17' Whaler: An Appreciation
Simple and classic, I've enjoyed our 17' Outrage since my family bought it when I was 11. Today, center consoles of increasing size are used as legitimate offshore fishing platforms and yacht tenders, but from the 60's through the early 90's the style was limited to a few manufacturers led by Whaler.
When one thinks of a "17' Whaler" the classic Montauk comes to mind. While the Montauk is a terrific boat in its own right, our family chose the Outrage for its deep-v hull and integrated fuel tank. Shel Silverstein must have been on the design team of this boat: it's been a floating Giving Tree for the past 27 seasons.
The quality of the Classic Whaler construction continues to show. Our boat's never been painted and still shines thanks to consistent waxing. Hardware has held up remarkably well through years of use, abuse, and saltwater. Against all odds the original power, a 115hp Merc, is still going strong and offers a top end around 40 mph.
When I was a teenager the Whaler was where I began to explore a new world of independence and responsibility. Like many teenagers, I was too hard on the boat and paid for it with admonishments from my father when stuff broke. To Whaler's credit, nothing on the hull ever broke- it was always the stuff screwed into the boat (like the motor bracket) that failed because I like to go fast all the time. It endured the bottomless supply of stupidity with which I was armed. My friends and I would pull the bottom plug (unsinkable? let's try!) and stand everyone on one side (stable? let's try to tip it!). Thankfully we resisted the temptation to reproduce the famous ad in which a Whaler was cut in two with a chainsaw. My friends and I went out in rough weather to test our mettle and the boat always brought us home.
Both kids on their first boat rides aboard our 17' Whaler
In less bombastic and foolish moments, the boat is where I learned basic boat handling skills and the pride associated with being able pull into a dock in front of a crowd and not embarrass myself. I learned how good it felt to receive a compliment on its condition after I'd just applied a new coat of wax, and how helpful organization is on a boat.
These days I use the boat as it was intended by its designers. I love that I'm able to stand at the helm and fish for stripers by myself- something that would be tough with even a little more size. I can get the boat in tight to a rocky shoreline and cast plugs while driving, making adjustments in between casts. With a fish on, I'm able to fight the fish from the helm without a problem. I have a new appreciation for the flexibility of getting into really skinny water- whether I'm chasing fish or nestling up close to a beach.
Beach visits are a breeze and the sand washes out easily. Recently I've been reminded how well the self bailing cockpit works, as saltwater has taken its toll on my bilge pump connections.
In a few more years we'll certainly be towing children on skis and tubes. And a few years after that- as soon as they can see over the dash - they'll start to run the boat. I'm confident that they'll find her as trustworthy and fun as I have.
At some point she'll probably need to be repowered, but odds are high that my kids will be writing a similar love letter to this boat 30 years from now.