Replacing a proven model in a company lineup is no easy task. The replacement must have enough changes to entice new buyers as well as current owners without compromising the traits that made the original a success. Extensive research and thoughtful designs achieve that balance. Boston Whaler is one of the best in the business at pulling all this off, especially evident in the new Conquest. With construction as solid as Stone Mountain, practical fishing features, and more whiz-bang innovation than Silicon Valley, the **345 **relaunch makes a lasting impression.
I jumped aboard during a brief layover at the Marine Max dealership in Sarasota, Florida. The conditions for a real-world test were perfect, with gusty winds and a serious chop on the bay. True to its rugged New England heritage, the ride was solid, soft and stable, as you’d expect from a heavier, foam-filled hull. The triple Mercury Verado power plant provided impressive acceleration, and the bow settled quickly for an unhindered view of the horizon. Handling was nice and easy as well, thanks to the standard power steering and the optional Mercury Joystick control. The Smartcraft VesselView display gives the operator comprehensive control of the boat’s operating systems.
My GPS recorded a top speed of 44.8 miles per hour, which is fast, considering the conditions and the fact that the hull had some marine growth after sitting in the water at boat shows for a few weeks prior. Earlier factory tests with a slick bottom produced 47.1 mph at 6,000 rpm. The top end was 49.2 at 6,300. All tests were conducted with the optional triple Mercury 300-horsepower Verado four-stroke outboards. The standard power package comes with triple 250 hp Verados.
The roomy cockpit is all business, albeit with some welcome comfort considerations. The test boat was equipped with the cool — literally — optional retractable sun shade that extends horizontally from the aft edge of the hardtop. The shade adjusts for rod clearance and comes with a remote control.
A 40-gallon livewell with flow control occupies the port transom. Electrical outlets may conveniently be added to both sides for kite rods, electric reels and downriggers. Downrigger-ball cradles are standard, along with the toe rail, horizontal rod racks and large twin fish boxes in the cockpit sole. Additional rod holders welded to the hardtop ladder sit close at hand yet out of the way.
Seating certainly isn’t an issue on the latest-generation 345. An optional fold-down trolling seat can be installed either port or starboard under the gunwales, plus a durable stowaway transom bench seat completes the wraparound cockpit bolsters when not in use. The tan coaming pads stay cool to the touch, even in the direct glaring sun. The port tackle center is really a cool feature too. Featuring plenty of storage for gear and tools, it also incorporates a plush folding seat with footrest to watch the baits. Or if hot burgers are on the menu for lunch, a Kenyon electric grill awaits, next to the fillet/prep station.
Stepping up to the helm deck, a handy wet bar sits to starboard, with a refrigerator/freezer, sink, storage and cutting board. The helm companion port seating provides a vantage point with climate-controlled comfort. The convertible full lounge doubles as an additional berth.
The starboard helm has more than enough room for flush-mounted electronics. Several Raymarine packages are available from the factory. The Joystick control, another option, makes fishing and handling much easier for smaller crews. Our test boat carried the optional upper-helm station, which provides a commanding view of the cockpit and bow. Along with the optional joystick and electronic displays, Rupp or Taco outriggers can be added as well.
Besides the redesigned helm, the cabin interior is markedly improved over its predecessor. Featuring plenty of natural light and a practical arrangement, you’ll enjoy spending time in this interior. The centerpiece is the forward seating with a drop-down dining table, which drops to form the queen berth, a design that won the Innovation Award at this year’s Miami International Boat Show.
The galley and head to port are nicely equipped for long weekends. The starboard settee adds another berth, while the beam-to midberth comfortably sleeps two adults. With tons of storage, including bulkhead rod racks, a classic look, smooth finishes for easy cleaning, and LED lighting throughout, the 345 cabin really delivers as a short-term liveaboard.
Downsize or step up? Both. The new 345 Conquest is a great choice for serious fishing, hassle-free operation and luxurious comfort. Even with the classics, there’s always room for improvement.