If there's an aquatic version of the sport-utility vehicle, it would probably be the walkaround fishing boat. Newcomers and veterans alike love the multi-tasking versatility of these models, so builders continue to respond to the ever-growing demand. Among the latest on the scene is the functional - and affordable - Boston Whaler 205 Eastport, an alternative to the company's Conquest cabin-boat series.
"With fewer features, the Eastport requires less labor and materials than a Conquest so it costs less to build," says Whaler President Michael Myers. "But we still use the same yacht-quality components like tinned-copper wiring, solid-stainless-steel cleats, heavy-duty rub rails and unsinkable Unibond construction you find in every Whaler. The Eastport provides weather protection, lockable storage and the flexibility to fish offshore one day and entertain the family the next. It is a great all-purpose boat at a value price."
The Eastport is built with a traditional variable-deadrise hull with a 45-degree bow entry transitioning to 18 degrees at the transom. The boat's slightly rounded keel allows it to plane quickly and perform well with less power. During our factory test on Georgia's Savannah River, the top speed with the standard 150-hp Mercury OptiMax was 39 mph with two persons aboard and a full tank of fuel. At a 4500 rpm cruise, speed was 32.6 mph while burning 9.0 gph, or the equivalent of a 193-nautical-mile range, including a safety reserve. The ride was solid, yet soft, even in confused ship wakes.
Hydraulic tilt steering is standard, and I especially liked the expansive electronics-mounting area and good visibility from the helm. The tempered-glass windshield was the perfect height for operation either from a seated or standing position.
Whaler's long-established fishing background is evident throughout the Eastport. The walkaround design offers 360-degree fishability, but what's most noticeable is the boat's spacious cockpit. At 41 square feet, with 22 inches of interior freeboard, there's enough room to fish comfortably without banging elbows. Rods up to seven feet long can be stowed in the dual horizontal racks under the gunwales or in flush-mounted rod holders in the covering boards. The aft-facing crew seats amidships incorporate an insulated fishbox/storage to starboard and a storage cooler with drain to port. The fishing package option includes an additional pair of rod holders and a live well plumbed in the port helm box.
The cuddy cabin includes a cushioned vee-berth with two large storage compartments below, a standard removable porta-potty, and more rod storage in bulkhead racks. Although the cabin will likely be used for lockable dry storage in most cases, it's certainly not claustrophobic for overnight stays. The berth comfortably fit my 6' 3" frame, and the overhead hatch and twin port lights keep the spaces light and breezy.
To accommodate the crew during runs offshore, the 205 comes with twin aft quarter seats with backrest bolsters and grab rails. The port seat is removable to allow easier access to the stern or the optional swim platform with integrated boarding ladder. The adjustable helm and companion captain chairs are equipped with cushions and plenty of space between (17 inches) for easy access to the locking cabin door.
Besides ample room and storage, the Eastport has several other noteworthy features. Hard corners and seams have been nearly eliminated, which makes post-trip cleaning a simple "hose-and-go" proposition. The anchor locker is fully finished with no seams or exposed foam to trap water, and it includes a stainless-steel anchor roller, securing cleat and safety lanyard. In addition to the heavy-duty, welded, stainless-steel bow rail, the deck of the bow pulpit is molded with cut-outs for secure footing during anchoring or docking.
With its ten-year transferable hull warranty and unsinkable Unibond construction, the 205 Eastport deserves a long look from families searching for a dependable and practical version of a boating SUV.
Boston Whaler, Edgewater, FL; (800) 942-5379;