Boston Whaler 170 Montauk Review

Issue: October 2002

For those new to Boston Whaler boats let’s make it clear from the start. These US-built boats are one of the toughest fibreglass boat around and they are virtually unsinkable.

How’s that you say’ Well, the concept is pretty simple. It’s kinda like a surfboard. If you chop a surfboard up into 10 bits, all the bits will still float. And it’s the same with a Boston Whaler. Why’ Because they are foam filled.

I can confirm the strength of these vessels, because I have owned a 13ft Classic Whaler for more than 10 years. And boy has it copped a beating. No, I haven’t tried to chop it up into 10 pieces, but it’s had a hard life for all those years.

As a youngster I was hard on my boats. The tinnies often needed rewelding, while one of my glass boats had to have its transom replaced. But not my 13ft Boston Whaler. After 10 years hard labour it’s still ticking along with no cracks and twice the hull’s rated horsepower hanging off the back.

So given that I still own an old Boston Whaler I was looking forward to putting a new 16′ 6′ (5.05m) big brother of my Classic through its paces to see how things have been progressing.

As it turned out, the 170 Montauk is a fine example of the evolution of a classic design.

But before I give you the low-down on the Montauk, it may help if I told you a bit about the Boston Whaler Company itself.

Boston Whalers have been around since 1958, when the founder, Richard Fisher, developed a new method of hull construction called ‘Unibond’.

The method involved filling two fibreglass skins with liquid foam. Once the foam expands and sets the skin and foam become one.

But this foam is a lot denser than your average batch, because it expands in a confined area, so the hulls end up extremely rigid and buoyant.

In May 1961, Boston Whaler got some great press when Fisher chopped a hull in half and headed off down river in only half a boat. The company has also conducted other stunts like shooting 1000 rounds of ammo through a hull ‘ it didn’t sink ‘ and driving a massive 32 tonne mining truck over another hull didn’t crush it.

The first hull released was a twin sponson, 13ft tub which, for many years was regarded as the ‘Classic’ Boston design many would be familiar with.

Thousands of the 13′ designs were sold and I wouldn’t be too surprised if most of them are still up and running today.

Now the 13ft, 130 Sport Model, is the closest to the original design, but I reckon the newer model’s hull has more deadrise, so it should produce a softer ride in the rough stuff.

These days Boston Whaler boats are owned by the Brunswick Corp ‘ the huge US marine conglomerate that also produces Sea Ray, Bayliner and Maxum boats, plus Mercury engines.

With that kind of backing they have expanded the range to include 18 craft from 12′ to 35′ with hull designs that include the classic twin sponson set-up and a mono-hull range.

But the new 170 Montauk comes from the classic stable of craft, though I noticed that the hull now has a more defined ‘Vee’ towards the bow in between the twin sponsons compared to the older designs.

This will improve offshore handling and I reckon that’s a good step forward.

Overall, the Montauk stays true to the classic Boston design with an emphasis on engineering and design rather than creature comforts. This places the rig somewhere between a utility style boat and a conventional runabout.

The utility side of the house is emphasised by features such as the centre console steering, large Esky-style seat, built-in tackle locker, four rocket launcher rod holders, great stability, non-slip deck, limited seating and open layout.

But being a utility vessel isn’t all bad. We took the bung out while the boat was in the water ‘ which unless you are on the plane, is normally a rather stupid thing to do ‘ but in this case the water only gushed in until the hull’s natural buoyancy put a halt to the flow.

Once the bung was back in place, the bilge pump in a small floor well (where the bung is located) promptly drained the boat.

Conventional runabout features include an optional boarding ladder and swim platform, functional dash, reversible helm seat and adequate storage.

Creature comforts were limited. There was no radio/CD/cassette and only limited storage areas. This is partly due to the way the hull is built, because there are no underfloor, or forward cavities.

There was no storage for the paddle and the fuel tanks tend to look a bit awkward exposed and loose under the drivers seat, particularly in a $46,800 boat.

The fuel tanks do come with straps to hold them in place, but if the boat were mine, I would be getting a little canvas cover made to partly enclose the fuel and battery area. I would also have some clips installed to hold the paddle.

Essentially, the Montauk is not packed with comfort features, but this is easy to overlook because the rig is so well built.

The bowrail, grab rails on the console and the helm are all marine-grade stainless steel and feel very solid.

Little features like the pre-moulded recessed hinges for the hatches, and special ‘whaleboard’ backing ‘ that’s stronger than wood built into the hull for mounting deck fittings ‘ produce a craft that will endure the test of time.

If you require more features, the Montauk does come with an offshore option package, which includes 27 MHz radio and aerial; 110m of rope; reef anchor; chain; flares; V-sheet; and fire extinguisher for an extra $635. But I am sure other extras like a speedo and GPS could also be easily installed.

Conditions on the day of the test were perfect, which is great for the photos, but not great if you want to test how a hull performs in the rough.

As a result, we had to opt for the odd cruiser wake to see how the Montauk handled chop. Later on, we powered towards the heads of Botany Bay where a gentle (but small) swell had developed.

With a 90hp Mercury outboard on a 17ft boat with two large blokes onboard the Montauk performed exceptionally well with a GPS top speed of around 37knots.

Comfortable trolling speeds between 3 and 6 knots were obtained between 1000rpm and 2000rpm, while she was able to hold the plane at around 3000rpm pulling 13 knots.

The Montauk responded well to trim and with one up most of the rig hovered enthusiastically over the water, but remained under control. I just wish there’d been some waves from which to go jumping off.

The test boat was a turnkey package priced to go at $46,899. This price includes the hull with swim platform and ladder, a 90hp Mercury motor with stainless steel propeller, a Brooker trailer, in-shore safety package and full registrations.

Overall, the 17ft Montauk is a tough, no nonsense, open runabout well suited to anglers or anyone who just loves mucking about in boats. With good levels of stainless steel work, clean lines and top-notch performance the Boston Whaler, once customised will impress its owner for a long time to come. For further information contact Andrew Short Marine on (02) 9524 2699.

Engine Room
The Boston Whaler 170 Montauk was powered by a Mercury 90hp, oil injected, two-stroke outboard with electric start, power trim/tilt and an 18′ stainless steel Quicksilver propeller. On the day of the test our GPS readings were: 3.6 knots at 1000rpm; 5.8 knots at 2000rpm; 13 knots at 3000 rpm; 22 knots at 4000rpm; 31 knots 5000 rpm; and 36.5 knots at 5500rpm.

Story & Photos by Andrew Richardson