Used Boat Review: Boston Whaler 16/17
By Scott Shane
The original, unsinkable, unmistakable Boston Whaler 16 (shown) was first introduced in 1961. It’s my unsubstantiated observation that this model was, and continues to be, the overwhelming favorite introductory vessel for novice boaters. Its styling and sturdiness make it the perfect boat for beginners and young family members to pilot confidently on their own. The size and handling also fit the bill for back-bay fishing and watersports. Many boaters put one on their dock as a delightful reminder of youthful adventures.
The first Boston Whaler Montauk made her debut in 1973 and featured a center console, mahogany or teak trim, and stout rails. In 1974, it officially became known as the 17 Montauk. (The 170 Montauk superseded it in 2002 with a completely new hull design.) All other Boston Whaler models based on that hull were similarly established as “17,” though the overall dimensions remained the same.
The initial hull design beneath this classic center-console skiff offered a rock-solid platform in the bay—especially at rest—and scooted along well when the seas were calm.
The Whaler will never be confused with a Carolina-flared hull when it comes to head-sea capabilities—the boat’s entry was equal parts rock-hard and soaking wet. An entirely redesigned hull bottom was introduced in 1977 that addressed those shortcomings, smoothing and drying out the ride. Again, the length and beam maintained the status quo.
“It’s important to replace the drain tube that runs from the aft-deck access channel and out the stern,” says Michael Dirmeir of Outboard Service Corp. in Freeport, New York. “The brass tube itself can wear out allowing water to seep into the foam core. These can be extruded reasonably easily and a PVC replacement or factory-direct brass tube should be installed.” Buyers should also complete the standard check of moisture levels in the hull and deck, as well as the strength of the transom and overall condition.
“Early vintage Boston Whalers can’t utilize the slider brackets available on most outboard engines allowing for engine-height alignment,” Dirmeir pointed out. “All four engine-mounting bolts are above the deck, so engine placement must be scrutinized when repowering. Make sure the engine sits properly on the transom and the cavitation plate is at the correct height.”
Many Whalers had an original fiberglass fuel tank, and ethanol-enhanced fuel will wreak havoc on them. Update the fuel system if it’s not already done. Some companies manufacture aftermarket replacement tanks to factory dimensions.
All in all, there’s no mistaking the distinct low profile of a Boston Whaler and every boater has a story about one. Ask me about my honeymoon and the ride to the hotel in the middle of the night on a Boston Whaler 13 sometime.
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DRAFT: 0’9″ (engine up)
DISPLACEMENT: 950 lb. (no engine)
POWER OPTIONS: various outboards up to 100 hp
FUEL: 12 gal.
YEARS BUILT: 1961-2002
Price Range: $5,000-$55,000