Can a serious fish boat—and cushy family cruiser—be one and the same? Boston Whaler obviously thinks so, and after testing the 345 Conquest, I’m joining the list of believers. This is a boat that offers many of the same amenities you’d find in a luxurious express cruiser, yet still boasts enough serious fishing credentials to get you an approving nod from your angling buddies.
Let’s face it, most families won’t be sold on a blood-and-guts battlewagon. Duck inside the 345 and you’ll find a finely appointed cabin. Forward, a convenient island berth offers easy access and invites overnight stays. Settle in, flip a switch, and the headrest tilts upward for easy viewing of the flatscreen TV on the opposite wall. I only wish the switch was more convenient; it’s located near the foot of the bed.
A starboard settee easily converts to another single berth. Push the table down, pull out the cushions, and you’re ready to snooze. But I especially like the mid-cabin berth. Unlike the typical claustrophobe’s nightmare of a bunk, it’s a clever, sunken, U-shaped seating area by day, and a great place for the kids to hang out while escaping the sun. At night, a quick conversion switches it into bed mode without scrambling through lockers looking for a filler cushion.
The 345’s galley is elegant yet practical. A microwave and stove handle cooking duties, and there’s ample counter space to prep a meal. A nicely appointed head, with VacuFlush toilet, is located just behind. Interior walls all feature a glossy, low-maintenance finish. No cheesy glued-on fabric or carpet to prove a target for mildew or stains.
All those features may entice the family, but a serious fish boat needs a little battle in its wagon. An acrylic transom door offers quick access to the cockpit. In the cockpit sole, two large inboard boxes await your catch, and are positioned so that an angler can easily nudge a flopping critter within. Whaler’s foam-filled Unibond construction gives the boat an unsinkable reputation, but also acts as a natural insulator to keep that catch on ice. A folding transom bench offers increased seating area, but quickly flips out of the way for full access across the transom. Bait prep centers are located to both port and starboard. You’ll also find an abundance of rod holders (two each on both port and starboard gunwales, three across the transom, and six more on the hardtop legs), downrigger weight holders, tackle drawers, and toe rails for security. A livewell sits in the port corner.
Other features also show remarkable adaptability. A centerline helm is surrounded on three sides by full tempered glass windows that offers excellent visibility as well as unparalleled protection from the elements. A powered window vent provides ventilation; close it up and hit the A/C or heat and you’re farther into the comfort zone. Heading below? The starboard seat slides in against the top for full access, or out and away for a more comfortable ride underway. Prefer to steer from the upper station? Ladder steps are built into the structure. Both stations also offer plenty of real estate for today’s larger electronic displays.
Whaler rigs the Conquest exclusively with Mercury Verado power. With a trio of 300-hp outboards on the stern, I reached 49.5 mph, and achieved .84 mpg at 32 mph, not bad considering the boat’s loaded weight of over 18,000 pounds. Digital throttle and shift offer smooth, precise control, and allow single-lever control if desired.
The 345 hull handled offshore conditions with confidence and ease. Surprising was the boat’s aggressive cornering in calmer, inshore waters. Around the dock, a 4-kW bow thruster inspires further confidence.
So is the 345 the ultimate luxury fish boat? By delivering a model that can handle party duty at the dock or overnight cruising with the family, and yet still manage some real offshore fishing with the crew, Whaler has certainly created a double threat worthy of consideration.
For more information, visit Boston Whaler.
Jeff Hemmel writes for Boating, PersonalWatercraft.com, and Powersports Business. The former Senior Editor at Watercraft World, Jeff is a multi-time award winner as well as a 2008 inductee into the IJSBA Hall of Fame. His first book, The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon...and 101 Other Things For Young Mariners To Try, Do, & Build On the Water, recently received a bronze medal in the 2010 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. For more info, visit Jeff Hemmel's website.