A new flagship for Whaler

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This year Whaler re-entered the big-boat game, but with outboard power and the Unibond construction it has been perfecting for more than 50 years.

About five years ago Boston Whaler stopped building its largest boat. The 34 Defiance (later called the 350 Defiance) was somewhat of a gamble for the Edgewater, Fla., builder when introduced in 1999: The express-style boat had twin diesel inboards and was built with a different approach to its signature unsinkable construction. The boat’s Duobond construction process incorporated a stringer system and inner liner that were bonded to the hull and injected with foam.

This year Whaler re-entered the big-boat game, but with outboard power and the Unibond construction it has been perfecting for more than 50 years. The 345 Conquest, at 35 feet, 11 inches LOA, is the largest Unibond boat Whaler has built. The technique — used to build all the boats in the current lineup — involves high-density closed-cell foam sandwiched between two walls of fiberglass.

“The Unibond is kind of the heritage of Whaler construction, and we’ve taken it up over the years to 28 feet, and then up to 32 feet, and now 34 feet,” says Lenn Scholz, program manager for the 345. “We’ve continued to take the size up, with the same basic thought of the original 13-footer.”

Scholz says the boat, which carries a 10-year transferable hull warranty, is well-suited to offshore fishing and family cruising alike. “The cockpit is geared toward the fishing side of the trip, while the helm deck and cabin are well-appointed for cruising, entertaining and overnight trips — a well-rounded boat,” says Scholz.

In addition to gunwale- and transom-mounted rod holders, the self-bailing cockpit is outfitted with a 40-gallon lighted live well, in-deck fishboxes, coaming bolsters, stainless steel toerails, acrylic transom door, raw water washdown, freshwater shower, and a bait-prep center with sink, cutting board and removable cooler. While the bait prep station doubles as an entertainment center, there also is a cockpit refrigerator/freezer. Seating in the cockpit and helm areas consists of a foldaway aft bench seat, adjustable centerline helm seat, companion seat with footrest, and portside lounge seating.

The integrated windshield and hardtop provide a three-sided hard enclosure for the bridge deck. “The primary feature, if you will, is the fully integrated windshield, where the windshield goes up from the [foredeck] to the hardtop,” says Scholz. “It provides superior visibility and superior weather protection for the captain and passengers.”

Cruising comforts include reverse-cycle air conditioning for the bridge deck and cabin, and a standard 8-kW Fischer Panda diesel generator with a 15-gallon fuel tank. Below, the 345 has an island berth forward with storage beneath and a cedar-lined hanging locker, convertible settee with table to starboard, galley to port, and a midcabin with convertible U-shaped seating. The galley comes equipped with a sink, refrigerator, electric cook top and microwave/coffee maker. Karadon solid surface counters and hardwood sole are found throughout the cabin. A flat-screen television, DVD player, stereo system and satellite radio are standard.

In addition to being the largest Unibond boat, the 345 also marks Whaler’s first triple-engine installation, which is optional. Boston Whaler is owned by Brunswick Corp., manufacturer of Mercury outboards, and uses Mercury’s Digital Throttle and Shift with Shadow Mode to control the engines. “You can operate all three engines on a dual binnacle control,” says Scholz, “so you can operate a triple-engine boat the same way as you would a twin-engine boat.” A bow thruster is included.

Standard power is from twin 275-hp Mercury Verado 4-strokes, but with the introduction of the 300-hp Verados, Whaler may very well upgrade the standard engines. With optional triple 250-hp Verados, the 345 hits a top speed of 51 mph and cruises at 28 mph at 4,000 rpm. The triple-engine installation increases fuel capacity from 347 to 421 gallons and reduces water capacity from 64 to 45 gallons.

“The 33- to 36-foot outboard cabin boat market is kind of an emerging category, and we didn’t really have an entry in that market,” says Scholz. He expects the 345 to draw boaters moving up from 28- to 32-footers and downsizing from bigger inboard boats, and even some first-time buyers.

Estimated base price with standard power is $320,970, which Scholz says will increase to around $375,000 with triples and options.

Specifications

LOA: 35 feet, 11 inches

BEAM: 11 feet, 8 inches

DRAFT: 1 foot, 10 inches

DISPLACEMENT: 14,200 pounds

HULL TYPE: deep-vee

TRANSOM DEADRISE: 20 degrees

TANKAGE: 347 gallons fuel, 64 gallons water, 20 gallons waste

POWER: twin or triple outboards to 750 hp

SPEED: 43 mph top, 28 mph cruise (with twin 275-hp Mercury Verados)ESTIMATED PRICE: $320,970

CONTACT: Boston Whaler, Edgewater, Fla. Phone: (386) 428-0057. www.whaler.com