Nick Burnham drives the Boston Whaler 285 Conquest, a serious sportsfisher with family credentials.
I’ve never been on a boat test that starts off with someone saying, “If anyone would rather not do this, we’re more than happy to arrange for you to catch the ferry across.”
Nicolas Bonnin, from Boston Whaler, pauses and surveys the cockpit. I look at the other two journalists to see who will blink first. Silence.
Self-preservation battles ego and I decide to say nothing. “Good,” says Nicolas, “if nothing else then, this will definitely confirm to you all how good the Boston Whaler is in extreme conditions”.
With that the warps are slipped and it’s too late to back out as twin six cylinder Mercury Verado 225hp outboards are nudged into gear.
We’re in the South of France for a press event trying out the latest models from the Brunswick trio – Boston Whaler, Sea Ray and Bayliner.
The event is being held on the beautiful island of Porquerolles.
And the only thing standing between us and it are five miles of open water and the small matter of a Force 8 gale bang on the nose.
Five minutes later we get the first taste of what we’ve let ourselves in for as we clear the harbour and the first wave lifts the Conquest high before its hull burrows down into the following trough.
I can see Porquerolles Island in the distance, a low grey land mass separated from us by an angry, foaming, white capped sea.
Planing is out of the question and the skipper sets the throttles to little more than a fast tick-over as we huddle around the helm.
Even so, such is the steepness of the swell passing beneath us that the engines are cavitating as we pivot over the top of them, the propellers lifting so close to the surface. This is NOT fun.
My only hope, that the waves will diminish as we approach the lee of the land, is quickly dashed.
Instead they get higher, steeper and harder.
As we barrel down them the bow buries itself hard into the next wave, the boat completely engulfed as the sea breaks over and around us.
Half an hour into a run that should have taken less than 15 minutes and we’re half a mile off the island motoring towards a headland, surely we’re not going round it?
The skipper has a conflab with his first mate who is convinced we’re way off course and the harbour we want is directly off our starboard beam. Our skipper thinks not.
I question the first mate but it turns out he’s only been to the island once before.
Seeking reassurance, I turn back to the skipper. He’s never been at all…
In the distance I can just make out a port 90° off our starboard bow.
I’m past caring if it’s the right one, I’ll get off wherever is nearest and figure it out from there.
The skipper agrees and we turn to starboard.
Breaking seas on the beam is perhaps the most challenging of sea conditions.
Someone jokes that at least Boston Whalers are unsinkable.
Inwardly, I reflect that it’s not much use if we are upside down.
But my fears are unfounded, the Boston Whaler Boston Whaler 285 Conquest is incredibly stable and soon I feel almost confident of survival.
Within a couple of minutes we’re planing at a cautious 20 knots and are soon safely into what turns out to be the right harbour.
Something of a baptism of fire it might have been, but I’m absolutely convinced Boston Whaler’s reputation for serious seakeeping is more than just marketing puff.
The rest of the guests are brought over by ferry.
Two days later and Porquerolles has turned back into an idyllic Mediterranean haven as I reacquaint myself with the Boston Whaler 285 Conquest.
Boston Whaler has still retained its traditional fisher priorities, with an ample live-bait well, rod holders and a safe, open, aft deck, but the point of this boat is to broaden its appeal beyond the fishing fraternity.
To that end, the high screened wheelshelter can be replaced by an open helm, the bench seat next to the helm breaks into two facing seats with a slot-in table and further seats pop out from around the cockpit coamings.
Down below a basic but nicely finished cabin with standing headroom, a dinette forward, a practical galley with a microwave and hob, a good-sized toilet compartment and a double berth make this boat a credible family friendly weekender.
Out on the water, and in rather calmer conditions, those twin 225hp Verados provide seamless urge all the way up to 40 knots, with a fast cruising speed in the mid 30s.
A comfortable ‘captain’s chair’, a well laid out helm with clear instrumentation, room for nav kit, and a large stainless steel steering wheel ensure the skipper will be in their element, and the boat feels absolutely solid.
Mercury claim that no matter how many Verados are hung on the transom of a boat (Americans like as many as they can fit), a combination of clever mounting and adaptable power steering means that steering effort remains the same.
On the Boston Whaler 285 Conquest, winding the boat into a turn is remarkably effortless bearing in mind the weight and forces involved, and a ball on the wheel allows the boat to be wound swiftly from lock to lock with one hand in a most entertaining manner.
This is still a practical and capable Boston Whaler sportsfisher but now it has more creature comforts to attract the family market.
Whether you actually put this boat’s epic seakeeping to the test in quite the way we did is your choice, but at least you can be safe in the knowledge that it’s there if you need it.
First published in the May 2013 issue of Motor Boats Monthly.
- Build quality, superb ride
- More fisher than cruiser, expensive
Rock solid seaboat, worth every penny in Force 8 conditions
Price: £155,000 inc VAT with twin Mercury Verado 225s
LOA: 30ft 2in (9.19m)
Beam: 9ft 8in (2.94m)
Engine: Twin Mercury Verado 225hp supercharged outboards
Enquiries: Dorset Yacht Company
Tel: 01202 674531