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May 20, 2009

Boston Whaler 370 Outrage

Boston Whaler's 370 Outrage combines innovative design with solid performance.

Boston Whaler has never sought to define itself as a high performance boat company. Instead, it has been content to develop an unmatched 50-year reputation for quality construction and practical design - all wrapped in a famously unsinkable package. As a result of this unwavering commitment and focus, no other boat company enjoys more brand awareness or customer loyalty.

But as we headed out of Florida's Ponce Inlet to test the new 370 Outrage, the largest Whaler ever built, I sensed that this boat might surprise us in terms of performance. Sure enough, when we poured the coals to the optional triple 300 horsepower Mercury Verados adorning the transom (250s come standard), the boat leapt on plane and in seconds we reached a respectable cruising speed of almost 36 mph at 4,500 rpm. Not an ocean racer to be sure, but the boat has solid performance that's far from sedate.

Lumpy 4-foot seas awaited us when we reached the open ocean as a steep onshore swell collided with an outgoing tide, churning the green water into a froth and creating perfect test conditions. But the big Whaler cut through it with ease, never pounding and running very dry. We spent an hour running the boat at all angles to the seas and never felt any more than a mist of spray. Even better, the boat tracked well and didn't show any bad sea manners, no matter what we asked of her. I've driven a lot of Whalers over the years, and this is the best sea boat they've offered to date.

The 370 Outrage weighs 17,745 pounds dry, so that helps explain the excellent rough-water handling abilities. Mass, combined with a well-designed hull, creates an excellent ride. But there's much more to the 370 than size and a deep-V hull. Whaler's usual high level of precision engineering has created a boat that does many things well, from clever and well executed storage spaces to a sleek and stylish design that looks great on the water. Features include a well-designed cockpit with plenty of room. The transom bulkhead contains a gate to starboard for accessing the engine platform, with a 24-gallon livewell in the bulkhead to port. A passenger seat flips out of the bulkhead, and a stainless steel dive ladder attaches to the underside of the seat, where it's out of the way when not in use. The ladder drops into stainless slots in the deck under a port-side dive door, a large gate that's actually a part of the hull side.

The cockpit deck holds five fish boxes, and the aft two on our test boat contained optional freezer plates for chilling your catch. A large lazarette hatch affords access to all of the boat's pumps and batteries, and to the standard 8 kw Fischer Panda generator and its 20-gallon diesel-fuel tank. It's quite easy to reach everything for servicing. At the forward end of the cockpit, a large tackle center contains myriad useful items, including a 55-gallon main livewell, a Kenyon electric grill and a sink located beneath a cutting board. Along the aft edge of the unit, three drawers hold lots of loose gear, as does a tilt-out bin. There's a knife and pliers rack and even a trash can - a well designed and executed use of space.

Mesh bags, hanging on dedicated hooks, store rigs and allow them to dry after you've rinsed them. A refrigerator/freezer located in the port side of the tackle center keeps drinks and frozen bait close at hand, and on the forward end of the unit, three racing-style bolster seats with flip-up cushions provide comfortable and secure seating, whether you choose to drive sitting down or standing up.

Our test boat sported the factory hard top, a huge powder-coated affair with a port-side access hatch, which enables you to climb up on the top. It contained one of the truly innovative features of the 370: a retractable shade that rolls out of the aft end of the top to shield the cockpit from the sun. A glass windshield with a power-actuated vent surrounds the helm area, which is ergonomically designed to provide easy access to all instruments and controls. A large, flat surface above the helm provides more than ample room for mounting two large video screens, necessities on today's large offshore boats.