater. Mooching about the flats in mock pursuit of a monster flathead, we experienced impressive stability while walking around the decks as we drifted with the tide. The other thing that grabbed us was the attention to detail, with fair mouldings, big-boat fittings and dedicated fishing and family features.
An upgraded 100-horsepower Mercury four-stroke outboard with a 20-inch shaft (90 horsepower is standard and minimum power) and standard BayStar hydraulic steering graced the transom, while the boat arrived at the ramp on a factory-fitted galvanised trailer without brakes. Come holiday time, a four-cylinder car can tow the rig to your favourite fishing town.
The mainly factory-fitted options were headed by the must-have anchor roller and bow cushion, a removable cockpit table, transom rod holders, a bimini with boot or sock, console and helm seat covers, Fusion stereo and safety gear. As a package, the bottom line was $66,952, but you can get a 170 Dauntless from $49,800 with the base 90-horsepower Mercury ELPI EFI four-stroke outboard.
For the family, there are clever pop-up quarter seats in the transom corners, the helm bench has a three-position flip backrest so you can face the kids on the aft seats, and there's a drop-in cockpit table upon which to lunch. An overhead bimini provides shade, while a single swim step and ladder aids access to the water.
Want to fish? Hey, presto! The quarter seats flip neatly away, the lunch table stows, the bimini rests in a sock (or removes altogether), while the helm backrests fold back to the driving position. Remove the sun-pad cushion up front and there's a substantial casting platform incorporating a sizeable anchor well.
Four heavy-duty aft rod holders cater for trolling, with a mid-transom four-barrel rocket launcher and another two console-mounted holders for carrying six rods on the run.
The large under-seat storage bin can be optioned up as a live-bait tank, the mother-in-law seat ahead of the centre console is actually a padded cushion on a portable cooler, while a large hold inside the centre console module offers dry storage for safety gear.
The 132-litre underfloor fuel tank will ensure a full day's boating, there's an automatic bilge pump in this self-draining hull, and the battery is fitted in a box. Get behind the sturdy stainless-steel wheel with urethane grip and you feel like you're driving something with purpose.
The official figures from Whaler are for a 90-horsepower rig, so our 100-horsepower upgrade probably added about two to three knots to the top speed, reaching about 40 knots at 5900-6000rpm, 27-32 knots at 4500-5000rpm and 24-25 knots at the key economical setting of 4000rpm.
While this is the minnow in Whaler's Dauntless range, the 170 is a giant-killer.