BOAT REVIEW Boston Whaler 230 Vantage

June 2020 Trailer Boat Reviews
Words and photography by Matt Vance
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Boston Whaler 230 Vantage
DESIGNER Boston Whaler
BUILDER Boston Whaler
CONSTRUCTION Closed cell foam sandwich
PRICE AS TESTED $221, 320
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 7.51M
BEAM 2.59M
DRAFT 0.6M
ENGINE Mercury Verado 300hp
FUEL CAPACITY 420L
WATER CAPACITY 68L
Passenger Capacity 10 people

If you were to have one boat to keep your beer-swilling, fishing mates happy, your teenage kids and all their wake toys and loud music going, luxurious comfort to keep your better half on the water and the ability to handle anything the New Zealand weather can throw at it, you will find it in the Boston Whaler 230 Vantage.


The Boston Whaler is also the boat for you if you’re 47 days into self-isolation at the tail end of global pandemic lockdown – she is breath of fresh air – and a big, smooth Swiss-army-knife-of-a-boat that will do it all in style.

Construction

There’s no beating quality American boatbuilding at its best. It was one of the things that made America great and it’s reassuring in these times to find that it still exists. Boston Whaler has been in the business of producing strong unsinkable boats since 1956 and this pedigree is apparent in the 230 Vantage.

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A casual wander around the internet reveals that the Boston Whalers have famously been cut in half; have taken thousands of rounds of ammunition fired into them; had massive earthmovers parked on top of them – and had their bungs removed with crowds of people aboard. It not only makes for good entertainment but also instills great confidence in the integrity of the boats.

All this bulletproof, cut-in-half toughness comes from their UnibondTM construction process. The moulds for the hull and liner are overbuilt so that they can be pressed together and shot full of expanding closed-cell foam under pressure which fuses the two components into a single structure.

The result is an incredible cubic volume of closed-cell buoyant material which, when combined with thick laminates and oversized hardware, means the boat is built to float and to last.

The other half of the magic Boston Whaler formula is in the hull design. The hull is a striking departure from the usual affair. The large vertical sides hide the deep vee and 20° deadrise of the hull before sweeping up to the wide duck-bill bow at deck level.

The high sides and the downturned chines keep the ride dry and soft while the duckbill bow exponentially increases the room in the bow-riding section and punches any spray out and down from the bow sections. It is an unusual combination but the effect is a very handsome hull.

Layout

Like the hull, the layout of the 230 Vantage has had some clever thinking applied to it. The Vantage is a dual-console boat with forward seating and a large cockpit; she is also the roomiest 23-footer you’ll ever come across.

Starting at the bow, there’s a through-hull anchor chute and anchor with an optional windlass with an alternative option of a drop-down ladder for beach landings should you wish.

The wide forward cockpit has cushioned U-shaped seating with drink holders and handrails. There are mountains of storage under to accommodate the filler piece that turns the forward cockpit into a full sun lounge.

There are two insulated bins with drains and giant under-console storage, accessed from the front of the console with a lift-up gate, with racks for fenders and room for all the toys on the starboard side. Above it all is a robust, custom made hardtop and zip-in clears for the shitty weather.

The walkthrough between the dual consoles is slightly offset to starboard and is accessed via a hinged windscreen and lower door arrangement. Along the floor is a giant storage compartment for rods or skis. The port console has the most astonishing feature of a boat packed with features. It contains a walk-in head compartment and will be a winner for the all-day family outing.

The starboard-helm console is well laid out with great access to the dash electronics, equipment switches and controls. There is also a storage area under the console accessed from the inside bow walkthrough.

The swivelling helm chair features a flip-up bolster to convert it to a leaning post and offers good visibility through the windscreen. Aft of the console to port is a convertible lounge seat with a big storage area underneath. Like many features on this boat, it has more configurations than a transformer robot, from a conventional forward-facing double seat to a flat lounger.

Aft of this is a small day galley with sink and chilly bin beneath with room for a burner if required. The cockpit is large with plenty of room for fishing. There is a large in-deck hatch to access the lazarette and all of its neatly placed pumps, batteries and through-hulls.

There is a recessed, foldout transom seat that offers a comfortable ride and yet tucks away nicely so as not to interfere with fishing. To cap off a luxurious fit-out is a walk-through transom door with access to the swim platform and boarding ladder, which encompasses the silky-sounding 300hp Mercury Verado V8 spinning a 16 x 18P Enertia Eco prop.

On the Water

There have been boat reviews done in rough conditions, flat conditions and every condition. It is rare to do one during a global pandemic conditions. Review day was on the last day of Level 3 lockdown under a suitably ominous grey sky and while commercial boat testing was allowed at Level 3, it feels indulgent and subversive – like you’ve leaped the fence of the school pool for a midnight skinny dip.

Not surprisingly we had the boat ramp to ourselves as I got my first look at the impressive 230 Vantage on her galvanised Watercraft tandem-axle trailer. The first impression is of solidness and size. She is most definitely a launch disguised as a trailerable boat; a well-designed and engineered one at that.

The sense of space was partly due to hull shape and partly the interior design of the Boston Whaler. Every conceivable space has been used to enhance the experience onboard from the helm station to the massive amount of storage, the detail is immaculate.

The New Zealand agent for Boston Whaler is Sports Marine and we had salesman Ben Martin and yard manager Howard Hill aboard two boats, while I flitted between the two doing my best to keep my social distance.

Taking the helm was all pleasure as the 230 Vantage just slid onto the plane with a solid feel and a restrained growl from the Mercury. Her deep-vee, full bow sections and the well-positioned chines offered a two-stage dampening of what would be slamming conditions in many other boats of this size. The vee of the bow breaks the initial force of the wave and the chines offers an additional cushioning effect.

The chines also came in handy for some tight manoeuvring and their full length and placement in sync with the near-vertical side panels seemed to give a noticeable bite to the hull on the corners. There’s a reassuring sensation that the hull will not let go.

It’s backed up by the grip of the big Mercury, which showed no indication of cavitating; a sure sign of a well-matched motor and hull package. With no shortage of horsepower, acceleration was excellent, pushing you back into your plushly upholstered seat.

In the flat water, the Vantage 230 skated around Charteris Bay in style with minimal wake.  A short sprint up to Diamond Harbour delivered some harbour slop, but the weight of the hull and the flared bow kept the ride dry while the hull, which responded well to trim, soaked up all the bumps.

The windscreen was at a comfortable height and diverted much of the autumn chill while maintaining excellent visibility and great ergonomics. A comfortable cruise speed was around 28 knots at 4000rpm – with fuel consumption of 42 litres per hour from the smooth Mercury. For those with a heavy hand, top speed is around 43 knots.

If you can afford only one boat and you want it to last a lifetime, the Boston Whaler 230 Vantage would be it. She has the tweak-ability of a ski boat, the room and functionality of a fisher, the style of an entertaining day boat and the deep-water pedigree to get you home.

While she ticked all these boxes she failed miserably on one point. If you were trying to sneak out on the harbour during a curfew she is the wrong boat. She has the handsome looks, power and control that will get her noticed. The lockdown breach hotline will ring hot and the curtains will be twitching in any bay you care to boat in.

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