John martino, annapolis school of seamanship and annapolis yacht         management
The following review was written by John Martino and prepared by the marketing department of Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Mr. Martino is the founder and president of Annapolis Yacht Management and Annapolis School of Seamanship. He develops and teaches hands-on training courses for recreational boaters and professional mariners, and offers yacht delivery and onboard training services for powerboaters as well as sailors.
Boston Whaler 345 Conquest
Length overall  35' 11"
Beam 11' 8"
Draft  22'
Weight  14,200 lb
Fuel Capacity  421 gals
Water Capacity  45 gals
Max HP  750 hp
Base Price  $320,970
Price as Tested   $366,882

In 1958 Richard Fisher debuted a revolutionary boatbuilding system at the Boston Boat Show. His 13-foot Boston Whaler, built with an innovative closed-cell foam construction, was the world's first "unsinkable" runabout. Five decades later, Boston Whalers are still being built with the same unsinkable Unibond system. It's no surprise, then, that for their 50th anniversary, Boston Whaler launched their largest boat to date-—the 345 Conquest.

I met with Bart Hiltabidle from Chesapeake Whalertowne shortly after the Annapolis Boat Show to check out the new Conquest. My reaction on seeing her was incredulous. Is this really a Boston Whaler? The boat is almost 36 feet long and nearly 12 feet wide. This one had a bank of three large 250-hp Mercury outboards on the back (the basic package offers two). It's hard to believe that this giant is in the same family of boats as the classic 13- and 17-foot Whalers I fell in love with as a kid. She has an enclosed bridge deck with glass on three sides and a substantial hard-top, complete with windshield wipers and opening hatches for ventilation. She is designed and equipped for serious offshore fishing, but also offers suitable accommodations for comfortable family weekend cruising.

Down below, the Conquest is well fitted out. A centerline queen bed is all the way forward (with the push of a button, an adjustable contour feature props you up so you can watch the standard 20-inch LCD TV). The galley, to port, has a stainless refrigerator, microwave and electric cook-top. Aft of the galley is the head with a pull-out shower. A straight leather settee and small dinette table occupy the starboard side. Aft of the companionway ladder (nestled under the bridge deck) a mid-cabin area can be used as additional bunk space or for out-of-the-way napping.

The Conquest has a large cockpit well suited for fishing or dockside lounging. Four flush-mounted gunnel rod holders and six rocket-launcher holders are integrated vertically into the hard top. Two large fish boxes with macerator pumps are set into the cockpit sole. A fold-down bench, door and live well fit along the transom. A large hatch in the cockpit sole provides easy access to the boat's mechanical systems. A diesel generator supplies the electrical demands of all those onboard systems while the boat is away from the dock.

Under way, the Conquest performed well. A fresh breeze and the threat of rain was no problem for this offshore fisherman. The one-foot chop was barely detectable even at speed. The enclosed bridge kept us warm and dry, while the foam-core hull insulated us from hull noise. The four-stroke Mercury engines were also very quiet, facilitating conversation at a normal volume. At 4100 rpm we cruised at 27 knots burning about 30 gallons per hour. Wide open we reached 42 knots, burning nearly 60 gallons per hour.

After 50 years in the business of building outboard boats, Boston Whaler has once again pushed the limits to create its biggest unsinkable design. For those of us who romped around in Boston Whalers growing up, this is the company's ultimate toy.