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September 21, 2007

Boston Whaler 26 Conquest

Boston Whaler introduced this new 26-footer last summer to complement its existing line of Conquest cabin boats. Now you have three Conquests to choose from: a 23, the new 26 and the 28. We were impressed with the previous Conquest models and expected no less from the new boat. We weren't disappointed.

The moment you step aboard, you notice Whaler's exemplary level of fit and finish in a design that gives the buyer a lot of boat. Like her sisterships, the 26 is an excellent performer. Twin 200-hp Mercury OptiMax outboards come standard (with a deluxe Smart Craft gauge system), and push the 26 along at a 32.5 mph cruise speed at 4000 rpm. Punch it, and the big 26 hits 46.8 mph at 5500 rpm. The Accutrack hull design, which features large reverse chines, provides a very smooth and dry ride.

In the cockpit, the 26 has two large in-deck fishboxes that drain through a non-macerated pumpout system, and the transom bulkhead contains a large, round live well. There's a sturdy transom gate to starboard that leads to the engine platform and the standard telescoping swim ladder. A fold-down seat along the transom bulkhead provides handy comfort for passengers, and a single hatch in the bulkhead affords easy access to the inner hull.

Goodies to Go

Boston Whaler 26 ConquestWhaler throws in extra goodies, like remote oil tank fills, stainless steel toe rails and cockpit coaming pads. There are racks for two rods per side beneath the gunwales. A 54-quart cooler at the forward end of the cockpit serves as a drink box and an aft-facing seat. To starboard, you can get an optional bait-prep station (shown below) with a sink, a rig holder and tackle-storage drawers below. The Whaler design team did an outstanding job of laying out the cockpit with the space available.

Additional tackle drawers reside beneath the helm seat. A lounge seat to port provides plenty of room for passengers, and the helm area has a clear view of all forward directions through the wraparound windshield. There's plenty of room for mounting electronics above the wheel, and our test boat sported the optional hardtop, which had another electronics box mounted under it.

The new Conquest was designed to do several tasks well, and down below you find a very comfortable living space. A forward vee-berth becomes a double berth thanks to a slide-in filler piece that stows forward under the cushions when it is not needed. There's also a mid-berth aft, under the bridge deck - a surprisingly roomy space.

Our test boat featured the optional cruising package, which includes a microwave oven, refrigerator and single-burner electric stove in the galley. The package also features a six-gallon hot-water heater and shore power with a battery charger, as well as a head upgrade from a porta-potty (standard) to a VacuFlush with holding tank and Y-valve for dockside pumpout.

Like all Whalers, the 26 is unsinkable thanks to the company's famous Unibond foam-filled construction. The entire inner hull is filled with high-density, closed-cell foam to form a one-piece boat that is so incredibly durable that Whaler backs it with a ten-year, transferable, limited hull warranty.

The new 26 Conquest comes with many standard items, like a fresh water cockpit shower, hydraulic trim tabs, Teleflex hydraulic tilt steering, cockpit lighting and a carbon monoxide detector. The 26 rounds out one of Whaler's more popular model lines, and the quality throughout the boat clearly shows why Boston Whaler is a leader in the fishing-boat industry.

Boston Whaler, Edgewater, FL; (800) WHALER-9; www.whaler.com.