By Robert Buller

A fully-enclosed wheelhouse is a smart addition to this new 28’ Whaler, giving it all-weather capability as a sport fisher, commuter or pocket cruiser.

The new Boston Whaler 285 Conquest was officially launched at the 2012 Seattle and Vancouver International Boat Shows and drew huge crowds. Officially a part of the Conquest model line, it is described as a pilothouse design, thanks to its permanently enclosed wheelhouse.

Recently CY had an opportunity to put the 285 through a full test and we came away impressed. Calling it a pilothouse may be a stretch, but this is clearly an important step in the development of the larger Boston Whaler model line. It is, in fact, a complete redesign from the keel up and was always intended to incorporate a permanently enclosed wheelhouse. This feature has worked so well that it may find its way onto other Conquest models in future.

Where previous Whalers of similar size had curtains for the aft wall of the wheelhouse, the 285 has a fully fabricated integral aft wall with door; a small window in the door slides open vertically.

The overall visual impression isn’t much different from other examples in the Conquest line. A flared bow, a tall wheelhouse, a generous aft deck, and a pair of substantial Mercury outboards on the transom – it has all the elements of a classic Boston Whaler, a fishing platform or an ultra-fast sport boat or commuter.

The addition of the permanent aft wheelhouse wall makes a big difference to the feel of this model. First, the noise – or lack of it. The twin 225-hp Mercury Verado outboards are impressive on their own and ultra-quiet at idle. Even when opened up they maintain a powerful yet dignified and quiet demeanor. Once the boat is up on plane, the only noise intruding into the cockpit was from water rippling off the chine ridges on the hull. Absolutely no engine noise came from aft.

But with the cabin door closed we found almost no intrusion of sound at all. The quiet was almost uncanny, impressing both this reviewer and our host broker Darryl Oben from West Coast Whaler dealer M&P Mercury Sales. My dB sound meter did not register at all at maneuvering speeds and showed a very modest increase to just over 70 at cruising speed, 4000 RPM on the big Mercs.

The ride was solid and confidence-inspiring.

There is a surprising amount of interior space for a vessel that is less than 30 feet long. More than a commuter or sport fisher, this Whaler could easily serve as a weekend cruiser for a couple or small family.

The wheelhouse holds a command seat behind the instruments and controls to starboard, and a pair of facing seats to port. With a slide-out table between them, this area is perfect for meals or snacks. An additional bench seat can be added to create a running seat companion to the helm seat opposite, big enough for two.

Below, the living area is surprisingly large with a U-shaped settee and an oval-shaped table at centre that can drop down to settee height to create a second berth. A small galley is located to port and a head with basin, toilet and shower to starboard. A full double berth is fitted below the wheelhouse and stretches athwartships behind the salon steps.

The galley has a two-burner stovetop and a small microwave matched to a small under-counter refrigerator. There is a small hanging locker to starboard for clothes and a variety of drawers and hatches for additional storage.

The helm chair surround has additional space for storage below and extra drawers and cabinets are accessible from the aft deck. The salon sports an overhead hatch with screen for ventilation.

Space in the cockpit area is generous given the boat’s modest overall length. Additional seating on each side and on the transom is provided by swing-away hardware that allows seats to be folded up and away, but could easily provide seating for six when folded down. The hardware is robust chrome steel and gives a solid look and feel.

Stored immediately below the aft deck are the key auxiliary mechanicals, bilge pumps, filters and batteries. Also carefully stored here just under the hatch is the cockpit table, which inserts into mounting hardware in the middle of the aft deck. Additional storage is available in drawers in the port side of the aft bulkhead.

Mooring cleats are mounted slightly above the deck but recessed into the sidewall overhang so they are out of the way. Lines for mooring and fenders go through a top-mounted hawse pipe and stand clear. Everything is tidy, and that really matters on a smaller boat.

The standard equipment list is generous. Included is a sizable compass, complete interior lighting, an audio package with Clarion radio and CD player and two sets of twin speakers, a centre-mounted 14” Raymarine C140W display with input from a 4kw radar dome, a 19” flat TV screen, and a roof-mounted spotlight.

Rod holders are incorporated into the welded steps that allow access to the roof structure and are also found inside the cabin with ceiling mounted brackets. A convenient vent mounted centrally above the windshield opens to provide airflow. When the window in the aft wall is also open, you’ll have all the ventilation needed for any summer’s day.

Performance is exactly as expected – lively. A slightly overcast day with no wind and a smooth sea awaited us in English Bay off downtown Vancouver. The Mercury outboards spooled up quickly and got us on the plane in about five seconds. Minor adjustments to the trim tabs had us at a comfortable cruising speed at 4000 rpm – about 22 knots by our onboard GPS.

In a few very tight turns, the 285 tracked perfectly true with no sideslip or bounce. Cabin noise was negligible, as noted above. Handling our own wash was easy with the deep-vee hull. An evasive maneuver to avoid a hidden hazard was accomplished easily with a drop in engine revs and a quick turn. The ride was solid and comfortable and would likely have remained so even in a chop.

The 285 stands out for the distinctly civilized ride and versatility provided by its enclosed wheelhouse. With standard equipment, it lists at $248,000, slotting squarely in the mid-range of comfortable sport and fishing craft.

LOA    27’ 10”/8.5 m
Beam    9’ 6”/2.9 m
Dry Weight (no engine)    7,300 lb./3,311 kg
Fuel Capacity    200 gal./757L
Water Capacity    30 gal./114L
Waste Capacity     6.5 gal./24.6 L
Price as Tested    $248,000

Test boat provided and price quoted by M&P Mecury Sales

Engines: Twin 225-hp Mercury Verado outboards, supercharged inline 6 cylinder, 2.6 L / 158 ci, twin cam, four valve per cylinder. 4–stroke, sequential multi-port fuel injection
RPM    Speed (knots)
600    2.6
1000    4.4
1500    6.1
2000    7.4
2500    8.2
3000    10.5
3500    16.7
4000    22.9*
4500    27.3
5000    31.1
5500    34.3
6000    37.8
6500    40.1
*Cruising Speed

Performance data supplied by Boston Whaler.

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 - Officially a part of the Conquest model line, the Boston Whaler 285 is described as a pilothouse design, thanks to its permanently enclosed wheelhouse.
Photo 2 - The 285 has a fully fabricated integral aft wall with door; a small window in the door slides open vertically.
Photo 3 - Below, the living area is surprisingly large with a U-shaped settee and an oval-shaped table at centre that can drop down to settee height to create a second berth.
Photo 4 - The wheelhouse holds a command seat behind the instruments and controls to starboard, and a pair of facing seats to port.
Photo 5 - A small galley is located to port and has a two-burner stovetop and a small microwave matched to a small under-counter refrigerator.
Photo 6 - Boston Whaler 285 Conquest Pilothouse, Sport Fisher, Commuter or Pocket Cruiser.
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