Boston Whaler 180 Dauntless Review

Issue: October 2003

It’s not often the Modern Boating team comes across a boat that refuses to be categorised, but all that changed when we got our hands on the Boston Whaler 180 Dauntless recently. Normally, if a boat is configured as a centre console it’s simply shuffled off among the fishing boats and however debatable, the world of slime and scales is one place this boat should feel at home. But this boat is quite different from other centre consoles. Why? Well for starters not many of the 180’s peers have a full width aft lounge seat that lifts up to make somewhere a fly or lure caster can perch themselves.

Then, with a 5.63m overall length, this centre console should be sitting firmly in the realm of bluewater sport fishing machines, but the Dauntless has low sides. Other boats of this type normally have high sides, which allow anglers to lean against them for support while playing a big fish. So we gave up trying to categorise the Dauntless and simply took her out for a spin to see how she went. What we discovered impressed the team greatly, because however imprecise her exact role in the Aussie boating scheme of things, is the Boston Whaler 180 Dauntless was a remarkable boat by any standard. And standards are something Boston Whaler continues to set.

We hardly need to remind readers about the massive structural integrity and indeed inherent safety of Boston Whaler’s fully bonded foam-filled construction. It’s been demonstrated often enough in various stunts involving chain saws and bull dozers, so if Boston Whaler want to tell us their hulls can withstand being shot up by automatic weapon fire ‘ which is probably why they are standard equipment for most of America’s armed forces ‘ we believe them. But not being at all interested in being shot at, we took a Boston Whaler 180 Dauntless out onto the Southport Broadwater late in the afternoon.

Very late actually, as you might fathom from the ruddy glow attached to otherwise bright white gel coat hull in some of our photographs. A 135hp Mercury OptiMax two-stroke outboard graced the 180’s transom. Swinging a 17′ Vengeance prop it literally rocketed the little Boston Whaler to a top speed of 38.5 knots, which indicated a smaller motor, or perhaps a less energetic one than the OptiMax, would be viable options for this boat. As it was the high performance levels provided by the 135 OptiMax added some social mucking about with wake toys to the Boston Whalers 180 Dauntless’ CV. The 180’s hull has unusually sculpted lines, particularly around the bow area where the chines curve upwards and inwards at the same time.

The result is a very fine entry, which cuts through the chop cleanly and delivers a softer ride. It is also noticeably quieter than other similar hulls, simply because of its foam-filled hull construction. Weighing-in at 907kg, this boat is no lightweight and this also contributes in a positive way to her impressive over water performance. So good was the ride offered by the 180 Dauntless that somehow it almost seems wasted on a boat with a fully moulded inner liner that offers precious little of the leg support that’s essential for comfort and safety when offshore fishing.

Even so, among the Boston Whaler 180’s options list was what they called a ‘trolling motor panel,’ in other words a bow mount for an electric fishing motor. Perhaps here lies the key to situations where this boat’s rough water handling and fishing capabilities really do come together. The 180 Dauntless has an exceptional ‘ in some ways unprecedented ‘ ability to cross open water safely. This capability can be used to cross rough water, when heading for a sheltered fishing spot, where the high casting decks and the subtle approach of an electric fishing motor really come into their own.

And we know plenty of places where using an electric is the only way to go. So with renewed interest, we took a detailed, albeit hurried, because it was getting dark, look at the 180 Dauntless. First off there’s that big comfy rear lounge, whether or not it is really of any use in a fishing boat is another question, but the drink holder on each side do s uggest certain uses. Even so, it’s well out of the way when stowed. Behind the lounge, flush waterproof hatches conceal oil tank and battery storage, while the well to port on our test boat was plumbed as a live bait tank.

Four flush-mount rod holders set across the aft decking and a folding telescopic boarding ladder, set in a recess low down on the transom, suggest this boat is capable of a lot more than just fishing. Then, looking even closer we discovered there were lifting eyes in the bow and stern. So, if you had a mothership capable of lifting and stowing a 1000 odd kilo tender, image the fishing possibilities. Steam the mothership out to some exotic location, crack out the Dauntless to fish from; only returning to the bigger boat once you’ve had your fishing fill. But there’s more… the cockpit sole self drains, there are heavy-duty rub rails along each gunwale and rod racks fold into a recess down each side of the cockpit.

The centre console is well designed ergonomically with a sturdy frame and plenty of rails to hang on to when the going gets tough. The test boat also had a neat soft-top mounted above the centre console, a sensible addition by the importers for fishos under the Aussie sun. Another unusual aspect of this centre consoles is the amount of storage space she boasts compared to other boats of this configuration. The console itself has hatches in its aft end, covering a large dry storage space. There’s even more storage beneath the helm seat, which has one of those swing over two-position backrests.

Additional vertical rod storage, which is set into the console sides, allows some more rods to be brought onboard and stowed up well out of the way. Low stainless steel bow and side rails give you something to grab hold of when moving around the boat and replace the overhanging side decks on the average offshore fishing boat. However, the bowrail isn’t divided above the fairlead making it necessary to manhandle anchor, chain and warp over, or under, instead of through the bowrail.

The test boat had an icebox mounted forward of the console complete with a padded top and a backrest on the front of the console itself. Along each side in the bow quarters was a raised section leading up to a reasonably sized, raised casting platform right in the bow. Set into this was a big anchor well that drains overboard. There were also five massive stainless steel cleats positioned around the 180 Dauntless’ periphery. Yes, this boat can be tied up securely. A 270lt underfloor fuel tank completes the fit-out.

That’s a big tank, although having such a long range is quite in keeping with this boat’s unusual set of specifications and the dreams it creates as one hell of a safe and fishing friendly tender. Whether or not you have the mothership capable of lifting and stowing it is another story, but a trailer or behind the house pontoon mooring would do. The test boat was supplied by Sea Ray Queensland

Words and Photos by Warren Steptoe