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power_boat_review-whaler_280-largeWhat a perfect time to be sitting down to write up a thoroughbred sport fishing boat like the Boston Whaler 280 Outrage. I just returned from a bill fish tournament in the Bahamas where a fleet of traditional "convertible" yachts like Hatteras', Bertrams and even a brand new 70' Rybovitch were competing against boats like this Boston Whaler 280 Outrage.

Twenty years ago, the idea of a tournament team heading out in an outboard-powered boat would have brought howls of laughter from the professional captains and tournament "ringers" on the docks.

To be sure, heading out at 7 a.m. and not returning until 5 p.m. makes for a very long day in an open boat, but salt water center console sport fishing boats like this Boston Whaler 280 Outrage can certainly compete.

Thanks to the rugged finesse of the twin Mercury Verado 300s, this boat trolls like a dream and then can fly away to the next fishing spot at a rate of speed that leaves the "big boys" far behind. Our 280 Outrage test boat recorded a top end speed of 58.6 mph while big convertible sport fishing yachts struggled to get over 40.

When the fish aren't there and you need to get to the next spot, speed is critical. The first boat there gets the hungry fish. But, the crew has to be comfortable and safe at these speeds. Our Boston Whaler 280 Outrage test boat had a 23° of deadrise at the transom with a 3 lb. foamcore and a full liner for added strength; the vee hull cuts efficiently through rough water at speed and the seating and console are very refined.

The console is framed by a welded aluminum superstructure that is powder-coated giving a lovely smooth feel while providing protection from saltwater deterioration. We had the unexpected pleasure of Bobby Garza, Boston Whaler's Naval Architect onboard for the test. He explained that the console is fully formed and finished, then through-bolted for maximum strength. The console is inset into the boat's frame and the same structure forms the frame for the windshield making that especially strong and secure. The assembly offers great handholds and also integrates the Bimini top.

That top provides critically important sun protection in a tournament. The console also makes space for the surprisingly spacious head located underneath the console. This becomes very important after a few hours of serious fishing and the head has to be comfortable as well as safe to use.

Boston Whaler's designers have found a true 6 feet of headroom in the 280 Outrage head compartment. There is a proper and very effective VacuFlush MSD plus a handheld shower; hot and cold water are available. There's an opening porthole, well-placed handholds and even a magazine rack.

On a serious fishing trip, you need to stay hydrated. A big cooler is included. Pack lots of water, sandwiches and snacks to keep up your energy. The cooler lid is also a forward-facing seat and the whole cooler can be relocated from the front of the console into the vee area, converting that to a big sun pad for friends and family. Very clever.

But, that is just the start of the clever features. At the bow the 280 Outrage there is the only through-stem integral anchoring system you will find in this size of boat and it includes a recessed electric windlass in the foredeck along with a large chain locker.

I really appreciate the stainless steel bow rails that are recessed to be out of the way when fishing; the forward bow cushions are removable. Underneath are two drained wells with rod holders inside. When fishing, the bow area picnic table can be removed to stow in blocks in the head compartment. The bow platform also features a storage space with molded storage spots for a pair of 5-gallon buckets for stowing cast nets and the like.

Other fishing features include the self-draining cockpit sole, 28 inches of interior freeboard for added safety, full-length coaming bolsters and stainless steel toe rails in the cockpit. Whaler installs four holders for downrigger balls near the stern as well; altogether, you get a whopping 18 rod holders in the gunwales, across the transom and on the hardtop.

The helm has deluxe leaning post seating and a bait station with livewell on the back. It's a great set up with a blue-coloured 40-gallon, pressurized, aerated livewell under a clear top window. Two bucket seats cradle the driver and a companion. These have folding center and side armrests as well as thigh support bolsters that flip up to form a leaning post.

Talking about seating for a moment, there is a heavily built, foldaway transom seat and the 280 sports new foldaway seats amidships that are ideal for watching your trolling spread. Drawers for tackle are conveniently located in the bait station with more in the transom.

Most people want to stand around the helm while underway though. Absorb the waves with your knees and stand out in the breeze. The 280 Outrage is equipped with a SmartCraft Vessel View system that puts all the information from the twin Mercury Verados in plain view while keeping the dash clear for two big multi-function navigation screens. Radios and other electronics can mount in an overhead box.

Of course, turning 600 horses loose is a big part of the fun and the twin Mercury Verados are very smooth and quiet until the speeds get up. The silver-coloured part of the engine mounting bracket helps to isolate vibration. You get a virtually silent idle and a very quiet gear change. A stainless steel saltwater wheel with a knob acts on the standard equipment power hydraulic steering. You get effortless control at all speeds and dockside handling is easy with the twin engines.

Acceleration is strong through all speed ranges and the 300-horse Verados really trim up and stretch out on the high end working up to 6300 RPM doing 58 mph. A really fast boat, the 280 Outrage flies through the big water with a soft landing partly because of the deadrise and partly due to the strength of the construction. The Boston Whaler is very solid and rattle-free. It feels like the entire boat is one piece.

To summarize a boat that has so many features is never easy, but although most of the details are designed for fishing, Bobby Garza pointed out that Boston Whaler is adding more features and amenities to expand the appeal of their boats to a wider market. Sure, the 280 Outrage would be ideal for the Canadian coastal fishery or hunting Great Lakes salmon, but this would be a wonderful day boat for Georgian Bay, or even a cottage boat for an islander (in a hurry!). We think that all those fishing features combine to make the Boston Whaler 280 Outrage a great all-around boat.

By Andy Adams

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