The marine industry’s spent the past few years riding a profitable wave, as the economy improves and discretionary spending picks up again.
Yet watercraft makers realize they can’t rest on their laurels.
“I think the boat building business has to stay ahead,” said Jim McClellan, general manager of Hall Marine Charleston.
Daniel Island-based Hall Marine markets Boston Whaler, one of the premier names in the business, among its stable of nameplates.
Even an iconic brand, it seems, can’t stand still.
Boston Whaler saw demand growing for larger, more versatile boats that could be used for more than one pastime, whether skiing, fishing or taking the kids out.
In 2014, the company crafted its largest boats yet at 35, 37 and 42 feet and incorporated versatile features such as lounge-like seating that doubles as storage compartments and a rigging station behind the helm in which the cutting area and live well are directly under the hinged top.
The boat-making company found itself up to the task, at least according to Hall Marine. The new Outrage lineup, with boats priced from $500,000, equally meets two quite different boat needs.
“It’s a large fishing boat but also a nice family boat,” McClellan said.
The general manager along with dealership president Rick Hall recently took out a Boston Whaler 350 Outrage that had arrived earlier this year.
“This is our first big Boston Whaler,” McClellan said. “The 35 (foot length) is needed for off-shore use.” The Dauntless series, which goes up to 27 feet, is a little more limited for depp sea excusions, he said.
Three six-cylinder supercharged Mercury Verado engines boasting 300 horsepower apiece provide the muscle. “It sounds like three jet engines,” McClellan said. The supercharged powertrain, capable of 60 miles per hour, offers “much more acceleration and torque,” he said.
- Joystick drive. Used at slow speeds such as leaving or entering the dock, the joystick on the center console permits the pilot to control subtle movements, even spin 360 degrees, by twisting and maneuvering a knob-like device similar to a video controller.
- A flat and squared off transom, or dive door, to assist divers and swimmers climbing in and out of the boat. The open door also gives boaters the chance to put their feet in the water when the boat is stationary.
- High-tech features such as long-lasting LED running lights and a plug for electronic equipment such as an iPhone.
- A trolling seat for fishing pros eager to cast a line off the deck at slow speed. The seat, which opens into a side aisle, folds back into the side of the boat for storage.
- Touch button starting.
- Power steering.
- Digital readouts for things like GPS and radar on the dashboard.
- A toilet and cold water sink with hinged door for the bathroom a few steps below deck.
Cruising speed stands at 35-40 miles per hour. Another benefit: “You can stay in place at a very slow speed,” McClellan said.
In a review of the 350 Outrage, www.BoatTest.com highlighted a bunch of “distinguishing features” that showcases the Boston Whaler’s flexibility as both a fishing boat and a family cruiser.
“Just ahead of the console is what may surely be the most popular spot on the 350 … a large lounge with flip-down armrests and drink holder nestled into the center armrest. It adds to not only the comfort level, but the good looks of the boat,” the online publication said. “It even includes massive storage underneath, including room for dive tanks, five-gallon buckets, removable bins and six fishing rods.” There are two in-deck fish boxes to keep catches cold.
BoatTest.com also spoke of the “versatile bow seating” that includes an optional table; and an “ergonomic” center-mounted helm station, which the website’s test captain found to be “dialed in” and comfortable to use.
The online tester also liked the dive door, calling it “easy to open and close, and swings inward for safety.” BoatTest.com championed the 350 Outrage’s stereo, which includes six JL audio speakers.
But most of the all, the publication focused on the boat maker’s sterling pedigree.
“She is not a battle wagon, but she is ready for battle and can go toe-to-toe with any boat in class. Because it’s a Boston Whaler, and they’re all built so well, this will probably be the last boat many people ever buy.”
In a brief turn at the wheel, the 350 Outrage proved to be easy to steer, the throttle calibrated to pick up speed steadily and to slow quickly in a no-wake zone and visibility ample through the windshield and side views from the helm station.
Even on a choppy day on the Ashley River, the boat planed smoothly and accelerated easily to cruising speed.
The one “negative,” if it could be called one, is there was nothing flashy or stunningly innovative other than, perhaps, the joystick.
But the Boston Whaler offered the one intangible that every boater seeks but doesn’t always find, a vessel that you can trust unconditionally.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.