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Our taste of the top end of the Whittley Sea Legend line left us wanting more
The outboard-engined version of the Whittley SL25 Hardtop Coast Tourer Edition is made to handle Australia’s rugged southern coastline in comfort
Port Phillip Bay has tossed up one of its less fine days. There’s an ugly breeze blowing in from the south-west, turning the southern section of the bay into a flurry of whitecaps. Through the heads, the odd wave is breaking as it rolls in.
Not that any of this worries us. Tucked into the waters behind Queenscliff, and out of the worst of the breeze, we’re comfortable inside the wheelhouse of Whittley’s new range-topper to its Sea Legend line, the Whittley SL25 Hardtop Coast Tourer Edition.
In short, what Whittley has done is take its hardtop model and fit it with an optional bulkhead and set of sliding doors that protect the cabin from the worst of the elements. That Coast Tourer Edition tag also signifies that this model gains a few more user-friendly details than stock boats.
Whittley Boats is based in Campbellfield in Melbourne’s northern suburbs where it builds a range of fibreglass models that are even exported overseas.
The Sea Legend line was originally introduced by Whittley as a heavy weather-friendly cruiser, but over time it has evolved to be as strong for fishing enthusiasts as it is an overnight pleasure cruiser.
The Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tourer Edition is the top tier of a three-model Coast Tourer Edition range introduced last year ahead of the 2019 Brisbane Boat Show.
Hull and engineering
The hull underneath the Whittley SL25 Coast Tourer Edition is built off a New Zealand design known for holding its own in the big weather to which the island state is often exposed. It features a 23-degree deadrise at the transom, and a fine entry up front so it can comfortably cut through waves and swell.
The hull features reverse chines, a pair of strakes to help with lifting the boat onto the plane, and a planing plank.
The deep vee and reversed chines also help with stability at rest, providing a stable platform for anyone walking around the boat.
Hulls and topdecks are hand-laid at Whittley’s Campbellfield factory, which also serves as the main showroom for the brand.
Whittley’s boat-building process uses a fiberglass encapsulated stringer system for strength, noise reduction and longevity. Both the stringers and the cockpit are formed from one-piece moulds, adding strength and minimising rattles and hull noise.
The Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tourer Edition features a self-draining deck using transom-mounted scuppers, and comes equipped with an automatic bilge pump to keep the sub-floor space dry.
This boat is also available as a stern drive model, replacing the outboard engines with an inboard 200hp Volvo Penta V6, but without the Coast Tourer Edition enhancements.
The outboard-engined version of the Whittley SL25 HT saves about 100kg in weight over the inboard-engined version. This 7.7-metre (including the bowsprit) version of the Coast Tourer Edition is the only one to feature the option of twin outboard engines – good insurance if you plan to run wide offshore regularly.
Price and equipment
The Whittley SL 25 Coast Tourer Edition is alluringly priced from $149,990, which is extremely good value once you consider the sticker also includes a Yamaha F200 four-stroke outboard engine and a dual-axle electric braked Mackay trailer.
The hard top is moulded into the top deck, meaning there is no chance of springing a leak where it joins. All the electrical connections are tinned to prevent corrosion.
It also has a 240-litre fuel tank, pressurised 20-litre freshwater system with rear sink and shower, Bennett trim tabs, chemical toilet and bunk infill cushions. All the handrails and fittings are stainless steel.
As this is the Coast Tourer Edition, it also comes with the option of a lockable cabin, meaning you can confidently leave the boat tied up at a jetty while you step off to do things ashore, and not risk passers-by pilfering things. The doors
The standard fit-out is good, and you can basically drive the boat straight out of the dealership and drop it in the water, ready for a long weekend away.
That includes an anchor locker, two windscreen wipers, chemical toilet, a Bluetooth-enabled Fusion audio system, side clears for the hard top, LED lights for the cabin, console and over the side pockets, VHF radio, built-in battery charger, and a stainless steel prop for the default 200hp Yamaha F200 outboard engine with hydraulic steering.
Fishing features include a removable 30-litre plumbed and back-lit live bait tank, cutting board, generous side pockets, a ruler cut into the rubber floor covering, four flush-mounted rod holders built into the topdecks complete with plastic covers, and a six-rod stainless steel rocket holder mounted overhead.
One of the benefits of buying a Whittley is that you’re investing in an Australian-made boat with the safety net of having the manufacturer locally based should something go wrong or you need support.
The Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tourer Edition’s hull is covered by a five-year warranty.
Whittley also has very active owners’ clubs spread throughout the capital cities, so if the social scene is an important part of the ownership experience, a friendly face isn’t far away.
Design and layoutOur two-tone dark-grey-on-white Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tourer Edition cuts a fine figure sitting on the water. The long bowsprit offset with the tall, swept wheelhouse, and the twin 150hp Yamaha F150 outboard engines mounted off the transom give a muscular, powerful stance to the boat.
The boat’s cabin is made to be comfortable. It is fully lined, including headliner, and includes the option of a removable fibreglass table, complete with a couple of inset cupholders, that turn the area into a dinette. A smoked perspex hatch provides natural light as well as access to the anchor, and the floor is carpeted.
The cabin features deep side pockets, and textured and toned infill cushions to create a single sleeping space. A flip-up forward section hides a chemical toilet – a must if this is going to serve as a family boat.
Access to the cabin is via a large companionway built into the port side of the console. You can option a canvas cover for this space to hide it away when not in use, and provide some privacy for the head.
The wheelhouse on our test boat is enclosed on three sides by glass, with the wrap-around windscreen an unusual three-piece section, with a narrow vertical bit in the centre – it’s as though a two-piece screen was adapted from a narrower model.
The side windows both have big sliding sections that provide plenty of airflow through the space when needed.
The bulkhead behind the wheelhouse has deep windows to either side, and instead of a two-piece folding door features a pair of sliding doors that open from the centre. The doors can lock closed via a latch that looks very similar to the ones you see on a sliding patio door at home.
Backing onto the wheelhouse are a pair of comfy aft-facing jump seats that also double as covers for large storage bins. These storage spaces aren’t lined, and you can see the exposed sliding cabin doors behind it. That means you will need to be careful what you put in there, as anything falling behind the doors could potentially block them.
The self-draining cockpit is roomy and comfortable. The centre of the floor lifts up to reveal a removable plastic square bucket with a drain plug that can serve as a kill tank or, when dry, storage space.
Deep side pockets, backed in rubber etched with “Coast Tourer Edition” and raised off the floor to allow better access to the water, line each side of the boat. Above them, inserts allow anglers to store fishing rods out of the way.
The tops of the coamings are padded for comfort when you’re reeling in a fish, and the flat, wide topdecks are lined in rubber.
The batteries are housed centrally in the flat transom behind a pair of hatches, while fold-up jump seats with fixed backrests sit to either side – although if you’re fighting a fish there’s no toe space to allow you to brace right up against the transom. Our test boat features a good-size filleting board with storage built in below it.
Duck boards sit outboard of the engine pod, complete with stainless steel grab rails and an extendable stainless steel ladder on the port side.
Helm and console
You sit tall at the helm of the Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tourer Edition on a comfy, well-bolstered sports bucket seat. Visibility all around is good.
The console in front of the skipper’s seat is simple and uncomplicated. The blacked-out dash is large enough to take up to a 16-inch touchscreen chartplotter/fishfinder such as the Garmin GPSmap XSV featured here.
Our test boat also features a monochrome LCD screen showing performance data from the twin Yamahas powering it, anchor winch switch, Bennett trim tab controls, a 12-volt charging port – not USB – and weatherproof electrical switches for the lights, bilge pump and so on.
Facing the skipper is a three-spoke sports steering wheel with height adjustment, while the twin throttle controls for the Yamahas humming quietly behind sit on a pod and slightly inside a cut-out into the wheelhouse.
Small item storage for the skipper – think keys and wallets – isn’t the best, but there is storage below the throttle controls and in a box built under the seat.
The passenger side faces the chasm of the companionway to the cabin. However, the handrail is well mounted to offer good support, and there’s the one thing missing on the skipper’s side, a small storage space for phones and wallets. This seat also has storage space built in beneath it, and another storage space tucked behind a Sopac-style hatch.
With the sliding doors shut behind, the wheelhouse is a comfortable, dry and warm space. It’s especially pleasant to have the doors shut on commuter legs, the drone of the Yamahas working hard behind you blocked to the extent that even nudging 40 knots, you can still have a conversation without shouting.
Overhead, the wheelhouse features an overhead stainless steel grab rail so someone can stand in between the two seats. The wheelhouse headliner also serves as a mounting point for the Fusion audio system and VHF radio.
If you don’t want the locking bulkhead, the Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tour Edition can come with a set of clip-in clears.
On the water
Our earlier run across to Queenscliff, chasing the Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tour Edition across the water from Safety Beach as it opened the throttles wide, was spent in its wake as it left the photography boat behind.The strong south-westerly sweeping Port Phillip Bay has turned conditions ugly, with a nasty chop just off where we’re sheltered. Not to worry, and we nudge the SL25 out into the slop.
The deeper vee and the fine bow entry are immediately noticeable. The big Whittley slices through the water easily, the Bennett trim tabs helping to push the nose down to cut through the swell. The boat appears sensitive to the manual trim tabs, so it’s best to constantly trim them rather than set and forget to get the most out of this boat, fit trim tab indicators, or step up to automatic ones.
The Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tourer Edition is based on a sterndrive boat, and despite shifting to outboard engines, the boat is still tuned to behave like one. This means a lot of the weight sits towards the rear of the craft, including the 24-litre fuel tank, to give it sterndrive-like handling.
That’s not a bad thing in these conditions, where the bow has a lightness to it as it breaks through the waves, landing surprisingly gently. Acceleration from standing start feels relaxed rather than brisk despite the twin-engine layout.
What about the big stuff. Ahead of us The Rip – one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of water – beckons us to test the Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tourer Edition’s mettle. A big, confused swell, around two metres, is rolling in as we venture into it.
The Whittley appears composed and comfortable in these conditions, hamming it up for the camera as it leaps across waves.
A nice touch is the Whittley’s hydraulic steering, which feels a little heavy but moves briskly enough to throw the boat into a sharp turn. Pitch it heavily into a turn, and the boat leans right in on its chine to grip the water like a limpet.
Stability at rest is very good for a boat of this size, in part because of the deep vee but also because of the Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tourer Edition’s low centre of gravity. An adult can walk to one corner of the transom and the boat will barely register the weight transfer.
Maximum cruising range based on 95% of 240L fuel tank: 153nm @ 3000rpm
The twin Yamaha F150s tested here are strong performers, but you sort of wonder if the boat would be a better performer with a single 300hp outboard engine – not to mention saving around $XX,XXX in cost, burning less fuel and shedding a decent amount of weight from the transom.
Our taste of the top end of the Whittley Sea Legend line left us wanting more, which is a good thing. The best thing, though, is that the fully enclosed wheelhouse is comfortable and dry.
It will also extend the amount of time that Whittley SL25 HT Coast Tour Edition owners spend out on the water, particularly in more varied weather conditions where owners of open-console boats will be baulk at the idea of getting a bit cold or wet, or both.
Of the three boats that make up the Whittley Sea Legend Coast Tour Edition range – the entry-level SL20, mid-spec SL22 and this, the SL25 HT – this is the one that makes the least amount of compromise between family comforts and fishing necessities.
Model: Whittley SL25 Hardtop Coast Tourer Edition Outboard
Length on trailer: 8.45m
Height on trailer: 3.30m (includes rocket launcher)
Width on trailer: 2.49m
Deadrise: 23 degrees
Engines: 200hp (min)/300hp (rec)/twin 150hp (max)
Engine weight: 300kg
Priced from: $XXX,XXX including stainless steel rails and bow roller; stainless steel cleats; perspex side clears; fully lined cabin; cushions and bunk infills; sports seats; chemical toilet; twin wipers; pressurised water system; rear shower; Fusion audio system with 2 speakers; cockpit lights; VHF radio; kill tank; rubber topdecks and floor; automatic bilge pump; LED navigation lights; 200hp Yamaha F200 outboard engine with Relliance 17-inch stainless steel prop; Whittley decals; electric braked Mackay galvanised drive-on dual-axle trailer
Price as tested: $XXX,XXX including twin 150hp twin Yamaha F150 outboard engines; stainless steel outriggers; cabin table; bait board; dual battery upgrade; electric anchor winch; 16-inch Garmin GPSmap XSV touchscreen chartplotter/sounder; enclosed waters safety gear
- Barry Park
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